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This month’s update features some new ideas for both sides in the Modern Benoni, plus a first-time look at the Delayed Benoni.

Download PGN of June ’19 Nimzo and Benoni games

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The Delayed Benoni: 1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 c5 3 d5 g6 4 Nc3 Bg7 [A56]

1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 c5 3 d5 g6 4 Nc3 Bg7:

This is the Delayed Benoni, in which Black first completes kingside development and only then strikes with ...e6. Although transpositions to the Modern Benoni occur frequently, transpositions to ...c5 King’s Indian lines are just as common. For those who are happy to play both types of position, the Delayed Benoni can be a useful weapon, and it has a few supporters at grandmaster level.

Despite some overlap with King’s Indian lines, I’ve decided to summarise some of the Delayed Benoni theory in a couple of games.

In Arnaudov, P - Chatalbashev, B we look at some early options for White, including set-ups that are popular against the Modern Benoni (e4/f4, Bf4/e3/h3 and g2-g3), to compare the differences here. We also look at the main line 5 e4 d6 6 Nf3 0-0 7 h3 e6 8 Bd3:

Here 8...exd5 9 cxd5 reaches the Modern Main Line of the Modern Benoni. However, the single biggest gain White achieves from the delayed Benoni (or the King’s Indian with an early ...c5) is the ability to recapture after 8...exd5 with 9 exd5!. The resulting pawn structure after exd5 doesn’t make it easy for Black to gain counterplay with pawn play, and in this particular line it’s also difficult to exchange pieces to ease Black’s space disadvantage. The critical line is 9...Re8+ 10 Be3 Bh6 11 0-0! - see games in the King’s Indian archive.

Chatalbashev instead chose 8...Na6 9 0-0 Nc7, which keeps the tension in the centre.

Black may later choose ...exd5 or to block the centre with ...e5, but White also has the option of dxe6, as played in the game.

Another popular line for White is the Classical set-up with 5 e4 d6 6 Nf3 0-0 7 Be2 e6 8 0-0:

White’s most popular response to 8...exd5 is actually to transpose to the Modern Benoni, Classical Variation with 9 cxd5.

In contrast to the Bd3/h3 line, 9 exd5 is seen as less threatening for Black. After 9...Re8!, Black is able to relieve some pressure with piece exchanges either with ...Bg4 or ...Ne4. Nevertheless, White has chances to keep a small edge. See Seliverstov, V - Pantsulaia, L for analysis.

Modern Benoni: Modern Main Line 9...b5 10 Nxb5 [A70]

6 e4 g6 7 Nf3 Bg7 8 h3 0-0 9 Bd3 b5 10 Nxb5 Re8 11 0-0 Nxe4 12 Re1 a6:

The gambit 9...b5 continues to be a fairly reliable way to meet the Modern Main Line. In this position White’s most popular move has been 13 Na3. However, the pawn sacrifice 13 Nc3!?, as played in the recent game Budisavljevic, L - Ristic, L, has been more successful. Black has to be a little careful after 13 Nc3, but it should lead to equality if Black knows what to do.

Modern Benoni: Modern Main Line 9...a6 [A70]

6 e4 g6 7 Nf3 Bg7 8 h3 0-0 9 Bd3 a6 10 a4 Nbd7 11 0-0 Nh5:

It’s possible that 9...b5 is Black’s best move from a theoretical standpoint, but many Modern Benoni players prefer the less forcing options. Preventing Bf4 with 11...Nh5 continues to be a popular choice for Black. We’ve previously covered 12 Bg5, 12 Be3 and 12 Re1, but 12 g4!? is another possibility for White. It’s tempting to force the knight back to f6, but there is some cost in weakening the kingside. After 12...Nf6 13 Bf4:

Black may defend the d-pawn as in the game with 13...Ne8 or with 13...Qe7, or he could even ignore the attack and play 13...h5!?. See See Pesotskiy, M - Pikula, D for analysis.

Benoni Fianchetto Mainline 6 Nf3 g6 7 g3 Bg7 8 Bg2 0-0 9 0-0 a6 10 a4 Nbd7 11 Nd2 [A64]

6 Nf3 g6 7 g3 Bg7 8 Bg2 0-0 9 0-0 a6 10 a4 Nbd7 11 Nd2 Re8 12 a4 Rb8 13 Nc4 Ne5 14 Na3 Nh5 15 e4 Bd7 16 a5:

This remains a key position in the Fianchetto Benoni. 16...Qxa5, leading to incredibly sharp positions, continues to be played (I was shocked to find nearly 250 games - the vast majority correspondence - reaching the critical position 17 g4 Nf6 18 f4 Nexg4 19 hxg4 Nxg4 20 f5!). In a recent over-the-board game, Eljanov preferred the newer positional pawn sacrifice 16...b5!? 17 axb6 Bb5!:

Both options are covered in the notes to Payen, A - Eljanov, P.

Modern Benoni Fianchetto 9...Re8: 6 Nf3 g6 7 g3 Bg7 8 Bg2 0-0 9 0-0 Re8 [A62]

6 Nf3 g6 7 g3 Bg7 8 Bg2 0-0 9 0-0 Re8 10 Bf4 Bf5:

From virtual obscurity, in recent years 10...Bf5 has leapfrogged all other moves to establish itself as the main line. Initially Black players would simply meet 11 Nh4 with 11...Bc8 and ask White if there’s a better response than 12 Nf3. More recently, however, attention has turned to 11...Bg4, intending to meet 12 h3 with 12...Nh5!

See the notes to Frank, E - Menezes, C for an update on this line.

Modern Benoni: 6 Nf3 g6 7 Bg5 [A61]

6 Nf3 g6 7 Bg5:

This is actually the first time we’ve covered 7 Bg5, a natural move which has never enjoyed the same popularity as 7 Bf4. Although it’s by no means the only option, the direct 7...h6 8 Bh4 g5 9 Bg3 Nh5! is a reliable choice for Black. After 10 e3 Nxg3 11 hxg3 Bg7, a typical position from 7 Bg5 has occurred.

Chances are balanced. Black has succeeded in the desirable exchange of White’s dark-squared bishop. In return, White can point to his solid structure and a slight light-squared weakness in Black’s camp due to ...g5. See Nestorovic, D - Ernst, S for details.

Till next time, John

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