I'm a Queen's Gambit player and quite often I find myself against the King's Indian Defense. Usually all the lines of the Queen's Gambit that lead to a closed center with white playing d5 (King's Indian, Benoni, etc.) result uncomfortable for me; the light-squared bishop is very ugly, I can't seem to exploit my space advantage and black's knights are generally able to exert a great deal of pressure on e4, while I can't really find the precise way to position mines. Perhaps these is because I play badly against the Kings Indian, since I never studied it and I really ignore the general strategic ideas of its main position.

[FEN "r1bq1rk1/pppn1pbp/3p1np1/3Pp3/2P1P3/2N2N2/PP2BPPP/R1BQ1RK1 b - - 0 8"]

This would be a very typical game. What are some key strategical ideas I should know about this position? What is white plan, and what are some correct ways to execute it? I usually lose positionally, not by checkmate. Just get a worse position.

5 Answers 5


You do not say why you lose: Are you being beaten positionally, or are your opponents successfully attacking your king?

This a VERY difficult question to answer since it is such a large opening to cover (the Vassilios Kotronias books on the King's Indian from Quality Chess are 5 volumes!).

Basically, what you are looking to do is play on the queenside, and prepare c5 in most lines of the King's Indian, and open the c-file, and penetrate with your pieces. Black, especially in the classical main line, is looking to attack your king.

If you are being beaten positionally, then you really need to study the ideas behind the opening more closely, and that is way beyond the scope of this question. If you are being beaten by all-out assaults, then you need to either learn a lot more theory, or do what I do sometimes: Play g3 and Bg2 lines, which make it more difficult for direct attacks to succeed.

In the position you gave, it is black to move, and he can plant the N on c5, and fortify it with a5, which stops the immediate b4 since Nc5 gains time by attacking e4. I am going to give a few lines to give you an idea of how play might go, but I also think that you should vary on move 8 with 8.Qc2, which is more flexible (make sure you read the extensive note after 9.d5 explaining why this ends up better). 6...Nbd7 is rare for a reason, and your 8.d5 does nothing to try and punish it.

 [FEN ""]

 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nf3 Bg7 4. Nc3 d6 5. e4 O-O 6. Be2 Nbd7 {This is very rare, and can lead to an excellent game for black if white just plays by rote. White should vary on move 8.} 7. O-O e5 8. d5 (8. Qc2 $1 c6 9. d5 {And black has a lot of options, but this is a better setup for white to combat them. One of the following happens: The c-file gets opened and white gets better chances to use the queenside; or a Rd1 will pressure the d6 pawn if black does not exchange; or if that pressure on d6 forces c5, then a3, and b4 will be possible (with Rb1), all the time while black is denied the c5 square for the Nd7.} (9. Be3 {Is also good, but you need to know a lot of theory.})) 8... Nc5 9. Qc2 a5 {Eventually, white wants b3, a3, Rb1, and b4, but you must be careful of tactics with the Rb1 and Nxe4 ideas followed by Bf5. For example:} 10. Bg5 (10. Rb1 $4 Nfxe4 11. Nxe4 Nxe4 12. Qxe4 Bf5 $19) (10. a3 $2 {This is why b3, a3, and only later b4. It cripples the white queenside.} a4) 10... h6 11. Be3 b6 12. Nd2 Bg4 (12... Ng4 13. Bxg4 Bxg4 14. a3 $1 {And b4 next since a4 loses a pawn.} a4 15. Bxc5 bxc5 16. Nxa4 {But black does have some compensation after Qg5.} Qg5 17. f3 Bd7 18. Nc3) 13. f3 Bd7 14. b3 Nh5 15. Rfe1 {To prepare Bf1 after nf4, and white will continue with a3 and b4.}

In the end, it is about opening the queenside while not getting mated. You want to defend any kingside threats as economically as possible, while trying to distract black on the queenside. If you penetrate quickly, and actively, any attack is often doomed to fail.

  • 1
    After you read this, I will try to answer any specific questions that you have, and edit my answer to include them. Commented Feb 26, 2020 at 2:07
  • Thanks, PhishMaster. As always, your answers are very complete. I have edited my question and clarified that I just loose positionally, getting worse positions. Just a few questions:
    – lafinur
    Commented Feb 26, 2020 at 13:47
  • a) Is one of the ideas of Qc2 that, after d5, Nc5 won't come with tempo? What are other ideas behind this move? b) On 11. Be3, doesn't this give black Ng4? I know it's a meaningless move (just retreat my bishop), but it would force at some point h3, and I'm not sure h3 is such a good move (playing f3 with h3 would be too weakening, and black's bishop could sacrifice on h3 on some lines I imagine).
    – lafinur
    Commented Feb 26, 2020 at 13:55
  • The main idea behind Qc2 is still flexibility. It is certainly nice that Nc5 will not come with tempo, but what else can black play other than 8...c6 that fits in with the plan? If 8...Re8, then d5, and the rook has to come back to f8 eventually. 8...ed changes the structure, and is not conducive to the typical kingside attack. 11.Be3 Ng4 is a book position. 11...b6 was played 172 times compared to only 34 for the seemingly natural 11...Ng4 12.Bc5 dc 13.h3 Nf6 14.Ne5 Nd5 15.cd Be5 16.f4 Bd4 17.Kh2 (Kh1 also saw 7 games), which has seen 23 games and white wins 71.7% of the time. Commented Feb 26, 2020 at 14:13
  • I am still wondering how you tend to lose your games in the KID. It might give me an idea on what to suggest. Commented Feb 26, 2020 at 14:14

It is a big opening with many possibilities. I suggest that you try some other set up than the one you show. I find that I do better with a Saemisch type set up for white usually arrived via blacks 1 ...d6 to my 1 pe4 not 1... nf3 responding to 1 d4. And then transposing to a KID.

There are many other set ups that could work for you. It will take your looking at the options and trying the ones you think fit your style and then see how you do with them.

  • 3
    I loved the Saemisch for years, but I purposely avoided recommending that due to the c5 gambit line. It really takes the fun out of it for white. You need to know A LOT of theory, or you get crushed. It is easy to play for black, but white needs to be exact. Commented Feb 26, 2020 at 4:10
  • I don't know why this answer was downvoted, it's a very good recommendation. Thanks Edwina.
    – lafinur
    Commented Feb 26, 2020 at 13:57

As as KID player with the black pieces, I can say that the exchange variation (taking dxe5 instead of pushing d4-d5) definitely is not the one I desire to face. Much of the dynamic play I'm looking for disappears there.

  • The exchange is not very good, positionally speaking. Black will get to use the d4 square, but since black has not played c5, and can play c6, white cannot use the d5 square. If you know what you are doing, it is miserable for white, and cannot be recommended. Commented Feb 26, 2020 at 15:14
  • Yes, I used to play it because I'm very comfortable with Maroczy setups, but black can break the bind with good play and get excellent chances so I just went for d5. Thanks for the answer, acye.
    – lafinur
    Commented Feb 26, 2020 at 16:11
  • I think it is good for OP to learn how to play KID pawn structures, these ideas come up often in other openings. Avoiding it with exchange variation can be practically effective in short term or against a specific opponent, though.
    – Akavall
    Commented Feb 26, 2020 at 19:11
  • The idea was for a quick-fix. It's true that the exchange variation is not the most critical test of the KID, but it's certainly not bad for white but rather quite comfortable (don't at all agree with @PhishMaster that it's "miserable for white") and doesn't require deep theoretical studies, and as stated it's probably not what most KID players desire or are particularly used to.
    – acye
    Commented Feb 27, 2020 at 14:55

Good guide, but the mainline isn't actually to play Nbd7 before playing e5... it isn't what I play, and isn't what I see most often either. After 6. Be2 I typically play 6. ... e5. If 7. 0-0 then 7. ... Nc6 to provoke d5. Once the center is closed, and after 8. d5 Ne7 the goal for black is to rearrange his pieces to launch an attack on the kingside, while white tries to penetrate on the queenside, exactly as described. But I think the more common line to arrive at the given position is 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 Bg7 4. e4 d6 5. Nf3 0-0 6. Be2 e5 7. d5 Nbd7, with the idea of posting a knight on c5 and fortifying with a5 just as described. Only a subtle move order difference that might not be big if you are playing against it. But from blacks perspective these differences add up to a much different game: one where the knight is posted on c5 and aims to keep the queenside shut, and one where the knight is transferred to the kingside to participate in the attack.


I have been playing the Saemische variation with 5.f3 and 6.Bg5. I had very good results with it. Black is advised to play with c5 instead of e5 in these positions, and not many lower rated opponents know Saemische. Even prepared opponents aren't prepared for 6.Bg5 (they're more prepared to 6.Be3 or Nge2) because White can castle at any side of the board and can still play in both setups Qd2 creating a battery with the bishop to exchange the dark-squared bishop or to pressure h6 if black plays h6 and then go for a pawn storm. Also, in the future I would like to check out the Makagonov and Fianchetto Variations because they are positional and KID players aren't comfortable in these positions as myself on average.

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