Ramirez: Artificial Castling in the Benko

by ChessBase
6/3/2015 – Last week we published the review of GM Alejandro Ramirez' DVD “Attacking with the Benkö Gambit”. The author Piotr Kaim found that there are still some issues that need to be clarified. Does Benkö really offer at least equal chances in every line? What is the line the DVD’s author fears most, while playing Black? Ramirez responds to these and other questions in a short interview.

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Alejandro Ramirez teaches the Benkö Gambit

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.

In the Benkö Gambit artificial castling may be critical

Interview by Piotr Kaim

Piotr Kaim: What kind of player had you in mind, while recording “Attacking with the Benkö Gambit”? For whom it is dedicated?

Alejandro Ramirez: I tried to keep a wide audience in mind. There are very basic explanations of the variations and strategies behind the gambit, but at the same time there are novelties and useful ideas for players at the grandmaster level. The DVD was meant to be informative at all levels, and I know that even strong IMs and some GMs have incorporated it to their repertoire.

You like this DVD? Are you satisfied with the result?

Alejandro Ramirez feels at ease in Benko positions

It's my first DVD and I was very happy with the final result. It helped that it was a topic I love and am so familiar with.

I found your DVD very interesting and instructive. Nevertheless, I found some minor defects. One of them is that while discussing the mainline after 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 c5 3.d5 b5 4.cxb5 a6 5.bxa6, you do not explain the difference between 5…Bxa6 and 5…g6 (the latter you recommend) – though in one of the clips you promise to do so…

Oops! That must have been my oversight. The difference is that 5...Bxa6 is unnecessary at that point and simply gives White extra options he does not have with 5...g6. 5...g6 is simply the better move and I must have forgotten to mention why.

It feels you are very optimistic about Black’s perspectives in every Benkö line. But as a chess player, you must know some line you fear about. What line would you recommend for White?

In the Artificial Castling variation, after 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 10.g3 0–0 11.Kg2 Nbd7

... the new line with 12.a4 was only just discovered when the DVD was recorded. I thought I had found good ways to equalize but now I am not so sure. I have some tricks up my sleeve in that variation but it will require more practical tests, specially to refute Kaufmann's analysis in his latest repertoire book.

What is the line you like playing most as Black?

Probably the Fianchetto lines, since White is never very well prepared against things that aren't the dubious Nb6 lines. Also I have a new found love for e6 against the quiet variation (5.e3) as I beat Tomashevsky with it in an important game.

As a 16-year-old GM, you made an easy draw in Benkö against Kasimdzhanov in KO FIDE World Championships (Tripoli 2004). The game went as follows:

[Event "FIDE-Wch k.o."] [Site "Tripoli"] [Date "2004.06.20"] [Round "1.2"] [White "Kasimdzhanov, Rustam"] [Black "Ramirez Alvarez, Alejandro"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "A58"] [WhiteElo "2652"] [BlackElo "2542"] [PlyCount "38"] [EventDate "2004.06.19"] [EventRounds "7"] [EventCountry "LBY"] [Source "ChessBase"] [SourceDate "2004.09.23"] 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 c5 3. d5 b5 4. cxb5 a6 5. bxa6 Bxa6 6. Nc3 g6 7. Nf3 d6 8. g3 Bg7 9. Bg2 Nbd7 10. Rb1 Qa5 11. O-O O-O 12. Bd2 Bb7 13. Qc2 Qa6 14. Nh4 e6 15. dxe6 fxe6 16. a4 Bxg2 17. Nxg2 d5 18. b3 c4 19. Nb5 cxb3 {[#]} 1/2-1/2

Now the draw was agreed. The final position was at least equal. Why did not you want to continue?

The game seemed to be headed to a draw and back in the day it was more money if you took your opponent to tie-break than if you lost in the normal games. It didn't make too much sense to continue, rather gather my forces and try in the rapids.

The 15-year-old GM Alejandro Ramirez at the FIDE World Championship 2004

Your credentials as an author of the Benkö DVD come from extensive practical experience. But your black repertoire against 1.d4 is not limited to Benkö? What else do you play? What’s use playing other things if Benkö is that good as you suggest?

I play the Chebanenko Slav as my main alternative. Good complements to the Benko include the Benoni, the Nimzo-Indian (specially the Blumenfeld Gambit!).

Recently, you are extremely active as a commentator. Did not it hurt your career as a practical player?

That's not so easy to assess. I'm near my rating peak, but I haven't seen much progress in a year or so. So, perhaps it did?

Thanks a lot for the conversation.


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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