Active piece play, a rock-solid pawn structure and a clear plan

by ChessBase
8/21/2006 – The Benko Gambit is a dynamic response to 1.d4 which enables Black to play for the initiative right from the start. On his training DVD Andrew Martin not only deals with every significant aspect of this opening but also proves that it still is a solid and highly attractive weapon. Order it now or read Steve Giddins' review.

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Andrew Martin: “The ABC of the Benko Gambit”

Review by Steve Giddins

Buy it now...

The Benko Gambit is one of the most effective and easy-to-learn openings for Black. For a minimal material investment, Black obtains active piece play, a rock-solid pawn structure and a clear middlegame plan. Unlike many modern openings, the Benko does not require that the player learn reams of variations. Although a few specific sequences need studying in advance, in the main, what is required is an understanding of the basic plans and ideas of the opening.

All of this makes it the ideal opening to be presented in DVD form, and there is no better presenter than Andrew Martin to do this. The present DVD gives you over four hours of instruction, as the English IM takes you through every significant aspect of the Benko. Starting with the history of the opening, he presents several pioneering games, including efforts by David Bronstein, Walter Browne and Pal Benko himself. Apart from their historical interest, these games are extremely valuable, as classic demonstrations of how effective Black’s middle- and endgame plan can be against uninformed opponents. White’s chances are also not overlooked, and a close examination of the brilliant game Cheparinov-Ivanchuk, from the 2005 FIDE World Cup, gives a perfect illustration of what White is aiming for in such positions, and what Black needs to avoid.

Andrew demonstrates the game Cheparinov-Ivanchuk, World Cup 2005 – THE lesson on what Black should avoid!

As stated above, the Benko is not an opening which requires a lot of memorisation, but certain White set-ups do need to be countered by specific Black remedies. In the Benko Gambit Accepted, the most critical theoretical challenge at present is the line 5 bxa6 g6 6 Nc3 Bax6 7 Nf3 d6 8 g3 Bg7 9 Bg2 Nbd7 10 Rb1. This is a favourite of many strong GMs, including Epishin and van Wely. Andrew presents a detailed examination of the system from Black’s viewpoint, based around the excellent game M Gurevich – Cao Sang, European Team Championships 2005, which was convincingly won by Black. In addition, all other significant White set-ups are examined, including the important lines where White sacrifices castling rights by 7 e4 Bxf1 8 Kxf1. 

The last part of the DVD deals with White’s various methods of declining the Benko. This can be on move 5 (ie after 4 bxa6 a6), with such lines as 5 b6, 5 e3, 5 f3 or 5 Nc3, or on move 4, with 4 a4, 4 Nd2 and 4 Nf3. In all cases, an appropriate line is recommended for Black, backed up with theoretical analysis and clear illustrations from recent practical games. 

The key moment in Radziewicz – Pinski, Poland 1995. What would you play for Black?

The screen shot above shows a typical example of what you see on screen at any particular moment. The left shows the board, with the current position in the game being examined. Andrew is shown in the upper right half of the screen, seated at his computer, and talking to camera. On the lower right side of the screen, you see the notation window, containing the moves played so far, and the various sidelines and variations considered. Naturally, you can re-size the various boxes to your preference, thus enabling those who so wish to enlarge Andrew’s film star good looks.....

Another important benefit is that, at any moment, you can pause the DVD, which allows you to treat it as a training exercise, where you try to work out the next move for yourself, before looking it up. This is one of the most effective forms of training, recommended almost a hundred years ago by Nimzowitsch. However, it is a technique that is much easier to use in an on-screen format, compared with reading a book. Poor old Nimzo had to sit there with little pieces of cardboard spread across the pages of his book, so as to avoid inadvertently peeping at the next move, but you lucky 21st century players have no such problem. In the screen shot given above, for example, White has just played the incautious move 16 b3, allowing a brilliant riposte – can you see it?

Click here to make Martin show the solution (sample in reduced quality)...

Such a format for chess instruction is definitely the way forward, but it does require something which not all chess masters possess – the ability to speak clearly and interestingly to camera. In this respect, Andrew Martin is outstanding – natural, relaxed, articulate and witty, he is the ideal person to present a DVD such as this. If you are looking for a new weapon against 1 d4, or if you already play the Benko and want an up-to-date look at the opening, there is no better product..

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