Game#7 – Kings Indian Attack – Subtle threats

Kings Indian Attack

The Kings Indian Attack strikes again! Aron Nimzovitch once said , “The threat is greater than the execution.” This game is a good example of that. I hit my opponent with a tactical shot that looked much scarier than it really was. When a player sacrifices a piece on you, don’t always assume you have made a mistake. Calculate! This game took place in 2018 during the last round of the Washington State Championships. It is a well balanced game that should have ended in a draw.

Kings Indian Attack post-mortem

Unorthodox moves can throw off your opponent

In this case, playing Nh3 and Na3 had their merits but my opponent was confused as to how to counter them. Logical chess requires calm nerves. Both were needed to secure the draw. Rather than pity yourself for not being familiar with a move, calculate what the idea might be. Na3-c2 is an obvious idea to reinforce d4. Nh3 keeps the g2 bishop diagonal open. Simple chess, really.

Tactics prevail

Even though Ra6 was not a crushing blow, it gave the impression of subtlety. It looked like I was simply going to double up on the a-file to pressure the weak a7 pawn. However, the threat was taking on g6. This idea never occurred to her. The game was still a draw but the subtle threats couples with some tactics unnerved my opponent.

Know when to play defensively

Many players mistake defensive with passive play. I know. I do it all the time. Through no fault of your own, there are moments in chess where you have to defend. Attacking is fun but it isn’t always productive. How many games have you lost where you overreached your attack? Perhaps your opponent hit you with a counter-move sending your position into chaos.

A good example was 27…f4? – an attacking move designed to grab the initiative. Instead, it simply loses. 27…Qf7 keeps the position equal. You can tell when a position calls for defensive play. When your opponents pieces are massing on the kingside and the majority of your forces are on the queenside – it’s time to take notice. Even without a lot of calculation, you can see how Black’s queen and rook were passively placed. They were not participating in operations to help the Black king. In fact, at the end of the game, the rook on b7 was idle for over ten moves.

The Swiss Army knife of openings

The Kings Indian Attack can meet virtually any reply from Black. Only e5 and d5 are moves that avoid it. However, White can be sneaky. if Black is not careful, his opponent can play an early g3 and transpose back into the KIA.

Most KIA players understand the idea of how to place their pieces. The common maneuvers of Na3-c2 or Nbd2-f1-h2 are seen in numerous master-level games. The point is that the KIA is flexible. It can bend to whatever opening it encounters.

Reference game of the Kings Indian Attack

Below is a game played between two GM’s, Berge Ostestad and Kjteil Lie. It deviates from my game after move nine. Instead of my opponent’s h6, Lie played Bd7.

Note the knights on a3 and h3 ! Unorthodox does not mean wrong. Ostenstad had the same intentions I mentioned earlier. The game was not decided by tactics though. Lie was down a pawn and lost in the ending.

Have you ever been in a game where you lost to what you thought was a harmless move? Did you lose your cool? Have you ever faced the Kings Indian attack in a tournament setting? If so, write up some in-game annotations and e-mail the game to me (

Please share your thoughts below.