Malcolm Pein on…Battling the Benoni

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How should one go about battling the Benoni, one of the sharpest and most complicated defenses to 1.d4? It’s all about finding model games, as Malcolm Pein explains in today’s Daily Telegraph chess column.

Malcolm Pein on…Battling the Benoni

The Modern Benoni is a particularly tricky opening for club players to counter. Black creates an immediate imbalance and this presents problems. Many 1.d4 players avoid the Modern Benoni with 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 c5 3.Nf3 or 3.e3, neither of which are particularly testing for Black.

One of the best ways to learn how to counter an opening is to study model games. I discovered this gem recently. It’s also worth looking up the classic game Penrose-Tal from the Leipzig Olympiad 1960

R. Knaak – A. Anastasian
Petrosian Memorial Yerevan 1988

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 c5 3.d5 g6 (3…e6 4.Nc3 exd5 5.cxd5 d6 6.e4 g6 7.Bd3 Bg7 8.Nge2 transposes) 4.Nc3 Bg7 5.e4 d6 6.Bd3 0–0 7.Nge2 (Allowing the f-pawn to be engaged early in pursuit of White’s objective of playing e4–e5 with force) 7…e6 8.0–0 exd5 9.cxd5 Na6 10.h3 Nc7 (Black seeks to advance his queenside majority) 11.a4 a6 12.Bg5 Rb8 13.f4 Qe8 14.Bc2 h6 15.Bxf6! (This exchange is rarely good, but it works like a charm here as the prelude to the thematic plan) 15…Bxf6

Battling the Benoni

 16.e5! dxe5 17.f5! (As well as pressuring g6 and opening the f-file, this threatens d6, forcing the knight to a8 followed by Nc3-d5) 17…gxf5 18.d6 Ne6 19.Nd5 Bg7 20.Rxf5 Nd4 21.Nxd4 exd4 22.Ne7+ Kh8 23.Rf6! 1-0
If 23…Bxf6 24.Qd3 or 23…c4 24.Qh5 d3 25.Rxh6+ Bxh6 26.Qxh6#.

Play Through the Game

Test Your Strength

Fischer-Benko

Fischer-Benko
US Championship, 1963

White to play and win

Highlight the space below this line to reveal the answer.

19.Rf6! Kg8 (19…Bxf6 20.e5) 20.e5 h6 21.Ne2! 1-0 If 21…Bxf6 22.Qxh6 wins or; 21…Nb5 22.Qf5 mates.

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