The King’s Indian Attack is a Chess Opening that white can employ against a wide variety of black defenses. Many move orders are possible, but the following line illustrates white’s mains setup: 1. Nf3 d5 2. g3 Nf6 3. Bg2 c5 4. d3 Nc6 5. Nbd2 e6 6. 0-0 Be7 7. e4

 

King's Indian Attack

 

With the king tucked safely away behind the g2 bishop, white lashes out at the center with e2-e4.

In the King’s Indian Attack, white will often play for an attack on the kingside, often after advancing the e-pawn to e5. The versatility and simplicity of this scheme, combined with the potential power of white’s attack, have made the King’s Indian Attack a popular weapon at almost all levels of chess.

 

 

Key Ideas of the King’s Indian Attack

Let’s take a look at how the game can proceed. The following is a sample line from the position in the above diagram:

7…0-0 is black’s main move, getting the king to safety, and now the main line continues 8. e5 Nd7 9. Re1 b5 10. Nf1!

KIA Main Line

Black is playing on the queenside, where they have a space advantage. Meanwhile, white’s last move was quite useful. Not only does it uncover the bishop on c1, but this knight is also preparing to swing over to the kingside where it can participate in the attack!

Black has tried many moves in this position, including 10…b4, 10…Rb8, and even 10…f6 to fight back against white’s space (this can be risky because 11. exf6 opens up white’s rook, and the e6 pawn can be a vulnerable target).

But the most popular move remains 10…a5, and now 11. h4 is another great multi-purpose move – taking g5 under further control and freeing h2 for the knight!

After 11…b4 12. N1h2 Ba6 13. Bf4 a4:

King's Indian Attack Bf4

The battle lines are drawn. Black’s menacing armada of pawns threaten to open lines to the white queenside (…c4 and …a4 are coming), but white is primed for a kingside attack.

The …Bg4 alternative

As discussed earlier, white can play the King’s Indian Attack against almost any set-up black chooses. Because of the lack of early pawn tension, both sides have plenty of flexibility, and it’s impossible to analyze every possible option concretely – understanding the key ideas is more important.

One idea in particular is worth discussion though. On move 5, black could play 5…Bg4:

 

Bg4 King's Indian Attack

This move looks quite logical. Rather than shutting this bishop away with 5…e6, black develops it actively. This bishop can later swing around to help defend the king, with …Bh5 and …Bg6.

So why doesn’t everyone play this move with black? The idea doesn’t come without its downsides. White can sometimes gain a tempo or two by attacking this bishop, aiding their kingside expansion, and now this bishop won’t be able to support black’s queenside breakthrough with …c4 later on.

That said, if I had the black pieces here, this is probably the option I would choose – letting another piece defend the kingside is quite valuable!

Which Move Order to Choose?

So far, we’ve been looking at playing the King’s Indian Attack by starting the game with 1. Nf3

This has its merits – by avoiding early pawn tension, white makes sure that they’ll be able to play this set-up no matter what black does. White also immediately takes the e5 square under control, preventing black from occupying the center with their King’s Pawn.

That said, beginning the game with 1. e4 has its merits too.

The latter half of the video above is dedicated to this “Move order discussion,” but for a quick example, let’s consider the position after 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3:

Sicilian?

It looks like white is about to go into the Open Sicilian. Black has several options here, of course, including 2..d6, 2…Nc6, and 2…e6.

White can go into the King’s Indian Attack against any of them, but many players particularly like to do so against 2…e6, meeting it with 3. d3 followed by Nd2, g3, Bg2, and 0-0.

Now that black has committed to putting the pawn on e6, their …Bg4 option against the King’s Indian Attack no longer exists!

Conclusion

The King’s Indian Attack is a flexible, exciting opening that often gives white attacking chances on the kingside. Because it prioritizes the understanding of ideas over rote memorization, I’d encourage you to test our your skills and give it a try!

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Blake

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