The King's Indian Defense is characterized by the moves 1. d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6. (As opposed to 2...e6, with the intention of developing the Bishop to the Queen-side.) Black aims for a strong King-side offense with sharp tactical play. The Classical line:

[FEN ""]
1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.e4 d6 5.Nf3 O-O 6.Be2 e5

Nimzowitsch and others of the hypermodern school popularized the Nimzo-Indian and Queen's Indian defenses early in the 20th Century. The King's Indian was known, but was seen far less frequently until David Bronstein started playing it in the 1940s and 50s.

So, to the question, what factors brought the King's Indian to prominence aside from Bronstein? What developments in theory advanced its use compared to the other Indian defenses?

(To clarify: I'm coming at this as someone who's unrated and no more than a casual player at best. I'm looking more here for the historical aspects and understanding of the times, though I won't turn down discussion of modern theory.

Additionally, I'm aware that this is subjective. I'm fairly confident it fits into "good-subjective", given the nature of Chess.SE. There hasn't been any major discussion on the KID here, and I'd like to see what the minds here have to say about it, given how important it is in modern play.)

  • In recent (90s) history Kramnik really put KID of popularity with Bayonet attack (9.b4). However, in last 5-10 years KID has revived, largely due to Radjabov's efforts.
    – Akavall
    Commented Dec 20, 2012 at 2:55

2 Answers 2


In all the Indian Defenses, in general, Black allows White to occupy the centre with his pawns.

Nonetheless, in Nimzo-Indian and Queen's Indian Defense Black has many moves to attack White's pawn centre very early in the game, thus White cannot gain too much space.

King's Indian Defense (and Gruenfeld Defense), on the other side, really do not care that much for the first 4-5 moves of White, so that he can occupy the centre with an "horde" of pawns (see for example the Classical Variation, the Saemisch Variation or the Four Pawns Attack), with a huge advantage of space.

Since hypermodern principles in chess were born only in early 20th century, they were not universally accepted before '40s. And having such a big space disadvantage in the opening was seen with suspicion (if not explicitly considered "strategically losing"). That's why, in my opinion, KID had to wait to be considered consistent enough to be played regularly by top players.

  • Also, the King's Indian can be used against other openings such as the English if white played c4 or Nf3. This is one of the selling points as it can be played against a variety of openings.
    – xaisoft
    Commented Dec 19, 2012 at 14:42

A first step for development of the King's Indian Defense was reached in the beginning of the 1930's. Until then it was thought that the huge space advantage in the four pawns attack gave White a free ride, but Max Euwe proved that Black's activity compensate for it in Benoni schemes with ...c5, ...e6, ...exd5.

In the beginning of the 1950's, beside Bronstein, several other players made a huge contribution to the boom of the KID : Gligoric, Najdorf, Geller, Szabo, to name a few.

After the tournaments of Mar del Plata 1953 (won by Gligoric, and which gave its name to an important and attractive variation) and Zurich 1953 (with Kotov's immortal game), the opening gained its new status and became not only "fashionable" but also "respectable".

Finally, Garry Kasparov was the first player to use the King's Indian as its main defense during a World Championship match when he successfully defended his title against Anatoly Karpov in Lyon in 1990.

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