Understanding The Benoni Defense

ECO A75 A65 A67 E76 A73

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 c5 3.d5 e6

Modern Benoni

The Benoni is a sharp, fighting, on the-edge defense. Some claim it is unsound, as white obtains not only a central wedge at d5 but a central pawn majority that can threaten to push Black off the board. Undeniable is that black gains activity. The normal setups givre him open lines, a powerful fianchettoed king's bishop and a dynamic queenside pawn majority.

The Benoni was popularized by Tal Mikhailk (1936-1991) from Latvia, in the1950s and 1960s when he bamboozled the world with fabulous attacks and sacrifices. The opening has gained a following of the most respected risk takers, like Bobby Fischer, Kasparov, Nunn and Firmian. Still, conservative grandmasters would never dream of playing the defense as it requires action from the black side to justify the position.

As the Benoni is one of the most recent defenses, it has undergone more changes than other long-established openings. What was clearly the main line ten years ago is now only one of the few equally respected plans for White. The almost unknown minor variation with h3 and Bd3 has become the hot line for White. Less has changed in the variation in which White plays for a big pawn center with an early f4.

The Modern Benoni is a fierce an fiery defense. Black creates a central pawn structure that allows profitable use of the e5-square. Black will fianchetto the bishop at g7 and use the dard squares, especially e5, as staging posts for a kingside attack. White's firm control of the light squares usually provides an advantage in theory, but in practice the preponderance of tactics is decisive. The Benoni lends itself to miraculous escapes and swindling tactics.

The four most popular variations are the:1.Penrose Variation, 2.Taimanov Variation, 3.Four Pawns Attack and 4.Uhlmann Knight Tour.

Basic Benoni

The Penrose Variation
The Penrose Variation of the Modern Benoni remains quite popular, because White essentially just sets up the formation and then waits to react to Black's plans. This is mostly typical Benoni play, for example reacting to a6 with a4, playing f4 at just the right time to keep an enmy knight out of e5, and eventually organizing the advance of the e-pawn. The system can also be used against the King Indian, though there of course Black is not obliged to advance c5.

Penrose Variation

The Tamanov Variation, currently the most feared weapon in White's arsenal.
Taimanov Variation

The Four Pawn Attack
The Four Pawn Attack is an all out attempt by White to win early in the game. White populates the center with pawns, and controls most of the 5 th rank. But these pawns are vulnerable to counterattacks by Black, and several systems are considered good enough to make Black eager to face this line. There is still much to be discovered, however, as Black and White have significant alternatives to the moves that once held to be the correct way to play, 5...c5. The normal move is castling, but if Black wants to play c5 there is no harm in doing so now. 5...0-0 is explored in other games. The Four Pawns requires both sides to be familiar with a number of different strategies, and therefore it is not recommended to players with poor memories!
Four Pawns Attack

The Unlmann Knight Tour
The Unlmann Knight Tour is the Classical Variation of the Modern Benoni for Black. Black has a large number of plans, but most feature attempting to get a knight t e5 when supported by another piece, since in the event of an exchange Black does not want to have to recapture with a pawn. White will use the advantage in space to act on the queenside, bringing a knight to c4 and advancing the a-pawn, further cramping Blacks position.
The Unlmann Knight Tour