Playing 5.f3 against the Benko against an Expert

Dec 23, 2011, 2:28 PM |

I mentioned back in June how I was searching for a new way to handle the Benko Gambit and essayed an alternative that played 5.f3. Not preparing for this since June, I was able to play a decent and fun game against an opponent who was a strong class A/ Expert hovering around 2000 USCF.

My long term mnemonic recalled the dialog of not allowing Black’s queen Bishop to head to a6 with the line 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 c5 3.d5 b5 4.cxb5 a6 5.bxa6 and instead play 5.f3 to immediately reinforce e4. What I forgot was that playing 6.e4 is the strongest line following 5…e6. Here I mixed ideas up and decided to “spike” Black’s position with 6.d6!?

I remember watching a video on pawn formations with advanced d-chains and the cramping effect d6 could have if allowed. So I went for it. It created a series of forced moves and an early Q exchange as I scrambled to equalize development.


The middle game quickly transposed to an endgame. Before that could happen I wanted to make sure he couldn’t castle and allow my kind to get to the Queenside before he could. I entered into an endgame with a pawn deficit and N versus Bishop. I had a plan to blockade with my King and knight, get my pawns and pieces on dark squares and keep him busy.

It almost worked… but I fell for an exchange and ended up losing a drawn endgame. 


What I learned:

  1.    5.f3 against the Benko ( Volga) Gambit is fun.   I reviewed a few of Max Dlugy’s games (Dlugy Versus Lev Albert 1986;  Dlugy vs Zofia Polgar, 1987 and Dlugy versus Gurevich in 1988)   realized that following up with 6.e4 is the critical line. Nakamura  versus Vachier in 2008 also shows up on the data base.
  2.  Though the spike line is interesting and sort of in tune with a d-pawn chain, the game really is about e4 and setting up a tactical king side attack.
  3.  Develop with a vengeance
  4.    Big Endgame lesson with N Vs B:

a.       Had the right approach  in blocking with the opposite color of his Bishop

b.      Wrong Passed pawn ( Queening square wrong color)

c.       K and knight can hold against the extra bishop. If opposite King waltzes toward other pawns, knight can block passed pawn while king defends.

d.      Don’t exchange pieces when down a pawn.

Game Mnemonics learned:

On all of the  games mentioned in 1 above, Allowing Black to get his Queen bishop to b7 ( a8-h1 diagonal) comes at a price to Black with a weakened queenside and a brick pawn fortress at e4 f3 and g2. White gets lots of space on the Queen side. The games are less about subtle maneuvering, which I attempted, and more about sharp tactics with a space advantage.  I am going to spend some time going over these games in more detail for my own sake. I hope next time I encounter the Benko, I can explore a little deeper beyond the 6.e4 line.