ForumHelpSearchMy ProfileSite InfoGuests InfoRepertoireLinks
This month is devoted to the Modern Benoni, and a few recent developments in arguably the two most critical variations: The Modern Main Line and the Taimanov Attack. The good news for Benoni fans is that Black seems to be holding firm in both lines, although we should always expect some new ammunition from White at any moment.

Feel free to share your ideas and opinions on the Forum (the link above on the right), while subscribers with any questions can email me at

Download PGN of May '09 Nimzo and Benoni games

The Modern Main Line, Black Plays 10...Nh5!?

We begin this month with a look at what is still quite a fresh approach for Black against the Modern Main Line, 1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 c5 3 d5 e6 4 Nc3 exd5 5 cxd5 d6 6 e4 g6 7 Nf3 Bg7 8 h3 a6 9 a4 Nbd7 10 Bd3 and now 10...Nh5!?:

Of course the move ...Nh5 in itself is quite normal; it's juts that it usually gets played after 10...0-0 11 0-0. The immediate 10...Nh5 has been played a few times by the Polish GM Radislow Wojtaszek, although the earliest example I could find involved the late American GM Aleksander Wojtkiewicz. More recently it's been advocated by Chris Ward in Dangerous Weapons: The Benoni and Benko.

There's a very clever idea behind 10...Nh5, and this is demonstrated in the game Beinoras - Johannesson, Kallithea 2008, after 11 0-0 Ne5! 12 Be2 Nxf3+ 13 Bxf3 Qh4!:

Black has scored well from this position, admittedly in only a handful of encounters. But in this game White comes up with a surprisingly effective pawn sacrifice which soon puts Black firmly on the back foot. Check out the end of this game, which is something of a triumph for White's two centre pawns!

On reflection 11 0-0 might well be better than first thought, but I think Black has some improvements. Most seem to agree that 11 Bg5, with White delaying castling too, is the most testing response to 10...Nh5. This approach is covered in Wells - Ward, Jack Speigel Memorial 2009, where White comes up with a creative idea of an early h3-h4.

The 9...b5 Pawn Sacrifice

1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nf3 c5 4 d5 d6 5 Nc3 exd5 6 cxd5 g6 7 h3 Bg7 8 e4 0-0 9 Bd3 b5 10 Bxb5 Nxe4 11 Nxe4 Qa5+ 12 Nfd2 Qxb5 13 Nxd6 Qa6 14 N2c4 Nd7 15 0-0:

As far as I can see, Black's theoretical standing in this line is fairly healthy at the moment, and this seems to be in no small part due to the discovery (or rather, the acceptance) of 15...Ne5 as a serious move for Black. Indeed, in contrast to the more common 15...Nb6, White seems to be struggling to find any meaningful advantage against accurate Black defence, something which I hope is demonstrated in the notes to Simon - Poel, correspondence 2006.

10 Nxb5 (instead of 10 Bxb5) continues to be a popular choice, especially amongst players who prefer the more complex positions that are reached. In Polak - Simacek, Decin 2009, White tests Black's preparation in the line 10...Re8 11 0-0 Nxe4 12 Re1:

but Black is not found wanting. Even so, what White plays here does appear to be fairly critical.

One thing I've realised is that after 9...b5 it's not that straightforward for White to decline the pawn in an attempt to reach the popular ...a6/...b5 lines. We've previously seen that 10 0-0 can be met by 10...b4 as well as 10...a6. In Evdokimov - Predojevic, Budva 2009, White instead chooses 10 a3, trying to dissuade ...b4 and again inviting a transposition to main lines after 10...a6 11 0-0 etc. However, Black is not put off, and 10...b4!? does look like a perfectly reasonable option here too.

The Taimanov Attack

1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 c5 3 d5 e6 4 Nc3 exd5 5 cxd5 d6 6 e4 g6 7 f4 Bg7 8 Bb5+ Nfd7 9 Be2 a6 10 a4 Qh4+:

After witnessing the game Devereaux - Ward, 4NCL 2009, I'm beginning to appreciate Black's chances a bit more in the ...Qh4+ lines. Objectively I feel that White must have some sort of advantage, but by inducing g2-g3 and thus giving his c8-bishop further options, Black can at least get some sort of "typical" Benoni position which he can feel relatively comfortable in. We've looked at this line previously (Shabalov-Taylor) but Ward's method of gaining counterplay on the queenside is worth checking out.

White is much more successful in Vitiugov - Maze, Aeroflot Open, Moscow 2009, in which a good old-fashioned kingside hack is met with little resistance.

White chooses the line 1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nc3 c5 4 d5 exd5 5 cxd5 d6 6 e4 g6 7 f4 Bg7 8 Bb5+ Nfd7 9 Nf3!?:

Although 9 Nf3 is less popular than either 9 a4 or 9 Bd3 (but more common than 9 Be2), we've seen in other variations (I'm thinking especially of the Modern Main Line) that White is sometimes happy to allow Black to expand on the queenside with ...a6 and ...b5 - he just gets on with things on the other side of the board.

Till next time, John