Openings for Tactical Players: Pirc Defense

  • GM Gserper
  • | Jan 23, 2010

The Pirc Defense is a really strange opening. It looks almost like the Sicilian Dragon, except White has a strong center and Black has no open 'c' file for counterplay! Yet, it is a sound opening played by many great chess players. Still, seeing such obvious similarities with the Dragon variation, I cannot help but remember the famous Fischer plan of dealing with the Dragon: just push the 'h' pawn, check, check... mate! Let's see if such a crude method works in the Pirc.

Here is a game that was played just last week:


The 6.e5!? idea is not new of course and was relatively popular in the 1960's. In the next game GM Leonid Stein showed that White doesn't really need to burn his bridges by sacrificing a piece as early as move 9, (like Nakamura did in the previous game).  Still his attack was so vicious that his opponent GM Leonid Shamkovich didn't last long.
Maybe Black should just take the annoying pawn by 6...dxe5? In the following game a strong Armenian GM and a namesake of the great World Champion Tigran Petrosian shows that even in this case Black is not out of the woods.
The 6.e5!? plan doesn't refute the Pirc Defense, but does pose serious problems for Black.  In the resulting positions one wrong move spells disaster for Black. Therefore, many chess players prefer to play 5...c5, delaying castling and immediately attacking White's center. In the next brilliant game White still managed to achieve a strong attack with a surprising sacrifice.
In conclusion, let me repeat my usual advice/disclaimer.  It is my deep belief that a sound opening cannot be refuted.  Since the Pirc Defense is definetely a sound opening, the goal of this article is not to find a refutation (which we can be sure doesn't exist). My goal was just to explain the main ideas, to demonstrate typical attacking patterns and to share the spirit of the opening. I hope you replayed the whole games and not just the positions shown on the diagrams (Remember that you can always replay a whole game from the first move if you click "Solution" and then "Move list"). If you liked what you saw so far, then it is a good starting point for your own investigation of the opening. I can tell you one thing for sure: if you decide to give this variation a try, I can guarantee you an interesting game and a lot of excitement.
Good luck!


  • 2 years ago


    yet another refutation of the pirc defense (after kasparov)

  • 3 years ago


    The thing about many openings for those who actually play it in their free time is that many of these openings actually are quite useless since their opponents (most of whom again usually play for fun) tend to deviate from main lines....rendering the openings useless for such people

  • 5 years ago


    my fav Cool

  • 6 years ago


    creative article.thanx sir!

  • 7 years ago



  • 7 years ago

    FM zivicd


    you can see one my old game ( one of my 70 games in Megadatabase 2010).

    589446) Zivic,Dragan (2355) - Zivkovic,Vladislav [B09]

    Sokobanja op Sokobanja (1), 1989

     1.e4 d6 2.d4 ¤f6 3.¤c3 g6 4.f4 ¥g7 5.¤f3 0–0 6.¥d3 ¤a6 7.0–0 c5 8.d5 ¤c7 9.£e1 ¦b8 10.a4 a6 11.a5 ¥d7 12.£h4 ¥b5 13.f5 £d7 14.¥h6 ¤ce8 15.¤g5 ¥xd3 16.cxd3 b6 17.¦f3 bxa5 18.¦h3 ¤h5 19.¥xg7 ¤exg7 20.g4 ¦xb2 21.gxh5 ¤xh5 22.£g4 ¤f6 23.£f4 h5 24.¦g3 ¤g4 25.¦xg4 hxg4 26.£xg4 ¦fb8 27.£h4 ¢g7 28.£h7+ ¢f6 29.¤e6 ¢e5 30.£xf7 1–0

  • 7 years ago


    Excuse me, mr. Serper, I don't know if all the variations given in the first game are yours or not, but it took a completely unneccessary extra move in the 15... fxg5 variation to finish off Black:

  • 7 years ago


    Here's the Kramnik win from Corus.  White seemed to be confused in the opening letting black equalize.  Somewhere around move 20 he loses the game.


  • 7 years ago


    Eugene Torre beat tal using the pirc

  • 7 years ago


    Do the Caro-Kann next week in this series

  • 7 years ago



  • 7 years ago


    interesting and pastoryoshi yes that is awesome!

  • 7 years ago



        "but unfortunately the other knight and the pawn produce a 3 square barrier"

         it  is  not  neccessary  3  squares  ,important  is  only 2  squares  here e5  and  g5 .  I  already  say  that  solution.

  • 7 years ago


    in the second game, white sacrifices the queen because the rook takes the bishop forcing the king's move to a place where the rook can check the king again and be protected by the knight.

    this forces the king to take the knight. to avoid mate, but unfortunately the other knight and the pawn produce a 3 square barrier just like a king with the opposition can use his rook to give a "back rank mate". One R creates a new edge and because the king is blocked by his pawns, the other R takes the black R with mate! it is a creative way to make the same position as any other "back rank" mate.

  • 7 years ago



            They  resigned  because  of  matt  in  few  moves:

        1... B:h6 2.R:h6+  Kg7 3. Rh7+  K:f6 4.R:f8 matt.

  • 7 years ago


    Great Article ! I cant wait till we see another one with some of the black main ideas with this play! ( with black super play ending up in winning!)

  • 7 years ago


    why did black resign in the second game?


  • 7 years ago


                     "Stein, Leonid vs. Liberzon, Vladimir M" ----  cool.

         "Polgar, Sofia (2410) vs. Van Wely, Loek (2445)" ----  i  like very  much  this  kind of  sacrifice  for  receiving  attack  ,  very  cool  game  ,  but  maybe  better  if  black    playied    Nc6  instead  of  g6:f5 , this  move  gives  to  white  g  file  . Maybe  they  will  have  more  chance  for  defence  with  move  Nc6.                

  • 7 years ago


    White-Gryphon, because after Nf6+ black's queen would be hanging

  • 7 years ago


    Nakamura has done well with Pirc, but the secret to playing Pirc is to delay castling.   Even good players seems to forget this sometimes.

Back to Top

Post your reply: