The Modern Benoni and your repertoire

Sep 8, 2011, 11:05 AM |

This is meant as a sequel to my former blog post:

Defending against 1.d4 - the Modern Benoni

If you are planning to take up the Modern Benoni, it is useful to invest some thought into how to arrange your defenses against other Closed Games around it.

First some fundamental things: Obviously you should like playing the black side of some Symmetrical English lines, because this is what you'll get if White doesn't answer your ...c5 with d4-d5. It certainly saves time and energy if you answer 1.c4 with 1...c5, but evidently this isn't obligatory. If furthermore you'd like to answer 1.Nf3 with 1...c5, you should be aware this can land you in a full-fledged Sicilian after 2.e4!? If the Sicilian is outside your repertoire I'd rather recommend you play 1.Nf3 Nf6 and wait with ...c5 until later.

Anti-Benonis without c2-c4:

There are some players who like to play 1...c5 right after 1.d4. In this case White has the chance to omit c2-c4. Taking on c5 is hardly critical, since both (2.dxc5) 2...Na6 and 2...e6 lead to satisfactory play for Black. The most dangerous treatment of the position seems to be 1.d4 c5 2.d5 Nf6 3.Nc3, when insisting on playing in MB style can land Black in serious trouble: 3...e6?! 4.e4 exd5 5.e5! Instead he should continue with moves like 3...d6 or 3...g6, when his position is very much ok, but the typical lively Benoni play will by much harder to obtain. Of course Black can also try (1.d4 c5 2.d5) 2...e6, but White does have the possibility of 3.e4, which leads to a symmetrical pawn structure and again much less entertaining play than the MB. Since it is usually White who manages to sieze the e-file first, Black even has to survive a bit of pressure.

Another topic is 1.d4 Nf6 2.something else like the Colle, Tromp, Veresov or London system etc. Obviously I won't be able to cover these in any detail here, but let it suffice to say that in Yelena Dembo's great book "Fighting the Anti-King's Indians" (everyman 2008) there can be found a lot of tasty morsels for the Benoni player as well. Those Queen's Pawn Openings are quite popular at club level, and I have observed playing against them I feel much more comfortable with 1...Nf6 than I did when I had committed to 1...d5.

Anti-Benonis after 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 c5

The most popular way to decline the MB is 3.Nf3 at this point, when after 3...cxd4 4.Nxd4 Black has a wide choice. Among the possible moves are:

  1. 4...e6, which leads to positions similar to the move order 2...e6 3.Nf3 c5 4.Nc3 and therefore will be discussed there.
  2. 4...b6, which will suit all players who like to play hedgehog positions against the English.
  3. 4...e5, a gambit continuation brought into the limelight by Kasparov.

The only other serious option is 3.e3, when Black can best continue with a kind of inverted Réti setup: 3...g6 and kingside development. At some point he may be able to play ...cxd4 exd4 d5, getting pressure against the white centre pawn(s). In case of dxc5, the second player can usually regain the pawn by means of Na6, while a belated d4-d5 from White can often lead to normal Benoni positions, but if ever he decides to play e3-e4, he'll be a tempo down on normal lines.

Anti-Benoni after 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 c5 4.Nc3

This is one of the most important Anti-Benoni lines, as many strong players prefer the move order 2...e6. Black's main options at the following 4.cxd4 5.Nxd4 are 5...a6, which leads to some hedgehog-like setups, although after 6.Bg2 he obviously doesn't get to play ...b6. Still this line seems to be doing fine for him. The other option which is especially interesting for players experienced in the Nimzo-Indian, is 5...Bb4. Then after 6.g3 we get a hybrid of the Nimzo Indian and the English, with all kinds of transpositions possible. I used to follow the 6...Ne4 7.Qd3 Qa5 line, but it seems this means some trouble after 8.Nb3 Nxc3 9.Bd2!. I need to research this, but I suppose 6...0-0 is ok for Black. Another popular continuation is 6.Ndb5, but moving around so often with one piece can become somewhat awkward for White. One of the nicest Anti-Benoni attacking games has been played in this line:

move order questions

If you want to use the MB as your single defence to 1.d4, you can use the move order 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 c5, when in case of an Anti-Benoni 3.Nf3 you have greater flexibility, and after 3.d5 you may even consider entering the Benkö by 3...b5, if you feel like it that day. There are strong players who like to avoid certain white lines of the MB, especially the Modern Mainline (h2-h3 in connection with, e2-e4, Bd3 and Bf4), pawnstorm systems like the Taimanov Attack (f2-f4 with Bb5+) or even the Knaak system of Bd3 and Nge2, followed by f2-f4. These players prefer to play 2...e6 and only after 3.Nf3 they enter the MB by 3...c5. The point is that all those white systems above aren't available once the knight has gone to f3. Players using this move order tend to transpose into other openings in case of 3.Nc3, either the Nimzo-Indian 3...Bb4 or the QGD (3...d5). The obvious downside to this approach is obviously that you have to have another anti-d4 opening at your disposal.


Hope this points you into the right directions to explore if you fancy adding the MB into your repertoire Smile