For this cutting edge series I want to give readers something they can get their teeth into; in other words an active repertoire for both colours. The Benko fits neatly into this category as it’s a very active defence where Black is essentially fighting for the initiative from move one.
Here White cannot “avoid” the fight, he has to take the game by the horns if he is to emerge with an advantage.
I think another reason I like openings like this is that it plays to my STRENGTHS, which is attacking play and ability to handle the initiative. Too many players I see play openings which don’t suit them. If you are an ATTACKING player you shouldn’t be playing strategic openings. You should be going for it. I used to play the Nimzo which is fine except it’s a bit of a miss. It’s a bit of a miss in a sense it doesn’t completely play to my style - which is to fight for the intiative from move one.
The Benko covers that so what are the drawbacks? I think if there is one then it’s the obvious one- you are losing a pawn. My good friend Lawrence Webb told me recently that he has given up the Benko - because in the mainline you often get a situation where White will grab a pawn, and just sit on the position. We are living in the age of super strong chess engines so it’s not enough to just be blase about the loss of material. Every unit needs to be considered.
Does that mean that the Benko gambit has no place in modern chess? Well recently a different slant has been put on this opening. Magnus has played this way, and as he’s the world champion, others tend to follow in his footsteps.
Intrigued by this game, I started playing the Benko in some blitz games online, and it was amazing how many people fell into this …Nxd5!! trap. I also decided to give it a try out at Hastings, and even though I lost, it was not down to the opening.
Danny Gormally is a talented English Grandmaster. He lives in the bustling market town of Alnwick, somewhere near Scotland.
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