ForumHelpSearchMy ProfileSite InfoGuests InfoRepertoireLinks
I've long considered one of the most important King's Indian lines to be the Classical Variation with ...Nbd7, regardless of its popularity at the top level. The standard way to reach this is via the move order 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.e4 d6 5.Nf3 0-0 6.Be2 e5 7.0-0 Nbd7, but in practice several other move orders are seen. First of all many club players will be reluctant to play 6...e5 because White can exchange queens with 7.dxe5, so instead they will often prepare ...e7-e5 with 6...Nbd7. Many authors have gone to great lengths to show that the queen exchange is harmless, yet this can be anathema to those who play the King's Indian for it's tactical and attacking possibilities. This concern has even extended to Grandmasters, and John Nunn himself played the 6...Nbd7 move order. Later on he switched to 6...e5 7.0-0 Nc6 (instead of 7...Nbd7) to more or less force 8.d5, presumably because Black can struggle to create counterplay if White manages to maintain the central tension.
As this view gained momentum there was a gradual migration away from ...Nbd7 lines to and 6...e5 7.0-0 Nc6, and whilst this migration continued the King's Indian itself declined in popularity, perhaps partly because engines would give White +1 in almost every line! This left the ...Nbd7 Classical particularly bereft of supporters, one bright spot being the book 'Dangerous Weapons: The King's Indian', by IM Richard Palliser, GM Glenn Flear and IM/WGM Yelena Dembo (Everyman, 2009). I was fascinated by the ideas presented in this book, which heralded the return of ...Nbd7. At the time I was on a two decade fatherhood break from tournament participation, so did not get a chance to adopt these suggestions myself. On the other hand I made a mental note of the ideas, tempted partly by Black's move order options such as 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 d6 3.Nc3 Nbd7 4.e4 e5 5.Nf3 g6 6.Be2 Bg7 7.0-0 0-0. This approach was popular with East German players in the 1970s and 80s, and makes a lot of sense if you want a low theory defence against 1.d4 that also has fighting chances.
How is the ...Nbd7 Classical line is faring these days? Let's take a look at some recent examples:

Download PGN of March ’24 KID games

>> Previous Update >>

Classical Variation 7.0-0 Nbd7 8.Be3 Re8 [E94]

One of the revelations from 'Dangerous Weapons' was usage of the move 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.e4 d6 5.Nf3 0-0 6.Be2 e5 7.0-0 Nbd7 8.Be3 and now 8...Re8:

The threat of ...exd4, and then capturing the e4 pawn, more or less forces White to either push on with 9.d5 or protect e4 with 9.Qc2 (9.dxe5 is harmless). We can examine these two possibilities in turn.

Classical Variation 7.0-0 Nbd7 8.Be3 Re8 9.d5 [E94]

According to conventional wisdom, 9.d5 leaves the rook on e8 misplaced as you'd really want it on f8 in order to support a later ...f7-f5:

and yet Black can then seek counterplay with either 9...Nh5 (Nguyen, V - Nolte, R ) or 9...Ng4 (Bosiocic, M - Markus, R).

Classical Variation 7.0-0 Nbd7 8.Be3 Re8 9.Qc2 [E94]

On 9.Qc2 there are a number of options for Black, with King's Indian expert Mark Hebden playing 9...Ng4:

in Ledger, A - Hebden, M.

Classical Variation with ...Nbd7, 8.Be3 Qe7[E94]

Is there a good alternative to 8...Re8? Well 8...Qe7 still looks very reasonable, notwithstanding the fact that in recent years it has been overshadowed:

A good example is Stalmach, R - Vykouk, J, where Black 'innovated' with 14...a6 in a position in which many moves were possible. Actually I don't like Black's position in this line because he seems to have very little counterplay. Admittedly there are always chances in a practical game.

Classical Variation 7.0-0 Nbd7 8.Re1 b6 [E95]

Moving on to other lines, two traditional enemies of the ...Nbd7 Classical have been 8.Re1 and 8.Qc2, yet Black has shown some new ideas in recent games.

Against 8.Re1 I found Pavel Ponkratov's 8...b6 very interesting (Rozum, I - Ponkratov, P)

in particular his ability to find useful waiting moves before White eventually played d4-d5.

Classical Variation with ...Nbd7, 8.Qc2 Nh5 [E94]

Against 8.Qc2 there is 8...Nh5!?:

which I first saw mentioned in 'Dangerous Weapons' and still looks interesting (Tudor, H - Rogozenko, D).

Classical, Exchange Variation mainline 9.Bg5 Re8 [E92]

Returning to the question about 6...e5 7.dxe5, is this anything to be scared of? Despite the assurances that this holds no terrors, the draw percentage is very high. There are recent examples of White using this line to draw against higher rated opposition.

In Thybo, J - Amin, B, Black tried to make a game of it but in the end was probably relieved to get a draw, despite being much higher rated than his opponent.

Classical 6...Nbd7 7.e5 [E91]

Finally, it's also worth noting that 6...Nbd7 might be met by 7.e5, which Andrew Martin had previously covered in 2002. My personal inclination would be to play 7...Ne8 followed by 8...c5, and a number of strong players seem to agree with me.

I've reviewed this way of playing the position within Sarakauskas, G - Kobalia, M.

It seems that the ...Nbd7 Classical is back in business, and I like the many options that Black seems to have. This in turn means that an Old Indian move order can make a lot of sense, namely 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 d6 3.Nc3 Nbd7 4.e4 e5 5.Nf3 g6 6.Be2 Bg7. Black can then reach a ...Nbd7 Classical line whilst avoiding several other White systems, which was popular amongst East German players in the 1980s. It's also good news for Modern Defence aficionados, after 1.d4 g6 2.c4 Bg7 3.Nc3 d6 4.e4 (Or 4.Nf3 Nd7 followed by 5...e5 and 6...Ngf6 can also get there) Black can play 4...Nd7 5.Nf3 e5 and then 6...Ngf6, once again reaching the featured variation.

See you next month! Nigel

>> Previous Update >>

Don't hesitate to share your thoughts and suggestions. Any queries or comments to the KID Forum, or to me directly at (subscribers only) would be welcome.