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Budapest Gambit 3...Ng4 4.e3 [A52]
The solid 4.e3, as employed in Ubilava, E - Argandona Riveiro, I is a sensible way to avoid mainstream theory and yet offers White reasonable chances for an advantage:
The knight on g4 is attacked and so Black naturally recovers the pawn with 4...Nxe5, whilst meeting the threat. Various move orders are then possible from both sides, but White often has designs on the d5-square, and will often manoeuvre his king's knight to f4 ready to use the important central outpost. Meantime, Black will post his knights on reasonable compensating squares such as c5 and e5 and aim to make any plausible white expansions somewhat risky.
In the game, White obtained a small pull which he maintained for most of the tussle, but Black defended well to save himself. I'm not quite sure if Black went wrong in the opening, but from the game segments in the notes, I feel that these positions are somewhat more difficult for Black to handle.
Benko Gambit Declined 4.Bg5 [A57]
This choice of fourth move, as played in Dolezal, C - Santiago, Y, was not so rare in the pre-Chesspublishing era but has largely been forgotten this century:
A first for this column and a strange game where both players seemed to take great pleasure in shocking their opponent as often as possible! In the game, after the standard moves 4...Ne4 5.Bf4, the Dutch-like thrust 5...f5 was already a novelty, but perhaps not a particularly reliable one. Instead, Black's best defence seems to be 5...Qa5+ 6.Nd2 g5 after which he has chances to even obtain an early advantage.
The game could have gone either way, as White had a big advantage in the early middlegame only for him to badly lose his way.
Benko Gambit 5.e3 g6 [A57]
Meeting 5.e3 with 5...g6 is one of the most critical reactions, and perhaps the one that fits best with the spirit of the Benko Gambit. In Atalik, S - Ivanisevic, I the latter player had a slight surprise up his sleeve...
The reply 12...Re8 looks almost automatic, which I've already examined in this column, but the Serbian GM opted for the rare 12...Qe8, perhaps it's first OTB outing.
It led to a typical Benko scenario, where Black's activity gives him good practical chances, but the engines prefer White slightly. Ivanisevic's idea worked well as he obtained the better of a draw.
Benko Gambit Accepted 5.bxa6 g6 6.Nc3 Bg7 [A58]
In Jojua, D - Milanovic, Da White played the fashionable a6-a7 idea in order to disrupt Black's aspirations for counterplay. Black's plan of an early ...Qa8 enables quick deployment on the queenside, and makes sense in that White has given Black the opportunity to double on the a-file for free (in terms of tempi). Later, of course some manoeuvring was required to keep White's queenside in check, but it panned out well for Black who again obtained any winning chances going before ultimately sharing the point.
Although it's interesting to see that 9...d6 can hold it's own at such a high level, it's 9...e6 where most developments have occurred (see the notes), and where the jury is still out.
The way that the game Antonsen, M - Von Bahr, O quickly turned to White's advantage, won't give much encouragement to Benko players. Of course, from a hopeless position, Von Bahr might even have saved it late on, but an improvement is clearly required in the early stages to avoid such difficulties.
Here, after 11.0-0, rather than settling for routine development based on 11...Nbd7 (as in the game) or the similar 11...Bxe2 12.Qxe2 Nbd7, Black can do better. The latest trend is 11...Nfd7! when the threat of capturing twice on c3 has to be taken seriously. It's a logical idea: White has played Nd2 to come over to the queenside, so Black exploits the fact that B-d2 isn't available.
It's early days, but this looks like the best way at the moment to counter 9.Nd2.
Dutch Defence, Staunton Gambit 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Bg5 c6 [A83]
Black met the enterprising Staunton Gambit with 4...c6 in Sorin, A - Hungaski, R:
I don't think that Black should be worried from a theoretical point of view, but in practice it's another story. White gets his desired messy struggle and Black has to navigate all the tripwires. In the game, Black was doing fine until he played a serious mistake on move thirteen, after which he was in trouble. See the suggested improvement 13...Qg6 in the notes.
Although the opening was correct here, a simpler solution could be 6...dxe4 (instead of 6...Nxe4) 7.Bc4 b5! as you'll again see in the notes.
Dutch Defence, Staunton Gambit 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Bg5 g6 [A83]
In Plat, V - Sopur, L Black's 4...g6 provoked an aggressive reaction by White who pushed his h-pawn. The following position was reached, but one that seems to be acceptable for Black:
Despite the complications, anyone well-prepared shouldn't be afraid to enter this line. Indeed, the notes and main game seem to indicate that Black is the one most likely to gain any advantage here. So 4...g6 is holding up to scrutiny, but note that if White does indeed advance his h-pawn then there is no urgency about playing ...Bg7 i.e. after 4...g6 5.h4, then 5...d5 6.h5 Bf5 is the recommended course of action.
Albin Counter-Gambit 4.Nf3 Nc6 5.a3 Nge7 [D08]
Although Black was successful in Arvola, B - Cuartas, J I'm still slightly concerned that Black's opening isn't quite trustworthy:
You can study this for yourself: the game move 9.Qxd4 offering nothing special, but, in the notes, the more challenging 9.Nxe5 needs an answer if Black is going to keep playing like this (maybe Cuartas knows something that I don't!). In the featured game, a possible improvement for the second player would be 12...h5 because, after spurning this option, Black was somewhat struggling, space-wise. White missed chances in this encounter, but at the end became a bit too carried away with his own plans and underestimated his opponent's. Despite losing a piece, I've ascertained that Arvola could still have drawn.
Blumenfeld Counter-Gambit Declined 5.e4 [E10]
Black's experiment with 5...bxc4 in Antoniewski, R - Butkiewicz, L was shown to be inferior. A point certainly reinforced by the notes where all of Black's later deviations favour White. A 1922 game (see the notes) suggests that 5.e4 isn't such a new idea after all!
I liked the way Antoniewski kept a grip and patiently improved his forces and gradually turned up the heat. So, by default, I think it's clear that 5...Nxe4 is the best reply to 5.e4, see below.
The encounter Sokolov, I - Kvon, A is instructive, as the player of the black pieces had already had this line earlier in the same tournament and this time had clearly done his homework: 5...Nxe4 6.Bd3 Nf6 7.0-0 being met by 7...bxc4 (could be best) and then 8.Bxc4 Ba6 9.Bxa6 Nxa6 10.Nc3 was met by the subtle sidestep 10...Qc8. Later, Black fended off White's attacking gestures and even went on to win. The following position was significant:
Black seems to be able to cope with White's piece play and isn't afraid of d5-d6, as the bishop can drop back to d8. The extra pawn may well become significant, whereas the pawn wedge on d6 has negative aspects as well as strengths. After this, perhaps 5.e4 will seem less scary in future.
Till next month, Glenn Flear
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