Chess Diary 1

Nov 26, 2011, 4:39 PM |

I have been studying the Benko Gambit with my chess coach, Atilla Turzo.

We meet via Skype on Thursdays: he, in the morning in Budpapest, and me in Melbourne. A few lessons in, and its been amazing, deeply instructive, and sheer good fun. Being guided by someone who is simply excellent at the game reveals depths of understandings that any amount of videos and articles fail to achieve.

In relation to the Benko, he asked me what I thought it was about. I said: pressure by Black on the a2/b2 squares: you get White to concentrate on hanging onto his additional pawn, and meantime you develop in a highly fravourable way.

He agreed, but added: Black can aim for pressure along the a1/h8 diagonal, generally by placing his Q on b7. Black can also play down the e-file, with a view to isolating White's d-pawn after exchanging off White's e-pawn. Black can also play for a c-pawn break; the c-pawn can be a monster.

So: there is a LOT more to the Benko than just the obvious pressure on the a and b files! Keep in mind, he explained, the Benko is a positional sacrifice: you sacrifice a pawn for long-term positional advantage. It can become highly tactical, depending on play, but the key to playing it well is to understand the positional concepts.

We have since reviewed several of my games and, in addition, he has forwarded me several annotated Benko games, including tournament games of his own.

We have also looked at anti-Benko lines. In particular, I was recently thrashed by a highrater who ignored my offer:


After reviewing this game, Atilla then showed me what to do, next time I face 5. f3. He did this, via a game he had played in a tournament, when he was 16! 
A fine display of initiative over material, of attack trumping pawn grabbing!