Be well prepared - with the ChessBase Magazine

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1/17/2021 – With 11 articles about various openings the new ChessBase Magazine #199 offers a lot of material for ambitious chess players who want to improve their openings. IM Patrick Zelbel, for example, examines a surprise weapon against the Modern Benoni, namely 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 c5 3.d5 e6 4.Nc3 exd5 5.cxd5 d6 6.Nf3 g6 7.Bg5!?. If Black reacts with the standard move 7...Bg7, Zelbel recommends an idea by Matthias Blübaum: 8.Nd2!?, which prepares e2-e4 and a later f2-f4. Let us show you how White can achieve a "huge advantage" against an unprepared opponent. And how Black should best meet White's bishop move.

ChessBase Magazine 199 ChessBase Magazine 199

Special: AVRO 1938. "All in One": Anish Giri and Igor Stohl dissect two topical opening lines. Analyses from Norway Chess 2020 by Duda, Firouzja et al. Videos by Erwin l'Ami, Daniel King and Mihail Marin. 11 opening articles and much more!


7.Bg5 against the Modern Benoni

Patrick Zelbel presents a versatile weapon


The Modern Benoni is one of the most active openings against 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 and has been in good shape lately. Players on the Black side found decent counter-chances against the Classical Line (7.Nd2 followed by 8.e4, 9.Be2, 10.0-0) and the Modern Main Line (7.h3 Bg7 8.e4 0-0 9.Bd3 b5!), so from a theoretical point they are fine here. The topical Bf4-system is a bit annoying for Black, but currently every second player who goes for the Modern Benoni will be prepared for it. So the strongest German chessplayer, GM Matthias Blübaum, looked for fresh ways against the Modern Benoni and explored the move 7.Bg5, also a favourite line of the famous GM Simen Agdestein, who has been a coach for many young talents - including Magnus Carlsen. Blübaum's recent games in 2019 and 2020 inspired me to take a close look at this surprise weapon.

The idea

The main point of this system is to get an improved version of the Classical main line against the Modern Benoni. We can compare our following theoretical lines with this opening sequence: 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 c5 3.d5 e6 4.Nc3 exd5 5.cxd5 d6 6.Nf3 g6 7.Nd2 Bg7 8.e4 0-0 9.Be2 Re8 10.0-0 Nbd7 11.a4 Ne5,


reaching one of the main battlegrounds of the Benoni. Here one try for White is the move 12.Ndb1!?, which can be explained with the limited prospects of our dark-squared-bishop. How great it would be if it were on g5 and we could go for a pawn march with f2-f4 and e4-e5? So playing 7.Bg5, we try to get an extremely improved version of this standard line. The other side of the coin is that Black can challenge our bishop on g5 with ...h7-h6 and ...g6-g5 at some point. Then we have to allow its trade against the black knight, when, in return, will try to exploit the weakness of the f5-square with the knight tour Nf3-d2-c4-e3.


A) Most likely your opponent will reply with the standard developing move 7...Bg7. Now Blübaum's move order is 8.Nd2!? preparing e2-e4. Here Black has a choice:

A1) 8...0-0 is obviously the standard reaction, just normal development. After 9.e4 Re8 10.Be2 Na6 (10...a6 11.a4 will transpose to 8...a6) 11.0-0 Nc7 we reach a well-known position:


After 12.a4! to stop nasty ...b7-b5 ideas, the player on the Black side has a very difficult choice as we will see in Vorobiov,E - Ris,R 1-0, Kavala 2009, where White got a great position following 12...b6 13.f4! preparing 14.e5.

A2) 8...a6 9.a4 0-0 (it´s not so smart to play 9...h6 after including the moves of the a-pawns because after 10.Bh4 g5 11.Bg3 Nh5 12.Nc4 Nxg3 13.hxg3 Black has weakened his b6-square additionally. We will look at this position in Agdestein,S - Karlsson,L 1-0, Gjovik 1983) 10.e4 Nbd7 11.Be2 Re8 (11...h6 12.Bh4 Qc7 will be examined in Bluebaum,M - Leniart,A 1-0, Katowice 2019) 12.0-0 h6 13.Bh4 is a very good position for White:


Black´s options are very limited, so he went 13...g5 14.Bg3 Ne5 in a couple of games, establishing good control over the black squares. But 15.f4! gxf4 16.Bxf4 still gives a dynamic advantage for White, thanks to the shaky black king. An important idea is to transfer a knight via e3 towards the weakened f5-square - Volkov,S - Benidze,D ½-½, Malatya 2016..

A3) 8...h6 9.Bh4 g5 (9...Nbd7 10.e4 0-0 11.Be2 Re8 12.0-0 g5 13.Bg3 Ne5 14.f4! is very similar to line A2), Livaic,L - Ahmadzada,A ½-½, Porto Carras 2018.) 10.Bg3.


Black should go immediately for 10...Nh5! to exchange the bishop, when 11.Nc4 Nxg3 12.hxg3 0-0! 13.e4 a6 14.a4 Qe7 appeared on the board in a the game of the young World Champion (Carlsen,M - Janssen,R ½-½, Wijk aan Zee 2004). Probably White can easily go for 15.Be2!? followed by f2-f4 ideas, but also the game continuation 15.Ne3 is thematic and lead to a winning position after the opening for White.

B) The other option which I would recommend to the Modern Benoni players on the Black side is 7...h6 8.Bh4 g5 9.Bg3 Nh5! straightaway. After the common 10.Nd2 (the calmer alternative 10.e3 should lead to equal positions as we see in Severinov,V - Sauermann,W 1-0, ICCF Postal 2003) Nd7 we have the following position:


One trick is that 11.Nc4 encounters 11...Nb6! leading nowhere for the white knight, although White won in Agdestein,S - Ljubojevic,L 1-0, Wijk aan Zee 1988. We will take a close look at the usual move 11.e4!?N in the annotations to that game.

Conclusion: The development of the white bishop to g5 is a very rare guest at all levels, which makes it a fantastic surprise weapon against the Modern Benoni. A lot of experienced players go for the normal development moves then. We saw that White got a huge advantage out of the opening against the typical setup with pushing f2-f4/e4-e5. It´s very easy to play, once you get there. So Black should react to the provocative bishop move by pushing it back with ...h7-h6 and ...g6-g5. That does weaken the f5-square, but Black can go immediately 9...Nh5 and get rid of the bishop on g3. Black is fine from a theoretical point of view, but in the annotations to the last game we saw a lot of fresh positions after 11.e4 which should be tried in practice. I´m looking forward to further games in this complex line. 

You will find the complete article will all analyses and anotated games in ChessBsae Magazine #199!

New: ChessBase Magazine #199 

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ChessBase Magazine # 199 offers a lot more: analyses by top players such as Alireza Firouzja or Jan-Krzysztof Duda, 11 opening articles with new repertoire ideas, opening videos by Erwin l'Ami, Daniel King and Mihail Marin and much more.

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