The Averbakh variation of the King’s Indian Defense is named after the oldest living chess grandmaster Yuri Averbakh. 6.Bg5 is the defining move of this dangerous variation and one every King’s Indian Defense player must be ready to face.
Estimated reading time: 7 minutes
Although 6.Bg5 does not pin the f6-knight; it prevents Black’s typical counter in the center – e5. Black is forced to find an alternative way of fighting back against White’s central control.
The King’s Indian Defense is one of the few chess openings where developing a knight to the rim doesn’t make it dim. In fact, 6…Na6 is the best way for Black to meet and triumph over the Averbakh Variation.
In modern chess, the early advance of the h-pawn is becoming a standard tactic for White. Here is GM Damian Lemos showing you how to meet this advance in the Averbakh Variation of the King’s Indian Defense.
The Main Ideas in the Averbakh Variation
The moves 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.e4 d6 5.Be2 0-0 6.Bg5 bring us to the starting position of the Averbakh Variation.
Black can’t meet the Averbakh Variation with 6…e5 because it simply loses material after 7.dxe5 dxe5 8.Qxd8 Rxd8 9.Nd5 with a double-attack on c7 and f6.
When playing the King’s Indian Defense against the Averbakh Variation, the first thing to remember is no 6…e5.
Instead, a much better option is to play 6…Na6 intending …c6, and …Nc7-e6 attacking the bishop on g5.
One of White’s most aggressive tries is 7.f4 with 8.Nf3 or 8.Qd2 to follow. A little preparation is all that Black needs to safely navigate these dangerous waters.
White Plays 7.f4 and 8.Qd2
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.e4 d6 5.Be2 0-0 6.Bg5 Na6 7.f4 c6 8.Qd2 Nc7 9.Bf3 d5
Instead of 9.Bf3, White can play 9.Nf3 transposing back to the mainline in the Averbakh Variation with 7.f4 and 8.Nf3. This is the line we will look at next.
White’s most popular move is 10.cxd5, but you will likely encounter the natural 10.e5. Now Black can sacrifice a pawn with 10…Ne4 where the value of …Nc7 is clearly seen.
The knight will make its way to the e6-square, where it attacks f4 and d4. Black’s development and active, centralized pieces are more than sufficient compensation for the pawn.
This explains why White prefers 10.cxd5
10.cxd5 cxd5 11.e5 Ne4 12.Nxe4 dxe4 13.Bxe4 f6
GM Gawain Jones has played this position with black many times with excellent results. Playing through his games will teach you a lot about the King’s Indian Defense.
Here is a tough battle he fought with GM Chirila.
Chirila, I. – Jones, G., 0-1, Millionaire Chess Op 2016
In the 9.Bf3 d5 variation, White can win a pawn with 10.exd5, but Black has an excellent pawn sacrifice on e6. If White accepts the pawn sacrifice, Black gets a significant lead in development as compensation.
White Plays 7.f4 and 8.Nf3
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.e4 d6 5.Be2 0-0 6.Bg5 Na6 7.f4 c6 8.Nf3 Nc7 9.Qd2 d5
The crucial move for Black after 10.Bxf6 is to recapture with the pawn instead of the bishop.
10…exf6 11.0-0 dxe4 12.Nxe4 Bg4 13.Rad1 Qe7
The doubled-pawns help Black by keeping a White knight out of e5.
In the next game, played between two grandmasters rated over 2500, Ilia Smirin sacrificed his queen on the way to victory,
Yakovich, Yuri – Smirin, Ilia, 0-1, Munich op 9293, 1993
In the position after 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.e4 d6 5.Be2 0-0 6.Bg5 Na6 7.f4 c6 8.Nf3 Nc7 White’s most popular move is 9.Bh4 when Black can play in Benko Gambit style with 9…b5 and after 10.e5 Ng4
The move …Ng4 is a tricky move you must always keep in mind when White plays the e5 advance. From g4, the knight can go to e3, which could catch an unwary White player by surprise.
White cannot castle because …Ne3 forks the queen and rook!
The most natural move for White is to defend e3 with 11.Qd2, but this often leads to White forfeiting castling rights after Black captures on e5 and exchanges queens on d2.
Here is how the game might unfold.
Bagirov, Rufat – Khismatullin, Denis, 0-1, Moscow op-A 04th, 2008
In chess, the King’s Indian Defense is a reliable defense Black can count on to ensure he has ample chances to play for more than equality. This is a fighting Defense that leads to rich and complex positions.
Against the dangerous Averbakh Variation of the King’s Indian Defense, the moves …Na6, …c6, and …d5 are vital to helping Black achieve equality and more! These moves are common to many different variations and help to reduce your opening theory.
When you choose to include the King’s Indian Defense in your repertoire, you will improve your positional play. This is an opening where knowing what positions and squares serve each piece best will help you survive and thrive in this attacking opening.
Learn how to play the King’s Indian Defense, a favorite defense of Bobby Fischer and Garry Kasparov, with this comprehensive Lemos Deep Dive course. GM Damian Lemos will provide you with a repertoire you can play for many years as you become a stronger chess player.
Follow in the footsteps of two of the legendary chess players of all time. Take up this fighting defense today! Act now to get instant access and 50% off! Lemos Deep Dive: The King’s Indian Defense.