White gambits versus the Benko!

11/12/2020 – The Benko Gambit (1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 c5 3.d5 b5) may be a rare guest an top-level chess but at amateur and club level, the pawn sacrifice continues to be popular. In fact, many 1.d4 players lack a clear concept against the dangerous gambit. In the new ChessBase Magazine #198 IM Christian Braun suggests to simply turn the tables and to offer the Benko player a few sharp gambits, which he should think about twice before accepting them!

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White gambits versus the Benko!

Christian Braun shows an active repertoire after 3...b5 4.Nf3.

 

In this article, I would like to present a concise repertoire for White against the Benko Gambit, featuring... some gambits of his own! The general main idea is to take Black out of his well-known lines and structures, pushing him into uncharted territory.

The diagram above shows our starting position. White's last move 4.Nf3 leaves him very flexible, enabling him to perfectly adapt to any way Black may take. I will investigate four different options: A) 4...d6 B) 4...g6 C) 4...e6 and D) 4...Bb7.

A) 4...d6 5.Qc2!?

 

Our standard move - White wants to build up a strong centre and stabilise his space advantage by playing e4.

 

Following 9.h3! (preventing ...Bg4), White in Krasenkow,M - Volodin,A 1-0 had full control and later even was able to attack the black king!

B) 4...g6 5.d6!?

 

White gambit no 1! This rarely played move is a very interesting attempt to crush the Benko Gambit in a straight way. White has achieved 71% (!) here, the top scorer being IM Dejan Nestorovic with 2.5/3 points.

White's idea is to exploit the d5-square. Surprisingly Black cannot reach his typical and well-known Benko setup. In the above position, he more or less has to play 5...b4! (to stop Nc3). Otherwise White is already better, e.g. 5...bxc4 (the moves 5...Bb7 and 5...Bg7 are investigated within the game Nestorovic,D - Foltz,Y 1-0) 6.Nc3 Bg7 7.e4!.

 

White controls the important d5-square and threatens e5, pushing Black's pieces back. The Bf1 is about to take on c4 attacking the weak point on f7. All this is dissected in the annotations on the game Nestorovic,D - Vuckovic,B ½-½.

So, 5...b4!, which is followed by 6.Bf4 Nc6 and now 7.g3!.

 

Better than 7.e3 which was played in Nestorovic,D - Vuckovic,B ½-½. White should fianchetto his king's bishop, on g2 it will have a very strong diagonal.

 

After 11.a3!, sacrificing the b2-pawn. If the black bishop captures, White will go Ra2 and then castle. Using his lead in development, he can for example continue Be3-Ng5-Ne4, eyeing f6 and d6. All this is analysed in the annotations on the aforementioned game Nestorovic,D - Vuckovic,B ½-½.

C) 4...e6 This transposition to the Blumenfeld Gambit runs into 5.e4!.

 

Our gambit no 2! White sacrifices a central pawn for rapid mobilisation. 5...Nxe4 Black has to take this way (for 5...bxc4 6.Nc3! see Antoniewski,R - Butkiewicz,L 1-0), otherwise he would simply allow his opponent to build up a very strong centre. 6.Bd3 White develops with tempo, his next natural moves being 0-0, Nc3 and Re1.

 

White's compensation is obvious, see Lopez Martinez,J - Asadzade,I 1-0. Black has big problems with his development.

D) 4...Bb7 5.Qc2!?

 

Again our rock solid standard move, intending e4 to strengthen the d5-pawn. Now 5...bxc4 6.e4 e6 is analysed in Kveinys,A - Sailer,W 1-0, whereas in Stocek,J - Zilka,S 1-0 Black played 5...Na6!? to bring his knight to b4, which was simply followed by 5.Nc3 and 6.e4 with a strong centre locking up the black Bb7!

Conclusion: The Benko Gambit is a really sharp opening, with Black trying to give up a pawn for development lead and initiative on the queenside. Accepting the gambit, in the main lines White has to know his stuff very well. This repertoire with the flexible 4.Nf3 is intended to lure Black onto unknown territory, not allowing him to play his usual and well-known plans and structures. After 4....g6 5.d6!? and 4...e6 5.e4! White offers promising gambits himself, while both 4...d6 and 4...Bb7 are met by the solid 5.Qc2, preparing e4 to increase his central space advantage. I think this repertoire will help you to quickly take control over the game and seize the initiative. Get your own impressions going through the analysed games - and go for it!

You will find the complete articles with all games and analyses in ChessBsae Magazine #198!

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