Is the Benko Gambit busted? If so, up to what level is it worthily playable nowadays?

R3d_Anonymous

There was a thread on another forum recently where almost everyone looked at the the Benko Gambit with scorn and said that the engine evaluation rightfully expresses that Black doesn't have adequate compensation for the pawn, in particular because of the a4 and Nb5 possibilities.

This is kind of news to me, because for the longest time, I thought this was one of the most respected gambits and had the approval and praise of almost everyone, at least from what I can remember in the 2000s and sources in the 1980s and 1990s.  IM Josh Waitzkin largely endorsed the opening in his time.

Did something change?  And if so, up to what level is it playable nowadays?

Zugerzwang
I doubt that it's busted, though there may be a super-GM level game where White at least temporarily cast doubt on its
efficacy. Below grandmaster level, almost any major opening is playable.
Zugerzwang
Sounds like a manifestation of the current over-reliance on computers and engine evaluations.
ThrillerFan

I will be honest.  I view the Benko Gambit as dubious, but not due to engine evaluation.  If you judged openings on engine evaluation, the King's Indian Defense would be out of business.  Engines are BS when it comes to evaluating positions in the opening and endgame, like it will tell you +3 in KRN vs KR when we all know that is a draw 99 percent of the time.

That said, I see both the fianchetto variation and the King Walk variation as good for White.  Busted?  Doubt it.  But with best play, both via studying it, playing it as Black in 2005, and a very strong record as White against it since playing those two lines mentioned, I see White's advantage as being far greater than anything he gets in the QGD, Slav, Semi-Slav, Nimzo-Indian, Grunfeld, or King's Indian.

Hypnoticdemon

It's  not busted. I thought it was one of the most respected gambit opening  out there. It's  playable at all levels , except the engine level.

tlay80

It certainly garnered respect for quite a while (and admiration too -- a gambit where the counterplay runs all the way to the endgame!).  But by the 80s, it was regarded as fairly dubious at the grandmaster level, and I fear that line the OP mentions (which arrived earlier this decade) might kill it at lower levels too.

To people who are defending it here -- what compensation are you finding in the 12 a4 line (described here -- White usually follows up with Nb5)?  It's an opening I've long loved, but I'm on the verge of giving the bloody thing up based on that line, which seems to me to completlely solidify White's queenside.  Have people come up with real counterplay here?

DrChesspain
ThrillerFan wrote:

I will be honest.  I view the Benko Gambit as dubious, but not due to engine evaluation.  If you judged openings on engine evaluation, the King's Indian Defense would be out of business. 

FWIW, hasn't the King's Indian also declined in popularity among top players?  For players who like to fianchetto against d4, it seems as if the Gruenfeld is more common and also considered less risky.

FrogCDE

The treatment shown here looks very promising.

drmrboss
R3d_Anonymous wrote:

There was a thread on another forum recently where almost everyone looked at the the Benko Gambit with scorn and said that the engine evaluation rightfully expresses that Black doesn't have adequate compensation for the pawn, in particular because of the a4 and Nb5 possibilities.

This is kind of news to me, because for the longest time, I thought this was one of the most respected gambits and had the approval and praise of almost everyone, at least from what I can remember in the 2000s and sources in the 1980s and 1990s.  IM Josh Waitzkin largely endorsed the opening in his time.

Did something change?  And if so, up to what level is it playable nowadays?

You can look at high quality chess games from TCEC whether Benko is busted or not. 

drmrboss
FrogCDE wrote:

The treatment shown here looks very promising.

What is the point of cherry picking 3 games where white lost? Obviously white did mistakes and black won.

If you look at database of 1000 games, there could be ( e.g, 450 white win, 450 white loss and 100 draw) and then you can write two books

1. Book 1, how to beat benko by picking 450 games white win

2. Book 2 , how to win with Benko by picking 450 games white lose

 

This is the way Authours are making money from you.

DrChesspain
drmrboss wrote:
FrogCDE wrote:

The treatment shown here looks very promising.

What is the point of cherry picking 3 games where white lost? Obviously white did mistakes and black won.

If you look at database of 1000 games, there could be ( e.g, 450 white win, 450 white loss and 100 draw) and then you can write two books

1. Book 1, how to beat benko by picking 450 games white win

2. Book 2 , how to win with Benko by picking 450 games white win

 

This is the way Authours are making money from you.

 

Yes, that is how authors make money.  Duh.

Assuming both of the above hypothetical books are well-written, then I'm further assuming readers of either book will learn how to beat a lesser prepared opponent in this opening.

R3d_Anonymous
tlay80 wrote:

It certainly garnered respect for quite a while (and admiration too -- a gambit where the counterplay runs all the way to the endgame!).  But by the 80s, it was regarded as fairly dubious at the grandmaster level, and I fear that line the OP mentions (which arrived earlier this decade) might kill it at lower levels too.

To people who are defending it here -- what compensation are you finding in the 12 a4 line (described here -- White usually follows up with Nb5)?  It's an opening I've long loved, but I'm on the verge of giving the bloody thing up based on that line, which seems to me to completlely solidify White's queenside.  Have people come up with real counterplay here?

 

I don't know much, but I was trying to do some research, and supposedly there are some early Qa5 lines that are good for Black and could prevent a4 and Nb5 by white.  Have you heard of these, and if so, do you think they're any good at saving the Benko for Black?

pfren

It is fully playable, at any level.

SpiderUnicorn

 

drmrboss
pfren wrote:

It is fully playable, at any level.

Because chess has significantly big margin of err (draw chances) until one side end as win.

 
I am still pretty confident that one pawn handicap(like "a" pawn) is still draw in perfect play by both players. (Although there is no perfect players, if we set up top engines like SF and Leela and let them play in long game , majority of games will end up draw with "a" pawn handicap).

 

FrogCDE
drmrboss wrote:
FrogCDE wrote:

The treatment shown here looks very promising.

What is the point of cherry picking 3 games where white lost? Obviously white did mistakes and black won.

If you look at database of 1000 games, there could be ( e.g, 450 white win, 450 white loss and 100 draw) and then you can write two books

1. Book 1, how to beat benko by picking 450 games white win

2. Book 2 , how to win with Benko by picking 450 games white lose

 

This is the way Authours are making money from you.

The author in this case (GM Danny Gormally) didn't make any money from me - it's an internet article, not a book. And the variation is simply being presented as something worth investigating further. At any rate, those people who think the mainline is busted might want to look at it.

nighteyes1234
drmrboss wrote:
pfren wrote:

It is fully playable, at any level.

Because chess has significantly big margin of err (draw chances) until one side end as win.

 

We are talking about memorizing moves vs learning strategy. And the Benko strategy is sound.

Here black deploys Benko.....while smirking,memorized up, Silman/Ginger/etc follower white starts crying cause they have to play on their own now and are guessing the eval.

 

 

drmrboss
nighteyes1234 wrote:
drmrboss wrote:
pfren wrote:

It is fully playable, at any level.

Because chess has significantly big margin of err (draw chances) until one side end as win.

 

We are talking about memorizing moves vs learning strategy. And the Benko strategy is sound.

Here black deploys Benko.....while smirking,memorized up, Silman/Ginger/etc follower white starts crying cause they have to play on their own now and are guessing the eval.

 

 

Yes, I played with white above position against droidfish. I lose 1 pawn and ended up bad position within 10 moves.( The line I chose was e4, with idea , Bf1, Kxf1 and manual castling)

 

Yes, SF told me to play with g3, Bg2 idea to castle. And simply Rb1 to defend.

 

If white is not well prepared with Stockfish, white will lose. If white is well prepared with Stockfish, white is easy to play with upper hand.

ThrillerFan
DrChesspain wrote:
ThrillerFan wrote:

I will be honest.  I view the Benko Gambit as dubious, but not due to engine evaluation.  If you judged openings on engine evaluation, the King's Indian Defense would be out of business. 

FWIW, hasn't the King's Indian also declined in popularity among top players?  For players who like to fianchetto against d4, it seems as if the Gruenfeld is more common and also considered less risky.

No, the Kings Indian has regained popularity.  It went through a dry spell during the late 90s when Kramnik blasted Kasparov with the Bayonet.  Since then, many vast improvements were found for Black against the Bayonet.

pfren
FrogCDE έγραψε:
drmrboss wrote:
FrogCDE wrote:

The treatment shown here looks very promising.

What is the point of cherry picking 3 games where white lost? Obviously white did mistakes and black won.

If you look at database of 1000 games, there could be ( e.g, 450 white win, 450 white loss and 100 draw) and then you can write two books

1. Book 1, how to beat benko by picking 450 games white win

2. Book 2 , how to win with Benko by picking 450 games white lose

 

This is the way Authours are making money from you.

The author in this case (GM Danny Gormally) didn't make any money from me - it's an internet article, not a book. And the variation is simply being presented as something worth investigating further. At any rate, those people who think the mainline is busted might want to look at it.

 

The line has gone a long way since Gormally wrote the article.