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Hi everyone!
This month the Benoni takes complete control. Richard Palliser continues his round-up of Modern Benoni games, while I've decided to take a look at an unfashionable line that may (and just may!) make a comeback!

Remember, if you have any opinions, ideas or questions, please either make yourself heard at the Forum (the link above on the right) or subscribers can email me at

Download PGN of September '06 Nimzo and Benoni games

The Czech Benoni

1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 c5 3 d5 e5 4 Nc3 d6 5 e4 Be7:

I must confess that have been guilty of completely neglecting the Czech Benoni on this website, but after one or two subscriber enquiries and a bit of action on a thread in the forum, I've decided to redress the balance a little.

In fact perhaps I had been put off the Czech because I played it quite a bit as a teenager, and there's nothing like playing a system for a while to really emphasize its problems (as well as its advantages of course, and the Czech certainly does have these too). I actually took up playing it after reading a book by Bill Hartston. This book mainly concentrated on the Modern Benoni but there was a chapter or two on the Czech and somehow at the time I preferred that (I only realized my mistake a few years later in that the Modern Benoni suited me much better).

Recently the Czech Benoni has been played by Nisipeanu, and it's received a bit more attention than usual.

White Plays Bd3, h3, Nf3

1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 c5 3 d5 e5 4 Nc3 d6 5 e4 Be7 6 Bd3:

This is the most aggressive way of attacking the Czech Benoni: White plans Nf3, h2-h3, and g2-g4, making Black's idea of an eventual....f5 less desirable. With that plan out of the window, Black has to work extra hard to create any meaningful counterplay.

In Lautier - Nisipeanu, Noyon, 2005, Black nevertheless is able to do this, thanks to some extent to his clever move 9...Nh5!

In Popov - Hartston, Skara 1980, White plays a bit more flexibly in the opening, Black drifts into a passive position and is eventually squashed on the kingside. This is just the sort of thing Black has to guard against, although there are ways to help (see the note to Black's ninth move).

Black has been looking for ways to combat the Bd3, h3, Nf3 line, and one way, is seen in Scarella - Minzer, Vicente Lopez 1993, is 1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 c5 3 d5 e5 4 Nc3 d6 5 e4 Be7 6 Bd3 Nbd7 7 Nf3 Nf8!?:

Given that White is going for h3 and g4, there's some sense behind delaying castling in favour of doing something else that's constructive. After 8 h3 h5!? Black kills the idea of g2-g4 and forces White to think more carefully about how to create problems. 9 Be3, as played by Scarella, is not the way forward for White; this is shown in Mellano - Fernandez, Buenos Aires 1991, with 9 g3!.

White Plays g3

1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 c5 3 d5 e5 4 Nc3 d6 5 e4 Be7 6 g3:

This is an attractive way for White to play. The plan is Bg2, Nge2, 0-0 and a later f2-f4, recapturing with the g-pawn after....exf4 in order to keep a massive centre and preventing Black from using the e5-square.After 6...0-0, the game Cobo Arteaga-Boey, Lugano, 1968 continued with the typical 7 Bg2 Ne8 8 Nge2.

In Ward - Farleigh, Isle of Man 1996, White instead played 7 h4!?:

This is a specialty of Chris Ward's and a really ambitious way to play. White plans to offer to trade his light-squared bishop with Bh3, but that's not all. The point is that Black has to think twice about the usual ...Ne8, ...g6 plan because that kind of invites h4-h5. Often Black's best bet is to go for a Benko-style gambit with an early ...b5. Incidentally Chris Ward's opponent is now famous for being on the panel of entrepreneurs on BBC's brilliant Dragon's Den series.

The Classical Variation

1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 c5 3 d5 e5 4 Nc3 d6 5 e4 Be7 6 Nf3 0-0 7 Be2:

Whilst White can expect a small advantage with this solid approach, I don't think this holds too many fears for Black, as seen in the notes to Malich - Jansa, Havana Olympiad 1966.


Not too much has changed since the seventies, except for one or two nuances introduced by the likes of Nisipeanu. It will be interesting to see whether his games spark a revival. My opinion is that the Czech Benoni is definitely playable for Black, but I think it requires a certain type of temperament to play these positions and not everyone can do it.

Until next time, John

Modern Benoni: Bf4 System

by Richard Palliser

In Play 1 d4! I advocated that White should meet the Benoni with the tricky system 1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 c5 3 d5 e6 4 Nc3 exd5 5 cxd5 d6 6 Nf3 g6 7 Bf4. Subsequently Black found improvements, although some Benoni players continue to underestimate this line. After the modern preference for 7...a6 8 e4 b5 9 Qe2 Be7!, my work, in common with grandmaster practice, recommended 10 Qc2 followed by an undermining a4-advance. I would have preferred to suggest the aggressive 10 e5!?, but practice had revealed Black to be in good shape after 10...dxe5 11 Bxe5 Nbd7. John had, though, wondered on this site whether White shouldn't perhaps instead meet 10...dxe5 with 11 Nxe5!?:

That's exactly what White did in Jones - Roberson after which the board was quickly on fire.

Modern Benoni: Fianchetto Variation

Nowadays after 1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 c5 3 d5 e6 4 Nc3 exd5 5 cxd5 d6 6 Nf3 g6 7 g3 Bg7 8 Bg2 0-0 9 0-0 a6 10 a4 Nbd7 11 Nd2 Re8 12 h3 Rb8 13 Nc4, a lot of players take the sensible practical decision to avoid the sharp and theoretical 13...Ne5!? in favour of 13...Nb6. Nevertheless, 13...Ne5 remains a fascinating option and the notes to Granda Zuniga-Grünfeld suggest that Black should perhaps take a second look at following it up with the committal 14 Na3 Nh5 15 e4 f5!?:

Modern Benoni: Classical Variation

1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 c5 3 d5 e6 4 Nc3 exd5 5 cxd5 d6 6 Nf3 g6 7 e4 Bg7 8 Be2 0-0 9 0-0 a6 10 a4 Bg4 11 Bf4 Bxf3 12 Bxf3 Qe7 13 Re1 Nbd7 (a position more commonly reached nowadays via an anti-Modern Main Line move order) has been featured several times on this site. It continues to hold up well and recently gained a 2700-supporter, as we'll see in Jaworski - Navara.