Neo-Indian Attack – 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Bg5 (Theory)

Neo-Indian Attack - 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Bg5

In this article, we will look into a semi-common opening response to the Queen’s Pawn Game (1. d4): the Neo-Indian Attack, characterized by the move order 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Bg5.

Move Order of the Neo-Indian Attack

The Neo-Indian Attack is initiated with the move 1.d4. This pawn move controls the center and sets the stage for a variety of potential opening systems.

The black replies with 1…Nf6, aiming to control the e4 square and possibly transpose into a variety of different defenses.

White responds with 2.c4 to gain further control of the center.

Black’s response, 2…e6, prepares to free the dark square bishop.

White then develops the bishop to g5 with 3.Bg5, setting the Neo-Indian Attack in motion.

Neo-Indian Attack - 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Bg5

Theory, Strategy, and Purpose of the Neo-Indian Attack

The theory of the Neo-Indian Attack is quite straightforward.

The pinning of the knight by the white bishop in the third move serves two main purposes.

Firstly, it restricts black’s pawn mobility in the center and indirectly asserts control over the e5 square.

Secondly, it prepares for possible pawn pushes in the center and queenside.

As for strategy, the white player is aiming to control the center early on, pressurizing the black pieces, and preparing for a stable middle game with potential for dynamic pawn play.

It is similar to a Trompowsky Attack where Bg5 comes one move earlier.

It also looks similar to a Torre Attack.

Variations of the Neo-Indian Attack

Despite the seemingly rigid move order, there are variations within the Neo-Indian Attack.

After the standard opening moves, both players have a variety of potential setups and pawn structures.

Depending on black’s response to the initial moves, white can choose to castle kingside, prepare for a central pawn push with e3 or e4, or focus on queenside expansion with moves like Nc3 and Qb3.

ECO E00 Neo-Indian (Seirawan) attack (White perspective)


Evaluation of Neo-Indian Attack

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Bg5 is generally evaluated around 0.00 to -0.20 for white.

It is not generally popular for the basic fact that it throws away white’s opening advantage by move 3.

Theory & Continuation Lines of Neo-Indian Attack

Below we have some common theory and continuations from the Neo-Indian Attack starting move order 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Bg5 that you’d see at the highest level of play.

3… h6 4. Bxf6 Qxf6 5. Nc3 Bb4 6. Rc1 c5 7. Nf3 cxd4 8. Qxd4 Qxd4 9. Nxd4 Nc6 10. e3 O-O 11. Nf3 Rd8 12. Be2 Be7 13. a3 b6 14. O-O g5 15. Rfd1 Bb7 16. Nd4 Nxd4 

3… h6 4. Bxf6 Qxf6 5. Nc3 Bb4 6. Rc1 d6 7. e3 c5 8. Nf3 e5 9. dxc5 dxc5 10. Bd3 Qe7 11. Be4 O-O 12. O-O Bxc3 13. Rxc3 Nd7 14. h3 Nf6 15. Qc2 Rd8 16. Rd3 Nxe4 17. Rxd8+ Qxd8 18. Qxe4 

3… h6 4. Bxf6 Qxf6 5. Nc3 Bb4 6. Rc1 O-O 7. e3 c5 8. dxc5 Na6 9. Qd4 e5 10. Qd6 Nxc5 11. Qxf6 gxf6 12. a3 Nb3 13. Rc2 Na1 14. Rc1 

3… h6 4. Bh4 g5 5. Bg3 h5 6. h4 Ne4 7. Qd3 Nxg3 8. Qxg3 g4 9. e3 Nc6 10. Nc3 d5 11. Nb5 Bb4+ 12. Kd1 O-O 13. cxd5 Ne7 14. Qxc7 Qxd5 15. Nc3 

3… h6 4. Bh4 g5 5. Bg3 h5 6. h4 Ne4 7. Qd3 Nxg3 8. Qxg3 g4 9. Nc3 Nc6 10. e3 b6 11. O-O-O Bb7 12. e4 Bg7 13. d5 Ne5 1

3… h6 4. Bh4 g5 5. Bg3 h5 6. h4 Ne4 7. Qd3 Nxg3 8. Qxg3 g4 9. Nc3 Nc6 10. e3 b6 11. O-O-O Bb7 12. f3 Bd6 13. Qf2 Qe7 14. Bd3 f5 15. Nge2 O-O-O 16. Nb5 Kb8 17. a3 Rdg8 18. b4 Qf8 19. Nxd6 

What is the best counter to the Neo-Indian Attack?

The best response to the Neo-Indian attack is 3… h6.

This boots the bishop out or forces the exchange of the bishop for the knight, which would be subsequently taken by the queen without damaging black’s pawn structure.

Common Responses from Black to the Neo-Indian Defense

Let’s look at some common responses to the Neo-Indian Defense:


This move is designed to challenge White’s bishop on g5.

If the bishop retreats to h4, Black may gain a tempo with …g5, and then …Bg7, preparing to castle.

If White opts for 4.Bxf6, the queen recaptures and Black doesn’t suffer from doubled pawns as in the Trompowsky Attack.

This response gives Black options for an active defense, while it also forces White to reveal their intentions.


This move is a more aggressive attempt to break the pin by checking White.

After 4.Nc3, the game might transpose into the Leningrad Variation of the Nimzo-Indian Defense, characterized by solid control over the e4 square and more dynamic piece play.

If White plays 4.Nd2 instead, unique positions may occur that allow Black to potentially double White’s c-pawns or exchange off White’s dark square bishop, which can be advantageous to Black.

3…c5 4.d5

The purpose of 3…c5 is to challenge White’s control over the center and to potentially open up lines for Black’s pieces.

After 4.d5, Black can respond with …exd5 or …d6.

This variation often leads to an open game, where piece activity and tactical opportunities might be more important than the pure pawn structure. Black aims for counter-attacks and early piece development, trying to offset White’s initial space advantage.


This move breaks the pin on the knight and prepares for short castling.

It’s a more conservative approach that aims to solidify Black’s position while not revealing too much about their strategy.

After 3…Be7, White has multiple options, including e3 (preparing for Bd3 and short castling), Nc3 (developing a piece and controlling the d5 square), or even Qc2 (preparing for long castling).

The game can still transpose into many different lines, making it a flexible option for Black.

History of Neo-Indian Attack

The Neo-Indian Attack has been a part of chess lore for several decades, even though it’s not as popular as some of the other d4 openings like the Queen’s Gambit or King’s Indian Defense.

It gained some traction in the mid-20th century, when players seeking unbalanced positions began experimenting with it.

Since then, it has remained a viable opening option in the grandmaster arsenal.

Whether the Neo-Indian Attack Is Good for Beginners or Intermediates

Given the Neo-Indian Attack’s straightforward nature and focus on solid central control, it can be an excellent choice for beginners looking to understand fundamental chess principles.

The opening also offers opportunities for positional play, making it a good fit for intermediate players wanting to refine their understanding of piece coordination and pawn structure.

How Often the Neo-Indian Attack Is Played at the Grandmaster Level

While the Neo-Indian Attack is not a mainstream choice at the grandmaster level, it’s by no means a rarity.

It is occasionally chosen as a surprise weapon to avoid well-trodden theoretical paths.

However, it’s worth noting that at this level, players are well-equipped to handle the subtleties of various openings, so its efficacy largely depends on a player’s preparation and understanding of the resulting positions.

FAQs – Neo-Indian Attack

1. What is the Neo-Indian Attack in chess?

The Neo-Indian Attack is a chess opening that is derived from the move order 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Bg5.

It is a system that is not as commonly used as other Indian defenses but can lead to unique and rich positions.

The idea is to deter Black’s usual plan of setting up a pawn on d5 or expanding with …d6 and …e5 by developing the bishop to g5 early on and exerting pressure on the knight on f6.

2. What are the main lines in the Neo-Indian Attack?

The main line continues as 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Bg5 h6 4.Bh4 c5 5.d5 exd5 6.cxd5 d6.

Black tends to challenge the center immediately with …c5 and …exd5, trying to get some piece activity.

It’s important to note that different lines may arise based on how Black reacts to the pressure on the knight on f6.

3. What is the purpose of 3.Bg5 in the Neo-Indian Attack?

The bishop move to g5 on the third move is designed to pin the knight on f6 to the queen on d8, preventing it from moving and hindering Black’s kingside development.

This often discourages Black from immediately staking a claim in the center with …d5, which is a common response in many Indian Defenses.

4. How should Black react to 3.Bg5?

Black has a few viable responses to the Bg5 pin.

One of the most common reactions is …h6, prompting a decision from White about whether to exchange the bishop for the knight (giving up the bishop pair), retreat to h4, or even advance further to g6.

Other alternatives include …Be7 or …c5, both aimed at contesting the center and continuing development.

5. What are the key strategies for White in the Neo-Indian Attack?

White’s main strategy in the Neo-Indian Attack is to control the center with the d4 and e4 pawns (if possible), exploit the pin on the f6 knight, and delay Black’s control over the d5 square.

Once the center is secured, White often aims for rapid piece development and potential kingside attacks, utilizing the tension created by the pinning bishop.

6. How should Black handle the tension on the f6 Knight?

Black usually deals with the pinned knight on f6 by either breaking the pin with …Be7 or challenging the bishop with …h6.

Another strategic response is to counter-attack in the center or on the queenside, taking advantage of the fact that White has invested a few moves in setting up and maintaining the pin.

7. What are some common pitfalls or mistakes to avoid in the Neo-Indian Attack?

For White, it’s essential not to overly focus on the pin on the f6 knight. It can be tempting to launch an aggressive attack prematurely, but this can often backfire if not properly prepared.

For Black, care must be taken not to weaken the kingside too much if deciding to break the pin by advancing the h-pawn.

Also, Black should avoid becoming too passive; counter-attacking in the center or on the queenside can provide good counterplay.

8. Are there any famous games played with the Neo-Indian Attack?

While the Neo-Indian Attack is less common in top-level play than other openings, it has been utilized successfully on occasion.

A famous example is the game between Anatoly Karpov and Ulf Andersson in Montreal 1979.

It’s recommended to review such games to understand the potential dynamics and strategic ideas in this opening.


In summary, the Neo-Indian Attack, with its initial moves of 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Bg5, is a robust and straightforward opening system.

Offering a blend of strategic depth and tactical possibilities, it serves as a worthy addition to any player’s repertoire, from beginners to grandmasters.

While not a frequent sight at the highest levels of play, the Neo-Indian is sometimes used in games and is a derivative of the Indian Defense.

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