Mihail Marin's Winning against the King's Indian

by Hannes Langrock
11/24/2017 – Mihail Marin is considered one of the premier opening theorists and treats all his topics with great care and thoroughness. Hannes Langrock has watched his DVD on the main variation of the King's Indian Defense. Langrock calls it "an ambitious classical repertoire...the analysis is quite thorough and complete."

Winning against King's Indian — The main line Winning against King's Indian — The main line

In the classical system of the King's Indian White develops naturally and refrains from chasing ghosts looking for a refutation of Black's set-up. White instead relies on the fact that natural play should yield him a small but lasting advantage.


Winning against the King's Indian

A review

Mihail Marin offers a White repertoire against the ever popular King’s Indian Defence and recommends the main line. The starting point of the DVD arises after the moves 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.e4 d6 5.Nf3 0-0 6.Be2


Truly quite a project for one DVD — in the databases there are more than 100,000 games from this position! A labyrinth of games and variations, which we can hardly penetrate without the aid of an expert. And such is the author without any doubt: A look at the Megabase 2017 reveals that the Romanian grandmaster has played this system repeatedly with both colours, interestingly almost equally often with white (16 times) and with black (18 times).

Right at the start Marin points out the problem of engine evaluations in King’s Indian structures, especially those with a closed centre. It is possible that the engines evaluate White’s chances much higher in a certain position, but in reality Black’s slowly building attack is already hardly stoppable ... Therefore the author asks us to trust him: In some cases the move he recommends might not have the highest engine evaluation, but leads to desirable, safe structures for white.   

Almost two thirds of the 30 videos discuss the classical move 9.Nd2 against the Mar del Plata variation.


I was happy to find out that the analysis is quite thorough and complete. There is nothing more annoying than when an author simply leaves out the critical lines — this is not the case with Marin.

A practical warning regarding the recommended repertoire: In this system the general directions of play are more or less set out: While White attacks on the queenside (b4, c5 etc.), Black will try his luck on the other wing, often after closing the centre with ...f5-f4.  There are some life or death lines, which require exact theoretical knowledge. Marin provides the analysis, but it is up to the tournament player to study carefully and memorize the key variations.

Two instructive examples for this are the attached games Ftacnik-Cvitan and Gelfand-Nakamura. Both white players did everything right for 22 moves, but then made a mistake. Instead of gaining a clear advantage (Ftacnik missed 23.gxh3! Qxh3 24.Rf2, Gelfand 23.hxg3!), the result was a quick, spectacular loss.


Winning against King's Indian — The main line

In the classical system of the King's Indian White develops naturally and refrains from chasing ghosts looking for a refutation of Black's set-up. White instead relies on the fact that natural play should yield him a small but lasting advantage.


So Marin’s repertoire is not one which avoids risks from the beginning (the Fianchetto System, which is discussed by Nicholas Pert on his DVD, rather goes in that direction), but a very ambitious and principled one. If White knows what he is doing, he should have excellent chances over the board — just take a look at the games Komarov-Hebden (thematic idea 16.g4!), Kasparov-Smirin (forceful preparation of c4-c5 and once again the middlegame idea g2-g4) and Chuchelov-Roeder (typical and in this case decisive blow on d6), which are of course among the games that Marin analyses.




After the main part about the Mar del Plata tournament, Marin completes his White repertoire by discussing some further common Black choices:

  • the set-up with ...Nbd7 (6...e5 7.0-0 Nbd7 8.Qc2) in 3 videos
  • the move 7...Na6, which is quite popular among club players (also 3 videos)
  • the opening of the centre with 7...exd4 8.Nxd4 Re8 (2 videos)
  • and finally, with one video each: 6...c5 and 6...Bg4

All of his recommendations against these systems make a good impression. I think, the discussion of the Maroczy structures after 6...c5 7.0-0 cxd4 8.Nxd4 Nc6 9.Be3 could have been more detailed — especially for players who are new to these positions. However, we should not forget that this DVD covers a huge complex of variations, and that not everything can be discussed in detail. Being guided into the right general direction by an expert is already worth a lot!

In his lecture Marin shows plenty of typical motifs and ideas, for the attack on the queenside (for example c4-c5 or b5-b6, also in form of a pawn sacrifice) as well as for the defense on the other wing (e.g. the maneuver Be1-h4 after ...g5-g4 to stop Black’s attack).

Occasionally the author stops the lecture for an exercise — usually quite challenging ones — and thus “provokes” us to do some active thinking.

Marin conducts his lecture in a pleasant manner. Not like a great entertainer, rather like a chess teacher, who explains difficult content in an appropriate way. Sometimes the speed of lecture could be a bit slower, but this doesn’t take away from the very good overall impression — and there is always the option to pause the video and think about the position if you need some more time for it.  


I learned a lot about the King’s Indian in a little more than 4 hours! Mihail Marin presents an ambitious classical repertoire against the King’s Indian in an appropriate and pleasant way. The analysis is quite thorough and complete. It is not necessary to put in extra hours of analysis yourself to be able to play the systems — quite important for amateurs with limited time for study. However, there are some critical life or death lines in the sharp Mar del Plata complex, which should be carefully studied and memorized.

To conclude, I can absolutely recommend this DVD for White players willing to expand their repertoire against the King’s Indian, as well as for King’s Indian players, who’d like know what their next opponent might have prepared ...

Hannes is an International Master and plays for ESV Nickelhütte Aue in the 2nd Bundesliga. He lives with his family in Leipzig and works as a lecturer at a fiction publishing house.


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