Alejandro Ramirez teaches the Benkö Gambit

5/26/2015 – Most of our readers know GM Alejandro Ramirez very well, as he is a very prolific reporter and annotator on this site. And an international event commentator. "Having enjoyed his comments I expected an equally entertaining and instructive DVD," says Piotr Kaim, himself a regular Benkö player. "The things I heard and watched met the expectations." Review in Mat Magazine.

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Alejandro Ramirez teaches the Benkö Gambit

Review by Piotr Kaim

GM Alejandro Ramirez, a Costarican living in the USA has solid credentials as a guide through the Benkö labyrinth. He has been using the opening for many years and with good results. His preparation passed a very demanding test when he faced Rustam Kasimdzhanov during the FIDE KO World Championship in Tripoli (2004). It was the very tournament that gave the Uzbek the FIDE World Championship, but the mini-match against the then 16-year-old Ramirez was rather tough.

Not surprisingly, the Ramirez DVD presents the Benkö Gambit from the Black’s point of view. It should be also noted that it was recorded in 2012, but the ideas and lines showed by GM Ramirez are not dated and will be relevant for a long time. If you play against opponents up to the National Master level, you can be quite safe using the Grandmaster’s recommendations nearly without any additional studies as far as the pure move by move theory is concerned. Besides, if you are more ambitious, you can treat the DVD as a foundation for further independent explorations.

GM Ramirez lecture lasts for nearly four hours. Everything is delivered in a nicely pronounced English that is also very friendly for non-native speakers. The material is divided in 26 clips. The first three relate to the basics: the author briefly talks about White’s main reactions to the Benkö Gambit and then invests some more time on explaining the most important ideas associated with the opening’s pawn structure.

The next series of clips is dedicated to particular Benkö lines. GM Ramirez discusses them while commenting upon selected instructive games that were played by top modern players such as Carlsen, Kramnik, Topalov, Ivanchuk, Nakamura, Vachier-Lagrave, Bologan and others. This section of the DVD is split in the following way:

  • White Fianchetto: 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 c5 3.d5 b5 4.cxb5 a6 5.bxa6 g6 6.Nc3 Bxa6 7.g3 (4 clips);
  • Artificial Castling: 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 and then 10.h3 0–0 11.Kg1 or 10.g3 0–0 11.Kg2 (4 clips);
  • The line with 5.b6: 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 c5 3.d5 b5 4.cxb5 a6 5.b6 (1 clip);
  • The line with 5.f3: 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 c5 3.d5 b5 4.cxb5 a6 5.f3 (2 clips);
  • Quiet variation: 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 c5 3.d5 b5 4.cxb5 a6 5.e3 (1 clip);
  • Sidelines with Benkö declined: 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 c5 3.d5 b5 4.Nf3, 4.Nd2 or 4.Qc2 (2 clips);
  • Zaitsev Variation: 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 c5 3.d5 b5 4.cxb5 a6 5.Nc3.

Finally, in the last seven clips the lecturer presents us with a challenge to solve a number of exercises related to Benkö ideas and shows an exemplary game of Garry Kasparov, who used the opening to beat Evgeny Bareev (Linares 1994). In the process of commenting upon that game GM Ramirez gives a valuable tip on a rare variation, where – after the moves 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 c5 3.d5 b5 4.cxb5 a6 5.bxa6 g6 6.Nc3 Bxa6 – White plays 7.Nf3 g6 8.Nd2.

The idea of the last move is to play 9.e4 and after 9...Bxf1 recapture the bishop with the knight. GM Ramirez notes that in the diagrammed position the World Champion missed the opportunity to play 8...Qa5! and 9.e4 no longer works, because of 9…Bxf1 and White cannot go on with 10.Nxf1? due to 10...Nxe4. This little trick was unknown in the mid 1990 and Kasparov followed another path. Nevertheless, he won in a brilliant style.

The above tip gives you a notion on potential profits you can gain from watching the Ramirez DVD. It is clear that a four-hour lecture cannot be as complete as an opening manual issued as a book. However it has a quality of a training session with a good coach that is supposed to give you condensed knowledge, the very information of the biggest practical relevance. That kind of coach shows you the most important games and stuffs your mind with ideas like: “this line is not dangerous at all; you respond with the queen move and the whole White’s idea is meaningless”, “you should not be worried about that move, because you transfer your knight to a4 and get a typical Benkö compensation”, or “currently the principal theoretical dispute is led in the line X, but for the time being you can just forgot about it; you can play the line Y and you are absolutely safe”. That kind of tip is the most valuable and probably the most important for the players that are looking for training DVDs.

A full and longer version of this review appeared in Polish language in the current issue of
“Mat” Magazine (No. 3/2015) that is an official journal of the Polish Chess Federation.

Sample Video: Alejandro Ramirez – Attacking with the Benko Gambit

Alejandro Ramirez:
Attacking with the Benko Gambit

  • Video running time: 3 hours 44 minutes (English)
  • Including CB 12 – Reader

Price: €27.90
€23.45 without VAT (for customers outside the EU)
$25.64 (without VAT)
ISBN: 978-3-86681-352

This DVD can be purchased as a hard copy or it can be downloaded directly from the Internet, that way sparing you the few days needed for it to arrive by post.

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