The Modern Defense and its Ideas

by ChessBase
2/15/2024 – A strong outlook of nonchalance is associated with the term "modern" in chess. It typically insinuates that a player is not grossly concerned with conventional strategies, especially having to control the center immediately. This article highlights Modern Defense, its core ideas, key variations, and how to play against it.

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What is the Modern Defense and its Ideas

The modern defense is a hypermodern opening where the main idea is for Black to allow White occupy the center of the board right from the start. The idea continues by preparing a counteroffensive against White, who has established their presence at the center. The counterattacking nature of this opening presents Black with higher winning chances (30%), reducing the White's winning chances to 37%.

The Modern Defense starts with 1.e4 g6, and more often than not, White continues with 2.d4. Black proceeds to fianchetto the Bishop, and from this point, we look at multiple variations in which this opening can develop.

The simplest position of the Modern Defense.

Before we go into the variations, note that the main strategic idea of the Modern Opening is to limit exchanges in the openings while targeting weaknesses with long-ranged pieces and pawns that clog up space on the board. In Modern Defense, Black also aims to launch wing attacks since the center will be closed and limited to attacking opportunities.

Therefore, expect Black to sit back and develop their pieces to build a strong defence while waiting for White to pick a side to castle. Then, we are likely to see an immediate attack initiated toward the side White castled.

We now highlight some of the critical variations of the Modern Defense.

Key Variations and Movements

There are several ways to develop a position in Modern Defense. The key variations include;

  1. Standard Defense
  2. Averbakh System
  3. Modern Pterodactyl

1. Modern Defense: Standard Defense (3.Nc3 d6)

This variation is the most expected variation of Modern Defense. White continues the development with 3.Nc3 and Black in original fashion plays 3…d6. This move from Black ensures that the position remains closed and, at the same time, prevents White's e4-pawn from advancing any further. It also prepares the floor for pawn charge via e5 and c5.

Modern Defense: Standard Defense after 3…d6

White is expected to continue with natural development by playing the Bishop along the c1-e3 diagonal, while Black, on the other hand, will likely maintain a defensive setup with a prophylactic a6. The position is now unfolding to expose queenside activity.

2. Modern Defense: Averbakh System (3.c4 d6 4.Nc3)

Russian Author and first FIDE centenarian Grandmaster Yuri Averbakh discovered a system that prioritizes a preparation for a queenside confrontation over rapid solidification of control on the center. White's c4 move, backed by Nc3, prompts Black to prepare some counteroffensive moves before the pressure from the center becomes excessive to manage.

White’s pawns take overwhelming control of the center and are supported by the c3 knight

4…Nf6 will likely follow the Averbakh System because the move eases the pressure on the center and develops a piece. Alternatively, we can see a direct confrontation of White's building control of the center when Black plays 4…e5. Black offers White the option to exchange pawns and reduce their control of the center, but we will likely see a pawn advance to d5. 

From this closed position, Black can now proceed with the original idea of attacking the board's wings. 

3. Modern Defense: Modern Pterodactyl (3.Nc3 c5)

In a position that transposes to a continuation of the Benoni Defense, the Modern Pterodactyl variation significantly displeases the evaluation bar regarding efficiency for Black. Still, just like the Benoni, the element of surprise remains evident.

The 3…c5 move aims to challenge White’s center control and tamper with the pawn structure


The Modern Defense is scarcely played at the top level because players deploy safe chess nowadays, and the safest lines are not embodied by hypermodern opens. We do see GM players use the Modern Defense in speed chess tournaments on chess platforms, but unless you want to spring a surprise on your opponents, it is advised to avoid playing with the Modern Defense.

This article was written in cooperation with ChessDoctrine, a free resource for beginning chess players. You can explore their comprehensive archive of articles, carefully written by skilled chess coaches and experienced chess masters, which include insights on strategies, terminology, pieces, and beyond. For a deeper exploration of Modern Defense, visit the article page.

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