Whether you prefer quiet strategic positions or wild tactical positions, the Modern Defense (1.e4 g6) gives you the flexibility to push the game in a direction where you feel totally comfortable.
And to be able to do this — without memorizing too much theory — as Black…is huge!
That’s why GMs like Aronian and Andreikin have really taken notice and are adopting this opening, often winning beautiful games in the process.
This video is a free preview of GM Damian Lemos Deep Dive into the Modern Defense. Damian gives a brief overview of what the course covers, and then dives in to explore an aggressive sideline that White can attempt, starting with 2.h4.
Modern Defense – White Plays 2.h4
2.h4 has been played by many strong players, and it signals that White is trying to weaken Black’s kingside.
GM Lemos recommends responding to it with 2…Nf6. Although this is the strongest choice, it isn’t the most natural one. The most natural move would be …h5 – but then White could weaken Black’s kingside further. In some cases, …h5 might be viable, but it has its risks, making …Nf6 a better approach.
After 2…Nf6, White responds with 3.e5. If White had opted for 2.Nc3 instead, Black could play …e5 or …d6, after which White’s decision to play 2.h4 doesn’t make much sense anymore.
The point is to sacrifice a pawn in return for powerful counter-play. GM Lemos says he prefers being a pawn down but with good counter-play than keep equal material but find himself in a passive position. Black’s response here is 3…Nh5.
Usually, White answers this with 4.Be2. Apart from that, White could also play 4.d4. However, Black could respond with 4…d6 and White would already have trouble protecting his center. The e5 pawn, in particular, will become a weakness at some point.
For example, Morozevich – Nielsen, Berlin 2015, continued 5.Nf3 Bg4 6.Be2 dxe5 7.Nxe5 Bxe2 8.Qxe2 Qxd4 9.Qb5+ Nd7 10.Nxd7. As an alternative to 10….Qxd7, GM Lemos points out that Black has the amazing option of a queenside castle: 10…0-0-0. Black can not only gain a pawn through this setup, but maintain a strong position while White grapples with kingside weaknesses.
Returning to 4.Be2, Lemos cautions against moving the knight yet again – that would be waste of tempo. 4…Ng7 doesn’t look great either, because White could follow up with d4 and h5. This would give him a strong developmental initiative.
Therefore, GM Lemos recommends 4…d6, looking to take the initiative (diagram, right).
Next, one of White’s interesting moves is 5.exd6. This might lead to 5…Qxd6 6.Bxh5 gxh5 7.Qh5 Rg8.
In the main game, White played 5.d4, however GM Lemos believes this move also fails to provide good options for White. The game continues with 5…dxe5 6.dxe5 Qxd1+ 7.Bxd1 Nc6. At this point, the players have entered a pre-endgame in which Black is better off due to the weakness of White’s e5 pawn. White can’t afford a move like f4 because he’s got a pawn on h4 already. If he had the pawn on h2, things would be different – but in this case, the weakness of the kingside would make that move reckless.
8.Nc3 is the next move in our main line, but another option from White is 8.g4?! If White plays like this, he’s only weakening his position: 8…Ng7 9.Nc3 Bd7 10.h5. Remember that material isn’t as important as the initiative, so Black should have considered castling before taking on e5.
A strong response for Black after 8.Nc3 is 8…Be6, followed by 9.Nh3 Nxe5 (diagram, below).
Black could have castled at this point as well, but was perhaps concerned about 9…0-0-0 10.Ng5. However, 10…Ng7 would have made this position completely safe.
8…Bd7 would be more precise than 8…Be6. White wouldn’t have the counter-play with the knight that follows in the game. Moreover, following 8…Bd7, Black could castle and then push the e5 pawn. 9.Nf3 Bg7. White’s e5 pawn will fall sooner or later and Black would have a clear advantage.
But 8…Be6 is also good for Black. In the main game, it’s followed by 9.Nh3. If Black castles at this point, Ng5 might be problematic. Hence 9…Nxe5. 10.Ng5 Bc4. Black is still fine, and up a pawn, but this position requires highly accurate play from both sides.
Modern Defense Deep Dive
In the full course, Grandmaster Damian Lemos demystifies the Modern Defense — breaking down all of the theory, strategic plans and attacking ideas at your disposal.
GM Lemos also points out the critical strategic differences that distinguish this opening from the Pirc Defense, revealing how you could even combine the two openings to create the ultimate repertoire against 1.e4.
Your 6 hours training with Damian will fly by quickly as you soak up more and more weapons and add them to your arsenal — you’ll be dying to unleash them on unsuspecting 1.e4 players in your next tournament.
Access the Deep Dive Modern Defense with 50% off – but hurry, this offer is only available until Sept 19th!