I received an e-mail from an interested Benko fan. Fernando Semprun wants to know how to meet 4 Nd2 as he hasn't been convinced by what he's read elsewhere. The Spanish subscriber did note that the idea of capturing on c4 and then pushing to c3 is mentioned by former Daring Defences whizz-kid Neil McDonald, well this is precisely the line of play that looks the most sensible to me. So after 4 Nd2, I suggest 4...dxc4 5 e4 c3! and I can't see any advantage for White:
See Game 1 for further details.
Game 2 features 9 g4 in the Benko Accepted:
Black's best way of responding hasn't been fully worked out but there are probably several ways to achieve a playable game. This disrespectful pawn advance on the kingside has to be described as risky at best and frankly doesn't impress me. The advantage of 9 g4 is that Black rather loses interest in pursuing his normal queenside pressure, so true, White takes Black out of his normal thematic-Benko stuff, but the disadvantage is more important, that White's king is just as likely to come under attack.
The featured game is particularly notable for Solozhenkin's attractive 18th move...
Here Black played 18...Rf4!, an aesthetically pleasing exchange sacrifice borrowed from the King's Indian. In compensation Black stymied White's activity and obtained lively minor pieces and a double-edged game and went on to win.
Is 4 Bg5 so dangerous for Black?
Sutovsky had a real nightmare in Game 3 as Azmai's opening led to a sterile position with a small edge for White and zero winning chances for Black. Exactly what Daring Defencers try and avoid! Sutovsky then must have overlooked something because he soon lost a pawn and, faced with strong GM technique, the game.
So how should Black meet 4 Bg5 then? Perhaps with 4...Ne4, leading to a more complex (and hopefully more interesting for Black!) struggle, see Game 9.
In Game 4 Khenkin refutes an idea of McShane.
Here White improved on previous games with 10 a3! Qxc5 11 Nb5 Qh5 12 Nc7 and took a clear advantage. Unless I'm missing something it looks as if 9...Nbd7 will be forthwith consigned to the scrap-heap.
Gelfand-Svidler is a heavyweight struggle in Game five. Two of the world's top echelon fighting it out in a key theoretical line. Svidler's novelty works a treat as Gelfand wasn't able to adjust.
In this position Svidler innovates with 16...Rfd8 and goes on to win comfortably. Future White players will no doubt be better prepared for 16...Rfd8 but will they be able to find any way for White to keep an edge? Watch this space over the coming months as I'm sure that we won't hear the last of this move!
Lautier dominates Game Six as Dvoirys's attempt to avoid mainline theory just ends up with him in a passive position.
A good example of what happens to Black in the ...Qxa2 lines if he doesn't develop properly or create any threats of his own.
Vallejo eventually wins in Game 7 which is not very theoretical but instructive from the point of view of the positional decisions taken just after the opening. Although White lost a pawn in the middlgame it wasn't easy for Vallejo to break down his opponent's grip based around the d5-outpost.
Much more theoretical is Game Eight in an old line of the Exchange Sacrifice Variation which Van Wely had recently revived and won in style against Sutovsky (see the July update). Krasenkov followed Sakaev's analysis and in the following position...:
...he reproduced the key line 22...Bxd5! 23 exd5 Qxb5 24 Qxf6 Qe8 and Black defends for now.
Here Krasenkov's homework paid off as Najer reacted badly and White's 'compensation' for the exchange dissipated rather quickly.
In the notes to Van Wely-Sutovsky, the moves 25 Bd2 and 25 Qd4 are mentioned. The first of these has been briefly analyzed by Sakaev and I've had a closer look here but failed to reach a definite conclusion. This is certainly more testing than Najer's 25 Nf4?! and I would guess that White has just about enough compensation but no more, but on the other hand I have to now admit that my idea of 25 Qd4 doesn't look very good. I presume that Krasenkov was ready for these and didn't mind playing Black, and it will be interesting to see if anyone reaches this position in the future.
Another example of 4 Bg5, this time with 4...Ne4 in Game 9. In recent times, Black has shown a tendency to capture on c4 and hang on to the booty with ...Be6. This Brazilian tussle doesn't help us reach too many conclusions about the opening except that perhaps White obtains promising activity for his pawn. It's still down to a question of taste whether or not one likes these gambit-style positions, as the theory hasn't fully crystallized.
Black's exchange sacrifice took the sting out of White's play and was adequate for equality. Later on Black went astray and should have lost, but as we've seen before, the second half of long rapid games is often substandard.
You'll see that Game 10 is also a scrappy game. After the opening it was White who was sacrificing pawns and obtained good compensation. He certainly missed at least one win in the middlegame before allowing Black to free himself. Later on Black should have won but at the death White even missed a chance to win but by that stage both players were probably just trying not to lose on time.
The opening line with 8 Nb5 Kd8!? used to be more popular than it is today:
The recent revival of the Blumenfeld hasn't as yet generated that much interest in 5...h6 as most modern players go for an early ...Qa5, but it would be hasty to reach a definite conclusion about this line. It's murky and if you don't mind defending with a dodgy king, but with the solace of a couple of pawns in your pocket...it could be for you!
Till next time,