Chess Opening Theory/1. e4/1...g6

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Modern Defence
a b c d e f g h
8 a8 b8 c8 d8 e8 f8 g8 h8 8
7 a7 b7 c7 d7 e7 f7 g7 h7 7
6 a6 b6 c6 d6 e6 f6 g6 h6 6
5 a5 b5 c5 d5 e5 f5 g5 h5 5
4 a4 b4 c4 d4 e4 f4 g4 h4 4
3 a3 b3 c3 d3 e3 f3 g3 h3 3
2 a2 b2 c2 d2 e2 f2 g2 h2 2
1 a1 b1 c1 d1 e1 f1 g1 h1 1
a b c d e f g h
Position in Forsyth-Edwards Notation (FEN)
Moves: 1.e4 g6
ECO code: B06
Parent: King's Pawn Opening

Modern Defense

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The Modern or Robatsch Defense. Black makes clear intentions to fianchetto a Bishop, and embraces the Hypermodern approach of controlling the centre. Today it is a viable strategy, but it once was known as the joke of openings.

The first modern defenses were played in the 19th century. These involved a 1…g6 and 2…e6 setup which was usually played in the modern of that time. That setup was horrible and people were used to playing open, tactical games with the King's Gambit and Evans Gambit. As a result, the modern defense was considered to be a very bad opening. No one knew how to use its flexibility and dynamism to its potential.

In the mid-19th century, John Cochrane played some players from India. The Indian players have an interesting style of play. They responded to 1.d4 with …Nf6 and used a setup with a kingside Fianchetto. One of them played the Grunfeld but others played the King's Indian Defense. For the early opening, their pieces were in the last 3 ranks. These games have been recorded and will be important later on.

However, the modern Defense got even worse when Wilhelm Steinitz beat Augustus Mongredien who used the modern in under 30 moves. Mongredien used an awkward, inferior Hippopotamus (we'll get to that soon) and this made people stray away from it. Luckily for the Modern, the games from the Indian Players sparked hypermodernism in Europe. Players like Aaron Nimzowitsch and Richard Retí claimed that a large centre was a target for attack. Instead, they proposed flexible setups with fianchettoing instead of usual ways of development. It may seem good to the Modern, and it kind of was, but the Hypermodern players at that time preferred Queenside fianchettos, especially the Queen's Indian. Aaron Nimzowitsch also liked to play it safe, but the modern is actually very risky. As a result, it was never deeply analysed.

Until after WWII. Vasja Pirc invented an opening named after him. He would play …d6 and …Nf6, then Fianchetto his kingside bishop. This opening became popular and then people started the wonder, wouldn’t the bishop be more effective if it wasn’t blocked by the knight? And so the modern was analysed and employed by many, even Mikhail Botvinnik. The first system to be employed successfully is the g6/d6/c6/b5 system. The queenside expansion is highly unusual, but it was effective. However, the system that really took off is the 'Hippopotamus'. It has the double Fianchetto, controlling both long diagonals. Then, the pawns are pushed to e6 and d6 to place the knights behind them, not blocking the bishops. Then, the flank pawns are usually pushed to a6/h6. This makes an indestructible fortress, with a barricade on the fifth rank. It lulls white to attack it and overextend, then hit back with a powerful counterattack.

Many other systems were invented, too. The Gurgundize merges the Caro-Kann with the Modern, making it more passive but also more safe and solid. Then, Tiger's Modern was invented. It uses a6 to support the expansion on b5 instead of c6, allowing the queenside Fianchetto to be much more effective. And finally, the pterodactyl combines c5 with the modern, but it is too simple for high level play.


2. d4
2. Nf3
2. f4

White has also the possibility to launch a quick attack on the f7 pawn by the means of 2. Bc4 and Qf3.

Theory table

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For explanation of theory tables, see theory table and for notation, see algebraic notation.

1. e4 g6
2 3 4
Main Line d4
Monkey's Bum Bc4

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  • Nunn's Chess Openings. 1999. John Nunn (Editor), Graham Burgess, John Emms, Joe Gallagher. ISBN 1-8574-4221-0.