Beat the KID

Jan Markos

Reviewer: Jeremy Silman
Quality Chess
197 pages

The King’s Indian Defense (a major part of the repertoires of both Fischer and Kasparov) is one of the most annoying systems at black’s disposal. It gives White a spatial plus in the center in exchange for tactical chances on the kingside (if White plays d5 and closes the game), and if the center remains fluid Black has counterattacking ideas based on pressure down the e-file and a timely …d6-d5 break.

In fact, the KID is a great choice for players who don’t mind closed (or somewhat constricted) positions and who enjoy tense, sharp, and often tactical situations. And, most importantly for the non-master, the KID has easily learnable patterns and pawn structures that make it something one can actually grow to understand.

Since the main lines of the KID often give Black a terrifying kingside attack (which is not to every white player’s taste!), and since Radjabov’s highly successful use of it will undoubtedly create a surge of renewed interest, White must have an effective prepared answer if he expects to be successful. Over the years just about everything has been tried: 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.e4 d6 5.Be2 0-0 6.Bg5 (the Averbach Variation, which makes those nasty black attacks quite hard to achieve) had its day in the sun but has now lost much of its poison; 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.e4 d6 5.f3 (the Samisch, which is still a critical try) gives Black many options and always leads to sharp, tense play; 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.Nf3 0-0 5.g3 which tries to turn the game into a quiet positional battle; and 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.e4 d6 5.f4 (the Four Pawns Attack) which leads to chaos.

In Beat The KID, Jan Markos, a young Slovakian grandmaster, offers three important choices for White:

1) 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.e4 d6 5.Nf3 0-0 6.h3, which has been used with great success by Krasenkow, often sees White follow up with g2-g4, Bg5, or something else (depending on black’s reaction to 6.h3) – the resulting positions can be extremely sharp. One nice thing about this line (which I successfully used often in the 80s) is that many black players aren’t prepared for it, but even if they are, 6.h3 carries a lot of sting and demands precision from the defender.

2) 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.e4 d6 5.Nf3 0-0 6.Be2 e5 7.0-0 Nc6 8.d5 Ne7 9.Ne1 Nd7 10.f3 f5 11.Be3 f4 12.Bf2 g5 is a major main line that sneers at black’s kingside attack and insists that once the attack is stopped, white’s overwhelming queenside advantage will grant the first player victory in the middlegame or the endgame (of course, the mangled bodies of white Kings littering the tournament floor prove that this isn’t for everyone!).

3) 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.e4 d6 5.e4 d6 5.Nf3 0-0 6.Be2 e5 7.0-0 Nc6 8.d5 Ne7 9.b4 Nh5 10.Re1 is another hugely popular system, but this time White manages to prevent black’s brutish kingside dreams and steer the game into more positional (but still sharp!) waters.

Mr. Markos begins the study of all three systems with interesting details of its history and heady discussions of both side’s plans. And, when the analysis starts, it’s always in-depth with all important theoretical lines covered and lots of instructive/explanatory prose mixed in.

I should add that the author is also honest. There are no claims of huge plusses or forced wins. In fact, Black finds equality (or at worst a slight disadvantage) in all the systems (though if he doesn’t know what he’s doing, then he’ll get into serious trouble), but this “equality” doesn’t mean the game is dead, just that Black is managing to hold his own with lots of intricate play still ahead.

If any of these anti-KID systems appeal to you, then this fine book is a must buy. And if you play the KID for Black, I would also highly recommend it (because players will be throwing these weapons in your direction!).

This is a nice piece of work by Jan Markos, and I’m looking forward to more books by him. Yet another highlight in the already impressive Quality Chess catalogue.