1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 Bg7 4. e4 d6 5. f3

Samisch Variation of the King’s Indian Defense (Theory)

The King’s Indian Defense is one of the most well-known and respected responses to 1.d4 in the game of chess.

Within this large group of openings, the Samisch Variation, distinguished by the sequence 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.e4 d6 5.f3, presents unique strategies and opportunities for both players.

Here we will take a detailed look at this fascinating opening variation, exploring its move order, theory, strategy, and purpose, its variations, its history, and how it suits different skill levels of players.

Move Order of the Samisch Variation of the King’s Indian Defense

The Samisch Variation arises after the following moves: 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.e4 d6 5.f3.

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 Bg7 4. e4 d6 5. f3
Samisch Variation of the King’s Indian – 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 Bg7 4. e4 d6 5. f3

The first few moves are typical of the King’s Indian Defense.

After 1.d4, Black replies with Nf6, putting pressure on the central squares and preparing for a potential fianchetto with g6.

The second move 2.c4 helps White establish control in the center.

The response 3.Nc3 helps to further support the central e4 square and is also developed towards the center.

4.e4 shows White’s intent to control the center with his pawns.

Finally, 5.f3 is the distinguishing move of the Samisch Variation, reinforcing the center and preparing for a potential g4 pawn thrust.

Theory, Strategy, and Purpose of the Samisch Variation of the King’s Indian Defense

The key theory behind the Samisch Variation is establishing a strong pawn center and later aiming for a pawn storm against Black’s king.

With f3, White bolsters their center pawns and prepares to castle queenside.

The Samisch Variation is tactical in nature, with each side trying to disrupt the other’s plans while pushing their own.

White’s strategy often involves pushing the pawns on the kingside after safely castling on the queenside.

Black, meanwhile, can counter with tactics such as the …c5 or …e5 breaks, trying to destabilize the central structure and create counterplay on the queenside.

Variations of the Samisch Variation of the King’s Indian Defense

There are several notable variations within the Samisch King’s Indian Defense.

The most common is the Normal Variation, which continues with 5…O-O 6.Be3 e5.

The Panno Variation, a more aggressive choice for Black, includes an early …c5 and …a6.

There’s also the Byrne Variation, characterized by an early …Ng4, attacking White’s dark-squared bishop.

Each variation offers unique opportunities and challenges, and understanding these is essential for mastering the Samisch Variation.

Master Class | King’s Indian Defence, Sämisch | Chess Speedrun | Grandmaster Naroditsky

Evaluation of the Samisch Variation of the King’s Indian Defense

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.e4 d6 5.f3 is generally evaluated around +0.20 to +0.40 for white.

Theory & Continuation Lines of the Samisch Variation of the King’s Indian Defense

Below we have some common theory and continuation lines from the Catalan Opening starting move order 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.e4 d6 5.f3 that you would see at the highest level of play.

5… O-O 6. Nge2

5… O-O 6. Nge2 c5 7. d5 e6 8. Ng3 exd5 9. cxd5 a6 10. a4 h5 11. Bg5 Qe8 12. Qd2 Nh7 13. Bh6 h4 14. Bxg7 Kxg7 15. Nge2 Nd7 16. Nf4 Rb8 

5… O-O 6. Nge2 c5 7. d5 a6 8. a4 e6 9. Ng3 exd5 10. cxd5 h5 11. Bg5 Qe8 12. Be2 Nh7 13. Be3 h4 14. Nf1 f5 15. Qd2 fxe4 16. Nxe4 Qe5 17. Bf2 Qxb2 18. Qxb2 Bxb2 19. Rb1 

5… O-O 6. Nge2 a6 7. Be3 b5 8. cxb5 axb5 9. Nxb5 c6 10. Nbc3 Nbd7 11. Nc1 e5 12. Be2 d5 13. Nb3 exd4 14. Bxd4 Re8 15. O-O dxe4 16. fxe4 Nxe4 17. Bxg7 Kxg7 18. Nxe4 Rxe4 19. Bf3 Rf4 

5… O-O 6. Nge2 c5 7. Be3 Nc6 8. d5 Ne5 9. Ng3 e6 10. Be2 exd5 11. cxd5 a6 12. O-O b5 13. Qd2 b4 14. Nd1 Bd7 15. a3 b3 16. Bh6 Bxh6 17. Qxh6 Bb5 18. Ne3 Re8 19. f4 Ned7 

5… O-O 6. Be3

5… O-O 6. Be3 a6 7. h4 Nbd7 8. g4 c5 9. h5 cxd4 10. Bxd4 Ne5

5… O-O 6. Be3 c5 7. Nge2 Nc6 8. d5 Ne5 9. Ng3 b5 10. cxb5 e6 11. Be2 exd5 12. exd5 a6 13. O-O axb5 14. Bxb5 Ba6 15. Bxa6 

5… O-O 6. Be3 c5 7. Nge2 Nc6 8. d5 Ne5 9. Ng3 b5 10. cxb5 h5 11. Be2 h4 12. Nf1 a6 13. a4 axb5 14. axb5 Rxa1 15. Qxa1 h3 16. g4 e6 17. g5 Nxd5 18. exd5 exd5 19. Nxd5 

5… O-O 6. Be3 c5 7. Nge2 Nc6 8. d5 Ne5 9. Ng3 b5 10. cxb5 h5 11. Be2 h4 12. Nf1 a6 13. a4 axb5 14. Nxb5 h3 15. gxh3 e6 

5… O-O 6. Be3 c5 7. Nge2 Nc6 8. d5 Ne5 9. Ng3 h5 10. Be2 h4 11. Nf1 b5 12. cxb5 a6 13. a4 axb5 14. axb5 Rxa1 15. Qxa1 h3 16. g4 e6 17. Bg5 Bb7 18. Ne3 Qb6 

5… O-O 6. Be3 c5 7. Nge2 Nc6 8. d5 Ne5 9. Ng3 e6 10. Be2 exd5 11. cxd5 a6 12. a4 Bd7 13. O-O b5 14. axb5 axb5 15. Rxa8 Qxa8 16. Bxb5 Bxb5 17. Nxb5 Qa6 

Let’s look at some other variations of the Samisch Variation of the King’s Indian Defense:


This is the most direct response for Black, immediately challenging White’s control of the center.

After 7. d5, Black usually continues with 7…Nh5, freeing the f-pawn to move and hoping to launch an attack on the kingside later in the game.

The purpose is to destabilize White’s strong central structure and create counterplay.

Sämisch Gambit, Benoni, and Accelerated Dragon lines: 6…c5

Here, Black immediately targets the d4 pawn, seeking to undermine White’s strong center.

If White accepts the gambit with 7. dxc5, Black can reclaim the pawn with 7…dxc5, often leading to an open game with chances for both sides.

Alternatively, after 7. d5, Black could respond with 7…e6, entering a type of Benoni structure if White captures en passant.

If White plays 8. Bd3 instead, Black can consider 8…exd5 9. cxd5 a6, entering a kind of Accelerated Dragon setup.

All of these lines aim to dismantle White’s pawn center.

Byrne Variation: 6…c6 and 6…a6

In the Byrne Variation, Black first plays 6…c6, intending to play …a6 and …b5, mounting pressure on the queenside.

After White plays 7. Nge2, Black can play 7…a6. This variation aims to generate counterplay on the queenside and can potentially create imbalances that give Black dynamic chances.

Panno Variation: 6…Nc6

Named after the Argentine Grandmaster Oscar Panno, this variation features an immediate development of Black’s queenside knight.

This setup often leads to …a6 and …Rb8, with potential pawn breaks in the center or on the queenside.

The aim here is to offer a more flexible response to White’s central setup, keeping various counterplay options open.

Other lines against 6.Be3 (6…Nbd7, 6…a5, 6…b6)

These moves all aim to prepare …e5 or …c5, or to create other forms of counterplay.

For instance, 6…Nbd7 prepares …e5, challenging the center.

The move 6…a5 aims to prevent b2-b4, which often supports c4-c5, and also prepares for potential queenside expansion.

The move 6…b6 prepares to fianchetto the queen’s bishop, providing additional support for a …d5 or …e5 pawn break in the future.

Other sixth moves for White

The move 6.Nge2 is a flexible option for White, keeping open the possibility of deploying the dark-square bishop to either e3 or g5.

The move 6.Bg5 has more aggressive intentions, pinning the knight on f6 and thus deterring …e5 due to 7.dxe5 dxe5 8.Qxd8 Rxd8 9.Nd5, which would leave Black in an uncomfortable position.

Both these alternatives to 6.Be3 aim to put off the decision of where to place the dark-square bishop, and to maintain tension in the center of the board.

History of the Samisch Variation of the King’s Indian Defense

Named after Friedrich Samisch, a German chess master active in the early to mid-20th century, the Samisch Variation was a key part of his repertoire.

The opening has been played by many famous grandmasters, such as Bobby Fischer, Garry Kasparov, and Magnus Carlsen, showcasing its effectiveness and versatility on the highest level of competition.

Over time, the variation has become a popular choice among players who favor aggressive, tactical play.

Is the Samisch Variation of the King’s Indian Defense Good for Beginners or Intermediates?

The Samisch Variation is a bit of a double-edged sword for beginner and intermediate players.

On the one hand, it provides a strong and clear pawn structure, reducing the complexity of the middle game and making it easier for players to grasp basic strategic concepts.

On the other hand, the Samisch Variation is highly tactical, and beginners may struggle with the frequent tactical clashes that arise in this opening.

For intermediate players, the Samisch Variation is a great way to dive deeper into chess tactics and strategy, and it offers rich learning opportunities.

How Often the Samisch Variation of the King’s Indian Defense Is Played at the Grandmaster Level

The Samisch Variation is a common choice at the Grandmaster level, featuring in many top-tier tournaments.

While it’s not as frequently seen as the main line King’s Indian Defense, it certainly holds its own, and numerous games in World Chess Championships have featured this variation.

The use of the Samisch Variation by top players like Fischer and Kasparov testifies to its enduring appeal at the highest levels of the game.

FAQs – Samisch Variation of the King’s Indian Defense

1. What is the purpose of the Samisch Variation in the King’s Indian Defense?

The primary aim of the Samisch Variation in the King’s Indian Defense is to secure control of the center squares, particularly d4 and e4, early on in the game.

This is done by deploying the pawns on d4, e4, and f3, with the pawn on f3 supporting the center and preparing to launch a pawn storm against Black’s fianchetto setup.

2. How does the Samisch Variation counter the typical King’s Indian Defense strategies?

In the King’s Indian Defense, Black often aims to mount a strong counter-attack in the center or on the kingside.

The Samisch Variation counters these strategies by fortifying White’s control over the center, thereby seeking to limit Black’s opportunities for counterplay.

The pawn structure achieved in the Samisch Variation provides a solid base from which White can launch their own offensive operations.

3. What are the key tactical motifs in the Samisch Variation?

In the Samisch Variation, key tactical motifs for White include utilizing their space advantage to put pressure on Black’s position and potentially launching a kingside pawn storm after sufficient development.

For Black, breaking White’s pawn center with moves like …e5 or …c5 can lead to tactical opportunities, as can exploiting White’s somewhat exposed king position after the move f3.

4. Are there key traps or pitfalls to avoid when playing the Samisch Variation?

Yes, there are a few key traps to be aware of in the Samisch Variation.

The most common is that the move f3 weakens White’s kingside somewhat, leaving it more vulnerable to a potential attack.

Therefore, White should be careful about Black’s counter-attacking opportunities.

For Black, it is crucial not to be overly aggressive in breaking the center. Prematurely breaking with …e5 or …c5 can leave Black’s position exposed.

5. Can you provide an example of a famous game that used the Samisch Variation?

One of the most famous games involving the Samisch Variation is the encounter between Robert Fischer and Mark Taimanov in the 1971 Candidates Match.

Fischer, playing Black, managed to break through White’s position with a timely …e5 pawn break, demonstrating the potential power of Black’s counter-attacking resources in this opening.

6. How should Black react against the Samisch Variation?

Black’s reaction to the Samisch Variation can vary depending on the player’s style. Some players opt for the classical setup with …O-O, followed by …e5, trying to challenge the center immediately.

Others prefer more unorthodox lines like the Panno Variation with …Nc6, …a6, and …Rb8, aiming to counter-attack on the queenside.

The choice of plan depends on Black’s comfort with the resulting middlegame positions.

7. Are there specific endgame considerations to keep in mind when playing the Samisch Variation?

The pawn structure in the Samisch Variation often leads to complex middlegames rather than quick transitions to endgames.

However, if the game does reach an endgame, it is essential to remember that the pawn on d4 can become a weakness for White.

Meanwhile, Black should be mindful of potential pawn majority on the queenside that White can create.

8. What are some resources to learn more about the Samisch Variation?

There are numerous resources available to help improve your understanding of the Samisch Variation.

Books such as “King’s Indian: A Complete Black Repertoire” by Victor Bologan and “Understanding the King’s Indian” by Mikhail Golubev can be helpful.

Online chess learning platforms also provide extensive resources on the Samisch Variation.

Chess YouTube channels and Twitch streamers often review famous games and explain various opening strategies, including the Samisch Variation.


The Samisch Variation of the King’s Indian Defense offers a rich smorgasbord of strategic and tactical ideas for both White and Black.

While it requires a good understanding of tactics and positional play, it is a highly rewarding opening that can be employed by players at various levels of the game.

Its rich history, strategic depth, and popularity at the highest levels of chess make the Samisch Variation a fascinating and valuable addition to any chess player’s opening repertoire.


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