The Mighty Benoni
N.N. (1950) - Sam (1850), Bristol District League 2012
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 c5
Not so long ago, the extremely dangerous Taimanov Variation (1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 c5 3.d5 e6 4.Nc3 exd5 5.cxd5 d6 6.e4 g6 7.f4 Bg7 8.Bb5+
Now 8…Bd7 is just good for White after 9.e5, and 8…Nbd7 9.e5 wins material for White) was considered to be close to a refutation of the Modern Benoni. As a result, fans of the Benoni would use this move order: 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 when 3.Nc3 Bb4 is a Nimzo-Indian, which is (and has always been) a great way to play as Black, while 3.Nf3 allows Black to enter the Modern Benoni with 3…c5 4.d5 d6 since white’s f-pawn is now blocked by his Knight, which means that the Taimanov Variation is no longer possible.
Nowadays the Taimanov is no longer the threat it once was, but it’s still very dangerous. Here’s an example of the Taimanov in action:
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 c5 4.d5 exd5 5.cxd5 d6 6.e4 g6 7.f4 Bg7 8.Bb5+ Nfd7 (8…Bd7? has led to many painful losses for Black: 9.e5 Qe7 10.Qe2 dxe5 11.fxe5 Nh5 12.Nf3 0-0 13.0-0 Bxb5 14.Nxb5 Na6 15.Re1 Qd7 16.Qc4 Nb4 17.d6 a6 18.Nc7 b5 19.Qe4 Rad8 20.a3 Nd3 21.Qxd3 Qxc7 22.Bg5 f6 23.Qb3+ Qf7 24.e6 Qa7 25.e7+ c4+ 26.Qe3, 1-0, P. Neuman (2437) – P. Spik (2141), Trinec 2002. Far more interesting is 8…Nbd7!? I said this loses material and it does, but Black gets compensation: 9.e5 dxe5 10.fxe5 Nh5 11.e6 Qh4+ 12.g3 Nxg3 13.hxg3 Qxh1 14.Be3 Bxc3+ 15.bxc3 a6 16.Bxd7+ Bxd7 17.exd7+ Kxd7 [A key position. If Black can prove equality here, then the Taimanov will be relegated to obscurity. However, that’s a big “if”!] 18.Qa4+ b5 19.Qg4+ f5 20.Qf3 Qxf3 21.Nxf3 Rae8 22.Kf2 Re4 23.Bxc5 Rc8 24.Bb4 Rce8 25.Nd4 R4e5 26.a4 bxa4 27.Rxa4 Rxd5 28.Rxa6 Re4 29.Ra7+ Ke8 30.Rxh7 f4 31.g4 Re3 32.Rh8+ Kd7 33.Rf8 g5 34.Rf7+ Ke8 35.Rf5 Rxf5 36.Nxf5 Rd3 37.Nd6+ Kd7 38.Ne4 Kd8 39.Bc5 Rh3 40.Bd4 Kc7 41.Kg2 Rd3 42.Bf2 Kc6 43.c4 Rd8 44.Nxg5 Rg8 45.Bh4 Kc5 46.Ne4+ Kxc4 47.Nf6 Rb8 48.Bg5 Rf8 49.Kf3 Rf7 50.Kxf4 Kc5 51.Ke5 Re7+ 52.Kf5 Re1 53.Bf4 Kc6 54.g5 Rg1 55.g6, 1-0, M. Bluvshtein (2558) – L. Hua (2283), Montreal 2009) 9.a4 Na6 (9...a6 10.Be2 Qh4+ 11.g3 Qe7 12.Nf3 0-0 13.0-0 Nf6 14.e5 Ne8 15.Re1 Nd7 16.e6 fxe6 17.dxe6 Ndf6 18.f5 gxf5 19.Bc4 Nc7 20.Bg5 Bxe6 21.Nd5 Qf7 22.Rxe6 Nxe6 23.Bxf6 Bxf6 24.Nf4 Kh8 25.Nxe6 Bxb2 26.Rb1 Be5 27.Qd5 b5 28.Nxf8 Qxd5 29.Bxd5 Rxf8 30.axb5 axb5 31.Rxb5 Kg7 32.Rb7+ Kg6 33.Re7 Bf6 34.Re6 Rd8 35.Kf2 Kg7 36.Ke3 Rd7 37.Kf4, 1-0, An. Maksimenko (2544) – O. Kurmann (2420), Berlin 2009) 10.Nf3 Nb4 11.0-0 0-0 (11...a6 12.Bxd7+ Bxd7 13.f5 0-0 14.Bg5 f6 15.Bf4 gxf5 16.Bxd6 Bxa4 17.Rxa4 Qxd6 18.Nh4 fxe4 19.Nf5 Qd7 20.Nxe4 Kh8 21.Nxc5, 1-0, G. Kasparov (2595) – J. Nunn (2435), Luzern ol 1982.) 12.Re1 a6 13.Bf1 Nf6 14.h3 b6 15.Bc4 Bb7 16.f5 Nd7 17.Bg5 Bf6 18.h4 Re8 19.Qd2 Ne5 20.Nxe5 Rxe5 21.Rf1 Bxg5 22.hxg5 Bc8 23.Rf3 gxf5 24.Raf1 f6 25.Rg3 fxg5 26.Rxg5+ Kh8 27.exf5 Qf6 28.Qf4 Bd7 29.Rh5 Rg8 30.Ne4 Rxe4 31.Qxe4 b5 32.axb5 axb5 33.Bb3 c4 34.Bd1 Nd3 35.b3 Be8 36.Rh3 Nc5 37.Qh4 Qxh4 38.Rxh4 cxb3 39.Rh6 Ne4 40.Re1 Nd2 41.Re7, 1-0, N. Brunner (2420) – V. Iordachescu (2608) [A67], French League 2010.
3.d5 e6 4.Nc3 exd5 5.cxd5 d6 6.Nf3
Sam said: “I came into this game without any real book knowledge, beyond having glanced through a few example games, and having played a few rapid games online myself. So I was happy to see Nf3, in that it meant I wasn’t facing complicated lines involving an early f2-f4.”
As I said earlier, if one fears systems with f2-f4, then 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 (or 3.g3) 3…c5 is the move order for you.
Concerning you not having much book knowledge, that’s perfectly okay. The best way to learn an opening is to play it!
Sam said: “The main strengths for black in this opening are his bishop being posted strongly on g7, his control of e5 (and potential pressure on e4), and his queenside pawn majority. But at the same time it is quite a fragile opening. If white gets in a move like e4-e5, or manages to pressure the d6 pawn sufficiently, then black can just get crushed.”
I wouldn’t refer to it as “fragile.” It’s a very dynamic opening, and when Black goes for quick dynamics, it always entails some risk. Aggressive, tactically astute players have always been drawn to it, and they always will be.
The main line. White grabs the center, frees his light-squared Bishop, and hopes for further central expansion with a later e4-e5 push.
We looked at 7.Nd2 in a previous column. Other systems that seek a small edge in a positional battle are 7.g3, 7.Bg5, 7.h3, and 7.Qa4+, and 7.Bf4. Here’s a sample of 7.Bf4:
7.Bf4 a6 8.a4 Bg7 9.h3 0-0 10.e3 Re8 11.Nd2 Nbd7 12.Be2 Ne5 13.0-0 Nfd7 14.Qc2 f5 15.Bh2 b6 16.Rfe1 Nf6 17.Rad1 Qc7 18.Bxe5 Rxe5 19.Nf3 Re7 20.Ng5 Bd7 21.Bc4 Qb7 22.Ne6 b5 23.Ba2 c4 24.Nxg7 Kxg7 25.b4 Rae8 26.Rd4 Qb6 27.Red1 Re5 28.Qb2 Kf7 29.Bb1 Bc8 30.Qd2 Bd7 31.Bc2 Qb7 32.Ra1 Rc8 33.Kh1 Ra8 34.e4 fxe4 35.Bxe4 bxa4 36.Bc2 a3 37.Rxc4 a5 38.b5 Rc8 39.Rc6 Bxc6 40.dxc6 Qb6 41.Rxa3 Qc5 42.Ra4 Rce8 43.Rd4 d5 44.Kh2 Kg7 45.Bb3 h5 46.g3 R8e7 47.Kg2 Ne4 48.Nxe4 dxe4 49.Rd5 Rxd5 50.Qxd5 Qc3 51.Qg8+ Kh6 52.Qf8+ Rg7 53.Qh8+ Kg5 54.h4+, 1-0, Ki Georgiev (2675) – A. Kovacevic (2581) [A61], Vrnjacka Banja 2010.
Sam said: “I vaguely remembered seeing having seen a Bb5+ line and having read that …Nfd7 was the best reply. So I played this. But it turns out that was quite a different opening line, and Nbd7 (or even …Bd7) would be better. In this opening line playing …Nfd7 is just bad.”
You are referring to the Taimanov Variation, where 8.Bb5+ is usually answered by 8…Nfd7 (see the lines above). When you see a move like …Nfd7 in some line, it’s important to understand why it was played. Memorizing the move won’t help you, but knowing why it’s necessary (or not necessary) will prove very useful indeed.
8.Be2 has always been white’s most common move, but in recent years white’s given just about everything else some high-level tries: 8.h3, 8.Bd3, 8.Nd2, 8.Bf4, and 8.Bg5. Here’s a sample of 8.Bg5:
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 c5 3.d5 e6 4.Nc3 exd5 5.cxd5 d6 6.e4 g6 7.Nf3 Bg7 8.Bg5 h6 9.Bh4 a6 (9…g5 10.Bg3 Nh5 successfully picks up white’s dark-squared Bishop for black’s Knight, though the price is a hole on f5. Play tends to be very sharp: 11.Bb5+ Kf8 12.e5 Nxg3 13.fxg3 and now 13…dxe5 14.0-0 gives White serious attacking chances. Due to this, 13…a6 was seen in a fairly recent game: 14.Bd3 c4 15.Bxc4 Qb6 16.e6 Qxb2 17.0-0 Qxc3 18.Rc1 Qe3+ 19.Kh1 Nd7 20.exd7 Bxd7 21.Bd3 Rc8 22.Rxc8+ Bxc8 23.Re1 Qc5 24.Qe2 Bf6 25.Nd2 Be5 26.Ne4 Qd4 27.Rd1 Qb6 28.Rf1 Kg7 29.Qh5 Qc7 30.a4 Qe7 31.Qd1 Bd7 32.a5 Rc8 33.Qb3 Rc7 34.Qb6 Bc8 35.Qf2 Bg4 36.h3 Bh5 37.g4 Bg6 38.Qf3 Bf4 39.g3 Rc1 40.Kg2 Rxf1 41.Kxf1 Be5 42.Kg2 Qd8 43.h4 gxh4 44.Kh3 Qxa5 45.gxh4 Qxd5 46.h5 Bh7 47.Qe3 Qd4 48.Qf3 Qg1 49.g5 hxg5, 0-1, R. Vasquez (2521) – A. Kovacevic (2582) [A71], 39th Olympiad 2010) 10.Nd2 (Now, after …g5 Bg3, Black can’t hunt white’s dark-squared Bishop down by …Nh5) 10…b5 11.Be2 0-0 12.Qc2 Re8 13.0-0 Nbd7 14.a4 b4 15.Nd1 b3 16.Qb1 g5 17.Bg3 Nxd5 18.Nc4 Nb4 19.Nxd6 Nc2 20.Nxe8 Qxe8 21.Ne3 Nxa1 22.Qxa1 Nf6 23.f3 Bd7 24.Bc4 Nh5 25.Bf2 Rb8 26.Nd5 Qe5 27.Rd1 Kh8 28.Rd2 Be6 29.Qd1 Bxd5 30.Bxd5 Qc7 31.Bxb3 c4 32.Bc2 Be5 33.Rd7 Bxh2+ 34.Kh1 Qf4 35.g4 Nf6 36.Rxf7 Kg8 37.Rxf6 Qxf6 38.Kxh2 Rxb2 39.e5 Qxe5+ 40.Kh3 h5 41.Bd4 hxg4+ 42.fxg4 Qb8 43.Bxb2 Qxb2 44.Qd5+ Kf8 45.Qc5+ Kf7 46.Qxc4+ Ke7 47.Qc5+, 1-0, H. Banikas (2576) – K. Oreopoulos (2241) [A72], Kalamaria 2006.
8.Bb5+ was played way back in 1955. It’s been given an occasional shot by various strong players over the years. It’s never been overwhelmingly popular, but it has attracted fans in certain years.
Black’s most reliable moves are 8…Bd7 (when White usually plays either 9.Bxd7+ or 9.a4) and 8…Nbd7 (when White does best with 9.Bf4 or 9.a4).
Here’s a quick example:
8…Nbd7 9.a4 0-0 10.0-0 Qe7 (10…a6 11.Be2 Re8 12.Nd2 Rb8 13.Qc2 Ne5 14.h3 g5 15.Nf3 Nxf3+ 16.Bxf3 g4 17.hxg4 Bxg4 18.Qd1 h5 19.Bg5 Qd7 20.Qd3 b5 21.axb5 axb5 22.Bxg4 hxg4 23.Rae1 c4 24.Qc2 g3 25.fxg3 Ng4 26.Nd1 Bd4+ 27.Kh1 Re5 28.Qd2 Bc5 29.Qf4 Rbe8 30.Bh4 b4 31.Qc1 f5 32.Qxc4 Rxe4 33.Rxe4 Rxe4 34.Qd3 Qe8 35.Qd2 Qh5 36.Re1 Rd4 37.Qe2 Rxd1 38.Qe6+ Qf7 39.Qc8+ Kh7 40.Rxd1 Nf2+ 41.Kh2 Nxd1 42.g4 Ne3, 0-1, R. Lovkov (2435) - Zhou Weiqi (2593), St. Petersburg 2009) 11.Re1 Nh5 12.Bg5 Bf6 13.Bh6 Bg7 14.Bxg7 Kxg7 15.e5 dxe5 16.d6 Qe6 17.Bxd7 Bxd7 18.Rxe5 Qg4 19.h3 Qb4 20.Nd5 Qxb2 21.Re2, 1-0, B. Sambuev (2486) – S. Bolduc (2230) [A70], Montreal Open 2010.
9.Bg5 Qc7 10.a4 0-0 11.0-0 a6 12.Be2 Re8 13.Nd2 h6 14.Be3 Nf6 15.Qc2 Nbd7 16.h3 g5 17.Nc4 Rb8 18.a5 b5 19.axb6 Nxb6 20.Na5 Bd7 21.Bxa6 Nxe4 22.Nxe4 Nxd5 23.Bb7 Nb4 24.Qd2 Rxb7 25.Nxb7 Rxe4 26.Nxd6 Re5 27.Nc4 Rd5 28.Qe2 Bb5 29.Ra8+ Kh7 30.b3, 1-0, V. Malaniuk (2572) – S. Smetankin (2401) [A70], Tula 2000.
Sam said: “I was expecting my opponent to play Bg5 at or around this point (responding by playing …f7-f6 - or trading off the g7 dark square bishop - would be bad for black), but fortunately for me he didn’t develop that piece in the most aggressive way.”
Sam said: “Increasing e5 control and pressure on e4.”
I think 10…a6, getting rid of the pin on the a4-e8 diagonal, was more accurate since in many lines Black can answer Bf4 with …Ne5.
Sam said: “Logical enough, white protects e4 and develops his queen away from his first rank.”
Actually, it’s not logical at all. White enjoys a temporary pin against the d7-Knight, and also has a lead in development. If he dithers about, Black will break the pin and eventually catch up in development. Thus, White needs to get something going now if he wants to make use of his temporary dynamic plusses. The most logical move is 11.Bf4, hitting d6. Then we get the following interesting lines:
11…a6? 12.Bxd7 Qxd7 (12…Bxd7 13.Bxd6) 13.e5 dxe5 14.Nxe5 (White’s advantage is already clear.) 14…Qd8 15.Qd2 Nd7 16.Ng4 Nf6 17.Nxf6+ Bxf6 18.Ne4 Bg7 19.Bg5 and black’s lost since 19…f6 20.Bxf6 smokes him!
11…Qc7 12.e5 dxe5 13.d6 Qd8 (13…Qa5 14.Bxd7 when both 14…Bxd7 15.Nxe5 and 14…Nxd7 15.Nd5 are clearly better for White; 13…Qb6 14.Bc4 leaves Black in serious trouble) 14.Bg5 f6 (14…Bf6 15.Bxf6 Qxf6 16.Ne4 and black’s under serious pressure) 15.Bh4 (15.Be3!?) 15…g5 16.Nd5! a6 (16…gxh4 17.Nc7) 17.Bc4 Kh8 18.Nc7 (18.Bg3!?) 18…Nb6 19.Bb3 gxh4 20.Nxh4 c4 21.Bc2 Rf8 22.Qh5 with a very powerful initiative and lots of threats for White.
11…Qe7 12.e5!? (12.Bxd7!?) 12…dxe5 13.Nxe5 is quite good for White since 13…Nxe5 14.Bxe8 Qxe8 15.Bxe5 Bxe5 16.Kh1! is followed by 17.f4, winning. Also note that 13.Nxe5 Qd8
11…Bf8!?, giving up one’s manhood, might be best, though white’s position is clearly more pleasant than black’s.
Sam said: “Breaking the pin and preparing to support …b7-b5 at some later time. I also considered playing …Na6 instead, but it seemed a little slow.”
Sam said: “I think by now we’ve both managed to waste a tempo one way or another, but we’ve reached a fairly typical kind of position for the Modern Benoni.”
Of course this is playable, but instead of admitting that your …Nfd7 didn’t amount to much, you should try to make use of it by 12…Ne5 when 13.Nxe5 Bxe5 is very comfortable for Black since 14.f4 Bg7 doesn’t give White anything (white’s thematic e4-e5 isn’t going to happen). White could also give 12…Ne5 13.Nd2 a shot, but then White might fall victim to some typical Benoni tactics after 13…Nbd7!? (13…b5!?) 14.f4? (14.a4 b6, =, while 14…g5!?, preventing f2-f4 and thus locking in the e5-square for black’s pieces, is another common Benoni idea. Play might continue with 15.a5 Nf8 with …Nfg6 to follow with a grip on both e5 and f4) 14…Ng4 15.Nf3 (15.h3 Bd4+ 16.Kh1 Ne3 [16…Nf2+!? 17.Kh2 when 17…Ng4+ repeats the position, and 17…f5!? tries for more after 18.Nf3 Bxc3 19.bxc3 Nxe4 20.c4 when black’s won a pawn and has a great Knight on e4, but White will own the dark squares after Bb2] 17.Qd3 Nxf1 18.Rxf1 b5 19.Nf3 Bg7 is very comfortable for Black.) 15…Bd4+ 16.Nxd4 cxd4 17.Nd1 (17.h3 Qh4 18.Rd1 dxc3 19.hxg4 Nf6)
It’s well worth going over these lines carefully since they illustrate some common positional and tactical Benoni themes.
Sam said: “This move isn’t bad, but I was happy to see it, as it meant I could follow through with a thematic trade I had seen in some Benoni games.”
White certainly had other ways to play the position. For example 13.h3 (13.Bf4!?) ends your …Bg4 hopes. Then 13…b5 14.Bf4 leads to an interesting game.
13…h6 14.Bh4 g5 15.Bg3 Nh5
Sam said: “Black trades his knight for the bishop, increasing his control of e5 and the dark squares on the long diagonal (it is also somewhat harder for white to pressure d6). On the other hand it is quite risky for black to advance his kingside pawns like this, as the light squares are greatly weakened around his king position.”
Black is giving up a square (f5) in order to grab the two Bishops and lay claim to e5. As Fischer once said, “You gotta give squares to get squares.”
White plays a pretty move that fails to address his need of a plan. Far more dynamic is the bold 16.e5! Nxg3 17.hxg3 dxe5 18.Rad1 f5 19.d6 Instead of letting Black dictate the flow of the game, White has sacrificed a pawn. And what has he gained from this sacrifice (notice how easy it is for me to sacrifice other people’s pawns!)? He has a lead in development, the safer King, a powerful passed pawn, and a great square for his Knight on d5. There’s other stuff too, which we’ll see in a moment! After 19.d6 Kh8 (19…Nc6 20.Na4! picks up c5 since 20…b6 is met by 21.d7! Bxd7 22.Rxd7 Qxd7 23.Nxb6) 20.Nd5! Qxd6
Sam said: “Now to trade off his other piece controlling e5.”
This is a good move, but (as you find out) it does give up the main protector of the f5-square. Instead, the simple 17…Nd7 followed by 18…Ne5 is very nice for Black (you still get e5, but your light-squared Bishop keeps a permanent eye on f5).
Why the rush? Instead, 18…Nd7 makes sense.
Now Bh3 is possible, and you’ve also given White the possibility of taking e5 away by an eventual f3-f4 push. Though I might sound all doom and gloom, you still have a good position (just not as good as it was earlier).
Sam said: “It’s an interesting position. White has an impressive pawn centre, and if that manages to roll forward then black would likely be in a lot of trouble. On the other hand white’s light square bishop is hardly a great piece... and black’s pieces are finally starting to make sense (while the trades have eased his formerly cramped position).”
Sam said: “I’m not really sold on this move. Perhaps for c4 control? Or to stop the pawn being a target on the long diagonal? But maybe it also weakens the diagonal for white a little. Or at least it doesn’t achieve anything immediate.”
White drops the ball! What in the world does this accomplish? Please, don’t make a move unless you can clearly explain why the move you are contemplating is important! Aside from wasting a move and weakening the a1-h8 diagonal, White also fails to create an agenda for himself.
Instead of this nonsense, just 20.Nd1 with Ne3-f5 was obvious and good.
Sam said: “Double attack! Though in retrospect maybe …Qf6 would have been slightly better (suggested by both WIM Vita, and my dad).”
There’s nothing wrong with youthful aggression. However, your team is correct their thumbs up to 20…Qf6. Why is this better than your choice? Because it prevents the White Knight from reaching f5 and forces white’s guys to poor squares that gum up the works. After 21.Re3 (the only way to guard both c3 and f3. Note that 21.Bh3? Ne5 loses a pawn) white’s blocked his Knight from landing on e3 via Nc3-d1-e3. Black would continue with 21…Ne5 (hitting f3 again) 22.Bg2 h5! 23.Ne2 (hoping for f3-f4) 23…Bh6 stopping the advance of white’s f-pawn. After 23…Bh6 it’s very hard for White to find an active plan.
Sam said: “I had been more interested in …Qa5 than …Qf6 because I thought my queen could better support my queenside play from a5.”
Nothing wrong with that! Young dudes will love your 20…Qa5, while us old goats go for the “Give him no play!” philosophy of 20…Qf6.
Sam said: “Preparing …c5-c4, and placing the rook opposite the white queen.”
I think 22…Ne5 23.Bg2 c4 was a bit more accurate. After your 22…Rac8 White can keep your Knight out of e5 by 23.f4. There’s no reason to give White this option since 22…Ne5 bullies him into a path of your own making.
Sam said: “Black has an ugly great hole on f5 which the white knight is ready to exploit. White also increases control of c4 with this move. But the impression from his bishop and rooks is a little awkward, and his queen can’t be happy opposite the rook either!”
23…Ne5 24.Bg2 c4 25.Nf5
Sam said: “The white knight is a real problem on f5, where it hits the a6 pawn and the crucial d6 pawn (which is holding whites centre back). Losing the dark square bishop would also be painful for black, and leave his king especially exposed.”
25…cxb3 26.Qxb3 Rc3 27.Qb1
Sam said: “Nice natural moves that come with tempo. But how to resolve the Nf5 issue? Nxf3+ is playable here and wins a pawn, but I wasn’t all that keen on trading my active knight for the inactive bishop. And then also white can take on d6 perhaps, and I felt that was dangerous. Perhaps I should have given the actual continuation a more careful look however.”
Sam said: “This move is a little difficult to have to play, and seems rather passive after all that ‘progress with gain of time’ stuff. But I think it’s largely justified.”
You made the right decision. 27…Nxf3+?? 28.Bxf3 Rxf3 29.Nxd6 flips the advantage to White who suddenly has a superior minor piece (the Knight will return to f5) and an extremely dangerous passed d-pawn.
Sam said: “Centralizes, and protects f3.”
Normally the d4-square would be great for a Knight, but f5 is better, and the Knight is already there! Since his Knight is optimally placed, White should try and put you through your paces by 28.Re3 Rec8 29.f4 Ng6 (29…gxf4 30.gxf4 Nd3 31.Rg3+ Kh8 is a complex alternative) 30.e5! gxf4 31.Rxc3 Qxc3 32.gxf4 dxe5 (32…Nxf4 33.exd6) 33.fxe5 Nxe5 34.d6 with an unclear mess.
Sam said: “This move is perhaps a little odd. The idea is that whites knight cannot be supported by a pawn on d4, and so this ties down a rook in defense. But maybe I should have just doubled rooks immediately, or moved the queen to a more natural looking dark square.”
You can only play one move at a time. 28…Rec8 was tempting (and probably most accurate), but your 28…Qa4 also makes sense.
A funny line is 29…Rc4 30.Nf5 Rec8 31.f4 gxf4 32.gxf4 Ng6 33.Rd3 Nxf4? 34.Rg3+ Ng6 35.e5! dxe5 36.Nd6! Bxd6 37.Rxg6+ fxg6 38.Qxg6+ Kh8 39.Qxh6+ Kg8 40.Qxd6 with advantage for White.
Sam said: “White starts some of his own play to get his centre advancing, and unseat my knight.”
30...gxf4 31.gxf4 Ng6 32.e5! gives White counterplay: 32…Nxf4 33.e6 or 32…dxe5 33.fxe5 Nxe5 34.d6 Bxd6 35.Bd5 intending 36.Bxf7+!
“This move comes with the threat of ...Na3 hitting the queen, followed by ...Bxd4, picking up the knight.”
You should have settled for 31...Na3 32.Qb2 gxf4 33.gxf4 Nc2 34.Nxc2 Qxc2 when black’s the only one with chances in the endgame.
Missing his chance. The super thematic 32.e5! turned the tables: 32…dxe5 (this doesn’t hold up, but I can’t find an acceptable defense) 33.Nc6 Bf8 34.fxe5 and black’s lost.
32…Na3 was fine, as is 32…gxf4! 33.Ne7+ Kh8 34.Nxc8 fxg3 35.fxg3! (and not 35.Ne7?? gxf2+ 36.Kxf2 Na3 and Black wins white’s Queen) 35…Na3 36.Qb2 Rxc8 37.Qb3 Qxb3 38.axb3 Rc3, =.
33.e5! is, once again, in white’s favor.
33…hxg5 34.Nd4 Bg7 35.Nf5, 1/2-1/2.
Sam said: “And with this repetition my opponent offered a draw, which I accepted. I didn’t really see anything better at the time, and felt that although attractive in some regards, my position was also quite dangerous. And I was lower on time. An alternative would have been so play something like ...Na3 and then ...Rc2 rather than ...Bg7. But I don’t think I really saw this during the game. A solid result, and I’m pretty happy with my play.”
Black played quite well, and only faltered at the end of the game when time was getting low (doesn’t everyone falter when time is getting low?).
~ LESSONS FROM THIS GAME ~
* Learning the basic positional and tactical ideas of your opening is a must!
* Understanding the pulse of your opening lines is far more important than memorizing the moves.
* If you love the Nimzo-Indian (doesn’t everyone love the Nimzo-Indian?) but hate dealing with the Catalan and Queen’s Indian, the move order 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 c5 takes you into the exciting Benoni without having to worry about lines where White plays an early f2-f4.
* Don’t make a move unless you can clearly explain why the move you are contemplating is important! Before you make a move, pretend your chess teacher is going to ask you, “Why did you play that?” If you don’t have an answer, don’t play the move!
* The mother of all thematic moves in the Modern Benoni is white’s e4-e5 advance. Both sides need to be aware of it at all times.
[Would you like to have IM Silman comment on a game of yours? If so, send the game in PGN format, along with any questions and comments, to firstname.lastname@example.org]