Modern Defense with 1.e4

1.e4 g6

The Modern Defense is the name generally used when Black begins the game with 1...g6. The Modern Defense with 1.e4, then, begins 1.e4 g6. If Black plays ...Nf6 early on, the game will likely transpose into the Pirc Defense (1.e4 d6 2.d4 Nf6 3.Nc3 g6), and the two openings are thematically quite similar.

Black allows White to create the classical pawn center with 2.d4 and usually completes the fianchetto immediately with 2...Bg7. The plan for Black, which this opening shares with Alekhine's Defense or the King's Indian Defense as well as the Pirc, among others, is to attack White's center later. The opening tends to result in imbalanced positions, so it is a good choice for players who want to win with Black and don't mind some risk.

Starting Position

The main distinction between the Modern Defense with 1.e4 and the Pirc Defense is Black's delay in the development of the kingside knight. Of course, if Black wants to castle kingside eventually, this knight will have to be developed. If that development occurs, the game has probably transposed into the Pirc. If it does not, the position remains distinctly a Modern Defense.


  • Plays for a win with Black
  • Avoids early trades
  • Black has several plans


  • White has several plans
  • Allows White to take the full center
  • Somewhat passive

Key Third Moves By White

White has several responses to the Modern Defense. We'll cover the four most-played options here.


The opening encyclopedia Modern Chess Openings considers 3.Nc3 an integral part of the Modern (which it calls the Robatsch Defense, another name for the opening). It is a natural developing move and, unlike White's other popular third moves below, defends the e-pawn.

 If Black wants to stay in unique lines instead of switch to a Pirc, queenside expansion with the moves ...c6 and ...b5 is common.


3.Nf3 aims for rapid kingside development.

It's a very transpositional move, as with 3...c5 the game is already a variation of the Sicilian Defense Accelerated Dragon or, as with 3.Nc3, Black can play 3...Nf6 for a Pirc. Otherwise Black often, again, expands on the queenside.


Instead of developing, White can expand further in the center with 3.c4. This move introduces opportunities for the game to transpose into a King's Indian Defense, potentially quickly, for example by 3...d6 4.Nc3 Nf6.

Often White's threat of central control leads Black to immediately strike back in the center with 3...c5, which immediately threatens White's d-pawn.


Black committed to the kingside fianchetto very early, and White can respond by blocking the h8-a1 diagonal with 3.c3 when the chain of pawns on b2, c3, and d4 blunts Black's bishop.

Although a very rational move for White, it does not develop a piece and takes the c3-square away from the b1-knight. Black can thus play more freely than usual.


The Modern Defense, unsurprisingly based on its name, is another hypermodern opening where Black allows White to control the center with pawns before attacking later. Unlike other hypermodern openings, however, it has been considered a bit too passive for top grandmasters until recent years. It still remains relatively unused at the highest levels unless Black needs or wants a win, but is a solid choice at most levels.

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