I have looked at many grandmaster games where White starts off with 1.c4, which later mostly transposes into a King's Indian. However, Black could have immediately played 1...e5, which seems slightly better. Why would Black not take this opportunity?

  • 2
    Why do you consider 1...e5 to be "slightly better" than the KID ?
    – Evargalo
    Sep 22, 2020 at 8:19
  • 1
    Black is inviting you to play d4 at some point :-). Then ...e5 would make it interesting and entertaining.
    – Adhvaitha
    Sep 22, 2020 at 8:29
  • @Evargalo in my opinion, it is easy to defend against the KID. White can then make progress on the queenside.
    – user24344
    Sep 22, 2020 at 8:50
  • Black may not be ready for a quick d4 by White in some lines, but it's mainly a matter of personal taste
    – David
    Sep 22, 2020 at 15:11

3 Answers 3


It is a matter of choice

Many grandmasters (e.g. world champion Viswanathan Anand) have consistently played 1.c4 e5 with Black. Others favour the KID or other defenses : Hedgehog (with b6), symmetrical English (1.c4 c5), Pseudo-Nimzo (with Nf6 and e6), Pseudo-Grünfeld (with Nf6 and d5), Réti (with e6 and d5) or Slav-like (with c6 and d5) defenses...

There is no definitive hierarchy between all those schemes. You may well prefer 1...e5 and you won't be the only one (this is actually my favorite retort nowadays) but there is no objective reason to think that this choice should be "slightly better" than other reasonable defenses. What suits us doesn't suit everybody.

The case with the KID

The King's Indian Defense has many pluses and minuses: lack of space, ressources for counterplay, long theoretical lines... But one thing that makes it attractive for many players with Black is that the KID is an holistic opening solution for everything but 1.e4 : if you wanna play the KID, you can go for it whether I start with 1.d4, 1.c4, 1.Nf3, even 1.g3 or 1.b3, and there is little I can do to stop you.

As a consequence players who are confident in their KID repertoire against 1.d4 have little incentive to switch to different schemes to meet 1.c4, and prefer to transpose with 1...Nf6 and 2...g6 rather than work on the theory of the pure English 1.c4 e5.

  • 2
    Even against 1 e4 there is enough overlap with the Pirc and Modern to make knowledge of the ideas in KID useful
    – Ian Bush
    Sep 22, 2020 at 14:12
  • 2
    That's a good explanation, but Black may also delay ...e5 to keep some flexibility (some lines in the King's Indian go for ...c5 instead)
    – David
    Sep 22, 2020 at 15:15

A lot of players play a setup similar to their main response to d4 in order to narrow their rep. Maybe the positions are objectively a little inferior but it gets the player a position they know and are comfortable in while at the same reducing the theory they need to know.


c4 e5 is playing the sicilian an extra move behind

most e4 players do not want to play the sicilian so I doubt they would do it as black either.

I would far prefer the KID to behind a move in sicilian. so why do you think c4 e5 is so good for black?

  • 1
    De facto, 1.e4 are accepting to face the Sicilian. The intrinsic value of 1.c4 e5 is not the matter here, it has long proven to be a respectable opening.
    – Evargalo
    Sep 23, 2020 at 6:49
  • 1
    The assumption that reversed Black defenses are "one move better" when played as White is flawed. Else you would be seeing more people play 1. e3 (a "better" QGD/French) or 1. c3 (a "better" Slav/Caro-Kann), too. The order of moves matters!
    – Annatar
    Sep 24, 2020 at 12:58
  • It might be closer to the truth to say that most d4 players do not want to play the Sicilian :) Sep 24, 2020 at 18:18

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