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This month I'll be looking at developments in the 'Modern Benko' (where Black delays capturing on a6) where the theory continues to evolve quite quickly. In addition, I will be looking at trends in the Leningrad Dutch where some 'traditional' lines have been played at a high level this year. Games 4-8 feature ...c6 which has come back into fashion, whereas in Games 9 & 10 I will investigate ...Nc6.

Download PGN of May ’16 Daring Defences games

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Benko Gambit Accepted 5 bxa6 g6 6 Nc3 Bg7 [A58]

Each of the three games involve White's latest attempts against the 'Modern Benko' move order.

In Game One Pardo Simon outplayed the higher rated Christian Bauer after Black's opening went wrong.

Here Bauer played 13...Nb4, but after 14.Nc4 Rae7 15.Bg5, Black was unable to find a good continuation. It seems to me that the idea of doubling on the e-file isn't particularly good. To seek an improvement, I know that Giri played 13...Re8 last year, but my preference is for Kovalevskaya's 13...Nc7.

In the featured game, Black fought long and hard but the uphill struggle was too much of a mountain to climb.

In Game Two Etienne Bacrot was unable to overcome his lower-rated Italian opponent.

Here, after 13...Nd4, the active knight doesn't give White an easy time, and the engines consider the position to be virtually equal despite Black's pawn deficit.

The disruptive 8.e5 hasn't been played as much as some of the other lines, so still has surprise value. However, Bertagnolli was well-prepared and achieved reasonable chances for the pawn. Later on Bacrot pressed, but Black defended well and earned the draw.

In Game Three, Nikolov-Ivanisevic, White induced Black to sacrifice the exchange with 12.Nb5:

I had already considered this idea briefly before, but dismissed it (a bit superficially) as giving Black enough for the exchange. However here, now that it has been tested at a high level, we can see if this is really the case.

Ivanisevic is not one to baulk at a challenge and he willingly 'offered up' the exchange. After an entertaining struggle he obtained a draw. I have a feeling that White could have improved with 15.Nc4, which could be a good place to start further investigations.

In the notes, you'll notice that the more cautious alternative 12...Qb7 has been played, and looks OK at first sight, but 12...exd5 is the move that your hand wants to play!

Leningrad Dutch 7...c6 8.b3 Na6 9.Bb2 [A88]

In Game Four White undertook fairly standard development involving the fianchetto of his queen's bishop. As a reaction, Black's plan with ...Na6, ...Bd7 and ...Rb8, has merit but strikes me as slightly less precise than alternatives involving ...Qe8 etc., because the counter-thrust ...b5 is actually quite hard to implement successfully.

In the game, ...b5 was played, but only as late as move 20. The latter phase was quite a struggle where both players were going for the full point.

There has been a revival in placing the queen on c7, rather than on e8, and this was seen in Game Five. White placed his rook on c1 viz-a-viz the queen and Black ignored it allowing the tricky 11.Nb5:

A recent game Buhmann-Vallejo Pons was probably known by both players and they followed it until move 16 where the young Swiss player varied with the computer recommendation (so I'm guessing that this was prepared). This seems to yield an unclear position where White has rook, pawn, and easier development for two pieces. Unfortunately, Vuilleumier rather spoilt his position when he blundered a pawn. Even so, there was still life in Black's position, but he lost his way badly at the end.

It looks simpler to delay ...e5, so one could avoid these complications with the practical moves 10...Bd7 and 10...Rd8 (which are both in the spirit of the variation). See the notes for more details.

Game Six went like a dream for Black who soon obtained the advantage. Here ...Qc7 wasn't challenged and ...e5 followed. There have only been a few games with 10.Re1 e5, and Black has so far done well:

However, if White meets this with the immediate 11.e4!? then my analysis suggests that White has some challenging possibilities that require a closer look. In particular, critical in my opinion is 11...fxe4 12.dxe5! dxe5 13.Nxe4 Bg4, which can be met by the as-yet-unplayed 14.Nxf6+! Bxf6 15.Re3. White keeps control and can hope to press against Black's isolani.

Leningrad Dutch 7...c6 8.Rb1 [A88]

Game Seven, Bindrich-Kamsky, has the particularity that it followed (for the first fourteen moves) another of the American GM's games played only a couple of months earlier. This suggests that Kamsky is quite happy with Black's reaction to 8.Rb1.

There are quite a few notable manoeuvres by Black in this instructive game where the stronger player won. My main conclusion is that in this particular case it looked harder for White to play, so Kamsky was proved right in repeating his approach.

Leningrad Dutch 7...c6 8.d5 e5 9.dxe6 Bxe6 10.b3 [A88]

Game Eight illustrates a common scenario in the Leningrad. White plays 8.d5, Black reacts with 8...e5, against which White captures en passant. Black regains his pawn and the typical structure arises where Black has one half-weakness on d6 but is otherwise very solid:

Here, even with the bishop pair, White finds it hard to create a chink in Black's armour, as Black is able to place all his pieces on squares where they can pounce if White weakens himself. Later on, deep in the middlegame,White pushed his b-pawn to b5 and Black his h-pawn to h4. The tension built up and all three results were possible.

Leningrad Dutch 7...Nc6 8.d5 Ne5 [A89]

Richard Rapport has a reputation as someone who is willing to take on slightly questionable systems. So 7...Nc6 8.d5 Ne5!? is up his street. A complex position arises in Game Nine which creates lots of over-the-board practical problems. However, my feeling is that it's objectively better for White.

Here, (after 14...a6) Demuth continued with 15.Be1, which I think is best (getting out of the way of the rook and defending f2). After 15...Qe8 16.d6 c6, he could have obtained some advantage with 17.Na4!. Instead of that he preferred to sacrifice the exchange, but this turned out to be unsound and Rapport was able to convert his material advantage.

As to the opening variation: A fair surprise weapon as the pawn structure is weird and could confuse an opponent, but I can't help feeling that if well-prepared White should be better.

In Game Ten White varied with 10.e4 (instead of Demuth's 10.Qb3), which constitutes the other main line. Here, however, I think that Black is able to cope with having a pawn wedge in the heart of his position on e6.

Both the usual move 15...Nd6 and here 15...f3!? seem acceptable for Black here. He even has a choice of plans as both ...b6 and ...c6-based ideas (or here ...c5 which transposed as White took en passant) seem to be holding up to scrutiny.

Till next month, Glenn Flear

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