Many players are in search of a weapon against the King's Indian. The system with h3 (both with and without Nf3) offers White many strategic and tactical possibilities and has proven to be quite successful in practice. White scores a solid 60 percent of all points. Theory, however, neglects this set-up. The standard opening books about the King's Indian either fail to mention the move h3, or only give it a cursory treatment. In the past, players such as Bent Larsen and Lubomir Kavalek used to employ this system regularly, and today renowned grandmasters such as Michal Krasenkov, Evgeni Bareev, Vasily Ivanchuk and Alexander Belyavsky like to advance their h-pawn with success. World champions Kasparov, Anand, and Kramnik have also tried this system with good results.
With the move h3 White is following a number of plans. The Polish GM Michal Krasenkov, one of the best proponents of this variation, explains the main one: "The general strategic idea is to contain Black's activities on both sides of the board." White prepares g4, which is directed against the black pawn push ...f5. Since the black knight cannot move to g4 White can put his bishop safely on e3 and give his position a solid support. It also prepares a later kingside attack.
White's options are many and flexible. After opening the g-file with an exchange on f5 he often gets good chances to attack on the g-file. But he may also close the position on the kingside and use his superiority on the queenside to good effect. Black's counterplay is almost always based on the ...f5 push, which initialises the fight for the strategically important square e4. In any case Black must play actively and precisely if he does not want to be forced into inactivity and immobility.
After the moves 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.e4 d6 5.Nf3 0-0 6.h3 e5 7.d5 Nbd7 (or Na6) 8.Be3 Nc5
we have a position in which White has quickly developed the bishop to e3 after the center is closed with e7-e5 and d4-d5. Black, on the other hand, hastens to bring the queen's knight to c5.
In the diagram position above the attacked pawn on e4 should be defended as planned with 9.Nd2, which threatens 10.b4, an advance Black usually prevents with 9...a5.
But before we reach the basic position of this variation, have a look at a game by Bent Larsen, who at the time was one of the best players of the Western world (besides Bobby Fischer) and one of the greatest experts of the h3-system:
Larsen,B - Garcia Martinez,S [E90] Capablanca mem Havana (7), 1967: 1.c4 Nf6 2.Nf3 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.e4 d6 5.d4 0-0 6.Be3 Nbd7 7.h3 e5 8.d5 Nc5 9.Nd2 Ne8 10.h4 f5 11.h5 Nf6 12.hxg6 hxg6 13.Bxc5 dxc5 14.Qe2 a6 15.0-0-0 Qd6 16.g3 Bd7 17.Bh3 b5 18.Rde1 c6 19.exf5 cxd5 20.fxg6 Bxh3 21.Rxh3 dxc4 22.Reh1 e4 23.f3 exf3 24.Qh2 Nh5 25.Rxh5 Qxg6 26.Nd5 Rae8 27.Nf4 Rxf4 28.gxf4 Re2 29.f5 Bxb2+ 30.Kc2 1-0.
In the previous diagram after the usual 9...a5 we reach the basic position of this variation. In practice this position is reached in various ways, e.g. 7.d5 Nbd7 8.Be3 Nc5 9.Nd2 a5 or 7.d5 a5 8.Be3 Na6 9.Nd2 Nc5.
In order to understand this rather classical black set-up it is very important to understand other, slightly different strategies that have been developed for both sides over the years.
White can continue in two ways: he can either fall in with Black's intentions and play a) 10.g4, or he can proceed with his attack on the queenside with b) 10.a3.
a) 10.g4. Now it's Black's choice whether he first wants to continue work on the queenside with a1) 10...c6 or on the kingside with a2) 10...Ne8. The latter prepares an immediate ...f5, something Black could also do with the (even weaker) move 10...Nfd7.
The move 10...c6 starts operations on the queenside. In the game Kavalek,L - Kestler,H White controlled events on both wings, and profited from his control over c4, which he gained because with 12...cxd5 Black decided to exchange on d5 early. Therefore, today Black players usually avoid an early exchange of c-pawns.
Since the early 90s grandmaster Sergey Dalmatov relies on a different, sharper idea for Black - he ventures the interesting pawn sacrifice 11...a4!? (after 10.g4 c6 11.Be2). White can win a pawn with 12.Bxc5?! dxc5 13.Nxa4, but would have to part with his favorite bishop and accept that its counterpart could splendidly enter into play via h6. 12.b4 appears to be more reasonable, and was discussed in a number of games, one of them being Eljanov,P - Jacimovic,D 1-0.
After 10...Ne8 White, who has to reckon with 11...f5, may decide, whether the h- or the g-file should be opened. The possibilities for both sides in case of the latter are documented in Piket,J - Van Wely,L 1-0. Players, who prefer an open h-file to an open g-file, after 10...Ne8 should best react with 11.h4; thus, after11...f5 they are able to play 12.g5 to continue with h4-h5 later. A selection of games by the Uzbekian grandmaster Alexei Barsov, which illustrate this topic are merged in Barsov,A - Djuric,S 1-0.
b) 10.a3: White wants to make use of the early knight's excursion to c5 and chase it immediately away to gain space and time. As usual, Black should base his counterplay on the f7-f5 advance, starting with 10...Ne8 (for other moves see comments to the following illustrative games!) After 11.b4 axb4 12.axb4 Rxa1 13.Qxa1 Na6 14.Qa3 f5 we reach the basic position of the variation. White has two ways to take measures against Black's plan f5-f4, followed, if necessary, by g6-g5-g4.
1. White clears the square d2 for the bishop (as in Kaidanov,G - Watson,W 1-0)
2. White sacrifices a pawn with 15.g4!? (as in Thesing,M - Hermesmann,H 1-0)
One of the greatest players of this system is doubtlessly Michal Krasenkow. He has used it in hundreds of his games, and with great success. Against the King's Indian Krasenkow has achieved the incredible score of over 80%. One of his most prominent victims was Alexei Shirov, who was outplayed tactically and positionally in this 1997 Bundesliga game:
Krasenkow,M (2645) - Shirov,A (2700) [E90], Bundesliga 9798 Germany, 1997: [Commentary by Krasenkow]:1.Nf3 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.e4 d6 5.d4 0-0 6.h3. The general strategical idea of this system is to restrict Black's active possibilities on both sides. 6...e5 7.d5 a5 8.Bg5! This is much stronger than an immediate 8.Be3. White wants to provoke ...h7-h6 weakening the black kingside and depriving the black bishop of the h6 square. 8...Na6 9.Nd2 c6N 10.Be2 h6 11.Be3 Nd7!? Black is starting an interesting plan: he strengthens his queenside with the a5 pawn and a pair of knights and at the same time prepares ...f7-f5. 12.g4 Ndc5 13.Nb3 [13.h4 f5!] 13...Bd7 [13...cxd5 14.cxd5 Qh4 is premature in view of 15.Nxa5 f5 16.Nc4!+/-] 14.Nxc5 Nxc5 15.h4 White's plan is h4-h5 forcing ...g6-g5 and then a queenside attack (b2-b3,a2-a3,b3-b4 etc.). Therefore Black takes measures to defend his queenside. 15...a4! 16.Qd2 cxd5 17.cxd5 Qa5? A tactical error. Black underestimates White's attacking possibilities after the capture on h6.[ 17...Kh7 18.h5 g5=] 18.Bxh6! Bxh6 19.Qxh6 a3.
20.b4! Qxb4 21.Rc1 Rac8? 22.h5 Nd3+ 23.Bxd3 Rxc3 24.0-0 Be8. As a consequence of the wrong rook move, the f8 rook is out of play. 25.Rfd1+- Qc5 26.Rxc3?! [ 26.Kg2+-] 26...Qxc3 27.Kg2 Qc7. White had overlooked this defense; still his position is winning. 28.Rh1 f6 29.hxg6 Qg7 30.Qxg7+ Kxg7 31.Rh7+ Kxg6 32.Rxb7 Kg5 33.Rb8 Rg8 34.Kg3 Bf7 35.Rb7 Bg6 36.Ra7 Rb8 37.Rxa3 Rb2 38.f3 Rd2 39.Bf1 Rc2 40.Ra8! Rc3 41.Kf2 f5 42.gxf5 Bh5 43.Be2 Kf4 44.Rh8 1-0.
Here's another instructive example from Breutigam's CD:
Krasenkow,M (2655) - Sutovskij,E (2575) [E90] Torneo de Pamplona 9th Pamplona (4), 30.12.1998 [Commentary by Martin Breutigam]:1.c4 g6 2.e4 Bg7 3.d4 d6 4.Nc3 Nf6 5.Nf3 0-0 6.h3 Na6 7.Bg5 Qe8 8.g4.
After 8...c5 it is interesting that Krasenkow doesn't close the center but prefers to fianchetto his bishop: 9.Bg2!? Rb8 10.0-0 cxd4 11.Nxd4 Nc5 12.f4 Ne6 13.Nxe6 Bxe6 14.Qd3 Nd7 15.b3 Nc5 16.Qe3 f6 17.Bh4 a6 18.Nd5 Qd8 19.e5 Bxd5 20.Bxd5+ Kh8 21.f5 Nd7 22.exd6 exd6 23.fxg6 hxg6 24.Bg3 Ne5 25.Rad1 Qc7 26.g5 b5 27.gxf6 Rxf6 28.Rxf6 Bxf6 29.Rf1 Bg7 30.Rf4 g5 31.Rf5 Qb6 32.c5 Qd8 33.Rxg5 Qe8 34.cxd6 1:0, Krasenkow,M-Pereyra Arcija,D (Buenos Aires 1998); or 9...h5 10.gxh5 Nxh5 11.Qd2 Nc7 12.Bh6 cxd4 13.Nxd4 e5 14.Bxg7 Kxg7 15.Nf5+! Bxf5 16.exf5 Nf4 17.Bxb7 Rb8 18.Be4 d5 19.cxd5 Nb5 20.Rg1 Nd6 21.b3 Rb4 22.Bc2 Rd4 23.Qe3 Rh8 24.fxg6 f5 25.Rd1 Rxh3 26.f3 Rh2 27.Kf1 Rxc2 28.Rxd4 exd4 29.Qxd4+ Kg8 30.Qxf4 Rxc3 31.Qh6 Qe7 32.g7 Rxf3+ 33.Kg2 Qe2+ 34.Kh1 Nf7 35.Qh7+ 1:0, Krasenkow,M-Bobras,P (Glagow 2001).
8...Kh8 9.Be2 e5 10.d5 Bd7!? 11.Nd2 [After 11.Rg1 Nc5 12.Nd2 a5 Black would have lured his opponent into a favorable version of the (A6/b1) line.] 11...Ng8. Now, as Qd1-d2 is no longer possible, Black continues in the spirit of the A6/b3 line. 12.Rg1. After the game, Krasenkow considered 12.h4 to be better. 12...Nc5?! To my mind, it is more logical to continue with 12...f6!? 13.Be3 Bh6.
13.h4 f5 14.gxf5 gxf5 15.exf5 e4. 15...Bxf5 16.Nb3 Ne4 17.Nxe4 Bxe4 18. Nd2 Bf5 19.Bg4+/=.
16.Be3 Bxf5 17.Nb3 Nd3+ 18.Bxd3 exd3 19.Qf3 Bg6 20.Qg2 Bxc3+? 20...Bh6 21.Kd2 is unclear (Krasenkow).
21.bxc3 Qe5 22.Kd2 Nf6 23.f3 b5 24.h5! Qxh5 25.Rh1 Qe5 [25...Qf5 26.Nd4 Qe5 27.Qxg6 Rg8 28.Qxd3 Rg2+ 29.Kd1 bxc4 30.Qf5, Krasenkow.] 26.Qxg6 bxc4 [or 26...Rg8 27.Qxf6+ Qxf6 28.Bd4+-] 27.Rxh7+! Nxh7 28.Rh1 Qxe3+ 29.Kxe3 Rae8+ 30.Kd2 1-0.
On his King's Indian CD Martin Breutigam provides a comprehensive introduction to this attractive opening. In 18 texts the author explains its basic ideas and analyses the most important variations. Thus, this CD offers both an easy-to-learn introduction and the first in-depth theoretical analysis of this system. If White plays h3 before putting his knight to f3, Black no longer has Bg4, but many players put their knight already on the first or second move to f3. To offer on this CD a complete White repertoire against the King's Indian, Breutigam also analyses the system with 5.Nf3 Bg4, which after his recommendation 6.Be2 0-0 leads to E91. 130 illustrative games, a lot of them annotated, demonstrate the most important strategies for both sides. A training database invites you to check your knowledge.