Indian Game

1.d4 Nf6

The Indian Game is the all-encompassing name for several popular chess openings that begin with the moves 1.d4 Nf6. The move 1...Nf6 is Black's main alternative to the symmetrical 1...d5 when facing 1.d4 from White. Instead of committing a central pawn on the first move, Black instead develops a piece and maintains flexibility.

Starting Position

Because it consists of just one move per side, the Indian Game is not particularly distinct as an opening in and of itself. It usually takes a couple more moves before getting truly interesting—read on to find out what some of these moves are.


  • Strong
  • Flexible
  • Well-respected


  • None, really

Key Openings

White can go for several second moves, but 2.c4 is most common. This move leads to several openings, such as:

King's Indian Defense

Classified by Black's next two moves, 2...g6 and 3...Bg7. For more information on this opening, see our King's Indian Defense page.

Grünfeld Defense

After 3.Nc3, Black plays 3...d5 instead of 3...Bg7. For more information on this opening, see our Grünfeld Defense page.


Black's main alternative to 2...g6 is 2...e6. The most popular third moves are 3.Nc3 Bb4. For more information on this opening, see our Nimzo-Indian Defense page.

Queen's Indian

To avoid the Nimzo-Indian, White can play 3.Nf3. Black either transposes into a Queen's Gambit Declined with 3...d5, leaving the realm of Indian Game derivatives, or plays 3...b6 the next most common move. For more information on this opening, see our Queen's Indian Defense page.

Bogo-Indian Defense

Black can also deliver the check 3...Bb4+ instead of 3...b6. For more information on this opening, see our Bogo-Indian Defense page.

Catalan Opening

After 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6, White does not need to develop a knight, but can also play 3.g3. For more information on this opening, see our Catalan Opening page.

There are other ways to reach the Catalan as well that do not derive from the Indian Game.

Benoni Defense

There is a third pawn move for Black after 2.c4, and it is 2...c5. For more information on this opening, see our Benoni Defense page (under which you will also find a brief discussion of the related Benko Gambit).


2.Nf3 is White's second-most popular move two, after 2.c4. Games often transpose into one of the above openings, or to 1.d4 d5 lines that aren't part of the Indian Game, like the Queen's Gambit or Colle System.

Trompowsky Attack

White can also play 2.Bg5 on the second move. For more information on this opening, see our Trompowsky Attack page.


For centuries, 1.e4 was by far the most popular first move, and when White did open with 1.d4, Black usually responded with 1...d5 or occasionally 1...f5 (the Dutch Defense). The Indian Game became far more popular beginning in the 1920s as part of the hypermodern movement, and that popularity has never really slowed down.

The Indian Game gets its name from being played in several 19th century games between Scotland's John Cochrane and India's Bonnerjee Mohishunder, during Cochrane's travels to India. 


The Indian Game is a great way to start a chess game, but there are many more decisions to be made in the opening after the first move. In fact, it is impossible to cover all the options for both sides after 1.d4 Nf6 in one article. You can explore them all in our database.

Top Players