A 90 30 game, MusiqueWand VS. NFork, Modern Benoni

Yet another 90 30 game against the naturally talented NFork.
I was expecting NFork to play his usual Gruenfeld and prepared a nice line in the Russian variation: 1.c4 Nf6 2.d4 g6 3.Nc3 d5 4.Nf3 Bg7 5.Qb3 as played in Botvinnik – Yudovich Moscow, 1933.
It’s slightly tricky, not all that effective analytically speaking but in practical play the average White wins goes up.
In retrospect it may not be the best choice because the game can transpose to the “Game of the century” as played in: Byrne vs Robert James Fischer, Rosenwald Memorial 1956 but surely White doesn’t have to play Bg5 as White did.

Either way, NFork decided to prepare something delicious too and we ended up playing a Modern Benoni game.

Two funny facts about this game…
One, to quote Benko in his book ‘Winning with Chess Psychology’, “When you’re trying to surprise your opponent you better know for sure that it really is a surprise!!”
In this case, it was not!

My opinions about the Benoni game have been previously mentioned and I’ve also spoke about it quite harshly.
I used to play it myself and have studied it quite a lot (although that was 10 years ago) but as the saying goes: “if god was playing god against the Benoni, White would win”. I believe it was Gallagher who said that.

I have played some interesting lines against the Benoni, including the Timanov variation, modern variation, Penrose variation and off beat avoiding lines as well.

I recently won an IM in 13 moves! It was a Correspondence game and despite her tricky play the main strategy of Nf3-d2-c4 and Bf4 more or less remained the same.
I don’t believe in openings that you can’t play in Correspondence games. 
I’m not against it and I’m certainly not going to refute something that has an amazing practical score but I still have a problem with it.

The game I won against Uwak with 1. d4 Nf6 2. g4 can be considered as a practical opening that wouldn’t stand a chance in Correspondence play.
As far as I’m concerned the same is true with the Benoni.

And two, somehow, don’t ask my how or why I didn’t pay much attention to the opening and played a move I didn’t want to play!
So it’s funny that in the end we were playing a MB line I had no knowledge of!
Luckily I managed to play decent moves and won the game.

I’m supposed to play a Benoni game VS. Phosphorus sometime in the future. The loser will buy a chess book to the winner – it certainly makes you more focused and hungry for the win if you actually have to pay the victor!

Right, to the game….

BTW, at the bottom of this post you will find an online interactive chess board on which you can play through the entire game without the need for a real broad!

[Event "ICC"]
[Site "Internet Chess Club"]
[Date "2011.03.03"]
[White "MusiqueWand"]
[Black "NFork"]
[Result "1-0"]
[TimeControl "5400+30"]

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 c5


3. d5 e6 4. Nc3 


4… exd5 5. cxd5 g6 6. Nf3 

(Strange! What I meant to play was 6. e4 d6 7. Bd3 Bg7 8. Nge2[image]  with a very comfortable game in a Penrose style variation)

6… d6 7. e4 Bg7 8. h3 O-O 9. Bd3 


{This is the modern set up. So far Black hasn’t been able to prove something substantial against it. The h3-pawn prevents …Bg4 and …Ng4. White’s strategy is simple, he’ll castle King side, play Bf4 to pressure Black’s backward d-pawn and then the usual Nf3-d2-c4 and attack the d-pawn. Black can attempt …a6 / …b5 but the simple a4 takes care of that. White has classical development and a rather healthy game, the only minor problem is his somewhat weaker backward e-pawn and Black usually plays …Re8 to pressure it. It would have been to Black’s advantage if he could play …Bg4xf3 because that would deprive White from that important piece and allow Black to take advantage of the e5 square but alas, he can’t! what’s even more interesting is that regardless of strategy most lines are tactically unjustified! If you put these positions through a Rybka analysis you’ll discover that Black’s tactics don’t work!} 

9… b5 

{This is the normal reply. Since …a6 / …b5 requires too much time and can be held off by a4 Black wastes no time and plays …b5 but is it good? Is it a gambit? A pawn sac? A temporary tactic to win White’s centre pawn for a b-pawn? Is it Superman? Well, believe it or not White’s seemingly weaker pawn structure is actually stronger. it’s not easy for Black to take advantage of it while at the same time it’s quite easy for White to play a Knight to c4 and attack Black’s d6-pawn. In adittion, trying to chase the Knight away or gain tempo on it allows White to obtain further space control and a dangerous pawn structure. Whatever black has, seems a mere illusion.} 

10. Nxb5 Nxe4?! 11. Bxe4! 


{Appearances can be deceiving. At best play Black may obtain a dubious, drawing position but even then his endgame is deficient and hard to play. Still, let’s consider some of Black’s ideas: first of all, he needs to regain his lost piece! Therefore the thematic reply will be 11… Re8 and indeed Black played that in the game! Rybka gives 11… Qa5+ as well. The first thing that pops to mind is …Re8 followed by …f5 but surprisingly this is incorrect! Black has to hold on to his initiative and keep the White King in the centre. a critical Benoni player would realize that whatever force is working for him it is the power of his attacking lines. for instance, the combination of …Re8 / … Ba6 / …Qa5! Is the only way for black to play for an advantage. After that he may reposition his b8-Knight to e5 and break through via …f5. this will be a nice way for Black to utilize his set up. The problem is that even then Black must play purely positional moves and accept his material loss! After …Qa5 White will have Nxd6 which attacks the Rook on e8 as well. Life isn’t easy for the Benoni player.}

11… Re8 12. Nd2!! Ba6! 13. a4! f5? 


{As mentioned, 13… Qa5 would be better. [image]  After 14. Nxd6 the best Black can do is to continue with the same approach and play 14… Nd7!? And here White has many ways to play for a definite closure. 15. Nxe8 Rxe8 16. f3 is a simple one, or 15. Qf3 to support the Bishop, or 15. g4!? Or 15. f3. Black just doesn’t have enough to take advantage of White’s King. Another issue in such positions is Black’s DSB which as the game progresses seems to lose its power and attack air.}

14. O-O! 

{Now that White gets to castle his game is a lot easier and significantly more dangerous! Rybla already gives White a winning score.}

14… fxe4 15. Nc4! 


15… Bxb5? 

{There are better moves like 15… Qe7 or 15… Be5 trying to support the d-pawn.[image]  the problem here is seen after White’s next move.}

16. axb5 


{If White gets the opportunity to play Nc4-a5-c6 Black can simply resign because he will never be able to capture it and allow a protected passed pawn on the sixth rank! On the other hand having a Knight on the sixth is stronger than any Rook so either way Black is lost! What else? White has the semi-open a-file, that in itself is an edge but it also allows Whites to play Ra6 which protects the c6-square and attacks Black’s backward… you guest it… d-pawn! Black has development problems, he can’t develop his b8 Knight (or his a8 Rook for that matter) without losing his d-pawn to Nxd6 or Rxd6 and once that pawn falls it’ll be that much easier for White to play Re1 and Nxe4. White is also threatening the powerful Bf4 or if he can Bg5 which as it turns out strikes a massive discombobulation on black’s camp. It’s interesting to point that Black doesn’t have the time to play …Bxb2 and even if he can it’s not really important! White still has beautiful posts and strong pawns to play with.}

16… Nd7
17. Nxd6


17... Re7 18. Bg5! 


18… Nf6?! 

{Black is hoping to for …Re7 and something takes d5 but that’s not going to happen when White can just defend that knight and keep it in place. If 18… Bf6 then 19. Be3! To attack the c-pawn and after 19… Bxb2 20. Ra6! [image]  It’s clear that black is in trouble with simple Qb3 or Nc4 threats.}

19. Ra6 Re5 20. Bf4 1-0



20. Bf4 was a nice move but according to Rybka 20. Qc1 is even better


That would prevent …h6 and open the possibility of Qc4 rather than Qb3 which is slightly better. From c4 the Queen will still attack along the a2- g8 diagonal while protecting the d- and b-pawns. 

I do have one minor issue with it. White can’t play the knight back to c4 but perhaps there is no need.


For instance, after: 20… Re7 21. Qb3 Rd7 22. Re1


The e4-pawn is threatened, there’s pressure along the a2-g8 diagonal. White can still redeploy with Bg5 and a timely Rd1 to both protect and push the pawn.
White is aggressively placed.

* to play through the game with an online digital board, see the game below.

As usual, you can find this game on my ICC library, game number 56.

Play chess online

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