The Queen’s Indian Defense is a Queen’s Pawn Opening beginning with 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 b6
By playing 2…e6, black announced his intention to possible go into a Nimzo-Indian. If white were to play the natural 3. Nc3, threatening to take the full center with e2-e4 next turn, black could play 3…Bb4 to pin this knight.
White chose to avoid this line with 3. Nf3, and now black is forced to come up with an alternative set-up because there is no knight to pin on c3. With 3…b6, black increases his control of the important e4 square by allowing the light-squared bishop to help out, and we’ve reached the starting position of the Queen’s Indian Defense.
Let’s see how the game can proceed.
This is white’s most popular set-up against the Queen’s Indian. The g2 bishop helps to neutralize black’s pressure along the long diagonal, and white is able to castle very quickly.
The position may look calm and quiet, but white might consider playing an aggressive pawn sacrifice in the coming moves!
After 5…Be7 (5…Bb4 is sometimes tried, and is covered in the above video. 6. Bd2 can even be met with 6…a5) 6. 0-0 0-0, white can develop normally with Nc3 or play the following sacrifice…
This spectacular idea has become quite popular. At first, white’s d4-d5 advance looks like a simple counting mistake – black has three attackers on this square, and white only has two defenders!
After 7…exd5 8. Nh4, white’s point is revealed. The d5 pawn is now attacked and pinned, and the knight might be headed to the newly-exposed f5 square.
The game can continue 8…c6 (otherwise white is likely to win the pawn back – with interest) 9. cxd5 Nxd5 10. Nf5 Nc7 11. e4 d5 12. Nc3
White still has good compensation for a pawn. White has a lead in development, and Qg4 could be an idea in some lines to intensify the pressure against the black king.
White can also forgo this gambit and play 7. Nc3, when black generally exploits their control over the e4-square with 7…Ne4:
The exchange of knights slightly alleviates the cramped black position (due to white’s space advantage). Black will be ready to strike in the center with …c5, perhaps intensifying the pressure with …Bf6 later on.
For example, one line continues 8. Qc2 Nxc3 9. Qxc3. White avoids doubled pawns, but after 9…c5 10. b3 Bf6:
Black generates pressure against the pinned d-pawn.
Black doesn’t always develop the bishop to the natural b7 square. One popular line is 4. g3 Ba6:
Since white is committed to fianchettoing the light bishop, black takes the opportunity to place the c4 pawn under attack.
One sample line would be 5. b3 Bb4+ 6. Bd2 Be7 (a peculiar maneuver to those unfamiliar with it. This “check-and-retreat” operation is also used in some lines of the Catalan. It appears that white gains a tempo, but the white bishop isn’t particularly happy on d2) 7. Bg2 c6 8. Bc3 d5:
The central pawns do a great job of blunting the white bishops. White usually tries to organize a central pawn break with e2-e4, while black can eventually break with …c5 once development is complete.
White has a couple alternaitves on move four besides playing g3.
4. a3 has been tried, simply preventing any …Bb4+ ideas. This check isn’t a real threat to white though, so white generally doesn’t spend a tempo on this move.
White might also try to develop the light-squared bishop “naturally,” for example with 4. e4 Bb7 5. Bd3. Black’s most natural plan is probably to strike at the center with 5…d5 or 5…c5:
With good central control and development prospects for each player.
The Queen’s Indian Defense is a reputable answer to white’s 3. Nf3 move. Black gets good control of the center and a comfortable game in most continuations.
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