The King’s Indian Attack is a popular and versatile flank opening setup in chess that is characterized by the moves 1. Nf3 and 2. g3, where white tries to fianchetto the light-squared bishop on the kingside as early as possible. The line can arise from various move orders, including the King’s Pawn Opening. This opening has its origins in the Indian Defense, specifically the King’s Indian Defense, which is a common response by Black against the Queen’s Pawn Opening.
However, the King’s Indian Attack allows white to adopt a similar setup with the first-move advantage and initiate an aggressive pawn storm on the kingside. Former World Champions like Bobby Fischer, who is also considered one of the greatest chess players ever, and Vladimir Kramnik are some of the most famous practitioners of the King’s Indian Attack
- Winning Percentages on both sides
- King’s Indian Attack’s main ideas
- King’s Indian Attack Theory
- Main line: 1.Nf3 d5 2.g3 Nf6 3.Bg2
- Yugoslav Attack with 3…c6 and 4…Bg4
- King’s Indian Attack against French: 1…e6 2.d3
- King’s Indian Attack against Sicilian: 1…c5 2.d3
- Common Traps in KIA opening
- Trap №1
- Trap №2
- Pros and Cons of playing the King’s Indian Attack
- Is King’s Indian Attack a Good Opening?
- Do Grandmasters Play the King’s Indian Attack?
Winning Percentages on both sides
|Win for white
|Win for black
King’s Indian Attack’s main ideas
With an easy learning curve, the King’s Indian Attack allows players to focus on piece play, strategic ideas, and tactics, without the need to memorize lengthy theoretical lines. The beauty of the KIA opening lies in its flexibility. Regardless of black’s chosen responses, the plans for White remain straightforward and can be applied effectively in most cases. This option is particularly appealing to players who prefer the King’s Pawn Opening but wish to avoid the complexities of the many semi-open defenses such as Caro-Kann, Sicilian Defense, and French Defense as white.
King’s Indian Attack usually leads to a position with a closed center, so both sides will seek a breakthrough on the wings. white will often aim for a kingside attack, while black will seek opportunities to create weaknesses for white on the queenside. The first step for white in preparing the kingside attack is usually to lock the center by advancing the pawn to e5. This way, white will gain a space advantage, which will allow them to mobilize more pieces into the kingside. The most thematic maneuver for white involves transferring the b1-Knight to g4 via Nd2-Nf1 followed by Nh2-Ng4 after advancing the h-pawn to h4. The h-pawn might even advance further to h6 in some cases to create dark-square weaknesses in black’s camp. White will often build a battery on the dark squares with Be3-Qd2, which sometimes allows thematic sacrifices on h6 with Bxh6.
King’s Indian Attack Theory
As an opening system, the theory of King’s Indian Attack is mainly about getting the desired setup with white using move order subtleties rather than a move-by-move theoretical line. The ideal setup for white in the KIA often involves placing the pieces as follows: Nf3, g3, Bg2, d3, Nbd2, and e4. There are various possible move orders to build this setup, and the most common starting order is 1.Nf3 d5 2.g3 Nf6 3.Bg2. The biggest factor determining the structure of the position now depends on black’s choices regarding the placement of their e- and c-pawns. The most common constellations are 3…e6 with …c5, 3…c5 with …e5, or 3…c6 followed by 4.0-0 Bg4, known as the Yugoslav Attack. In the case of 3…e6, white usually gets the e-pawn to advance to e5: 4.0-0 Be7 5.d3 0-0 6.Nbd2 c5 7.e4 Nc6 8. Re1 b5 9.e5 is a common continuation.
The setup of King’s Indian Attack can also be used against the French, starting with either 1.e4 e6 2.d3 d5 3.Nd2 or 1.Nf3 e6 2.d3 move orders. Against the Sicilian Defense, white can again start with 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.d3 and a fianchetto light-squared bishop on the kingside to build the usual setup.
Main line: 1.Nf3 d5 2.g3 Nf6 3.Bg2
The most flexible and common way to play the KIA opening with white is to start with 1.Nf3 (Zukertort Opening) because this keeps white’s options open to transition into the Reti Opening after 1..d5 2.c4 or to Queen’s Pawn Openings with 1..d5 2.d4. Starting with 1.e4 is relatively more committal. 1.Nf3 also controls squares in the center, such as e5, so black will usually play 1…d5 in response. After 2.g3 Nf6 3.Bg2 black has to make a commitment about the structure of the center and choose between 3..c6, 3…e6 or 3…c5.
If black intends to get the pawn formation with …c5 and …e6, it is possible to do it with different move orders. But starting with 3…e6 is the most popular way to go: 4.0-0 Be7 5.d3 0-0 6.Nbd2 c5 7.e4
So far, white has been focusing on completing the kingside development and letting black occupy the center with …c5 and …d5. From this point on, white will first try to gain space by advancing the pawn to e5 and then mobilize as many pieces as possible to the kingside. Black may try to open up the game a bit, leading to a calmer game: 7…dxe4 8.dxe4 Nc6 9.e5 Nd5 10.Re1 Qc7 11.c3, depriving black knights of the d4 and b4 squares, 11..Rd8 12.Qe2 and white will slowly expand on the kingside with h4-h5, Qe4-Qg4.
Most of the time, black keeps the center closed with 7…Nc6 instead of capturing on e4 and starts expanding on the queenside quickly: 8.Re1, supporting e5 and freeing up the f1-square for the knight, b5 9.e5 Nd7
White’s powerful pawn on e5 restricts the mobility of many of black’s minor pieces to the kingside and white’s game plan of kingside, attack is mainly based on exploiting this situation. 10.Nf1 a5 11.h4 b4 12.N1h2 Ba6 13. Bf4 a4 14.Ng4 and white has completed the long maneuver of b1-knight to g4, from where it not only supports the e5 pawn but creates potential threats on the key squares like h6.
White will continue to build the attack on the kingside with Ng5 or h5-h6 and Qd2, while black will try to open up files on the queenside to penetrate white’s camp with …a3, …c4 or sometimes even …Nd4 with the idea of opening the c-file after Nxd4 …cxd4.
Yugoslav Attack with 3…c6 and 4…Bg4
One of the most popular ways for black to react against white’s setup with fianchetto is to blunt the long diagonal for white’s light-square bishop with 3…c6. Because now the pawn on c6 is depriving the knight of developing Nc6, black has to get the light-squared bishop before playing Nd7. Since white will play d3, …Bf5 does not make much sense, as the bishop will be hitting a wall on that diagonal. Therefore, in the Yugoslav Attack, black’s light-square bishop belongs to the g4 square, from where it also potentially pins the f3-Knight, e.g., if white plays e4 later. So after 4.0-0 Bg4, white will stick to their plan of getting the typical King’s Indian setup with 5.d3 Nbd7 6.Nbd2 e5 7.e4
Black may now either capture e4 or continue development on the kingside. The latter allows white to quickly to get into a comfortable position with a knight on f5: 7…Bd6 8.h3, dislodging the bishop away from controlling f5, 8…Bh5 9.Qe1, getting out of the pin, 9…0-0 10.Nh4 Re8 11.Nf5
Alternatively, black may try to open up the position a bit with 7…dxe4 8.dxe4 Bc5 9.h3 Bh5 10.Qe1 0-0 11.Nc4 Re8 12.a4, reducing black’s counterplay, 12…Qc7 13.Nh4 Bf8
White will continue with his plan of bringing the knight to f5, sometimes Ne3-Nf5 are also ideas. Black will try to withstand white’s pressure on the kingside with moves like …Re6 and try to open up the lines on the queenside for a counterplay.
King’s Indian Attack against French: 1…e6 2.d3
White may start the game with King’s Pawn Opening and depending on black’s reply, white can switch to King’s Indian Attack setup against certain defenses like French: 1.e4 e6 2.d3. By playing d3 before Nf3, white is preparing to meet 2…d5 with 3.Nd2 in order to not allow black to trade the queens off the board after 3…exd4 4.exd4 and simplify the position. After 3.Nd2 Nf6 4.Ngf3 c5 5.g3 Nc6 6.Bg2 Be7 7.0-0 0-0
white reaches the same thematic KIA setup from the line with 1.Nf3 d5 2.Nf6 g3 3.Bg2 e6 followed by …c5
King’s Indian Attack against Sicilian: 1…c5 2.d3
The King’s Indian Attack setup might work well as an anti-Sicilian weapon. This strategy is particularly effective against black’s setup with ..e6, because the pawn on e6 blocks the way of black’s light-squared bishop. So once again, white can reach the familiar King’s Indian Attack formation easily after 1.e4 c5 2.d3 e6 3.Nf3 d5 4.Nd2, preventing a possible queen exchange in case the d-file gets open, 4…Nc6 5.g3 Nf6 6.Bg2 Be7 7.0-0 0-0. Alternatively, black may also choose fianchetto their dark-squared bishop on the kingside.
One possible continuation would be 1.e4 c5 2.d3 Nc6 3.g3 g6 4.Bg2 Bg7 5.Nf3 (also possible to expand with 5.f4 d6 6.Nf3 e6 7.0-0 Nge7 8.c3 0-0 9.Be3) d6 6.0-0 Nf6 7.c3, blunting the pressure exerted by black’s fianchettoed bishop, 0-0 8.Nbd2
In this version, white cannot advance to e5 as easily as in other lines of King’s Indian Attack because black’s d6 pawn is controlling the e5 square. White has to alter their game plan a bit and will usually prepare d4 to build a strong center, while black will expand on the queenside with …a5, …b5 and eventually …b4 to undermine white’s queenside pawns.
Common Traps in KIA opening
1.Nf3 Nf6 2.g3 b6 3.Bg2 Bb7, trying to neutralize white’s fianchettoed bishop, 4.0-0 e6 5.d3 d5 6.Nbd2 Be7 7.e4 dxe4 8.dxe4 and here black may think the pawn is hanging and capture 8..Nxe4?? but this leads to material loss after 9.Ne5!, pinning black’s knight, 9…Nd6 only move, 10.Bxb7 Nxb7 11.Qf3, double attack on f7 and the knight on b7. If black tries to protect the f7 with 11…Nd6, the a8-rook would be hanging 12.Qxa8
1.Nf3 d5 2.g3 Nf6 3.Bg2 c6 4.0-0 Bf5 5.d3 e6 6.Nbd2 Bd6, black wants to castle, but after the sneaky 7.Qe1, castling immediately would be reckless, because black loses a piece due to the pawn fork with 7…0-0?? 8.e4 dxe4 9.dxe4 Bg6 10.e5 and white will capture either the bishop on d6 or the knight with the e5-pawn on the next move.
Pros and Cons of playing the King’s Indian Attack
|Simple opening system to learn without the need to memorize extensive theoretical lines.
|Allow black to occupy the center freely with …c5, …d5 and sometimes …e5
|Can be applied against many respected defenses by black, such as Sicilian Defense, French Defense and Caro-Kann in order to avoid mainline theory
|White does not create any significant issues for black in the opening stage, so black can determine the structure as they wish
|Allows white to build a strong kingside attack without taking major risks or weakening the structure.
|Vulnerable queenside for white, which may give black a long-term advantage if they manage to hold white’s kingside attack
In conclusion, the King’s Indian Attack is a versatile and dynamic option choice for players seeking a solid way to build a kingside attack gradually without taking much risk. The opening system can be applied via different move orders to pretty much anything black does. At the same time, the ease of learning the setup makes it appealing for players of all levels, including beginners, while the line is respected at the top level as well. Overall, incorporating the King’s Indian Attack into one’s opening repertoire for white can be highly beneficial.
Is King’s Indian Attack a Good Opening?
Yes, the King’s Indian Attack is considered a good opening. It offers white flexibility, control over the center, and potential for a strong kingside attack. Its adaptability to various black responses makes it a versatile choice for players.
Do Grandmasters Play the King’s Indian Attack?
Absolutely, many grandmasters have employed the King’s Indian Attack in their games. It’s favored for its strategic depth and the complex middlegame positions it often leads to. Grandmasters like Bobby Fischer and Anatoly Karpov have successfully used it in high-level play.