The Benko Gambit

by Bill Wall

 

The Benko Gambit is a chess opening characterized by the move 3b5 in the Benoni Defense (1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 c5 3.d5 e6 is the Modern Benoni) arising after: 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 c5 3.d5 b5. The Benko Gambit Accepted (usually, White takes the pawn) is 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 c5 3.d5 b5 4.cxb5. The proper Benko Gambit Accepted is 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 c5 3.d5 b5 4.cxb5 a6 as opposed to 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 c5 3.d5 b5 4.cxb5 e6, the Volga Gambit.

The Encyclopedia of Chess Openings (ECO) code for the opening is A57-59. A57 is for the Benko Gambit Declined after 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 c5 3.d5 b5 and not taking the gambit pawn. Alternatives in declining the gambit include 4.Nf3, 4.Nd2, 4.a4, 4.Qc2, and 4.Bg5. A58 is 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 c5 3.d5 b5 4.cxb5 a6 bxa6. A59 is 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 c5 3.d5 b5 4.cxb5 a6 5.bxa6 Bxa6 (latest theory is for Black to play 5g6 first) 6.Nc3 d6 7.e4.

Rudolf Spielmann experimented with an early b5 in 1922 and 1923, but not from the normal order of moves. His games went:

Akiba Rubinstein Rudolf Spielmann, Vienna, 1922

1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 c5 3.d5 b5 4.c4 Bb7 5.a4 bxc4 6.Nc3 e6 7.e4 Nxe4 8.Nxe4 exd5 9.Nc3 d4 10.Bxc4 dxc3 11.Bxf7+ Kxf7 12.Qb3+ c4 13.Ne5+ Kg8 14.Qxb7 Nc6 15.Nxc6 Qe8+ 16.Be3 cxb2 17.Qxb2 dxc6 18.O-O Bd6 19.Qc3 Qe6 20.Rac1 Kf7 21.Rfe1 Rhe8 22.Bf4 Qg6 23.Qxc4+ Kf8 24.Bxd6+ Qxd6 25.Re3 Qd5 26.Qxc6 Qxc6 27.Rxc6 Red8 28.g3 Rd7 29.a5 Rb8 30.h4 Rb5 31.a6 Ra5 32.Kg2 Ra2 33.h5 Ra5 34.h6 gxh6 35.Rxh6 Kg7 36.Rc6 Rf5 37.Rec3 Rff7 38.f4 Rfe7 39.Kh3 Rf7 40.R3c5 Kf8 41.Kh4 Ke7 42.Rb5 Kf8 43.f5 Rfe7 44.g4 Kf7 45.Kh5 Re1 46.Kg5 Ree7 47.Rb8 1-0

 

Egil Jacobsen Spielmann, Copenhagen, 1923

1.Nf3 Nf6 2.d4 c5 3.d5 b5 4.c4 Bb7 5.Bg5 Ne4 6.Nc3 Nxg5 7.Nxg5 e6 8.Qd2 b4 9.Nd1 Be7 10.Nf3 O-O 11.e4 f5 12.Bd3 d6 13.O-O Nd7 14.Qc2 Ne5 15.Nxe5 dxe5 16.exf5 exd5 17.cxd5 Bxd5 18.Ne3 Bb7 19.Rad1 Qb6 20.Bc4+ Kh8 21.Bd5 Rab8 22.b3 Bg5 23.Nc4 Qc7 24.Bxb7 Rxb7 25.Rd5 Bf6 26.Qe4 Rd8 27.Rfd1 Rbb8 28.Nxe5 Bxe5 29.Qxe5 Rxd5 30.Rxd5 Qxe5 31.Rxe5 Rc8 32.g3 Kg8 33.Re7 a5 34.Ra7 c4 35.bxc4 Rc5 36.h3 Rxf5 37.Rc7 Rf3 38.c5 Rc3 39.c6 a4 40.Rb7 b3 41.axb3 axb3 42.Kg2 Rxc6 43.Rxb3 h6 44.f4 Kf7

45.Kf3 Kf6 46.Kg4 Ra6 47.h4 Rc6 48.Rb5 Rc3 49.Rb6+ Kf7 50.h5 Ra3 51.Rb4 Kf6 52.Kh4 Rc3 53.g4 Rf3 54.Rb6+ Kf7 55.Rb7+ Kf8 56.Rb4 Ra3 57.Rb8+ Kf7 58.Rb7+ Kf8 59.g5 hxg5 60.fxg5 Ra4+ 61.Kg3 Ra8 62.Kf4 Kg8 63.g6 Rc8 64.Ke5 Ra8 65.Ke6 Rc8 66.Ke7 Ra8 67.Rd7 Rc8 68.Rd8+ Rxd8 69.Kxd8 Kf8 70.Kd7 Kg8 71.Kd6 Kf8 72.Ke6 Kg8 73.Ke7 Kh8 74.h6 Kg8 75.h7+ Kh8 76.Kd6 1/2-1/2

 

Alekhine also played an early b5.

 

Tarrasch Alekhine, Bad Pistyan 1922

1. d4 Nf6 2. Nf3 e6 3. c4 c5 4. d5 b5 5. dxe6 fxe6 6. cxb5 d5 7. e3 Bd6 8. Nc3 O-O 9. Be2 Bb7 10. b3 Nbd7 11. Bb2 Qe7 12. O-O Rad8 13. Qc2 e5 14. Rfe1 e4 15. Nd2 Ne5 16. Nd1 Nfg4 17. Bxg4 Nxg4 18. Nf1 Qg5 19. h3 Nh6 20. Kh1 Nf5 21. Nh2 d4 22. Bc1 d3 23. Qc4+ Kh8 24. Bb2 Ng3+ 25. Kg1 Bd5 26. Qa4 Ne2+ 27. Kh1 Rf7 28. Qa6 h5 29. b6 Ng3+ 30. Kg1 axb6 31. Qxb6 Ne2+ 32. Kh1 Ng3+ 33. Kg1 d2 34. Rf1 Nxf1 35. Nxf1 Be6 36. Kh1 Bxh3 37. gxh3 Rf3 38. Ng3 h4 39. Bf6 Qxf6 40. Nxe4 Rxh3+ 0-1

 

Karel Opocensky (1892-1975) started playing b5, but without a6 in 1934.

 

J Dobais Opocensky, Prague 1934

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 c5 3.d5 d6 4.Nc3 g6 5.e4 b5 6.cxb5 Bg7 7.Nf3 O-O 8.Bd3 Qc7 9.Nd2 e6 10.O-O Bb7 11.Qf3 Nbd7 12.Nc4 Nb6 13.Bg5 Nfd7 14.dxe6 fxe6 15.Qh3 Rae8 16.Rad1 d5 17.exd5 exd5 18.Nxb6 Nxb6 19.Bh6 c4 20.Bxg7 Qxg7 21.Bc2 d4 22.Na4 Nd5 23.Qg4 Nf4 24.Rfe1 Rxe1+ 25.Rxe1 Nxg2 26.Rd1 Nf4 27.Kf1 d3 28.Bb1 Qd4 29.Nc3 Bg2+ 30.Ke1 Re8+ 31.Kd2 Re2+ 32.Kc1 d2+ 0-1

 

World womens chess champion Vera Menchik also experimented with b5.

 

Ragozin Menchik, Moscow 1935

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 c5 3.d5 d6 4.Nc3 g6 5.e4 b5 6.cxb5 Bg7 7.Nf3 O-O 8.Be2 Bb7 9.O-O Nbd7 10.Nd2 Qc7 11.a4 a6 12.Nc4 Rfb8 13.Qc2 Qd8 14.Bd2 Ne8 15.Ra3 e6 16.Ne3 Nc7 17.Bc4 Kh8 18.Qb3 Nb6 19.dxe6 Nxc4 20.Qxc4 axb5 21.Nxb5 fxe6 22.Bc3 Bc6 23.Bxg7+ Kxg7 24.Nxc7 Qxc7 25.Qxe6 Re8 26.Nf5+ Kf8 27.Qf6+ 1-0

 

Opocensky was one of the first chess masters to sacrifice the pawn and play b5 with a6. He first played in at Podebrady in 1936 against Gideon Stahlberg. However, his game began as a Kings Indian Defense.

Possibly the first use of the now-standard move order 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 c5 3.d5 b5 was Thorvaldsson-Vaitonis, Munich Olympiad 1936.

Einar Thorvaldsson- Paul Vaitonis, Munich Olympiad 1936, Rd 5

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 c5 3.d5 b5 4.cxb5 e6 5.Nc3 exd5 6.Nxd5 Bb7 7.Nc3 d5 8.e3 d4 9.Nb1 Bd6 10.Nf3 Bxf3 11.Qxf3 Nbd7 12.exd4 O-O 13.dxc5 Bxc5 14.Qd1 Qe7+ (14Ne4) 15.Be2 Ne5 16.O-O Rad8 17.Qb3 Neg4 18.Bxg4 Nxg4 19.Bd2 Qe2 20.Qf3 Qxf1+ (21.Kxf1 Nxh2+ 22.Ke2 Nxf3 23.Kxf3 Rfe8) 0-1

 

Vaitonis also played this variation in the 1939 Chess Olympiad.

 

S. Morales Vaitonis, Buenos Aires Chess Olympiad 1939

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 c5 3.d5 b5 4.Nc3 b4 5.Nb1 e6 6.e3 Bb7 7.dxe6 fxe6 8.Nf3 d5 9.Nbd2 Bd6 10.b3 O-O 11.Bb2 Nbd7 12.Qc2 Qe7 13.Bd3 a5 14.O-O a4 15.Rad1 a3 16.Ba1 Rae8 17.cxd5 exd5 18.Rfe1 Ne4 19.Nf1 Ndf6 20.Re2 Kh8 21.N3d2 Qf7 22.Bxe4 Nxe4 23.Nxe4 Rxe4 24.f4 Rfe8 25.Rde1 Ba6 26.Rf2 d4 27.Rf3 Rxf4 28.Qf2 Rxf3 29.gxf3 Qe6 30.e4 Bf4 31.Kh1 Qh3 32.Ng3 Be3 33.Rxe3 dxe3 34.Qxe3 Rd8 35.Bxg7+ Kg8 36.Qg1 Be2 37.Nxe2 Qxf3+ 38.Qg2 Rd1+ 39.Ng1 Qxg2+ 40.Kxg2 Kxg7 0-1

 

The opening was played in the 1945 USSR championship.

V. Alatortsev B. Ratner, 14th USSR ch, Moscow, 1945

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 c5 3.d5 b5 4.cxb5 e6 5.Nc3 exd5 6.Nxd5 Bb7 7.Nxf6+ Qxf6 8.Nf3 d5 9.g3 Qb6 10.a4 Be7 11.Bg2 Bf6 12.O-O O-O 13.Rb1 h6 14.b4 d4 15.bxc5 Qxc5 16.Qd3 Rd8 17.Ba3 Qh5 18.Ng5 Qxg5 19.Bxb7 Nd7 20.f4 Qh5

21.Bxa8 Rxa8 22.Qf3 Qxf3 23.Rxf3 Nb6 24.a5 Nc4 25.Rd3 Nxa5 26.Bc5 Nc4 27.Bxd4 Be7 28.Ra1 Bd8 29.Rxa7 Rb8 30.Kg2 Ba5 31.Rb3 Rd8 32.e3 Rb8

33.Ra6 Bb6 34.Bxb6 Nxb6 35.Ra7 g6 36.e4 Kg7 37.e5 Kf8 38.Rc3 Nd5 39.Rc5 Rd8 40.Kf3 Ke8 41.Ke4 Ne7 42.b6 1-0

 

In Russia, the opening is known as the Volga Gambit. This name is derived from the Volga River after an article about 3b5 by the little known Russian chess player Boris Argunov, published in Shakhmaty v SSSR (Chess in the USSR) in 1946. He analyzed various gambit lines in the magazine, including 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 c5 3.d5 b5 4.cxb5 a6 5.bxa6 e6. Argunov lived in Kuibyshev (now Samara) on the banks of the river Volga and attached that name to the variation 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 c5 3.d5 b5 4.cxb5 a6 5.bxa6 e6 (but not 5a6). The Volga Gambit name was suggested by Peter Romanovsky (1892-1964).

 

By 1948, International Masker Erik Lundin and Mijo Udovcic were playing this opening with some success.

 

David Bronstein Erik Lundin, Saltsjobaden Interzonal 1948 (round 8)

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 c5 3.d5 d6 4.Nc3 g6 5.e4 b5 6.cxb5 Bg7 7.Be2 a6 8.Nf3 O-O 9.bxa6 Bxa6 10.Bxa6 Nxa6 11.O-O Nd7 12.Bg5 Rb8 13.Qd2 Re8 14.Rab1 Qa5 15.Rfc1 Nc7 16.Bh6 Bf6 17.a3 Rb3 18.Qc2 Reb8 19.Nd2 R3b7 20.Nc4 Qa6 21.Qa4 Qxa4 22.Nxa4 Nb5 23.b4 Nd4 24.Kf1 Bg7 25.Be3 Ra8 26.bxc5 Rxb1 27.Rxb1 dxc5 28.Nab6 Rb8 29.a4 Nxb6 30.Rxb6 Rxb6 31.Nxb6 Nb3 32.Ke2 Bc3 33.Kd3 Ba5 34.Kc4 1-0

 

A few rounds later, Lundin improved on the order of the moves, playing a normal Benko Gambit, and won his game.

 

Laslo Szabo Erik Lundin, Saltsjobaden Interzonal 1948 (round 19)

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 c5 3.d5 b5!? 4.cxb5 a6 5.bxa6 g6 6.Nc3 Bxa6 7.e4 d6 8.Bxa6 Nxa6 9.Nf3 Bg7 10.O-O Nd7 11.Bf4 O-O 12.Qe2 Qc7 13.Rfc1 Rfb8 14.Rab1 Bxc3 15.Rxc3 Qa5 16.Nd2 Nc7 17.Ra3 Qb6 18.Rxa8 Rxa8 19.a3 Nb5 20.Be3 Ra4 21.Rc1 Nd4 22.Bxd4 cxd4 23.Nf3 Nf6 24.Qc2 Ra5 25.Nd2 d3 26.Qc7 Qxb2 27.e5 Qxd2 28.exf6 exf6 29.h4 Kg7 30.Qc3 Qxc3 31.Rxc3 Rxd5 32.Rc1 g5 33.Kf1 gxh4 34.Ra1 f5 35.a4 Kf6 36.Ke1 Re5+ 37.Kd2 Re2+ 38.Kxd3 Rxf2 39.a5 Rxg2 40.a6 Rg8 41.Kc4 f4 42.Kd5 Kf5 43.Kc6 f3 44.Kb7 0-1

 

Lundins play of the Benko Gambit actually decided first place in the Interzonal. Bronstein and Szabo were tied for 1st place going into the final round. Szabo lost his game, allowing for Bronstein to take 1st place and Szabo finished in 2nd place. However, the pawn sacrifice was not convincing enough in the opening to become fashionable yet.

 

Bozic Udovcic, Belgrade 1948

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 c5 3.d5 b5 4.cxb5 a6 5.bxa6 Bxa6 6.Nc3 d6 7.e4 g6 8.Bxa6 Nxa6 9.Nge2 Bg7 10.O-O O-O 11.f3 Qd7 12.Be3 Rfb8 13.Qd2 Nc7 14.Rac1 Rb4 15.Rc2 Rab8 16.Nc1 Nfe8 17.Nd3 R4b7 18.Rb1 Na6 19.Ne2 Nec7 20.Rbc1 f5 21.b3 fxe4 22.fxe4 Nb4 23.Nxb4 Rxb4 24.Rc4 Rxc4 25.Rxc4 Rf8 26.Rc1 Qg4 27.Qd3 Be5 28.h3 Qh4 29.Kh1 g5 30.Bg1 g4 31.Nc3 Rf3 32.Qd2 Bf4 33.Qe2 Bxc1 34.gxf3 Qxh3+ 35.Qh2 Qxf3+ 36.Qg2 Qxc3 37.Qxg4+ Qg7 38.Qc8+ Qf8 39.Qg4+ 0-1

 

David Bronstein played b5 at the Candidates tournament in 1953 and won.

 

Mark Taimanov David Bronstein, Zurich (Candidates tournament) 1953

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 c5 3.d5 g6 4.Nc3 d6 5.e4 b5 6.cxb5 Bg7 7.Nf3 O-O 8.Be2 a6 9.bxa6 Bxa6 10.O-O Qc7 11.Re1 Nbd7 12.Bxa6 Rxa6 13.Qe2 Rfa8 14.h3 Nb6 15.Bg5 Ne8 16.Bd2 Na4 17.Nxa4 Rxa4 18.Bc3 Bxc3 19.bxc3 Qa5 20.Qd3 Qa6! 21.Qd2 Rxa2 22.Rxa2 Qxa2 23.e5 Qxd2 24.Nxd2 dxe5 25.Rxe5 Kf8 26.Nb3 c4 27.Nc5 Ra1+ 28.Kh2 Nf6 29.Ne4 Nd7 30.Rg5 Ra2 31.Rg4 f5 32.Rf4 Nb6 33.Ng5 Nxd5 34.Rd4 Nb6 35.Rd8+ Kg7 36.f4 h6 37.Ne6+ Kf7 38.Nd4 Na4 39.Rc8 Nxc3 40.Rxc4 Nd5 41.Nf3 Rxg2+ 42.Kh1 Rf2 0-1

 

Still, the b5 sacrifice was rarely adopted in tournaments after this game, as it was still considered dubious.

 

The opening was played in the 1959 US championship.

 

Arthur Bisguier Sidney Bernstein, New York (US ch) 1959

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 c5 3.d5 b5 4.cxb5 e6 5.dxe6 fxe6 6.Nc3 Bb7 7.Nf3 d5 8.e4 d4 9.e5 Ng4 10.h3 Nh6 11.Bxh6 gxh6 12.Nb1 Bg7 13.Bc4 O-O 14.Bxe6+ Kh8 15.Nbd2 Qe7 16.Qb3 Bxe5 17.Nxe5 Rf6 18.O-O Rxe6 19.f4 Nd7 20.Ndf3 Rg8 21.Rf2 Bxf3 22.Nxf3 Re4 23.Qa3 Nf6 24.Rc1 Re3 25.Qxc5 Qg7 26.Rcc2 Ne4 27.Qxd4 Qxd4 28.Nxd4 Nxf2 29.Rxf2 Rd8 30.Nc6 Rd1+ 31.Kh2 h5 32.f5 Kg7 33.f6+ Kf8 34.Nxa7 h4 35.Rf4 Rd2 36.Rxh4 Rxb2 37.a4 Ree2 38.Rg4 h5 39.Rg7 Ra2 40.b6 Rxa4 41.b7 1-0

 

Other early players who played 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 c5 3.d5 b5 before Pal Benko include Jan Sefc, Boris Milic, Alberic OKelly de Galway, John Littlewood, Rolf Martens, Vladimir Kozomara, Istvan Bilek, Bill Hartston

 

In 1967, Pal Benko began playing this variation, which later became known as the Benko Gambit. Benko himself was calling the opening Benoni Countergambit when he first started playing it. More than anyone else, Benko demonstrated the playability of 3b5.

Here are some of Benkos earliest games with this variation.

Milan Vukic Pal Benko, Sarajevo 1967

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 c5 3.d5 b5 4.cxb5 a6 5.bxa6 Bxa6 6.Nc3 d6 7.Nf3 g6 8.g3 Bg7 9.Bg2 O-O 10.O-O Nbd7 11.Qc2 Qb6 12.Rd1 Rfb8 13.Rb1 Ne8 14.Bg5 Qd8 15.Bf1 h6 16.Bd2 Nc7 17.b3 Nb6 18.e4 Bxf1 19.Kxf1 Qd7 20.Re1 Kh7

21.Kg2 e6 22.dxe6 Nxe6 23.Ne2 d5 24.Nf4 dxe4 25.Rxe4 Nd4 26.Nxd4 cxd4 27.a4 Qb7 28.f3 Nxa4 29.Rbe1 Qxb3 30.Qxb3 Rxb3 31.Re7 Rb2 32.R1e2 Nc3

33.Bxc3 dxc3 34.Rxf7 Raa2 35.Kf1 g5 36.Rxg7+ Kxg7 37.Ne6+ Kf6 38.Nd4 Rxe2 39.Nxe2 Ra1+ 0-1

 

Larry Kaufman Benko, Aspen (US Open) 1968

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 c5 3.d5 b5 4.cxb5 a6 5.e3 g6 6.Nc3 Bg7 7.bxa6 O-O 8.Nf3 d6 9.e4 Qa5 10.Nd2 Bxa6 11.Bxa6 Qxa6 12.Qe2 Nfd7 13.Nc4 f5 14.f3 fxe4 15.fxe4 Nb6 16.Nxb6 Qxb6 17.Rf1 Nd7 18.Rxf8+ Rxf8 19.Be3 Rb8 20.Nd1 Ne5 21.Kf1 Qb4 22.Bd2 Rf8+ 23.Kg1 Qd4+ 24.Be3 Qxe4 25.Nc3 Qc4 26.Rf1 Rb8 27.Bc1 Qxe2 28.Nxe2 Nd3 29.b3 Nb4 30.Bg5 Nxd5 31.Rd1 e6 32.Nf4 Bd4+ 33.Kh1 Nc3 34.Rf1 Rf8 35.Re1 e5 36.Ne6 Rf2 37.Bh4 Rxa2 38.Rf1 Ra8 39.Bd8 Bf2 40.g3 Ra2 41.Kg2 Ne4 42.Kf3 d5 43.Rd1 Bd4 44.Nxd4 cxd4 45.Re1 Rf2+ 46.Kg4 Rxh2 0-1

 

Ron Gross Benko, Aspen (US Open) 1968

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 c5 3.d5 b5 4.cxb5 a6 5.bxa6 g6 6.Nc3 Bxa6 7.e4 Bxf1 8.Kxf1 d6 9.Nge2 Bg7 10.g3 O-O 11.Kg2 Qb6 12.Rb1 Na6 13.b3 Nc7 14.f3 e6 15.dxe6 fxe6 16.Be3 Qc6 17.Qd2 d5 18.exd5 exd5 19.Bf4 d4 20.Na4 Nfd5 21.Rhf1 Ne6 22.Rf2 d3 23.Ng1 Nexf4+ 24.gxf4 Nxf4+ 25.Kh1 Bd4 26.Rff1 Ne2 0-1

 

Herbert Avram Benko, Aspen (US Open) 1968

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 c5 3.d5 b5 4.cxb5 a6 5.bxa6 Bxa6 6.Nc3 d6 7.e4 Bxf1 8.Kxf1 g6 9.g4 Bg7 10.Kg2 O-O 11.h3 e6 12.dxe6 fxe6 13.e5 Ne8 14.exd6 Nxd6 15.Qe2 Qd7 16.f4 Nc6 17.Nf3 Nd4 18.Nxd4 cxd4 19.Ne4 Qc6 20.Re1 Rfd8 21.Qf3 Nxe4 22.Rxe4 d3 23.Bd2 Bxb2 24.Rd1 Rxa2 25.Rb4 Qd6 26.Kg3 Bf6 27.Qe4 Rxd2 28.Rxd2 Bc3
29.Rbb2 Bxb2 30.Rxb2 d2 31.Rxd2 Qa3+ 0-1

 

 

Arnold Denker Benko, Lincoln (US Open) 1969

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 c5 3.d5 b5 4.cxb5 a6 5.bxa6 Bxa6 6.Nc3 d6 7.g3 g6 8.Bg2 Bg7 9.Nh3 Nbd7 10.O-O O-O 11.Qc2 Qa5 12.Bg5 Rfb8 13.Rfe1 Ra7 14.Rab1 Rab7 15.Bd2 c4 16.b4 cxb3 17.Rxb3 Bc4 18.Rxb7 Rxb7 19.Ng5 Qa6 20.Rc1 Rb8 21.Bh3 Nc5 22.Be3 Nxd5 23.Nxd5 Bxd5 24.Bxc5 dxc5 25.Qxc5 Bxa2 26.Qxe7 Bf6 27.Qe3 Bxg5 1/2-1/2

 

Visier Benko, Malaga 1969

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 c5 3.d5 b5 4.cxb5 a6 5.bxa6 g6 6.Nc3 Bxa6 7.e4 Bxf1 8.Kxf1 d6 9.g4 Bg7 10.f3 O-O 11.Nge2 e6 12.Kg2 exd5 13.Nxd5 Nc6 14.Nec3 Nxd5 15.exd5 Nb4 16.h4 f5 17.g5 c4 18.a3 Nd3 19.Rb1 Qb6 20.Qc2 Rfe8 21.Kg3 Be5+ 22.Kg2 Bxc3 23.bxc3 Qc5 0-1

 

Mendoza Benko, Malaga 1969

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 c5 3.d5 b5 4.cxb5 a6 5.b6 Qxb6 6.Nc3 g6 7.e4 d6 8.Rb1 Bg7 9.Qa4+ Nbd7 10.Bd2 O-O 11.Nf3 Rb8 12.Bd3 c4 13.Be3 Nc5 14.Qxc4 Nfd7 15.O-O a5 16.Bd4 1/2-1/2

 

Villarroel Benko, Caracas 1970

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 c5 3.d5 b5 4.cxb5 a6 5.bxa6 Bxa6 6.Nc3 d6 7.g3 g6 8.Bg2 Bg7 9.Nf3 O-O 10.O-O Nbd7 11.Re1 Qa5 12.Rb1 Rfb8 13.Bd2 Qd8 14.b3 Ne8 15.Qc2 Ra7 16.h4 Nef6 17.Rbd1 Qc7 18.Bf4 h5 19.Rc1 Rab7 20.Red1 Qa5 21.Na4 Qd8 22.Nb2 Ra7 23.Bf1 Ng4 24.e3 Bxf1 25.Kxf1 Rxa2 26.Rb1 Ndf6 27.Qc1 Qd7 28.Kg2 Qb5 29.Nc4 Rxf2+ 30.Kg1 Ra2 31.Nfd2 Nxd5 32.Ne4 Ndf6 33.Ng5 Qc6 34.Rd2 Rba8 35.Qe1 Ne4 36.Nxe4 Qxe4 37.Rbd1 Qb7 38.e4 Qxb3 39.Qe2 Bd4+ 40.Kg2 R8a3 0-1

 

In the 1970s, many top players were playing the Benko Gambit. International masters and grandmasters included Spassky, Szabo, Gheorghiu, Browne, Diez del Corral, Schmid, Bilek, Donner, Jansa, Rubinetti, Stein, Knaak, Vasiukov, Levy, Ree, Alburt, Pytel, Ciocaltea, Tringov, Formanek, De Fotis, Evans, Calvo, Bellon, Damjanovic, Markland, Stean, Palatnik, Diesen, Webb, Tseshkovsky, Geller, Lengyel, Miles, Vaganian, Savon, Tukmakov, Parma, Gaprindashvili, and Fedorowicz.

 

At the 1972 Chess Olympiad in Skopje, Yugoslavia (Macedonia), the Banko Gambit was played 16 times. Black scored an amazing 10 wins, 6 draws, and no losses. This was the most successful opening variation for Black at the tournament.

 

More recently, the Benko Gambit has been played by world champion Magnus Carlsen, Kasparov, Anand, Topalov, Ivanchuk, Caruana Rogers, Khalifman, Adams, Hodgson, Judit Polgar, and Shirov.

 

The theory is that Black offers the b5 pawn in return for a slight lead in development and a superior pawn structure. The main idea is that Black gets strong positional pressure against Whites queenside. Black tries to get two open queenside files for rooks and an open diagonal with a fianchettoed bishop after g6 and Bg7. In the endgame, White usually is left with an isolated and weak a-pawn or b-pawn. Blacks pawns are usually connected and protected, and therefore strong.

After 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 c5 3.d5 b5 4.cxb5 a6 (Black clears his queenside pawns to open lines for his pieces) 5.bxa6 (5.b6 and 5.Nc3 are good alternatives) 5Bxa6 (or 5g6!), Black has positional compensation in return for the sacrificed pawn. There is usually a vulnerability with Whites pawns on a2 and b2 which can be attacked along the a- and b-files, as well as along the a1-h8 and a2-g8 diagonals. White has difficulties in developing due to pressure along the f1-a6 diagonal. With the Black bishop on a6, this usually discourages e4 and the pressure against b2, which ties down the White bishop on c1.

After 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 c5 3.d5 b5 4.cxb5 a6 5.bxa6, the latest theory is to play 5g6 instead of 5Bxa6 right away. The point of the immediate 5g6 is that Black wants to stop White from putting his bishop on b2 by retaining for a move the option of Nxa6. Then after the normal 6.Nc3, now Black plays 6Bxa6 instead of 6Bg7, which allows White to play 7.e4 Bxa6 8.Bxa6. White then gets to exchange bishops on his own terms without losing the right to castle.

For White, he should be looking for opportunities to return the extra pawn in order to obtain advantages elsewhere. White needs to build up the center or strong kingside and defend the queenside. White must play very patiently and cautiously, compared with which Black has the initiative and a positional advantage as well.

In 1973, Pal Benko wrote Benko Gambit. He pointed out the advantages for Black in compensation for the sacrificed pawn. He wrote that Black has an advantage in development. His bishop at a6 (after 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 c5 3.d5 b5 4.cxb5 a6 5.bxa6 Bxa6) hinders Whites efforts to carry out the natural developing move e4. In addition, a hidden advantage is the fact that Blacks Queen Rook stands on a useful open file without having had to move.

Benko also pointed out that Blacks pawn structure is compact but not inflexible. Black can play e6, f5, c4 and freeing the c5 square for a piece and breaking the defense of Whites Queenside. Blacks pawn sacrifice has also removed an important White central pawn, which makes the natural White central breakthrough (e4-e5) more difficult because his Queen pawn will be undefended.

The Benko Gambit is probably unique in that Black plays a gambit opening and sacrifices a pawn, and then tries actively to exchange pieces to simplify the position. The endgame favors Black, even if the gambit pawn has not been regained.

The variation 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 c5 3.d5 b5 4.cxb5 a6 5.bxa6 Bxa6 6.Nc3 d6 7.e4 Bxf1 8.Kxf1 is known as the Kings Walk Variation.

The variation 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 c5 3.d5 b5 4.cxb5 a6 5.bxa6 Bxa6 6.g3 is known as the Fianchetto System.

The variation 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 c5 3.d5 b5 4.cxb5 a6 5.e3 is known as the Modern Variation.

The variation 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 c5 3.d5 b5 4.cxb5 a6 5.Nc3 axb5 is known as the Zaitsev Variation.

 

The variation 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 c5 3.d5 b5 4.Nf3 is known as the Anti-Benko Variation.

 

Here are some short Benko games:

 

J. Rudolf R. Weemaes, Gent 1997

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 c5 3. d5 b5 4. cxb5 a6 5. Nc3 axb5 6. e4 b4 7. Nb5 Nxe4 8. Qe2 1-0
Bill Wall  Giaveno, chess.com 2013
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 c5 3.d5 b5 4.cxb5 a6 5.Nc3 e6 6.e4 exd5 7.e5 Ne4? 8.Qxd5 1-0

 

Kirchenhoff Foldi, Dortmund 1986

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 c5 3. d5 b5 4. cxb5 a6 5. Nc3 axb5 6. Nxb5 Ba6 7. e3? Bxb5 8. Bxb5 Qa5+ 0-1

 

Hultin Fromm, Sweden 1992

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 c5 3. d5 b5 4. cxb5 a6 5. Nc3 axb5 6. e4 b4 7. Nb5 Nxe4 8. Qe2 Nf6?? 9. Nd6 mate 1-0
 

Buggler Guarisco, Europe 1987

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 c5 3. d5 b5 4. cxb5 a6 5. Nc3 d6 6. e4 axb5 7. Bf4 b4 8. Nb5 Nxe4 9. Qe2 Nf6 10. Nxd6+ 1-0

 

Brandt Fuellbeck, Porz 1995

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 c5 3. d5 b5 4. cxb5 a6 5. Nc3 axb5 6. e4 b4 7. Nb5 d6 
8. Bf4 g5 9. e5 Ng4 10. exd6 gxf4 11. Nc7+ 1-0

 

Gokhale Cadillon, Linares 1997

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 c5 3. d5 b5 4. Nf3 bxc4 5. Nc3 g6 6. e4 d6 7. Bxc4 Bg7 
8. e5 dxe5 9. Nxe5 O-O 10. O-O Nbd7 11. Nc6 1-0

 

Kholovsky Khomenko, Corr. 1988

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 c5 3. d5 b5 4. cxb5 a6 5. bxa6 g6 6. g3 Bg7 7. Bg2 d6 
8. Nf3 Qa5+ 9. Nc3 Ne4 10. Bd2 Nxc3 11. Qc2 Qa4 0-1

 

Domanski Schlesinger, Giessen 1991

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 c5 3. d5 b5 4. cxb5 a6 5. e3 axb5 6. Bxb5 Qa5+ 7. Nc3 
Bb7 8. Bd2 Qb6 9. Bc4 e6 10. Bc1 Qb4 11. Qb3 exd5 0-1

 

Spassov,L-Adorjan,A, Sochi 1977

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 c5 3.d5 b5 4.Nf3 g6 5.g3 Bg7 6.Bg2 d6 7.cxb5 a6 8.bxa6 Qa5+ 9.Nc3 Ne4 10.Qc2 Nxc3 11.Bd2 Qa4 (0-1)

 

J. Scott Benham, Corr. 1985

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 c5 3.d5 b5 4.Nf3 Bb7 5.a4 a6 6.axb5 axb5 7.Rxa8 Bxa8 8.Nc3 b4 9.Nb5 d6 10.Qa4 Nbd7 11.Qa7 Qb8 12.Qxb8+ (12Nxb8 13.Nc7+ and 14.Nxa8)

 

Stocek Taggatz, Bled 1998

1.d4 Nf6 2,c4 c5 3.d5 b5 4.Nf3 g6 5.cxb5 a6 6.Nc3 axb5 7.d6 Bg7 8.Bf4 Nc6 9.e3 b4 10.Nb5 O-O 11.dxe7 Nxe7 12.Bc7 (12Qe8 13.Nd6) 1-0

 

R. Kaufman  D. Abrahams, Toronto 2009
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 c5 3.d5 b5 4.Nf3 Bb7 5.Nfd2 Qa5 6.Qc2 e6 7.e4 bxc4 8.Nc3 exd5 9.exd5 Qc7 10.Nxc4 Nxd5 11.Qe4+ Ne7 12.Qxb7 (12Qxb7 13.Nd6+ Kd8 14.Nxb7+) 1-0

 

Puffy Bill Wall, Internet 1996

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 c5 3. d5 b5 4. b3 bxc4 5. bxc4 d6 6. Nc3 g6 7. e4 Bg7 8.Nf3 Nxe4 9. Nxe4 Bxa1 10. Bh6 Qa5+ 11. Bd2 Qxa2 12. Bd3 Bg7 0-1

 

Bill Wall J. Winkler, North Carolina 1978

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 c5 3.d5 b5 4.cxb5 a6 5.Nc3 axb5 6.Nxb6 Bb7 7.Nc3 Qa5 8.Bd2 Qb6 9.e4 e6 10.Bc4 Nxe4 11.Nxe4 exd5 12.Nf6+ Qxf6 13.Bc3 Qe6+ 14.Be2 d4 0-1

 

Beil - Borgo, Reggio Emillia 1987

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 c5 3.d5 b5 4.cxb5 a6 5.bxa6 g6 6.Nc3 Bxa6 7.Nf3 Bg7 8.g3 d6 9.Bg2 0-0 10.0-0 Nbd7 11.Qc2 Qa5 12.Bd2 Nb6 13.b3 c4 14.Na4 cxb3 15.axb3 (1-0)

 

Bill Wall S. Hudson, chess.com 2013

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 c5 3.d5 b5 4.cxb5 Qa5+ 5.Bd2 Qxb5 6.e4 Qb7 7.Nc3 Qxb2? 8.Rb1 Qa3 9.Nb5 Qxa2 10.Ra1 Qb2 11.Bc3 Qxa1 12.Qxa1 Nxe4 Nc7+ 1-0

 

Bernstein-Marko, Philadephia 1982

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 c5 3.d5 b5 4.cxb5 a6 5.Nc3 axb5 6.Nxb5 Ba6 7.Nc3 g6 8.g3
d6 9.Bg2 Bg7 10.e4 Nbd7 11.Nge2 O-O 12.O-O Qc7 13.Re1 Rfb8 14.f4 Ra7 
15.Kh1 Ng4 16.Ng1 Nf2# 0-1

 

Julio Reyes Wall, San Antonio 1992

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 c5 3. d5 b5 4. Na3 b4 5. Nc2 d6 6. e3 e6 7. Bd3 exd5 8. Qf3 Bg4 9. Qf4 dxc4 10. Bxc4 d5 11. Qe5+ Be6 12. Bb5+ Nbd7 13. Bc6 Rc8 14. Bxd7+ Qxd7 15. Nf3 h6 16. O-O? Bd6 0-1

 

Norwood - Beaumont, England (BCF Ch) 1988

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 c5 3.d5 b5 4.cxb5 a6 5.e3 axb5 6.Bxb5 Qa5+ 7.Nc3 Ba6 8.Bxa6 Qxa6 9.Nge2 g6 10.0-0 d6 11.Rb1 Bg7 12.b4 cxb4 13.Rxb4 0-0 14.e4 Rc8 15.Qb3 Nbd7 16.Be3 Ng4 17.Ra4 Qd3 (1-0)

 

Farago - Ermenkov,Prague 1985

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 c5 3.d5 b5 4.cxb5 a6 5.e3 Bb7 6.Nc3 axb5 7.Bxb5 Qa5 8.Bd2 Qb6 9.Qb3 e6 10.e4 Nxe4 11.Nxe4 Bxd5 12.Qd3 f5 13.Ng3 Bxg2 14.N1e2 Bxh1 15.Nxh1 Be7 16.Bc3 0-0 17.Bxd7 Rd8 18.Qg3 Bf8 (0-1)

 

S. Saeed Lev Alburt, Mende Taxco Interzonal 1985

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 c5 3.d5 b5 4.cxb5 a6 5.bxa6 Bxa6 6.Nc3 g6 7.Nf3 d6 8.g3 Bg7 9.Bg2 Nbd7 10.0-0 Nb6 11.Rb1 Bc4 12.Nd2 Bxa2 13.Nxa2 Rxa2 14.Qb3 Ra8 15.Qb5+ Nfd7 16.Nb3 Rb8 17.Qc6 0-0 18.f4 Nc4 19.Na1 Na3 (0-1)

 

Ken Greer Wall, Palo Alto 1989

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 c5 3. d5 b5 4. cxb5 a6 5. Na3 axb5 6. Qc2 d6 7. e4 b4 8. Nc4 g6 9. Bg5 Bg7 10. Nf3 O-O 11. h4 h6 12. Bxf6 exf6 13. Bd3 Re8 14. e5 dxe5 15. O-O f5 16. Ncxe5 Bxe5 17. Bb5 Nd7 18. Rfe1 Bd6 19. Rxe8+ Qxe8 0-1

 

For other Benko chess miniatures, see this link.

 

References:

Bellin and Ponzetto, Mastering the Modern Benoni and the Benko Gambit, 1990

Benko, The Benko Gambit, 1973

Edwards, Power Play! Benko Gambit!, 1993

Emms, Jones, Palliser, Ward, Dangerous Weapons The Benoni and Benko, 2008

Fedorowicz, The Complete Benko Gambit

Foxy Chess Openings: Benko Gambit Accepted

Gufeld, The Benko Gambit, 1988

Jacobs, Trends: Benko Gambit, 1989

Jacobs, Trends in the Benko Gambit, Volume 2, 1992

Jacobs, Trends in the Benko Gambit, Volume 3, 1996

Jacobs, Winning With the Benko, 1995

Jacobs & Kinsman, The Benko Gambit, 1999

Kalinichenko & Nesis, Wolga-Benko-Gambit (German)

Kasparov, Sergey, The Dynamic Benko Gambit, 2012

Kraai, Introduction to the Benko Gambit, chesslecture.com

Martin, The ABC of the Benko Gambit

Martin, Play the Benko Gambit, 2007

McDonald, The Benko Gambit Revealed, 2004

Pedersen, Play the Benko Gambit

Pedersen, The Gambit Guide to the Benko Gambit, 1999

Pinski, The Benko Gambit, 2005

Tay, The Benko Gambit, Move by Move

Wallace, Bashing the Benko Gambit, chesslecture.com

Walton, The Benko Gambit, 2002

 

 

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