Attacking with the Benkö Gambit - Part 2

by Miguel Ararat
3/14/2016 – The Benkö is an attractive weapon against 1.d4. GM Alejandro Ramirez (photo) has used this opening successfully for years. In part 1 of his two volume series on the gambit he explains what Black should do if White enters Benkö lines. In part 2 of the series he shows how Black should react if White avoids the Benkö. Good to know - not only for Benkö players.

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A. Ramirez: Attacking with the Benkö Gambit - Part 2

A Review

Attacking with the Benko Gambit, Volume 2 by GM Alejandro Ramirez covers all of White's major sidelines against the Benko, such as the Tompowsky, Veresov, Colle, Zukertort, English and the 1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 c5 3.d5 line This DVD completes the series on the Benko Gambit and provides the black player with a sound repertoire to play the Benko against d4. Ramirez explains the early traps and move orders that can be problematic for Black when dealing with the anti-Benko sidelines. This is important at club level for two reasons. First, most white club players use a sideline expecting Black to fall in one of many opening traps. If Black does his homework, White will face a difficult game after the opening when “no tricks are remaining in his bag”. Second, White can use move orders to trick Black into unfavorable positions.

The DVD is structured around fifteen model games and nine theoretical sections. This is different from the previous DVD that combined the theoretical discussion and the model games. The games are explained around the suggested repertoire ideas and positional themes such as the bishop pair (a dominant positional feature on this DVD), transpositions to favorable pawn structures (Benoni, Hedgehog, IQP or Maroczy bind) and playing around a dominant white knight on c4. It is instructive how Ramirez explains that Black can tolerate a white knight on c4 if the rest of the white pieces cannot participate in the attack against d6. Many club players believe that in Benoni type structures White is winning as soon as a white knight lands on c4, Ramirez shows that things are not that simple and that if black plays with energy the knight on c4 is just a visually attractive piece. Out of all side lines the Trompowsky, the 1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 c5 3.d5 line, and the English are discussed in great detail by the author.

The three main premises against the Trompowsky are to deny the white player the option to lure the Benko player away from familiar structures, prevent White from building  a strong center, and finally, control White’s possibilities to sacrifice pawns and obtain active play before Black deploys his pieces. If White decides to sacrifice material the solid system recommend by Ramirez will diffuse White's initiative and consolidate the extra pawns. Ramirez also shows the dynamic differences between c5 and e6 systems by Black against the Trompowsky.

The 1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 line is one of White's clever move orders against the Indian defenses. Ramirez explains the pros and cons of this line against the Gruenfeld and the King's Indian but the emphasis is on what choice is better for a Gambit Benko player. The author recommends 2…c5 in the spirit of the Benko gambit and after 3.d5 the follow up is 4…b5, reaching a position that needs to be handled with care after 5.Bg5. The remaining part of this section covers Black’s ideas after 5…Qb6 and the implications of keeping the queen on the kingside (it will be a target to the pawn push e4-e5) or on the queenside.

Alejandro Ramirez in the ChessBase studio

It is important to mention that Ramirez does not recommend an early ...Ne4 by Black because his results in this variations are mixed. This made me keen to know how difficult the positions resulting from an early ...Ne4 are for Black. The answer is that these positions are so difficult to play that a 2650 player (French GM Romain Edouard) at the Olympiad 2012 almost lost against a 2283-player right out of the opening! To quote Romain’s own words from his excellent book The Chess Manual of Avoidable Mistakes (Thinkers Publishing 2014, page 43 after move 16…Bb7): “Until now, the short summary of the game is that I have been completely crushed by my opponent”. Later, a miracle happened and the game ended in a draw. In other words, keep the Ramirez' recommendations in mind if you decide to play the sharp ...Ne4 lines against White's set-up with 1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 c5 3.d5.

The chapters on the English are very impressive. The author provides Black with several choices, cunning move orders, and a couple of theoretical novelties against the English. One of the suggested novelties from the stem game Salgado- Karjakin, European Championship 2011 is 19…Bd5 “with the idea to prevent a sacrifice on e6” .The sacrifice idea on e6 was not obvious to me and so I decided to clarify Ramirez’s idea with the help of my Komodo 8 engine. Turns out that the resulting positions are clearly in black favor after 19…Rc1. Ramirez' 19… Bd5 was the computer's second choice. I asked myself the question what move has a better practical value? The computer-generated Rc1 or the human move ...Bd5?

 I searched the Chessbase online database, expecting at least one game with either 19…Rc1 or 19…Bd5. Unfortunately, the search yielded no results. I decided to refine the search with similar position plus Karjakin as Black and the game Caruana (2791) versus Karjakin (2771), Dubai 2014 appeared on my screen. To my surprise, the piece sacrifice on e6 (which Black wants to prevent with 19...Bd5) was played by Caruana one year after this DVD was released. This shows that Ramirez has a very good and deep understanding of these positions and that it is sometimes better to follow human advice instead of computer suggestions.

Who will benefit the most from this DVD?

  1. Players looking to fight the Anti – Benko set ups with variations that retain Benko type structures and dynamics.
  2. Any player that answers 1.d4 with 1...Nf6 and struggles against the “Anti Indians”. Nimzo Indian and Gruenfeld players have to be willing to learn structures outside of their comfort zone.
  3. Players interested in model games with the Bishop pair as driving strategic motif./li>

This DVD is at the same standard than its predecessor and it is also recommended!

Sample Video:

Alejandro Ramirez
Attacking with the Benkö Gambit - Part 2

€27.90
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$25.33 (without VAT)

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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Aighearach Aighearach 3/14/2016 06:49
If Benko players are worried you might play the Trompowsky, play to win in either line because that is just whack and you have a winning psychological advantage just from playing d4! against that player.

I've never heard anybody say that about a knight at c4. It sounds pretty lame. I don't doubt that there is a club in the world where people say dumb things like that, because the clubs I go to they are happy to repeat "never a mate with a knight at f8" but it isn't really the normal way that club players talk about lines or think about positions. Generally club players are going to look at a Benoni and just think it looks equal and drawish and say that black equalized. They might not have a good plan, but they also don't have a bad plan like "just get your knight to c4!"

I play the white side of all these openings, but I sure wouldn't want to be looking in a Benko book for my lines in the English. Transpositions are possible, but only from a few spots. They just don't seem that closely related to me.

And, is 1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 actually "clever," or just a basic opening move? If somebody had a clever idea at move 2, I would generally expect it to be a different move than the most common move.
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