Surprise Your Opponent!

Surprise Your Opponent!

| 29 | Tactics

The Benko Gambit is one of the most popular openings among club players. It is indeed very appealing to grab the initiative early in the game playing Black against your opponent who likes to play positional chess.

Why do I assume that your opponent is a positional chess player? Well, the majority of players who start the game with 1.d4 indeed prefer long strategical battles, so the Benko Gambit can be psychologically unpleasant for them.

Just look at the decisive game of one of the matches played in the last women's world championship. GM Pogonina was in a must-win situation against her very solid opponent, so she chose the Benko to keep her opponent under long-term pressure.  The plan worked very well, as at the end White collapsed:

After Natalia Pogonina equalized the score of the match, she used the same weapon to win on a tie-break.

Pogonina via Wikipedia.

Even if you never heard about the Benko Gambit before, just a quick look at these two games reveals what attracts many players to this interesting opening. Black has easy development and an annoying initiative on the queenside.

 You also don't need to memorize many opening lines, since in the majority of the variations Black uses the same set-up for his pieces. 

What should you do if you are a chess player who opens the game with 1.d4 and hates to suffer from Black's initiative in the Benko gambit just for one lousy pawn? You can try to turn the tables and sacrifice some material on your own. Most of the gambit players prefer to attack and therefore if you force them to defend you already have won the psychological battle.

Here is a very interesting variation introduced by GM Igor Zaitsev that you might want to consider as a surprising weapon against the Benko Gambit.

White's play looks weird as the Nb5 is almost trapped, but there is a method in his madness.  First of all, it doesn't hurt to set up a trap:

While I wouldn't recommend holding your breath, waiting for your opponents to walk into this trap, from time to time even strong players fall for it:

Of course, if your opponent doesn't fall for the trap you need to have a plan B.  The following games should give you some ideas how to attack in this case:

The fact that even very strong GMs play this line should give you even more confidence:

If you are lucky enough to lure a big fish in your net, then you can pull off a major upset, like the next two games demonstrate:

In conclusion, I would recommend you play this interesting line even if just to enjoy the crazy attacking positions that will arise there.  If you are not a risk-taker then try it at least in blitz games. I promise you a lot of excitement! 

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