Mastery: Openings

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

    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....

    • 6 challenges
  • 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

    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...

    • 4 challenges
  • 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

    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...

    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...

    • 3 challenges
  • 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 annhilates his opponent from a typical Benoni position.

    • 9 challenges
  • 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...

    • 8 challenges
  • 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

    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

    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

    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

    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,...

    • 4 challenges
  • 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 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

    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

    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

    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

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

    • 6 challenges
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