Indian defences are chess openings characterised by the moves:
- 1. d4 Nf6
Transpositions are important and many of the positions can be reached by several move orders. They are all to varying degrees hypermodern defences, where Black invites White to establish an imposing presence in the centre with the plan of drawing it out, undermining it, and destroying it. Although Indian defences were championed in the 1920s by players in the hypermodern school, they were not fully accepted until Russian players showed in the late 1940s that these systems are sound for Black. Since then, Indian defences have been the most popular Black replies to 1.d4 because they offer an unbalanced game with chances for both sides.
The Indian defences are considered more ambitious and double-edged than the symmetrical reply 1...d5. In the Queen's Gambit Declined, Black accepts a cramped, passive position with the plan of gradually equalising and obtaining counterplay. In contrast, breaking symmetry on move one leads to rapid combat in the centre, where Black can obtain counterplay without necessarily equalising first.
The usual White second move is 2.c4, grabbing a larger share of the centre and allowing the move Nc3, to prepare for moving the e-pawn to e4 without blocking the c-pawn. Black's most popular replies are
- 2...e6, freeing the king's bishop and leading into the Nimzo-Indian Defence, Queen's Indian Defence, Bogo-Indian Defence, Modern Benoni, or regular lines of the Queen's Gambit Declined,
- 2...g6, preparing a fianchetto of the king's bishop and entering the King's Indian Defence or Gr nfeld Defence, and
- 2...c5, the Modern Benoni, with an immediate counter-punch in the centre,
but other moves are played as detailed below.
Instead of 2.c4, White often plays 2.Nf3. Then Black may play 2...d5 for Queen's Pawn Game (D02, see 1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 d5). This can lead to Slav Defence (D15), Queen's Gambit Declined (D37), Queen's Pawn Game (D05), or Queen's Pawn Game (D04). Or black may play 2...e6 for Queen's Pawn Game (A46, see 1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 e6). This can lead to Queen's Gambit Declined (D37), Queen's Indian (E12), or Queen's Pawn Game (A46). Or black may play 2...g6 for King's Indian Defence (A48, see 1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 g6). This can lead to King's Indian Defence (E60), King's Indian, Orthodox (E94), or King's Indian, Fianchetto without c4 (A49). Or black may play 2...c5 for Queen's Pawn Game (A46, see 1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 c5). This can lead to Queen's Pawn Game (E10), English, Symmetrical, Benoni Formation (A31), Queen's Pawn Game (A46), or Old Benoni (A43).
White can also play 2.Bg5, the Trompowsky Attack. Black can respond 2...Ne4 (see 1.d4 Nf6 2.Bg5 Ne4), or 2...e6 (see 1.d4 Nf6 2.Bg5 e6), among other moves. A third alternative for White is the rarer 2.Nc3. Then black may play 2...d5 for Richter-Veresov Attack (D01, see 1.d4 Nf6 2.Nc3 d5). Black may also play 2...g6 (see 1.d4 Nf6 2.Nc3 g6).
Advocated by Nimzowitsch as early as 1913, the Nimzo-Indian Defence was the first of the Indian systems to gain full acceptance. It remains one of the most popular and well-respected defences to 1.d4, and White often chooses move orders designed to avoid it. Black attacks the centre with pieces and is prepared to trade a bishop for a knight to weaken White's queenside with doubled pawns.
The King's Indian Defence is aggressive and somewhat risky, and generally indicates that Black will not be satisfied with a draw. Although it was played occasionally as early as the late 19th century, the King's Indian was considered inferior until the 1940s when it was featured in the games of Bronstein, Boleslavsky, and Reshevsky. Fischer's favoured defence to 1.d4, its popularity faded in the mid-1970s. Kasparov's successes with the defence restored the King's Indian to prominence in the 1980s.
Ernst Gr nfeld debuted the Gr nfeld Defence in 1922. Distinguished by the move 3...d5, Gr nfeld intended it as an improvement to the King's Indian which was not considered entirely satisfactory at that time. The Gr nfeld has been adopted by World Champions Smyslov, Fischer, and Kasparov.
The Queen's Indian Defence is considered solid, safe, and perhaps somewhat drawish. Black often chooses the Queen's Indian when White avoids the Nimzo-Indian by playing 3.Nf3 instead of 3.Nc3. Black constructs a sound position that makes no positional concessions, although sometimes it is difficult for Black to obtain good winning chances. Karpov is a leading expert in this opening.
The Modern Benoni Defence is a risky attempt by Black to unbalance the position and gain active piece play at the cost of allowing White a pawn wedge at d5 and a central majority. Tal popularised the defence in the 1960s by winning several brilliant games with it, and Bobby Fischer occasionally adopted it, with good results, including a win in his 1972 World Championship match against Boris Spassky. Often Black adopts a slightly different move order, playing 2...e6 before 3...c5 in order to avoid the sharpest lines for White.
The Benko Gambit is often played by strong players, and is very popular at lower levels. Black plays to open lines on the queenside where White will be subject to considerable pressure. If White accepts the gambit, Black's compensation is positional rather than tactical, and his initiative can last even after many piece exchanges and well into the endgame. White often chooses instead either to decline the gambit pawn or return it.
The Bogo-Indian Defence is a solid alternative to the Queen's Indian, into which it sometimes transposes. It is less popular than that opening, however, perhaps because many players are loath to surrender the bishop pair (particularly without doubling White's pawns), as Black often ends up doing after 4.Nbd2. The classical 4.Bd2 Qe7 is also often seen, although more recently 4...a5!? and even 4...c5!? have emerged as alternatives. Transposition to the Nimzo-Indian with 4.Nc3 is perfectly playable but rarely seen, since most players who play 3.Nf3 do so in order to avoid that opening.
The Old Indian Defence was introduced by Tarrasch in 1902, but it is more commonly associated with Chigorin who adopted it five years later. It is similar to the King's Indian in that both feature a ...d6 and ...e5 pawn centre, but in the Old Indian Black's king bishop is developed to e7 rather than being fianchettoed on g7. The Old Indian is solid, but Black's position is usually cramped and it lacks the dynamic possibilities found in the King's Indian.
The Black Knights' Tango or Mexican Defence introduced by Carlos Torre in 1925 in Baden-Baden shares similarities with Alekhine's Defence as Black attempts to induce a premature advance of the white pawns. It may transpose into many other defences.
The Neo-Indian Attack, Torre Attack, and Trompowski Attack are White anti-Indian variations. Related to the Richter-Veresov Attack, they feature an early Bg5 by White and avoid much of the detailed theory of other queen's pawn openings. Another option is the Barry Attack, popular with club players and characterised by the moves 1.d4 Nf6 2. Nf3 g6 3. Nc3 d5 4.Bf4 Bg7 5.e3 O-O 6. Be2. White usually follows up with Ne5 and h2-h4-h5, a direct attack on the Black king. The Barry Attack has also been tried out at Grandmaster level by Mark Hebden and Julian Hodgson.
The Blumenfeld Gambit (or Countergambit) bears a superficial but misleading resemblance to the Benko Gambit, as Black's goals are very different. Black gambits a wing pawn in an attempt to build a strong centre. White can either accept the gambit or decline it to maintain a small positional advantage. Although the Blumenfeld is playable for Black it is not very popular.
The D ry Defence is uncommon, but it was sometimes adopted by Keres. It will sometimes transpose into a variation of the Queen's Indian Defence but there are also independent lines.
The Accelerated Queen's Indian Defence (2...b6) is playable, although modern theory favours the Queen's Indian only after 2...e6 3 Nf3.
The Slav-Indian Defence is an obscure idea that may transpose into the King's Indian or Slav Defence.
The Budapest Gambit is rarely played in grandmaster games, but more often adopted by amateurs. Although it is a gambit, White cannot hold on to his extra pawn without making compromises in the deployment of his pieces, so he often chooses to return the pawn and retain the initiative.
The Nadanian Attack (1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 h6 3.c4 g5) is an aggressive attempt by Black to unbalance the position. The early 2...h6 and 3...g5 are designed to deal with a drawish variations such as Colle System, London System and Torre Attack. The line was introduced in 2005 by Ashot Nadanian, but has never enjoyed widespread popularity among top-flight chess players.
The earliest known use of the term "Indian Defence" was in 1884, and the name was attributed to the opening's use by the Indian player Moheschunder Bannerjee against John Cochrane. Philip W. Sergeant describes Moheschunder as having been as of 1848 "a Brahman in the Mofussil—up country, as we might say—who had never been beaten at chess!" Sergeant wrote in 1934 (substituting algebraic notation for his descriptive notation):
The Indian Defences by g6 coupled with d6, or b6 coupled with e6, were largely taught to European players by the example of Moheschunder and other Indians, to whom the fianchetto developments were a natural legacy from their own game. The fondness for them of the present Indian champion of British chess, Mir Sultan Khan, is well known. But they are now so widely popular that Dr. S. G. Tartakover was able to declare, some years ago, that "to-day fianchettos are trumps." A sequel hardly to have been anticipated from the discovery of Moheschunder in the Mofussil!
In the following game, Moheschunder (Black) plays the Gr nfeld Defence against Cochrane in 1855—some 38 years before Ernst Gr nfeld was born.
John Cochrane Moheschunder Bannerjee, May 1855:
1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 d5 4. e3 Bg7 5. Nf3 0-0 6. cxd5 Nxd5 7. Be2 Nxc3 8. bxc3 c5 9. 0-0 cxd4 10. cxd4 Nc6 11. Bb2 Bg4 12. Rc1 Rc8 13. Ba3 Qa5 14. Qb3 Rfe8 15. Rc5 Qb6 16. Rb5 Qd8 17. Ng5 Bxe2 18. Nxf7 Na5 and White mates in three (19.Nh6+ double check Kh8 20.Qg8+ Rxg8 21.Nf7#).
Another of the games between these players transposed to what would today be called the Four Pawns Attack against the King's Indian Defence. This time Moheschunder, as Black, won after some enterprising (and perhaps dubious) sacrificial play:
1. e4 d6 2. d4 g6 3. c4 Bg7 4. Nc3 Nf6 5. f4 0-0 6. Nf3 Bg4 7. Bd3? e5! 8. fxe5 dxe5 9. d5 Nxe4!? 10. Nxe4 f5 11. Neg5 e4 12. Ne6 exf3! 13. Nxd8?! fxg2 14. Rg1 Bxd1 15. Ne6 Bg4 16. Nxf8 Kxf8 17. Rxg2 Nd7 18. Bf4 Nc5 19. Kd2 Rc8 20. Kc2 Bf3 21. Rf2 Nxd3 22. Kxd3 Be4+ 23. Ke3 b5 24. cxb5 Bxd5 25. Rd2 Bc4 26. Rad1 Bf6 27. Bh6+ Kg8 28. Kf4 Re8 29. b3 Bxb5 30. Rc1 Be2! 31. Re1 Re4+ 32. Kg3 Bh4+ 0 1
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