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The Benko Gambit continues its revival, based mainly around quick kingside development, and the Leningrad Dutch with ...c6 has also become fashionable after a number of years in the doldrums. I'll be looking at both these à la mode approaches as well as some early deviations where White angles to avoid Black's pet lines. Recent books covering both these openings adds spice to any theoretical discussions, so I'll be referring to a few of these in this update.

Download PGN of November ’19 Daring Defences games

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Benko Gambit 5 e3 g6 6 Nc3 Bg7 [A57]

It's always somewhat comforting to see a chess author live by his own words. Here Milos Perunovic (who wrote The Modernized Benko Gambit, Thinkers Publishing 2018) plays without worrying about a possible e4-e5 from his opponent, just as he advocates in his book:

In Del Rio de Angelis, S - Perunovic, M White couldn't resist playing 9.e5, but it wasn't long before White's centre came under serious pressure. Instead, there are more theoretically challenging options available: 9.Nf3 e6 10.Be2 axb5 11.Bxb5 exd5 12.exd5 (against which Perunovic recommends 12...Qe8+!?) or perhaps 9.Bc4 with Nge2 in mind (where White has scored quite well, but in a limited number of games).

Modern Benko Gambit Accepted 6...Bg7 7.e4 0-0 8.a7 Rxa7 [A58]

In Babula, V - Balog, I Black played a move that has been discussed before in articles and books, but never actually played:

Those who like to seek dynamic action would perhaps enjoy the ramifications of 10...fxe6 followed by ...d5, but Balog calmly replied with 10...dxe6 offering a queenless middlegame. I'm pretty sure that most Benko players would have found Black's game acceptable, as he obtained free development and enough queenside pressure to claim compensation. Later in the game, however, Balog walked into a nasty pin and was punished. So the operation was a success but the patient died!

In Svane, R - Lagarde, M the move orders were thought-provoking: 9.Be2 is slightly mysterious, whereas Lagarde's 10...d6:

looks like an attempt to avoid 10...exd5 11.e5. Then the game move 11.dxe6 seems to be a decent attempt to gain an advantage whichever way Black replies. I can't see any objective benefit for either side in varying from the sequence 9.Nf3 e6 10.Be2 exd5 11.exd5 d6, but a burning desire to find wrinkles to destabilize the opponent leads to such experimentation in the modern game. Note however that this was the second time Maxime Lagrade had employed 10...d6, so although he won a superb game three months earlier, Svane was ready to punish him here.

Benko Gambit Accepted 8 Kxf1 d6 9 g3 Bg7 10 Kg2 0-0 [A59]

In the more traditional Benko Accepted (with an early ...Bxa6) the game Mareco, S - Pap, M (and the notes) investigates the white plan based around Qc2 and Rd1. This doesn't mean that White is necessarily abandoning the trendy idea of a2-a4, but is instead 'waiting to see if it's appropriate'. As you'll see in the comments, the push e4-e5 is another option, but although Carlsen once played this way it rarely looks that threatening. In the game, White correctly avoided the early trade of queens (White's queen is a good defender against typical Benko pressure, and can be sorely missed in a queenless middlegame) but then allowed an annoying penetration (15...Bxc3 followed by 16...Qe2) after which Black was in the driving seat.

London v Dutch Defence 2 Bf4 Nf6 3 e3 d6 [A80]

One of the reasons 2.Bf4 is popular against the Dutch is that it's an off-shoot of the London System craze against other Black first moves. Another point is that bishop is quite well placed on f4 (bearing down on the e5-square!) and this was illustrated in Pelletier, Y - Petrov, N where White produced an excellent controlled positional game. Both sides have a wide choice in terms of development options, but if Black doesn't play a Stonewall set-up with ...d5, then White can often benefit from an early e4 advance. Here Pelletier advanced in this way on move seven (7.e4) despite having earlier opted for e2-e3.

The loss of tempo didn't seem to worry him, perhaps because Black had no counterplay. So maybe 6...Bg7 would have been a better choice than the nondescript 6...e6 of the game.

Dutch Defence 2 Bg5 h6 3 Bh4 g5 4 Bg3 Nf6 5 e3 d6 [A80]

The position after White's twelfth move in Harikrishna, P - Kociscak, J is important for the theory of the 'bishop chase' line.

Here, after 12.0-0-0, three replies have been tried: 12...f4 (which hasn't worked that well), 12...fxe4 (which looks fairly solid when followed up with 13...0-0-0) and the game choice of 12...0-0-0. After the Indian GM's 13.Nge2 I have a sneaking suspicion that Black's 13...a6 is inaccurate, but as Black then defended admirably after sacrificing a pawn I don't want to be too harsh and give it a ?! label. Instead, I prefer 13...Kb8 just keeping things tight at the back and waiting for the opponent to show his hand before touching any pawns, when I reckon that Black is close to equal.

Dutch Defence Nh3 v Leningrad [A81]

With the Leningrad more in the public eye, there is renewed interest in a number of Anti-Leningrads! In Pultinevicius, P - Gazik, V White plays Ng1-h3-f4 which can then be interpreted in a number of ways. Here White's quick h2-h4 and then e2-e4 was perhaps asking too much of his position and Black got the better of the complications, before later going astray. Black has little to worry about after 9.e4 (if he doesn't mind a good scrap), but he has to be careful following 9.h5 although a high-level e-mail game suggests that 9...Qe8 is then fine for the second player.

In Abasov, N - Piorun, K Black's 4...d6 with a quick ...e5 worked a treat as the queenless middlegame was fine for him.

I can't help feeling that allowing this was slightly naÏve on Abasov's behalf. Later Piorun combined provocation, careful defence, and good technique to earn the full point.

If White wants to play an early Nh3, then I think that the most challenging plan involves c2-c3 with Qb3 typically creating a few issues along the a2-g8 diagonal. Even if it doesn't give any objective advantage, it forces Black to play some un-Leningrad pawn moves that he might not feel comfortable about.

Dutch Defence 7 Nc3 c6 Leningrad [A88]

White took some big risks in Raghunandan, K - Gazik, V, as his knight leap 12.Ne5 led to unfavourable complications.

I think he was trying to justify his 10.Ba3 moving the bishop for a second time to restrain ideas of ...e5. The trouble is that Black's queen on e8 also supports a 'plan B' with 10...b5 and this was duly played, making the bishop on a3 look a bit silly. Most of this game involved Black having all the fun in prising open some lines towards White's king until he ultimately succeeded in fine style.

Dutch, Leningrad Defence 7...c6 8 b3 Ne4 [A88]

I particularly like White's sixteenth move in Donchenko, Alexa - Lagarde, M:

It's an unusual-looking move, but it does inconvenience Black a great deal. Strange, as the Frenchman's moves up to here seem logical enough, so perhaps his whole plan is flawed. Maybe, for the future, Maxime should read his good friend and team mates's book (The Modernized Dutch Defense, Adrien Demuth, Thinkers' Publishing 2019) where the alternative scheme (to meet 8.b3) with 8...Na6 9.Bb2 Qc7!? is recommended. In our featured game, Donchenko kept control and went on to win a fine game.

Till next month, Glenn Flear

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