1. e4 g6 2. d4 Bg7 3. c4 d6 4. Nc3

Averbakh System (Modern Defense Theory)

The Averbakh System is a potent, dynamic defense system that arises from the Modern Defense in the game of chess.

It is characterized by one of the following two lines:

  • 1.e4 g6 2.d4 Bg7 3.c4 d6 4.Nc3
  • 1.d4 g6 2.c4 Bg7 3.Nc3 d6 4.e4

It is characterized by a flexible pawn structure and active piece play, with an emphasis on complex middle-game strategies and an ability to transition into a variety of distinct endgame structures.

The system is named after the renowned Soviet Grandmaster and chess theoretician, Yuri Averbakh.

This article delves into the key aspects of this intricate system, discussing move order, theory, strategy and purpose, variations, history, its suitability for beginners or intermediates, and its frequency of use at the Grandmaster level.

Move Order of the Averbakh System

The Averbakh System, denoted by the Encyclopedia of Chess Openings (ECO) code A42, can be reached through two primary move orders.

The first one starts with 1.e4 g6 2.d4 Bg7 3.c4 d6 4.Nc3.

The second one begins with 1.d4 g6 2.c4 Bg7 3.Nc3 d6 4.e4.

1.e4 g6 2.d4 Bg7 3.c4 d6 4.Nc3 (diagram)
1.d4 g6 2.c4 Bg7 3.Nc3 d6 4.e4 (diagram)

From here, Black has several options, with popular moves including 4…Nf6, 4…Nc6, 4…e5, and 4…Nd7.

The move 4…Nf6 leads to a position resembling the King’s Indian Defense, offering White a variety of possible responses, including 5.Nf3, 5.f3, 5.Be2, and 5.f4.

Theory, Strategy and Purpose of the Averbakh System

In the Averbakh System, Black allows White to occupy the center with pawns while focusing on developing their own pieces.

The idea behind this strategy is to counterattack and undermine White’s central dominance later in the game.

The purpose of this system is to provide Black with a solid and flexible defensive setup that can adapt to various types of middle-game structures.

The system is characterized by a particular fluidity, with the aim of maintaining piece activity and complex interplay rather than committing to a fixed structural pattern too early.

Variations of the Averbakh System

There are several notable variations within the Averbakh System, depending largely on Black’s 4th move.

The choice between 4…Nf6, 4…Nc6, 4…e5, and 4…Nd7 can lead to significantly different types of game structures.

Choosing 4…Nf6, for example, often leads to positions resembling the King’s Indian Defense, while 4…e5 may lead to more dynamic, open positions.

Each variation requires different strategic considerations and can offer both defensive and offensive opportunities for Black.

Evaluation of the Averbakh System

1. e4 g6 2. d4 Bg7 3. c4 d6 4. Nc3 is generally evaluated around +0.50 for white.

Theory & Continuation Lines of the Averbakh System

Below we can find some common theory and continuations from the Averbakh System that you’d see at the highest level of play.

4… c5 5. Nf3 cxd4 6. Nxd4 Nf6 7. Be2 Nc6 8. Be3 O-O 9. O-O 

4… e5 5. Nf3 exd4 6. Nxd4 Nc6 7. Be3 Nf6 8. Be2 O-O 9. f3 

4… Nf6 5. Be2 O-O 6. Nf3 e5 7. O-O exd4 8. Nxd4 Re8 9. f3 a6 10. Be3 Nc6 11. Qd2 Nxd4 12. Bxd4 c6

4… Nf6 5. Nf3 O-O 6. Be2 e5 7. O-O exd4 8. Nxd4 Re8 9. f3 c6 10. Nc2 d5 11. cxd5 cxd5 12. exd5 Nbd7  

4… Nf6 5. Nf3 O-O 6. Be2 e5 7. O-O h6 8. Re1 Nbd7 9. Qc2 exd4 10. Nxd4 Ne5 11. Be3 Nfg4

4… Nf6 5. Be2 O-O 6. Nf3 c5 7. O-O cxd4 8. Nxd4 Nc6 9. Be3 Nxd4 10. Bxd4 

4… Nf6 5. Nf3 c5 6. d5 e6 7. dxe6 Bxe6 8. Be2 Nc6 9. Bf4 Qa5 10. O-O O-O 

4… Nf6 5. Be2 O-O 6. Nf3 e5 7. dxe5 dxe5 8. O-O Nc6 9. Be3 h6 10. h3 

4… Nf6 5. Nf3 O-O 6. Be3 e5 7. dxe5 dxe5 8. Qc2 c6 9. Nxe5 Qe7 10. f4 Re8 11. O-O-O Na6 12. Qf2 Ng4 13. Nxg4 Bxg4 

History of the Averbakh System

The Averbakh System is named after Yuri Averbakh, a distinguished Soviet Grandmaster and esteemed chess theoretician, who extensively analyzed this defense and contributed significantly to its theory.

Over the decades, this system has been employed by numerous elite players around the globe, serving as a reliable defensive strategy that offers opportunities for counterattack and strategic complexity.

Whether the Averbakh System Is Good for Beginners or Intermediates

While the Averbakh System is a robust defense, it may not be the best choice for beginners due to its complex strategic requirements and its reactive nature.

The system requires a sound understanding of pawn structures, positional play, and endgame theory.

Therefore, it is more suitable for intermediate or advanced players who have a solid grasp of these concepts.

However, studying the Averbakh System can certainly help beginners improve their understanding of these critical elements of chess.

How Often the Averbakh System Is Played at the Grandmaster Level

The Averbakh System is not among the most frequently played defenses at the Grandmaster level, mainly due to its somewhat passive and reactive nature.

However, it does see regular play and can serve as a surprise weapon or a change of pace in the repertoire of many top-level players.

When applied correctly, the system can lead to rich, complex positions, providing ample opportunities for outplaying the opponent in the middle and endgame phases.

Chess Lesson # 93: King’s Indian Defense vs Averbakh Variation


The Averbakh System, stemming from the Modern Defense, is a fascinating and multi-faceted defense strategy in chess that offers a wide array of strategic possibilities.

While it might not be the most suitable choice for beginners due to its complexity, it is highly applicable for intermediate and advanced players.

Even though it is not the most frequently employed defense at the Grandmaster level, it remains a viable and potent option in the hands of a skilled player.

The Averbakh System continues to contribute to the richness and diversity of chess, offering a unique blend of strategic depth and tactical potential.

Frequently Asked Questions about the Averbakh System

1. What is the Averbakh System in chess?

The Averbakh System is a variation of the Modern Defense in chess. It is defined by the opening moves 1.e4 g6 2.d4 Bg7 3.c4 d6 4.Nc3 or 1.d4 g6 2.c4 Bg7 3.Nc3 d6 4.e4.

It is characterized by a flexible pawn structure and defensive approach from Black, using the fianchettoed bishop on g7 to control the center.

2. How can I reach the Averbakh System during a game?

The Averbakh System can be reached through the following sequence of moves:

  1. e4 g6
  2. d4 Bg7
  3. c4 d6
  4. Nc3

Or alternatively:

  1. d4 g6
  2. c4 Bg7
  3. Nc3 d6
  4. e4

These sequences set the stage for Black’s next moves, which might include 4…Nf6, 4…Nc6, 4…e5, and 4…Nd7.

3. What are Black’s options after 4.Nc3 in the Averbakh System?

After 4.Nc3, Black has several possible moves, including 4…Nf6, 4…Nc6, 4…e5, and 4…Nd7.

The choice will depend on Black’s preferred style of play and strategic plan.

The move 4…Nf6, for instance, leads to a position similar to the King’s Indian Defence, presenting its own set of opportunities and challenges.

4. What options does White have after 4…Nf6 in the Averbakh System?

After Black moves 4…Nf6, transitioning to a King’s Indian Defence-like position, White has several possibilities to continue the game, including 5.Nf3, 5.f3, 5.Be2, 5.f4, and so on.

These moves give White a range of strategies to choose from, allowing for a flexible approach depending on the opponent’s decisions and the desired strategy.

5. What strategies does the Averbakh System typically promote?

The Averbakh System typically promotes strategies that favor control of the center, flexibility in pawn structure, and the use of the g7 bishop to apply pressure from a safe distance.

The strategy that Black or White will choose to follow can vary greatly depending on the opponent’s moves and the player’s preferred style of play.

6. Is the Averbakh System a good choice for beginners?

While the Averbakh System can seem complex due to its flexible pawn structure and multiple strategic options, it can be a good choice for beginners who are comfortable with defensive play and looking to explore diverse strategies.

It is always recommended to practice different openings and defenses to broaden your understanding of the game.

7. How does the Averbakh System compare to other defenses like the Sicilian or French defenses?

The Averbakh System, as part of the Modern Defense, presents a more hypermodern approach to chess openings compared to classical defenses like the Sicilian or French defenses.

It allows Black to concede the center initially, with the aim of undermining and attacking the White’s central pawns from a distance.

This contrasts with the Sicilian or French, which usually involve direct occupation or contestation of the center from the early moves.

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