Alejandro Ramirez: Attacking with the Benko

by Miguel Ararat
5/10/2015 – The Benko Gambit is a provocative opening, in which Black sacrifices a pawn for long-term compensation. Top players like Magnus Carlsen, Garry Kasparov, and Veselin Topalov all tried this gambit occasionally or regularly. ChessBase editor Alejandro Ramirez also likes the Benko and a while ago revealed its secrets on a DVD. Which is still worth viewing.

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Attacking with the Benko, 1 - Review

Attacking with the Benko Gambit, Volume 1, by Grandmaster and ChessBase editor Alejandro Ramirez is the first of a two DVD set repertoire on the Benko. Ramirez is an experienced Benko player and an enthusiastic presenter. Both show on the DVD.

In this volume Ramirez covers the positions arising after 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 c5 3.d5 b5!?. The second DVD on the Benko Gambit deals with sidelines after 1.d4 Nf6.

At club level the Benko is a good practical choice for Black, especially at short time controls where the initiative is as important as material. Ramirez provides the future Benko player with the right amount of material to start playing the gambit and keep developing his/her opening repertoire.

But the Benko also attracted a number of top players. Here's a nice win by World Champion Magnus Carlsen against Boris Gelfand:


Garry Kasparov also liked the many advantages of the Benko. At the tournament in Linares he used it to win a fine game against Evgeny Bareev - and when Ramirez saw this he was so impressed that he decided to take up the Benko himself.


By now Ramirez is a long time Benko practitioner and that creates a more personal connection between the selected material and the way the ideas are explained to the  audience. Sometimes when presenting a game Ramirez proposes several alternatives for Black which he can do because he has huge experience in similar positions. For example, in some lines Ramirez advocates putting the black queen on the g1-a7 diagonal to put pressure on the queenside and the white king thus playing the whole board and restricting one’s play to the queenside.

The author also indicates the type of positions Black must avoid at all costs – a valuable piece of advice. One such example is the game Kramnik- Topalov, Wijk Aan Zee 2003, in which White could consolidate his position and Black had no compensation for the pawn.

Alejandro Ramirez feels at ease in Benko positions

Ramirez is a good presenter and explains the basic ideas behind the Benko very well and clear. One key issue of the Benko is the long lasting initiative Black develops if White takes the gambit pawn. White starts defending in the opening and might well do so in the endgame.

Ramirez shows the methods, piece/square relationships that Black needs to know to keep his initiative and to transform it into a solid advantage. The core of the DVD are nineteen grandmaster games and six training exercises. The games illustrate the main lines White can play the Benko and each illustrative game is shown in videoclips of 10 to 14 minutes. A busy student can make daily progress even if his only time for chess is at lunch break.

The material Ramirez offers is of high quality, but the diligent student should cover at least two areas on his own. First, the reason behind move orders such as 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 c5 3.d5 b5 4.cxb5 a6 5.bxa6 g6 (instead of ...Bxa6) is not explained (the move 5...g6 restricts white options by taming white‘s possible double fianchetto – the position after 6.g3 g6 7.Bg2 d6 8.b3 Bg7 9.Bb2 might not appeal to Benko players).

Second, novice Benko players may need to work on typical Benko endgames to exploit Black’s superior pawn structure. In fact, Black often has the better endgame in the Benko, even if a pawn down.

Players taking the Benko from square one, Benoni/Kings Indian players expanding their repertoire into Benko territory and, white players facing difficulties against the Benko will benefit the most from this DVD, which all in all is excellent and highly recommended.

Reprinted with kind permission of the Florida Chess Association magazine.

Sample Video


Alejandro Ramirez: Attacking with the Benko Gambit

Languages: English
ISBN: 978-3-86681-352
EAN: 4027975007410
Delivery: Download, Post
Level: Tournament player,  Professional

€23.45 without VAT (for Customers outside the EU)
$26.33 (without VAT)
ISBN: 978-3-86681-456-1

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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Miguel Ararat is a scientist, his background includes work on molecular biology and protein science techniques, applied to neuroscience and cancer research. At present Miguel works as a Biotech consultant and National Chess Coach. Miguel completed his chess coaching training under Senior FIDE Trainer Efstratios Grivas guidance, (2013). Currently, Miguel coaches a group of successful scholastic players from Florida.
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Miguel Ararat Miguel Ararat 5/12/2015 05:43
The game Gelfand – Carlsen 2011 is relevant to the Benko from two different angles.

First, even in a rapid game GMs use the Benko to take the fight to their opponents. For example, GM Alterman in his book The Alterman Gambit Guide, Vol 1 page 66 published by Quality Chess “ Avrukh is one of the top theoreticians in modern-day chess, and his 1.d4 Grandmaster Repertoire books have become a kind of “opening tablebase” for many title players. Preparing for such a player is never easy, but I felt that the Benko would be a logical choice to depart from mainstream theory. I also know Avrusk to be a player with an aggressive style and formidable tactical ability, and the Benko seemed like a promising way to neutralize this aspect of his game”. Then Alterman proceeds to annotate the game Avrukh – Alterman Israeli RAPID 2011. At move 25. b4! White reacts in the correct way, at least for the moment ….(Alterman) 25... Rxb4 26.Nb5? In a complex position and with little time remaining, White commits a game- changing error”.This game as the Gelfand- Carlsen was decided by a blunder in the middlegame.

Second, a rapid game has illustrative value, especially when both players are over 2700. For instance, a recent book on the Benko by Junior Tay uses the game Gelfand- Carlsen, Zurich (RAPID) 2014 as part of the annotations of game 3 Jayakumar- Leon Hoyos Las vegas 2013 (The Benko Gambit Move by Move, page 31, published by Everyman chess).
gmwdim gmwdim 5/11/2015 10:17
I also like how Chessbase deletes critical comments. I previously pointed out that the Gelfand-Carlsen game is not a good illustrative game for the Benko, because the result there was caused by a tactical blunder (it was a rapid game) that had little to do with the opening.
karavamudan karavamudan 5/11/2015 03:53
Folks, let us tolerate this. After all instead of politics we are getting the description of topical chess openings. Most chess masters are rich only in talent and have to make a living after all and DVDs is one such means.
Emmanuel Lasker, Steinitz died in poverty. A British chess master seemed to have committed suicide due to poverty and his friends bore his funeral expenses.
Wastrel Wastrel 5/11/2015 10:36
@ashperov Gambit play is the way to go, and don't talk about my girlfriend like she's an object!
ashperov ashperov 5/11/2015 07:10
Dont be so hard on CB. How else can one afford a Ferrari and a slender blonde 25 year old? Bread and butter must be present. Otherwise why have a news site in the first place? I do think the prices drive people to get the same stuff for free on the web. However enough people must be buying their products for them to not budge on price.
Keep it up- I have no issue. For example im inspired to pull these two Benko Dvds just because hey when they came out I was Grunfeld happy. Grunfeld has been a poor friend in last 5 months. Hence benko here we come!
karavamudan karavamudan 5/11/2015 02:51
Chessbase in fact came up with articles of how top GMs think on a more regular basis. More on these are welcome so that amateurs like me may get inspired and try to emulate the effort in their own games.

gmwdim gmwdim 5/11/2015 02:29
I agree, advertisements here outnumber actual chess news articles now. Also, using the Gelfand-Carlsen game to illustrate the Beko is a joke. It was a rapid game, and the result was due to a crude tactical blunder, with nothing to do with the opening.
Igor Freiberger Igor Freiberger 5/11/2015 01:29
CB News is becoming a promotional site. Recently we had articles where the news themselves were secondary to the promotion of instructional products. In tournament reports we got games selected in view of the opening used just to open a box promoting some DVDs. This way you may lost the credibility achieved after many years of good reports just to increase product promotion. Please reconsider this approach.