The Benoni and its Tactics

The Benoni and its Tactics

Learn the key ideas in the dynamic Benoni Defense!

The Benoni is one of the sharpest defenses to 1.d4. This course will show you how to reach the Benoni and find the key ideas for both Black and White. Practice the tactics and positional motifs that made the Benoni a favorite weapon of World Champion Mikhail Tal!

Here is what you will learn:

  • Learn how to play the exciting Modern Benoni Defense!
  • Learn the most common tactics for White and Black.
  • Learn the strategic ideas and goals for both sides.

Recommended for players rated between 1400 and 2200.

How to Reach the Modern Benoni

How to Reach the Modern Benoni

The term Benoni refers to a kind of structure with black pawns on c5 and d6 and a white pawn on d5. The "Modern Benoni" is a specific opening against 1.d4 that you can play (which has a Benoni structure), and is what we are focused on in this course. Let's see how to reach the Modern Benoni.
6 Challenges
Attack on the Center - From the Wing

Attack on the Center - From the Wing

Is the pawn center strong, or is it weak? In classical theory, the player with more pawns in the center had the advantage. But later it became known that central pawns, which are not sufficiently supported by pieces, could become a target.
2 Challenges
Undermining the e-pawn

Undermining the e-pawn

The White center - is it weak or strong? It all depends on the specifics. Sometimes that center charges forward, opening lines and destroying the black position, or sometimes it simply restricts the Black pieces until they suffocate. Other times it is a paper tiger which is only a weakness.
4 Challenges
Son of Sorrow

Son of Sorrow

The word Benoni means "son of sorrow" in Hebrew. I am not sure how the opening got this name, but it is clear what the source of sorrow is for Black in the Benoni - the d6 pawn!
1 Challenge
Hot Pawn

Hot Pawn

Here we see a typical tactic in the Benoni. Black maneuvers a knight and leaves a crucial center pawn hanging! But it is a poisoned pawn.
4 Challenges
From the Kingside to the Queenside...

From the Kingside to the Queenside...

White has a rook, knight, and bishop against a queen - a material advantage. But the White king is vulnerable and White pieces uncoordinated. Most importantly, the Benoni queenside majority is bearing down on White. But Black must act fast, before White coordinates!
3 Challenges
Tal's Benoni Prowess

Tal's Benoni Prowess

One of the greatest heroes of the Benoni is the eighth world champion, Mikhail Tal. Here we see an example of how quickly he annihilates his opponent from a typical Benoni position.
9 Challenges
Penrose's Method

Penrose's Method

Mikhail Tal was one of the greatest Benoni players. But everyone loses sometimes. This game created a sensation - the newly-minted world champion lost to the little-known English player. Penrose's positional sacrifice became a well-known method in these structures.
8 Challenges
Highways of the Board

Highways of the Board

Here we will see some of the typicaly most important lines and squares in Benoni positions - the e-file, the long diagonal, and the e5 square.
9 Challenges
Black Square Magic

Black Square Magic

Most of the course deals with the so-called 'modern Benoni' structure - with black pawns on d6 and c5 against White pawns on d5 and e4. But there are other Benonis as well. Here we see an example of the calcified center of the Czech Benoni.
1 Challenge
Kingside Attack

Kingside Attack

The Benoni is a very strategically rich opening. Although Black's powerful queenside majority and fianchettoed bishop might indicate that you will be playing on the queenside, sometimes you can use the control of kingside squares to start an attack there.
4 Challenges
Breaking the Blockade

Breaking the Blockade

Sometimes there can be a blockade throughout the board. And sometimes there may be only one chance to break that blockade!
4 Challenges
Smyslov Slays the Benoni

Smyslov Slays the Benoni

In the Benoni one of White's main trumps is his central majority and command of space in the center. This is the factor that caused the Benoni to be considered a disreputable opening to many classicists. Black has his advantages to compensate for this, but he must always be on the lookout for the explosive advance by White in the center.
4 Challenges
Grip on the Outposts

Grip on the Outposts

Black in the Benoni often has to be ready to make material sacrifices for positional or tactical reasons. Here is a thematic example.
4 Challenges
The Poor Benoni Bishop

The Poor Benoni Bishop

The dark squared bishop is the soul of the Benoni. If it is in bad shape (as here, blocked by the pawn on f6) then the whole position suffers. Here Kasparov gives us a thematic example of positional domination.
4 Challenges
Squeezing the Benoni

Squeezing the Benoni

The Benoni is an active opening, but nothing is for free. If you play badly you can end up in some terrible positional torture!
6 Challenges
Marshmallow

Marshmallow

It is later in the game, and the remnants of the Benoni structure can barely be perceived. Lightning strikes from a hardly-clear sky!
3 Challenges
Positional Turning Point

Positional Turning Point

Sometimes Black can play too riskily in the Benoni. But if you are White, you have to know how to deal with that risky play, or you could end up in trouble!
3 Challenges
Suba's Surprise

Suba's Surprise

Viktor Kortchnoi surprised Benoni hero Mihai Suba with a prepared line - but Suba found a shocking counter-surprise over the board!
6 Challenges

The Benoni and its Tactics

Openings
19 Lessons
No Videos
85 Challenges
Released November 12, 2007
19,406 Students