Sunday, March 23, 2008

The Benko Gambit

I was familiar with a line back in the early '80's popularized by Lev Alburt. I will attempt to assess the developments since then in this post.

1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 c5 3 d5 b5!?

The so-called Benko Gambit, originally called the Volga Gambit but Benko put his stamp on it in the early '70's. I will follow a particular line, but there are many opportunities for either side to vary along the way.

4 cxb5 a6 5 e3

Not played against me all that often, but since I prefer this move as White I will follow this line. A popular way to decline the gambit is 5 b6, which Sammy Reshevsky played when he was first faced with the gambit. In my internet play I have often faced 5 b3, which isn't even in the opening books! I guess the "book" feels 5 b3 is too passive, renouncing any hope by White of an opening advantage.

The system with 5 e3 was developed during the '70's and for a time was thought to be the refutation of the Benko. However, Lev Alburt developed an approach for Black which he unveiled against Benjamin at the 1984 United States championship, and which he wrote up in Chess Life under the headline "The Benko Still Lives". We will follow that line.


Alburt's original scheme had Black playing 5...Bb7, but I prefer the immediate capture.

6 Bxb5 Bb7

Threatening the White Pawn on d5.

7 Nc3 Qa5

Again the d5 Pawn is threatened.

8 Bd2

Indirectly protects the d5 Pawn.


The Queen has done her duty by luring the White Queen Bishop to a useless spot on d2, where it blocks the white Queen from guarding d5. Now the Queen retreats, and the P/d5 is again threatened!

9 Qb3

Not 9 Bc4 e6! 10 e4 Nxe4! 11 Nxe4 exd5 forking White's pieces.


The cornerstone of Alburt's system, which he called the "Barclay Gallery Variation after the friends who helped him develop it. White cannot take the Pawn because the Black Bishop takes on g2 and then takes the Rook on h1. Thus, the Pawn on d5 is again threatened.

10 e4

10 Bc4 QxQ 11 BxQ Na6 12 Nf3 is comfortable for Black.

10...Nxe4 11 Nxe4 12 Qd3 f5 13 Ng3

Benjamin played 13 Ng5, but later analysis settled on this move as best.

Bxg2 14 Nle2

The original analysis from the '80's went 14 a4 Qb7 15 f3 Be7 16 N1e2 Bxh1 17 Nxh1 0-0 18 0-0-0 Nc6! 19 f4! However, a search of a 1991-present database showed only one game with 14 a4. That game, Vleijri-Vandenbussche (1994 corr.), continued 14...Nc6 15 BxN QxB 16 f3 BxR 17 NxB Rxa4 18 RxR QxR and 0-1 in 35 moves.

The preferred move today seems to be 14 N1e2, played 4 times to twice for 14 Nf3 and the one time for 14 a4. Hence I am giving 14 N1e2 as the new main line here.

14...BxR 15 NxB Be7

Played twice, to twice also for 15...Nc6. However, Be7 seems preferable, as Black need not worry about the Pawn on d7, as it is poison for White to capture it.

16 N1g3

Getting the Knight out of the corner and back into the game seems best. White's plan in Groenewold-Wortel (1999) proved too ambitious. That game continued: 16. Bc3 O-O 17. Bxd7 Rd8 18. Qg3 Bf8 19. Bxe6+ Qxe6 20. Qg5 Qd5 21. Nhg3 Rxa2 22. Rc1 h6 23. Qxf5 Qxf5 24. Nxf5 Nc6 25. Rd1 Rxd1+ 26. Kxd1 Ra1+ 27. Nc1 Ra4 28. Nd3 g6 29. Ne3 Rh4 30. Ne5 Nxe5
31. Bxe5 Bg7 32. Bg3 Rb4 33. Nc2 Rxb2 34. Bd6 Bd4 35. f3 Kf7 36. Kd2 Ke6 37. Bf8 h5 38. Kd3 Kd5 39. Bh6 Rb3+ 40. Ke2 Kc4 41. Bd2 Rb2 42. Kd1 Kb3 43. Na1+ Kc4 44. Nc2 Ra2 0-1.

16...0-0 17 a4 Nc6 18 Bc3 d5

And now the game Sapi-Bliumberg (1994) continued 19. Qe3 Nd8 20. Nh5 d4 21. Nxd4 cxd4 22. Bxd4 Bb4+ 23. Ke2 Qc7 24. Bxg7 Qc2+ 25. Kf1 Qe4 26. Qxe4 fxe4 27. Bxf8 Kxf8 28. Nf6 Nf7 29. Nxe4 Ke7 30. Rc1 Ra7 31. Rc4 Ba5 32. b4 Bc7 33. Nc5 h6 34. h3 Nd6 35. Rg4 Kf6 36. Bd3 Nf5
37. Re4 e5 38. Rg4 Ne7 39. a5 Kf7 40. Re4 Bd6 41. a6 Kg7 42. Rc4 Kf7 43. b5 Nd5 44. Nb7 Be7
45. Rc6 Nf6 46. Bc4+ Kg7 47. Rc8 1-0


chessart said...

Here is a game just played, vs. JimGrange. It illustrates the White system with the fianchetto of his King's Bishop, probably the most common line played today. It also illustrates the idea that Black need not fear exchanges, as his Rook pressure on the a and b Pawns will survive exchanges of the other pieces.

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 c5 3. d5 b5 4. cxb5 a6 5. bxa6 g6 6. g3 d6 7. Bg2 Bg7 8. Nf3 Bxa6 9. O-O O-O 10. Qc2 Nbd7 11. Rd1 Qb6 12. Nc3 Rfb8 13. e4 Ng4 14. Na4 Qb4 15. Bd2 Qb7 16. Bc3 Nge5 17. Nxe5 Nxe5 18. f4 Nd7 19. Bxg7 Kxg7 20. b3 Nb6 21. Nxb6 Qxb6 22. Rdb1 Qb5 23. a4 Qd3 24. Qxd3 Bxd3 25. Rb2 Rb4 26. Bf1 Bxe4 27. Bc4 Kf6 28. Kf2 e6 29. dxe6 fxe6 30. Ke3 d5 31. Bd3 c4 32. Bxe4 dxe4 33. Kxe4 c3+ {White resigns} 0-1

chessart said...

A game just played vs. ToughPreacher(1639).

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 c5 3. d5 b5 4. cxb5 a6 5. e3 axb5 6. Bxb5 Qa5+ 7. Nc3 g6

I really question this move. Having said "A", Black must say "B"; i.e., the thematic move is 7...Bb7 to pressure the Pawn on d5.

8. Bd2 Bg7 9. Qe2 Qc7 10. Nf3 O-O 11. O-O Ba6 12. Bxa6 Nxa6 13. a4 Nb4 14. Nb5 Qb7 15. e4 Ng4 16. Bc3

With this move White consolidates his Pawn advantage and is now simply up a Pawn.

16...Ra5 17. Bxg7 Kxg7 18. h3 Nf6 19. Rfc1 Rfa8 20. b3 d6 21. Nd2 Nd7 22. Nc4 R5a6 23. f4 Nb6 24. e5 Nxc4 25. Qxc4 Qxd5 26. Nc7 Qd4+ 27. Qxd4 cxd4 28. Nxa8 Rxa8 29. exd6 exd6 30. Rc4 Rb8 31. Rxd4??

Ironic that White, who has just won the exchange with a Knight fork, would now return the favor!

31...Nc2 32. Rdd1 Nxa1 33. Rxa1 Rxb3 34. a5

Material is now equal, but White should still win this Rook and Pawn ending.

34...Rb7 35. a6 Ra7 36. Kf2 Kf6 37. Ke3 Ke6 38. Kd4 h5 39. g4 h4 40. Ra5 Kd7 41. Kd5 Kc7 42. f5 g5 43. f6 Kd7 44. Ra1 Kc7 45. Rc1+ Kd7 46. Re1 Rxa6 47. Re7+ Kd8 48. Rxf7 Ra5+ 49. Kxd6 Ra6+ 50. Ke5 Ra5+ 51. Ke6 Ra6+ 52. Kf5 Ra5+ 53. Kg6 Ra3 54. Rh7 Rxh3 55. f7 Rh1 56. f8=Q# 1-0

chessart said...

This game, just played vs. paski, shows a White system which seems to be in vogue these days. Instead of going into the Zaitsev System with 6 e4, White takes the Knight and then retreats when Black checks him. My 9th move is a blunder; database games go 9...e6 10 de fe.

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 c5 3. d5 b5 4. cxb5 a6 5. Nc3 axb5 6. Nxb5 Qa5+ 7. Nc3 Bb7 8. Bd2 Qb6 9. e4 Nxe4? 10. Nxe4 Bxd5 11. Nc3 Bb7 12. Nf3 e6 13. Be2 d5 14. Bb5+ Bc6 15. Bxc6+ Nxc6 16. O-O Be7 17. b3 O-O 18. Re1 Rfb8 19. Na4 Qa7 20. Ne5 Nxe5 21. Rxe5 Bf6 22. Re1 Bxa1 23. Qxa1 c4 24. Bc3 cxb3 25. Bxg7 Qxa4 26. Qf6 Qg4 27. Bh6 Qg6 {White resigns} 0-1

chessart said...

Game just played vs. Loup06. With 28 Nxe6!! I offer My Queen, but he is mated if he takes it. He is mated anyway, as there seems to be no defense.

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 c5 3. d5 b5 4. cxb5 a6 5. e3 axb5 6. Bxb5 Ba6 7. Bxa6 Nxa6 8. Nc3 d6 9. Nf3 g6 10. O-O Bg7 11. Qc2 O-O 12. a4 Qb6 13. Nb5 Rfc8 14. Qe2 c4 15. e4 Nd7 16. Be3 Qb7 17. Bd4 Nb4 18. Bxg7 Kxg7 19. Nfd4 Ne5 20. f4 Ned3 21. e5 Qb6 22. Kh1 c3 23. bxc3 dxe5 24. fxe5 Nxd5 25. Qxd3 e6 26. Nd6 Rxc3 27. Rxf7+ Kg8 28. Nxe6!! Ra7 29. Rf8# {Black checkmated} 1-0