Understanding The Queen's Indian Defense

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 b6

The Queen's Indian Defense is considered one of the most solid defensive systems against White's Queen Pawn Opening, d4.

The simple plan of straightforward development with queenside fianchetto and bishop at e7 and kingside castling is carried out without fear of any major White initiative in the opening.

The Queen's Indian Defense is Black's major response to 3.Nf3. Players use the opening set of the Nimzo-Indian and Queen's Indian to make a complete defense to the Queen pawn. The Queen's Indian was considered so safe and extremely solid for much of the twentieth century that players intent of winning with White avoided 3.Nf3 in favor of the greater complications of 3.Nc3. This has changed somewhat in the later twentieth century as White has found new ideas to try for the advantage, but the solid reputation of the opening persists.

In the Queen's Indian Black restrains White's center without weakening his pawn structure, ceding the bishop pair or making another significant concession. He must be willing to live with a bit less space, but not so much that his pieces are restricted. Black seeks to find good posts for his pieces and then to deploy his central pawns, typical of most Indian defenses.

The exchange of one or two minor pieces is usually enough to solve Black's spatial problems, the most common exchange being Ne4 and exchanging for the White knight on c3. The e4 square is important in the scheme of this opening; if White can control it without making serious concessions, he will have the advantage.

The Queen's Indian was developed by Nimzovich and other "hypermoderns" in the early twentieth century. While many top players use it today, its most notable exponent is Karpov, whose style is exactly like this opening, correct and safe, with possibilities for active play.

The Petrosian Variation

For most of the last 50 years, White had almost automatically fianchettoed the bishop at g2 with 4.g3, to which Black can reply with either 4Bb4 or 4Ba6. In the 1980s, a different approach, worked out by Tigran Petrosian and revived by Garry Kasparov, took over almost completely. This is the Kasparov-Petrosian Variation with Nc3 and a3 played in either order at moves 4 and 5.

The Petrosian System is the sharpest and most aggressive plan for White. It came to prominence in the 1980s when Kasparov scored victories with it in brilliant attacking games, and it has been a major reason for renewed interest in the White side of this opening. The point of 4.a2 seems slow, to play 5.Nc3 and avoid the pin Bb4. Yet Black has no way to exploit the tempo that combines that well with b6.

Black's sharpest and most direct response is 4Bb7 5.Nc3 d5 6.cxd5 Nxd5. White obtains a mobile pawn center that allows for sharp play and kingside attacks. In the last decade, black has discovered satisfactory defenses, but the character of the game is like an aggressive king-pawn opening with decisive results common.

The ninth World Champion, Tigran Petrosian (1928-84), World Champion 1963-69), had an extraordinary gift for frustrating his opponents plans. Petrosian would play a defensive combination long before his opponent realized he had a chance to attack! He mastered the art of prophylaxis, anticipating the dangerous plans of his opponents before they could arise. His specialty was to carefully prepare his advances, nurturing and building his position before initiating a clash. He conjured up the following variation.

Petrosian Variation

The Botvinnik Variation

Mikhail Botvinnik had a deserved reputation as a "iron logician", a player whose purposeful moves followed a completely logical sequence.

Botvinnik Variation

The Main Line

The most popular way for White to meet the Queen's Indian is to fianchetto his own Biahop

Queens Indian Main Line

The Saemisch Variation

The Saemisch has returned to an active role in the repertoire of top players.

Saemisch Variation