Pirc Defense Guide

Pirc Defense Guide

The Pirc Defence is a chess opening that begins with the moves 1.e4 d6 2.d4 Nf6. Named after the Slovenian Grandmaster Vasja Pirc, it is a hypermodern opening where Black allows White to occupy the center with pawns on d4 and e4 and aims to undermine and attack this center later.

Pirc Defense moves

In the Pirc Defense (the correct pronunciation is “peerts”), black chooses to play with a quick kingside fianchetto. Some of the top players that rely on the Pirc are Vladimir Kramnik and Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, who have played it many times.

Black lets White push their central pawns, only to challenge them later. The way to do this is to play ...e5 or ...c5, which, supported by the g7 bishop, increases control of the central dark squares.

Pirc Defense moves

Some of the key variations of the Pirc Defense include the Classical System, the Austrian Attack, and the 150 Attack, each presenting different strategic challenges and opportunities.

The Pirc Defence is flexible and offers rich counterplay, making it a popular choice among players who prefer dynamic and unbalanced positions.

The Pirc Defence is usually defined by the opening sequence

1. e4 d6 2. d4 Nf6 3. Nc3 g6

Pirc Defense moves

This is the most commonly played line in the Pirc.

Black will have counterplay but has to be cautious about playing too passively.

The first time the Pirc Defense was played in a World Championship match was in 1972 during the Fischer-Spassky match.

Ideas in the Pirc Defense

The Pirc Defense offers Black considerable flexibility in choosing various strategies, making it a deceptive and dynamic defense that can effectively unsettle White.

However, White possesses numerous methods to challenge the Pirc, including multiple aggressive lines that can result in a powerful offensive. Additionally, White can adopt a cautious approach to limit Black's options, presenting a balanced mix of opportunities and risks for Black.

Main Line in the Pirc Defense

This is the most played line in the Pirc Defense:

1.e4 d6 2.d4 Nf6

Pirc Defense moves

The Pirc Defense is different from the Modern Defense in that in the Pirc the black player immediately plays 2…Nf6, while in the Modern that move is delayed for several moves.

3.Nc3 g6

Pirc Defense moves

White develops their knight and black prepares the fianchetto.

4.Nf3 Bg7

Pirc Defense moves

Now black is ready to castle.

5.Be2 O-O

Pirc Defense moves

6.0-0 c6

Pirc Defense moves

6…c6 supports the center and prevents the white knight from jumping to b5 or d5.

7.a4 Nbd7

Pirc Defense moves

Black develops yet another piece.

8.a5 Qc7

Pirc Defense moves

White expands on the queenside. Black gets ready to strike in the center.

Other Variations in the Pirc Defense

Classical System

This is the system we just saw in the most played line.

Let’s quickly see it again:

1.e4 d6 2.d4 Nf6 3.Nc3 g6

Pirc Defense moves

4.Nf3 Bg7 5.Be2 0-0

Pirc Defense moves

Watch IM Milovan Ratkovic explain how the Classical System of the Pirc Defense works:

Austrian Attack

1.e4 d6 2.d4 Nf6 3.Nc3 g6 4.f4 Bg7

Pirc Defense moves

In the Austrian Attack, white creates a super center with f4.

150 Attack

1.e4 d6 2.d4 Nf6 3.Nc3 g6 4.Be3 c6 5.Qd2

Pirc Defense moves

In the 150 Attack, white prepares to play with a long castle and attack on the kingside.

Byrne Variation

1.e4 d6 2.d4 Nf6 3.Nc3 g6 4.Bg5

Pirc Defense moves

In the Byrne Variation, white decides to play an early Bg5. The possibility of playing Qd2 and 0-0-0 is also there.

Sveshnikov System

1.e4 d6 2.d4 Nf6 3.Nc3 g6 4.g3

Pirc Defense moves

In the Sveshnikov, white decides to play in a more positional fashion by fianchettoing their light-squared bishop.

Holmov System

1.e4 d6 2.d4 Nf6 3.Nc3 g6 4.Bc4

Pirc Defense moves

The Holmov System is characterized by an early 4.Bc4 eying the f7 square, an active and aggressive approach by white.

Czech Pirc

1.e4 d6 2.d4 Nf6 3.Nc3 c6

Pirc Defense moves

The Czech Pirc is a twin sister of the Pirc, and happens after black plays an early c6.

Model Games

Related Courses

Pirc Defense Mastermind with IM Milovan Ratkovic

Other Interesting Reads

Modern Defense Guide

En Passant Guide

Best Chess Openings for Beginners

B07 Sub-variants:


Games on Database: 59007
Last Played: May 2024
Overall score:
40.5% 29.7% 29.7%

Played frequently by:

Michele Godena 52 games
Eduardas Rozentalis 50 games
Oleg Korneev 49 games
Josef Pribyl 211 games
Yuri Zimmerman 141 games
Mihail Marin 140 games

Possible continuations:

3... g6  36597
41.8 % 28.3 % 29.9 %
3... e5  10749
35.8 % 37.7 % 26.5 %
3... c6  7394
41.6 % 26.8 % 31.6 %
3... Nbd7  3665
38 % 27.3 % 34.7 %
3... Nc6  278
43.9 % 22.3 % 33.8 %
3... e6  128
66.4 % 14.1 % 19.5 %
3... a6  83
50.6 % 26.5 % 22.9 %
3... Bg4  43
62.8 % 14 % 23.3 %
3... c5  29
55.2 % 13.8 % 31 %
3... b6  22
63.6 % 18.2 % 18.2 %
3... Bd7  10
50 % 30 % 20 %
3... d5  5
100 %
3... Nfd7  2
50 % 50 %