Understanding before Moving 89: Basics of the Benko Gambit (8)

by ChessBase
8/14/2022 – Herman Grooten is an International Master, a renowned trainer and the author of several highly acclaimed books about chess training and chess strategy. In the 89th instalment of his ChessBase show "Understanding before Moving", Herman continues to explain why playing the Benko Gambit might be a good choice for club players. | Photo: Pascal Simon

Key Concepts of Chess - Pawn Structures Vol.1 and 2 Key Concepts of Chess - Pawn Structures Vol.1 and 2

In this two-part course the emphasis will be on typical pawn-structures.


In previous episodes of this mini-course on the Benkö Gambit we gave an overview of the most important structures that arise after White accepts the gambit pawn, and now is the time for an overview of other structures that can arise when White has different plans.

I gave each variation a name of my own making because I know from experience that this helps to distinguish the lines and structures. In this overview we see several ways what can happen when White refuses to take the offered pawn and allows Black to capture on c4.

White can make sure that he can play e2-e4 immediately after ...bxc4 or that he can play it a little later. White can continue with 4.Qc2, 4.Nd2 or the 'neutral' 4.Nf3 or 4.a4. After ...bxc4 White can put the knight to c3, where it supports e4, after which White can take on c4 with the bishop.

Studying all these lines with Black seems to be a lot of work but when I trained a young talent from the Dutch town of  Zwijndrecht, Mark Timmermans, I got a better understanding of  these lines. When playing through games of top players, who had Black in these lines, I suddenly discovered that  there was a great common denominator in all those games: the control of square  c4 was essential for White and so Black's strategy was simple: every white piece  that appears on c4 must be exchanged immediately!

I showed Mark a few examples and he was immediately convinced. Even more wonderful was the fact that he could try our findings immediately when playing blitz against the strong GM Ivan Sokolov. In the Dutch Blitz Chess Championship that was played as a knockout, Mark (under the pseudonym Alexy1) managed to beat his illustrious opponent twice with the Benkö - and in both games he followed the strategy which he had discovered.

These two wins helped Mark to win the mini-match against Sokolov and to advance to the next round. Much later he became an International Master,  which crowned his work.

In the diagram position, Black has  pretty much equalised. However, White thought he could  capture a nice pawn with 1.Nxc5. But that was a mistake. How did Black refute this blunder?


Attacking with the Benko Gambit

Don't give 1.d4 players an easy ride — sacrifice a pawn with 3.b5 for a lasting initiative. GM Ramirez shows you clear ideas for play in every variation.

Attacking with the Benko Gambit - Part 2

GM Ramirez completes his repertoire suggestion versus 1.d4 with powerful systems among others against the ColleSystem, Trompowsky or the declining move 3.Nf3. An absolute asset - not only for friends of the Benko Gambit!

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