You know when you've been Benko'd

Steve Homer


In the Benoni Black often struggles to arrange ...b5 with moves like ...Na6-c7, ...b6, ...a6 and ...Rb8. Here in the Benko Black plays it at once, as a gambit.

Key ideas for Black:

For example, in the main line after

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 c5 3.d5 b5 4.cxb5 a6 5.bxa6 g6 6.Nc3 Bxa6 7.e4 Bxf1 8.Kxf1 d6 9.Nf3 Bg7 10.g3 0-0 11.Kg2 Nbd7

 

r+-+qB-R
PkP-+-Pp
-Pn+-N-+
+-+p+-+-
-+-+pX-+
+xS-X-+-
xLxXs+-+
+jT-D-+t

  • Control of long dark diagonal, especially the central dark squares e.g. ...Nfd7-e5

     

  • Pressure against the d5 Pawn

     

  • Queen's-side attack with e.g. ...Qb6, ...Rfb8, ...Nbd7-b6-c4. White's extra passed(!) Pawn usually remains frozen with terror on a3 or a4.

     

  • Central attack with ...e6, ...d5
We can see all of these ideas below. White must counter on the King's-side or in the centre. Oddly for a gambit line, Black usually won't mind the exchange of Queens in the Benko, because the Queen's-side initiative persists, while White can no longer hope for mate on the other side.

  However, in none of the games below did White play the main line, and in only one was the gambit Pawn accepted! This is not just to avoid theory, as, according to BCO, Black often emerges with enough pressure to draw in the main lines.

 


Outline of main lines and variations in the Benko Gambit

Bibliography: Winning with the Benko Gambit, Byron JACOBS, Batsford, 1995.

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 c5 3.d5 b5 4.cxb5

  [4.Nf3 b4 (4...Bb7; 4...g6) 5.Nbd2; 4.Bg5]

4...a6 5.bxa6

  [5.e3

A) 5...axb5 6.Bxb5 Qa5+ 7.Nc3 Bb7

A1) 8.Nge2

A1a) 8...Bxd5 9.0-0 Bc6 10.a4 (10.Qd3) 10...Bxb5 (10...e6; 10...g6) ;

A1b) 8...Nxd5 9.0-0 Nf6 (9...Nc7; 9...Nxc3) ;

A2) 8.Bd2 8...Qb6 9.Qb3 (9.Nge2; 9.Bc4; 9.Nf3) 9...e6 10.e4 (10.Bc4) 10...Nxe4 11.Nxe4 Bxd5 12.Qd3 Qb7 (12...f5) ;

B) 5...Bb7;

C) 5...e6;

D) 5...g6 6.Nc3 Bg7

D1) 7.Bc4;

D2) 7.a4 0-0 8.Ra3 (8.e4; 8.Bc4) 8...Bb7 9.Nh3;

D3) 7.Nf3 7...0-0 (7...d6) 8.a4 Bb7 9.Ra3 (9.Rb1; 9.Bc4; 9.bxa6) ;

  5.f3 e6 (5...g6; 5...axb5 6.e4 Qa5+ 7.Bd2) 6.e4 exd5 (6...c4; 6...Qc7) 7.e5 (7.exd5) 7...Qe7 8.Qe2 Ng8 9.Nc3 Bb7 10.Nh3 c4 (10...Qd8) ;

  5.b6

A) 5...a5;

B) 5...Qxb6 6.Nc3 g6 (6...e6) 7.e4 d6 8.a4 (8.Nf3) ;

C) 5...d6 6.Nc3 Qxb6 7.a4 g6 8.a5;

D) 5...e6 6.Nc3 Nxd5 7.Nxd5 exd5 8.Qxd5 Nc6 9.Nf3 Qxb6 (9...Rb8; 9...Bb7; 9...Be7) 10.Ne5;

  5.Nc3 axb5 (5...Qa5) 6.e4 b4 (6...Qa5) 7.Nb5 d6 8.Bc4 (8.Bf4) 8...Nbd7 (8...g6; 8...Ra5) 9.Nf3]

5...g6 6.Nc3

  [6.g3 d6 7.Bg2 (7.b3) 7...Bg7 8.Nf3 (8.Nc3 0-0 9.Nf3 Nxa6; 8.Nh3) 8...Bxa6 9.0-0 Nbd7 10.Nc3 Nb6 (10...0-0) ;

  6.b3]

6...Bxa6 7.e4

  [7.f4; 7.Nf3 d6 8.Nd2]

7...Bxf1 8.Kxf1 d6 9.Nf3

  [9.g4; 9.Nge2]

9...Bg7 10.g3

  [10.h3]

10...0-0 11.Kg2 Nbd7

  [11...Na6]

12.h3

  [12.Re1; 12.Qe2]

 


Black's Queen's-side attack: White, RG - Homer, SJ: Surrey Individual #4, 1988

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 c5 3. d5 b5 4. cxb5 a6 5. b6 Qxb6

 

tSl+jL-T
+-+xXxXx
xD-+-S-+
+-Xp+-+-
-+-+-+-+
+-+-+-+-
pP-+pPpP
RnBqKbNr

This line restricts Black to only one half-open file on the Queen's-side, but 6. Nc3 d6 7. e4 g6 8. Be2 Bg7 9. Rb1 O-O 10. Nf3 Bg4

 

tS-+-Tj+
+-+-XxLx
xD-X-Sx+
+-Xp+-+-
-+-+p+l+
+-N-+n+-
pP-+bPpP
+rBqK-+r

11. O-O Bxf3 12. Bxf3 Nbd7 13. Be3 Qc7 14. Qd2 Rfe8 15. Bg4 Nb6

 

t+-+t+j+
+-D-XxLx
xS-X-Sx+
+-Xp+-+-
-+-+p+b+
+-N-B-+-
pP-Q-PpP
+r+-+rK-

16. Be2 Nfd7 17. Rfc1 Ne5 18. Nd1 a5 19. b4 axb4 20. Rxb4 Qa7

 

t+-+t+j+
D-+-XxLx
-S-X-+x+
+-XpS-+-
-R-+p+-+
+-+-B-+-
p+-QbPpP
+-Rn+-K-

21. Rbb1 Reb8 22. f4 Ned7 23. Rc2 Na4 24. Rb3 Rxb3 25. axb3 Nab6

 

t+-+-+j+
D-+sXxLx
-S-X-+x+
+-Xp+-+-
-+-+pP-+
+p+-B-+-
-+rQb+pP
+-+n+-K-

26. Bc4 Qa3 27. Qe2 Qa1 28. Rc1 Qa2 29. Kf2 Nxc4 30. bxc4 Qb3

 

t+-+-+j+
+-+sXxLx
-+-X-+x+
+-Xp+-+-
-+p+pP-+
+d+-B-+-
-+-+qKpP
+-Rn+-+-

31. Rc2 Nf6 (sealed) 32. Kf3 Nd7 33. Kf2 Nb6 34. e5 Na4 35. exd6 exd6

 

t+-+-+j+
+-+-+xLx
-+-X-+x+
+-Xp+-+-
s+p+-P-+
+d+-B-+-
-+r+qKpP
+-+n+-+-

36. Qd2 Re8 37. Kf1 Qb1 38. Qc1 Qb3 39. Qd2 Nb6 40. Qc1 Re4

 

-+-+-+j+
+-+-+xLx
-S-X-+x+
+-Xp+-+-
-+p+tP-+
+d+-B-+-
-+r+-+pP
+-Qn+k+-

41. Bf2 Nxc4 42. g3 Qd3+ 43. Kg2 Qxd5 44. Kg1 Bd4 0-1

 

White locks up the Queen's-side, Black has a central roller: Parker, C - Homer, S

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 c5 3. d5 b5 4. e3 d6 5. cxb5 a6

 

tSlDjL-T
+-+-XxXx
x+-X-S-+
+pXp+-+-
-+-+-+-+
+-+-P-+-
pP-+-PpP
RnBqKbNr

6. Nc3 Nbd7 7. a4 g6

  Theory currently advises Black not to play normal Benko moves in this variation, but they seem to turn out all right in this game! Steve wonders if White's next is inaccurate.

8. Bc4 Bg7 9. Nge2 O-O 10. f3 Nb6

 

t+lD-Tj+
+-+-XxLx
xS-X-Sx+
+pXp+-+-
p+b+-+-+
+-N-Pp+-
-P-+n+pP
R-BqK-+r

11. Qd3 Nxc4 12. Qxc4 axb5 13. Nxb5 Ba6 14. Nec3 Qd7 15. Ra3 e6

 

t+-+-Tj+
+-+d+xLx
l+-XxSx+
+nXp+-+-
p+q+-+-+
R-N-Pp+-
-P-+-+pP
+-B-K-+r

16. dxe6 fxe6 17. O-O Rfc8 18. Qf4 Rc6 19. Rd1 d5 20. Ne4 Qe7

 

t+-+-+j+
+-+-D-Lx
l+t+xSx+
+nXx+-+-
p+-+nQ-+
R-+-Pp+-
-P-+-+pP
+-Br+-K-

21. Nxf6+ Bxf6 22. e4 e5 23. Qg4 Bc8

  Who can object to winning a Queen? As things go, however, Black loses the thread, so with hindsight Black perhaps should have spent a move consolidating the centre - the threat would still obtain.

24. exd5 Bxg4 25. dxc6 Bf5

 

t+-+-+j+
+-+-D-+x
-+p+-Lx+
+nX-Xl+-
p+-+-+-+
R-+-+p+-
-P-+-+pP
+-Br+-K-

26. g4 Bxg4 27. fxg4 Qe6 28. h3 Qxc6 29. Rd6 Qe4 30. Rxf6 Rxa4

 

-+-+-+j+
+-+-+-+x
-+-+-Rx+
+nX-X-+-
t+-+d+p+
R-+-+-+p
-P-+-+-+
+-B-+-K-

31. Bh6 1-0

 

White plays actively in the centre: Jepps,G - Homer,S: Exeter Premier #?, 1996

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 c5 3. d5 b5 4. cxb5 a6 5. Nc3 axb5

 

tSlDjL-T
+-+xXxXx
-+-+-S-+
+xXp+-+-
-+-+-+-+
+-N-+-+-
pP-+pPpP
R-BqKbNr

6. e4 b4 7. Nb5 d6 8. Bc4

  This is the sharpest line at White's disposal, the so-called Nescafe Frappe Attack, which should obviously be boycotted because of the Nestle baby milk campaign.

8...g6 9. Nf3 Bg7 10. e5 dxe5

 

tSlDj+-T
+-+-XxLx
-+-+-Sx+
+nXpX-+-
-Xb+-+-+
+-+-+n+-
pP-+-PpP
R-BqK-+r

11. Nxe5 O-O 12. O-O Ne8 13. Bf4 Bb7 14. Nxf7 Rxf7 15. d6 exd6

 

tS-Ds+j+
+l+-+tLx
-+-X-+x+
+nX-+-+-
-Xb+-B-+
+-+-+-+-
pP-+-PpP
R-+q+rK-

16. Bxf7+ Kxf7 17. Re1 Kg8 18. Rxe8+ Qxe8 19. Nxd6 Qc6 20. Qg4 Qxg2+

 

tS-+-+j+
+l+-+-Lx
-+-N-+x+
+-X-+-+-
-X-+-Bq+
+-+-+-+-
pP-+-PdP
R-+-+-K-

21. Qxg2 Bxg2 22. Kxg2 Bxb2 23. Re1 Nc6 24. Nc4 Bg7 25. Bd6 Bd4

 

t+-+-+j+
+-+-+-+x
-+sB-+x+
+-X-+-+-
-XnL-+-+
+-+-+-+-
p+-+-PkP
+-+-R-+-

26. Re2 Na7 27. a4 Nc6 28. Nb6 Ra6 29. Re8+ Kf7 30. Rf8+ Ke6

 

-+-+-R-+
+-+-+-+x
tNsBj+x+
+-X-+-+-
pX-L-+-+
+-+-+-+-
-+-+-PkP
+-+-+-+-

31. Nc4 Kd5 0-1

 

White plays actively in the centre, part 2: Jepps, G - Homer, S: Somerset vs. Devon, 1996

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 c5 3. d5 b5 4. cxb5 a6 5. Nc3 axb5

 

tSlDjL-T
+-+xXxXx
-+-+-S-+
+xXp+-+-
-+-+-+-+
+-N-+-+-
pP-+pPpP
R-BqKbNr

6. e4 b4 7. Nb5 d6 8. Bf4

  The older line. Most players know the recommended reply:

8...g5 9. e5 gxf4 10. exf6

 

tSlDjL-T
+-+-Xx+x
-+-X-P-+
+nXp+-+-
-X-+-X-+
+-+-+-+-
pP-+-PpP
R-+qKbNr

10... e5

[10... Nd7]

11. dxe6 Bxe6 12. Qf3 Ra5 13. Qb7 Bh6 14. Nc7+ Kf8 15. Qb6 Qxf6

 

-S-+-J-T
+-N-+x+x
-Q-XlD-L
T-X-+-+-
-X-+-X-+
+-+-+-+-
pP-+-PpP
R-+-KbNr

16. Qxa5

[16. Qxb8+ Kg7

[16... Ke7 17. Nd5+ Bxd5 18. Qc7+ Kf8 19. Qxa5

Qxb2 20. Rd1 Qc3+ 21. Rd2 f3 22. Nxf3 Bxf3 23. Qd8+ Kg7-+ ]

17. Ne8+

Rxe8 18. Qxe8 Qxb2]

16... Qxb2 17. Nxe6+ fxe6 18. Rd1 Qc3+ 19. Rd2 Qa1+

 

-S-+-J-T
+-+-+-+x
-+-Xx+-L
Q-X-+-+-
-X-+-X-+
+-+-+-+-
p+-R-PpP
D-+-KbNr

20. Rd1

[20. Ke2 Qe5+ 21. Kf3 Qh5+ 22. Ke4 Qf5+ 23. Kf3]

20... Qc3+ 21. Rd2 Q

Chess Quotes

"One of the main aims has been to highlight the differences in appraoch between a Grandmaster and a weaker player, and to try and narrow the gap. To some extent this comes down to technical matters - more accurate analysis, superior opening knowledge, better endgame technique and so forth; but in other respects the difference goes deeper and many readers will find that they need to rethink much of their basic attitude to the game.
— Peter Griffiths, Introduction to Secrets of Grandmaster Chess.