The King’s Indian Defense: Too Hot For You?

The King’s Indian Defense: Too Hot For You?

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I feel like one of my recent games demonstrates my problem quite well. I thought I was gaining a positional advantage and at first glance it seems so: by move 15 I had a bishop pair and an outposted knight (which couldn’t be kicked because then the pawn on h3 would fall). Though I did have doubled pawns, they could easily be undoubled after ...Bd7 and ...c6.

So where did I go wrong? The computer doesn’t really like 16...Rf7 because it’s slow, but I couldn’t really find anything decisive and I wanted to play ...Bd7, …Rf8 and then sacrifice my knight on h3 for a decisive attack. The only reason I won was because of 19.Qc2?? which allows a pretty combination though I messed it up with 21…Qh4?. Also I don’t know why he resigned, I was up two pawns but there were three rooks on the board — by no means a win. I was also expecting 19.Qb3 Rb8 20.Re3 and any semblance of activity advantage dissipates.


Your letter to me was quite long (I cut quite a bit of it) so I’ll just discuss your King's Indian Defense game (it was fun analyzing it). Perhaps in the future I’ll answer your other queries.

As for where you went wrong: You stepped into massive complications and both players pretty much drowned in the tactical insanity. Even masters would have screwed up many of these lines, so there is certainly no shame in making errors here. If you find that you don’t like this type of game then don’t play the KID.

People usually pick openings that suit their temperament and strengths, or they pick openings that highlight their weaknesses so they can improve in that area (being beaten to a pulp is part of learning).


So let’s jump into your very entertaining game!

I found a high-class game between two Chinese grandmasters in the exact same opening. It will demonstrate how both sides should handle various KID situations.


  • Many KID situations (when Black plays ...e5 and White responds with d4-d5) call for Black to attack on the kingside (as shown in IvnKaramazov’s game).
  • White tries to rip open lines into Black’s queenside (as shown in the Wang Yue game — move 14.b4). Sacrificing a pawn to do so is par for the course.
  • Why does Black attack on the kingside? Is the answer that he just wanted to? NOT AT ALL! Black attacks on the kingside since his pawn structure (c7, d6, and e5) aims at the kingside. Thus Black’s pawn cascade easily flows in that direction. The next bullet explains this. This structure was shown in both games.
  • A critical move for Black is ...f7-f5 since it grabs kingside space, in some cases gives the Black rooks play on the f-file, and often goes all out with a “tsunami” type pawn advance (...f7-f5-f4 followed by ...g6-g5 followed by ...h7-h5, and then ...g5-g4). We saw this in both games.
  • Once this Black-attack starts rolling, all sorts of sacrifices and tactics appear. IvnKaramazov leaped into the sacrifice maelstrom, while Ding Liren happily sacrificed the exchange for active pieces and control over various dark-squares/diagonals.
  • After Black plays ...f7-f5 he often has a difficult decision to make: should he or shouldn’t he take on e4 by ...f5xe4? It does open the c8-h3 diagonal for Black’s light-squared bishop. And it also opens the f-file for a Black rook. But there IS a price to pay: White gets control of the e4-square. You will see this in the IvnKaramazov game.

Of course, there’s much more to say and explain about this super-dynamic opening. The KID isn’t always “close the center and then club your opponent to death,” though many games do end that way!

I’ll finish this article with a classic KID game that is full of tactics even though the center isn’t closed!

Do keep in mind that the KID makes heavy demands on its worshipers. Be honest with yourself and, if you don’t think you can handle the heat, then look for something else.

On the other hand, if “do or die” is your middle name, then go for it!

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