There are two games in the Benko Gambit this time, and both touch on some lines considered in Kiril Georgiev's new book (Squeezing the Gambits, Chess Stars 2010) so I have made a number of comments using his ideas.
In Game 1 a 99-move epic features 4.Nf3 b4!?:
where White's opening manoeuvres achieved no advantage. Georgiev's analysis indicates a way to obtain a small pull with a precise move order, but it doesn't look too unpleasant for Black. In the game, the advantage switched hands a few times before eventually settling with Black, but time shortage was probably responsible for a number of the errors committed by both players.
Game Two was much shorter and led to a peaceful conclusion after mass exchanges. The plan with b5-b6 for White is now well established as a solid positional try for White, and is indeed Georgiev's recommended method against the Benko. The game and notes show a number of themes for both players, but a number of analogous positions would probably need to be considered in one's preparation. My main advice however is that, when preparing, Benko players should have in mind what they intend to do with their queen, as there doesn't seem to be a consensus on what to do after White's a4-a5.
Despite a slight dip in popularity, the 4.Bg5 gambit line is still employed by certain strong players such as Radoslaw Wojtaszek:
In Game 3 he varied from an earlier game (against Krasenkow), in order to pre-empt the opponent's preparation but also to employ the novel plan of placing a rook on b5 which seemed to give him adequate pressure for his investment.
This gambit still hasn't been worked out to the point where it's just memory work. There are 'rich pickings' to enable creative players, with both colours, to introduce their own ideas, especially after 9.Be2.
The 'neo-Russian' system with 4.Qb3 is something of a move-order dilemma for certain Black players. Those who really want to play the Hungarian (...a6) against the Russian are finding that it doesn't work that well here.
I really suggest that Black players show some common sense and try other moves rather than the 7...a6 of Game Four here. The solid 7...Nc6 8.Nf3 Bg4 goes back into a 'respectable line of the Russian', but even off-beat ideas such as 7...b6 are more trustworthy (than 7...a6) for Black.
ChessPub's Victor Mikhalevski introduces a simple way for Black to equalize against Lysyj's opening in Game 5. The 4.Bf4 system can be quite theoretical, but Black seems to be holding his own recently, for example see last month's update (July 2010) where this line was also examined in a drawn game.
In Game 6 Black was able to save half-a-point in both the game and in another recent high-level encounter (in the note to Black's seventeenth move). However in both cases I still prefer White and am not sure that black players have yet found a satisfactory way to fully equalize. In the featured game for example, Kuljasevic could have sacrificed the exchange on move 23, and I then prefer White. Here is the position after 10.Rb1:
One point behind White's tenth is that after 10...a6 (to stop R-b5) 11.Rc1 the typical queenless middlegame resulting from 11...cxd4 isn't quite the same as after 10.Rc1 cxd4. The difference is that Black has covered b5, but on the other hand has a hole on the b6-square and this seems to handicap the second player. I wouldn't feel very comfortable playing Black here, what do you think?
As things stand I would investigate (and be ready to play) the immediate 10...cxd4 11 cxd4 Qxd2+, but Black then needs to take into account that White may be able to use the b5-square at some point!
Regular readers to this column will perhaps recognize the diagram position, as 17.f5 has already been analyzed by me more than once:
In the last month two important games have been played, Rodshtein-So in the notes, which looks like Black's best bet so far (he equalized for once and even went on to win), and Korobov-Smith which is featured here in Game 7.
Smith's defensive method seemed reasonable enough at first sight, but Korobov demonstrated that it was just too slow and downed Black with a nice firework display.
In the diagram position Wesley So seems to have found the key: 17...Nc6! 18.Bb5 Ne5 19.Nxd4 gxf5! 20.exf5 Kh8! and Rodshtein couldn't obtain an advantage. Will any new developments in the next few weeks make me change my mind? Watch this space!
In Game 8 Le Quang Liem's use of 11.Rb1 wasn't exactly a surprise as his opponent Ponomariov has played it himself! The Ukrainian varied with an unusual (and probably not particularly good) reply, although there seems to be no clear reason to avoid 11...Rd8. What did surprise Ponomariov however was the tactical blow 19.Nxg6! which, after a tough fight and an instructive endgame, was the root source of White's win.
Featuring the game Jaracz-Rakhmanov gives me a good excuse to re-visit a line that was fashionable two or three years back. Rakhmanov's precise handling of the opening in Game 9 demonstrates that things have moved on since Sakaev's analysis was published in 2006. If anything Black got the better of the opening phase which indicates why many white players have switched allegiances to other systems.
Game 10 features a mini-match between Andrey Rychagov and Alberto David, won 2-0 by the former. In the first game (in the Accepted, see the notes) Alberto David sacrificed a piece for an attack that never took off. In the second (from a Declined) he gave up his queen's rook, but this time by winning back a piece and having an excellent dark-squared bishop he had compensation. The game was bizarre, with pieces on strange squares and the development of Black's queen's knight as late as on move 44 (a record of some sort surely?). As for the opening, Black was OK (after Rychagov's sharp 6.e4) but I'm less sure that one can say the same thing after 6.a3, see July's update.
Till next month, Glenn Flear