The Velimirovic's Guide to the Modern Benoni

  • GM Gserper
  • | Jun 3, 2014

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?



  • 19 months ago



  • 2 years ago


    Benoni Counter-Blast is looking for a few good Benoni players.
  • 2 years ago


    I love the Bernoni - great article! Thanks!

  • 2 years ago

    GM Gserper


    In this game Velimirovic beat Tal ( not exactly the Modern Benoni, but very close).

  • 2 years ago


    @dumdumm , because after 33.e4 Qxe4+ 34.Kd1 (protect c2Rook) Qxg4+ (threat Qg1# mate)  35.Ke1 Re8+ 36.Kf1 Qd1+ (winning c2 Rook).  Didn't use engine, just stared at the diagram, there might be better mating moves, but this is the simplest line with easy win of c2 Rook.

  • 2 years ago


    Thanks Mr Serper, is useful and interesting to know the evolution and the background of an openinig,  not only current lines. Very nice article, i'm waiting for next ...

  • 2 years ago


    Great Article Gserper! Thanks for share...

  • 2 years ago


    The point of this article is not to convert people to the Benoni, so for the Benoni players out there, please be a bit reserved; this is not about you!

     The point is to pay tribute to a great player who has now past.  One reason that people these days play the Tajmonov Line and the Modern Line is that Velimirov (and some others) put a lot of the other lines (that looked like natural tries at the time) out of business, with games like the beautiful ones presented above.

    People should hold to the history of the line they play; if you need reasons for learning these games, just think how much you can do to people who don't know the theory as well as you do, when they trot out an old ``reasonable'' attempt!  Also,if you want your games to be appreciated by later generations, then perhaps you should take some time to appreciate earlier generations' efforts!

    Thank you, GM Serper, for these beautiful games and memories.

  • 2 years ago


    great article! Thanks :)

  • 2 years ago


    agree with Ghillan.. there are no variations where white tries f4 or e5,  or where the thematic battle on e4 happens!

  • 2 years ago


    why did white not played e4 in the last puzzle instead of resigning ?

  • 2 years ago



    As a benoni player i really enjoied your past articles about the benoni and was excited about this one, but once had a look in the games i was quite disappointed. All the variations and lines are all quite odd.

    Nowadays everyone play the tajmanov line or the modern line (h3) and none of the games you posted show those critical continuations.

    In particular none of the white players tried the e5 break ( eventually supported by the f4 pawn). I whish my opponent was so "ignorant" about the white plans in the modern benoni.

    The only thing i can find useful in those games its the black delayed "e6" . I guess the reason its to avoid the tajmanov's sting ( quite feared in those days..), but beside that, i feel those  f3 and 0-0-0 just excentric attempts.

    The last one in particular its just asking for troubles...

  • 2 years ago


    Great article!

  • 2 years ago


    Besides Gligoric and Matulovic one of the greatest Serbian chess minds. RIP.

  • 2 years ago


    GM Dragoljub Velimirovic died 18 days ago in Belgrade, RIP

  • 2 years ago


    what's your take on the f4 Bg7 Bb5+ line? I've crushed 1800 OTB players with it.

  • 2 years ago


    Nice article, thank you!  Games from the golden era of chess.

  • 2 years ago


    GM Serper you articles are excellent sir.  I play the benoni myself so of course I loved it.  Also, been a fan of GM Velimirovic for along time.  Thanks again, EddieB

  • 2 years ago


    nice! good article gregory

  • 2 years ago


    Dear mr. Serper, I must thank you for writing so much beautiful text about chess romantics of our time, such as GM Velimirović! You managed to pay tribute, to tickle readers mind with useful puzzles, and to teach about new ideas and aspects of the game, all in one article.. It is incredible how you suceeded in it! I read about you once, in a chess magazine, about your game against Nikolaidis from '93. Then i knew you were a chess romantic yourself :) now it explains to me why do you have so much appreciation for players like Velimirović, you're one of them, and that is what I am thanking you for ( I know this sentence maybe doesn't have much sense in English, but hopefully you'll understand). Keep up the excellent work about beauty in chess which is slowly disappearing with the age of computers.. Greetings from Croatia, Martin

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