The Velimirovic's Guide to the Modern Benoni

The Velimirovic's Guide to the Modern Benoni

Gserper
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In last week's article we discussed the chess heritage of GM Dragoljub Velimirovic. You probably noticed that all the games used for the article shared the same opening - the Sicilian Defense. This is, of course, not a coincidence since Velimirovic was one of the world's best experts of the Sicilian Defense. But it would be unfair to omit another opening where he was one of the world's best experts. The way Velimirovic played the Modern Benoni was both artistic and powerful. As I mentioned last week, as a kid I was so impressed by Velimirovic's treatment of the Modern Benoni that it became my main weapon against 1.d4. Those who have read my previous articles (like this one) know my favorite method of studying openings: find the games played by the opening's expert and study the ideas. Let me show you why Velimirovic's games in the Modern Benoni were so instructive. But first of all, let's talk a bit about the Modern Benoni in general.

If you look at the position, it is easy to see that White has a very strong center, and consequently, his main plan is to crush Black's defense with a timely e4-e5 break. But what does Black find appealing here? Why would he go for this kind of pawn structure where White has more space and a powerful center? The answer can be found in his dynamic opportunities!

  • Black will try to use his pawn majority on the queenside to create a passed pawn which will be supported by the powerful Bg7.
  • He will also attack White's center using the semi-open e-file.
  • Surprisingly, an attack against White's King is also one of Black's goals! 

Now let's let Velimirovic's games guide us through the kaleidoscope of these ideas!

Dragoljub Velimirovic | Image from the Dutch National Archives & Spaarnestad Photo / Wikipedia

1. Even though Black fianchettoes his bishop, it is not the Dragon variation of the Sicilian Defense, and therefore pushing the h-pawn in order to open the h-file is completely misplaced. Black uses the e-file to attack White's King if White leaves him in the center. And if White castles the Queen's side, Black easily opens files for an attack there too.

Please don't miss Black's beautiful tactical shot on move 28! 

Here is one more example, where White's early "attack" on the h-file backfires:

2. Another typical set up from the Yugoslav Attack of the Dragon variation (f3, Be3, Qd2 and Bh6 trying to trade Black's fianchettoed Bishop) runs into a typical tactical refutation:

3. White needs to watch out for a tactical shot Nf6xd5. Black sacrifices his knight but opens the e-file with decisive consequences:

The following impressive attack was executed against the then newly minted champion of the Soviet Union!

Next week we'll continue exploring typical ideas of the Modern Benoni based on the Velimirovic's games. But today's article I would like to finish with several of the combinations played by the maestro in his beloved Modern Benoni. can you spot them?


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