Review: The King’s Indian Defence Move by Move, By Sam Collins

Everyman Chess, 2017
239 pages


By Davide Nastasio

If the first question that pops into your mind is “Aren’t there enough books on the King’s Indian Defence?” (from now on abbreviated as KID), you are in good company because this is what I thought, too!

Generally chess publishers are worried we don’t take enough KID vitamins (especially in winter), and every year they publish at least 3-4 titles on it! After all, for us amateurs it is quite important to know a possible novelty by move 25, which can dramatically change the result of the game!




Recently I reviewed and tried to study a book by Bologan on the KID, and my problem was that the book was too huge.  I don’t live in a desert (like Bologan probably does) with no distractions to be able to digest 600 pages on the KID.

In my opinion, this nice smaller book of just 239 pages should do the trick, especially for those like me who really would like to play an opening which, like the Sicilian, is never-ending!  The book begins by giving us some reasons for playing the KID. Honestly, I didn’t care.  I tried to play the KID because it is an opening which is dynamic with lots of ideas, and personally I found the Bg7 a weapon which constantly exerts pressure on White’s position. Hence, I wasn’t really interested in why some GMs with ratings above me by at least 600-800 points play the KID.  Also, the fact that Fischer and Kasparov played it wasn’t an incentive for me.

I want to play the KID because I had the impression, and maybe I’m wrong, that it is right for me as an opening. There is, in fact, one plus side: one could play it also as White, as Fischer did, which means to cut in half the opening theory study!

Another reason I like this book is because it is written by Sam Collins. I like his style.  Collins has authored a lot of books and Chessbase DVDs.



IM Sam Collins


He doesn’t waste time with strange metaphors like other authors do. He is quite pragmatic.  In any case, moving on to review the book! It begins with a lot of reasoning why we should play the KID, and with a lot of quotes from strong players like Kasimdzhanov, Gustafsson, and even Carlsen’s second, GM Nielsen.  Then Collins gives a brief structural overview, showing just the pawn structures. And this in my opinion is what one should sell in an opening book. Often they tell us to study the endgames.  Yes, it is important, but how does it form you as a player?

In my opinion an opening, especially one like the KID, is what builds a player.  Let me prove it to you showing the different pawn structures you can have with this opening.



In the book, Collins mentions the plans relative to each pawn structure. In this case he says White will play on the queenside, typically with a pc4-c5 advance, and Black will counterplay on the kingside with pf7-f5.

Leaving aside for a moment the review of the book and the other pawn structures, I’d like to propose to the reader an interesting exercise. Try to add to this pawn skeleton the kings, and one knight for each part, and see how you can play it. Maybe against an engine, or a friend. It will show immediately the problems and the advantages in the position. Such knowledge then will pass into our games.




The second pawn structure shown by Collins is the one where White takes on E5, and Black recaptures with the pawn:




In this structure, we can see immediately that Black has a good outpost on d4, while White’s outpost on d5 can be threatened by pc6. Collins explains thoroughly what to do when this happens, how White reacts, and how Black must be prepared.

The third pawn structure is quite interesting because Collins shows immediately his dislike for this pawn structure, but at the same time points the reader toward another GM’s work, by Dejan Bojkov, for those who like it.




As we can see, the opening shows the player who he is at a deep level.  By the way, on page 10 Collins refers to Bojkov’s work: “If you like these positions then I can recommend Dejan Bojkov’s instructive book, listed in the bibliography, where he built a repertoire largely around this structure.”

He refers to Modernized: the King’s Indian Defence, by Bojkov.  The funny thing is I thought Collins was wrong.  I thought Bojkov wrote only a book on tactics, and maybe a Chessbase DVD on the KID.  I was totally wrong, and I forgot that book!! I do have the book, but at the moment I don’t know where! I do need to put my office in order, but since I receive 3-4 books a week, I think I need an assistant for these menial tasks.

The next pawn structure can be seen in the Benoni and Benko,




Obviously, once we mention Benko and Benoni, we automatically know a possible Pb7-b5 pawn break, and another attack with Pe7-e6 are in order.

And of course like in the pawn structure where we had a pawn in E5, with outpost in D4, there is one with a pawn in C5 and outpost in D4.




The last structure presented in the introductory chapter is clearly a Maroczy-bind, which can be found also in other openings, like the English and the Accelerated Dragon:




Obviously with the different pawn structures come also understanding of different middlegames and different endgames, because different pieces will be exchanged in the middlegame. Hence, an opening like this one is truly formative.

The book is made up of 6 chapters. In Chapter One he covers the structure which can arise after the moves  1.d4,Nf6; 2.c4,g6; 3.Nf3,Bg7; 4.g3,0-0; 5.Bg2,d6; 6.0-0,Nc6; 7.Nc3,e5;




This chapter is made made up of 4 games analyzed in typical Move by Move style with different teaching objectives, for example in the 3rd game the author discusses at length the move orders White can use to avoid this line.

In my Megabase 2017 (soon to be 2018) I have more than 3700 games played with this line. The first game played in 1925, and last obviously in 2017 in a top tournament. I made a database with all these games, and little by little I’ll go through them, seeing the evolution and the ideas on this particular line. As we can see today, thanks to many technological aids, we can become better players if we use them.  If we don’t, we will just be complaining that our opponent seems more talented than we are, when in reality what they did was just homework.

While I was watching games based on the line given in this chapter, I stumbled upon this in which the solid Iron Tigran loses, and the words written by Collins at page 12-13 upon responsibility acquired meaning: “The level of responsibility in this opening is high for both sides.”  It means that while White has a winning attack on the queenside (as we can see in the game) Black has the responsibility to quickly generate counterplay.



Chapter two is dedicated to the Classical Variation: 1.d4,Nf6; 2.c4,g6; 3.Nc3,Bg7; 4.e4,d6; 5.Nf3,0-0; 6.Be2,




Collins here chooses to challenge the center with the e pawn, and develop the Nb8 in c6, which apart from being the favorite by Fischer and Kasparov is defined by Collins as the “most aggressive.” 6…,e5; 7.0-0,Nc6; 8.d5,Ne7; and this is the beginning for the games analyzed in this chapter.




In my database there are more than 29,000 games with this line!!   Many of these games are gems which can teach us a lot about kingside attack, like the following one:



Chapter two is quite big, with 10 games heavily annotated. As always inside a Move by Move annotated game the author asks questions which prompt the reader to stop and think upon that position.

Chapter three is dedicated to the Sämisch Variation, which occurs after: 1.d4,Nf6; 2.c4,g6; 3.Nc3,Bg7; 4.e4,d6; 5.f3,0-0;




The main line outlined by Collins reaches move 13.  However, in the annotated games he takes into consideration many of White’s alternatives. There are a total of 4 games analyzed in this chapter, for a total of 40 pages! Also for this opening I have more than 40,000 games in the database.  Clearly the KID is the perfect opening for having an information overload.

Chapter four analyzes systems with Nf3 and Ph3, after the moves: 1.d4,Nf6; 2.c4,g6; 3.Nc3,Bg7; 4.e4,d6; 5.Nf3,0-0; 6. h3,e5; 7.d5,




Now this is the point which proves why we need a book to guide us. Collins mentions who was responsible for the “modern resurgence” of this line, as well as the top players using it in this period. These names are important because one must immediately go to see their games in order to grasp the modern ideas behind this line.  On this line my database has only 6,000 games! But if we use the names given by Collins, we can watch their games and grasp the main ideas without actually watching 6,000 games.

Chapter five details those moves which don’t transpose into the classical variation with 6.Nf3. After 1.d4,Nf6; 2.c4,g6; 3.Nc3,Bg7; 4.e4,d6, 5.Be2,0-0; White can continue with 6.Bg5 or 6.Be3,




The last chapter, chapter six, is entitled “Other Lines.” Like the one we have after: 1.d4,Nf6; 2.c4,g6; 3.Nc3,Bg7; 4.e4,d6; 5.f4,




The book has a total of 29 deeply annotated games. The book ends with an index of variations, which is quite good for reference, and an index of the complete games.

Final thoughts: I found this book essential in order to give me the systematic knowledge to understand more difficult works on the KID. It is true we have hundreds of books on the KID, but the real problem is how to tackle the learning of the material. There should be a kind of staircase to success, and on each step there is a book.  On the first step this is the book one needs to read to grasp the general ideas. Another important reason to play the KID is the following: at the moment engines evaluate most positions in the KID as won for White. The problem is that most of the time the checkmate and attack on the kingside by Black is “luckily” out of the engine’s horizon. This means that a human being cannot really rely on engines to know if a line is good or bad, and this is even more true at amateur level.

One last thought: at page 18 Collins explains a new idea/maneuver which is not treated in the main books on how to play 1 d4 as White. He tells us that maybe such an idea will be covered in future editions, but for the moment it is one of the many surprises one can learn from this book to give problems to White.



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