- Meet the Benonis
2 games, 2014-2017
I have always liked the Benoni formations although they have never liked me. I’ve tried it on-and-off for many years. When I get Benoni Fever, I play over some of Gligoric’s games against it; that usuallycures me and I move on to the likes of the Stonewall Dutch or QGD Tarrasch.|
The Benoni was first mentioned in a book by Aaron Reinganum, Ben-Oni, oder der vertiedigungen gegen die Gambitzuge in Schache (1825). Here it is:
As every Russian schoolboy knows, ‘Ben-Oni’ means ‘son of sorrow’ in Hebrew. Indeed, sorrow is a constant companion to Benoni players.
The first recorded Benoni:
W Hanstein vs Von Der Lasa, 1841
Staunton vs Saint Amant, 1843
A Clarendon Court Defense with enough holes for a family of moles!
No wonder it went to sleep for 75 years until Alekhine rolled it out several times delaying the KN and playing a fast …f5:
Bogoljubov vs Alekhine, 1934
When I’ve played the Benoni, I’ve tended to mix plans and confuse move orders. Before giving it one more go, I decided to categorize the Benonis with a coding system, find examples of each and go from there in my study.
Here is my coding method for the Benonis sans Snakes and Gambits which I will cover separately.
e-pawn and c-pawn Development
‘A’ - c4(cd) and e4 Kings Full
‘B’ - c4 and e4(ed) Queens Full
‘C’ - e4 only(ed) Kings Semi
‘D’ - c4 only(cd) Queens Semi
(ed and cd when …e6 is played)
An alternative coding is A-c4/e4, B-c4, C-e4 and a separate category for ed or cd. Either way there are minor exceptions. I opted for less categories.
Be7 or Bg7
1 – Bg7 Modern
2 – Be7 Old
a e6 Open
b e7 Semi-Open
c, ‘Closed’ e5
Of course, ‘b’ may become ‘a’ or ‘c’ at some point. In my collection I reference the coding with the final status of the e-pawn. In Meet the Benonis – Part II I will endeavor to sort out the various move orders, pros-cons of each. It didn't seem to make sense to study move orders until I knew what it was and what it could become!
x Early Nf6
y ~Early Nf6
The development of the KN. Needless to say this could be further divided as games are found: …Ne7 …Nh6 and perhaps even …Nf6->h5->g7. Again, delaying the development of the KN offers some move order opportunities.
Thus, we can describe the Czech Benoni 1. d4, Nf6 2. c4 c5 3. d5 e5 4. Nc3 d6 5 e4 Be7 as: A2cx.
The exception (see above) in my categorization is that it could also be B2cx.
In this scheme there are 32 possible Benonis. As we'll see, some are impossible. Here is the complete Benoni coding:
This coding also allows me to keep my game collection orderly and also allows for placing unusual Benonis. Naming the Benonis is difficult for two reasons – different names have been used for the same variation and the same name has been used for different variations! There is also old/modern, open/closed/semi, Schmid, Hromadka, etc. Of course, Knoch's - Full Benoni Major,Minor, Spanish Part Benoni Blitz, Wing, Gambit, Rex.
My primary References:
Play Against 1. d4 – Palliser
Starting Out: Benoni Systems - Raetsky
Benoni – Gelenczei
Benoni – Hartston
Czech Benoni – Hoffman
Modern Benoni - Zuethen
Modern Benoni Dynamics - Zuethen
Wing Benoni: A Key to Structures - Zuethen
Wing Benoni Gambit - Zuethen
Franco-Benoni Defense – Soltis
Barcza-Larsen Defense - Fields
Die Komplette Moderne Benoni 1 – Schneider
Die Komplette Moderne Benoni 2 – Schneider
Die Komplette Moderne Benoni 3 – Schneider
Alt Benoni Verteidigung –Stoljar/Kondratjew
Theorie der Schach-Eroffunungen VI-VII - Euwe
Pawn Power in Chess (Benoni Formations) - Kmoch
Indicka Plukovnika Hromadky
Trends Czech Benoni 1 – Hodgson
Trends Czech Benoni 2 – Sher
Trends in the Modern Benoni 1 – Norwood
Trends in the Modern Benoni 2 – Norwood
Trends in the Modern Benoni 3 - Ward
Randspringer 1 to 6 (1982-1987)
ChessPublishing.com – 2011 to2016
Here are examples of each Benoni Code with names where they exist and brief notes:
- My 50 Years in Chess
234 games, 1843-2017
Through my 50 years in chess, certain games have stood out. These are some of them which I continue to enjoy playing over time-and-time-again, including more recent parties up to the present day.|
- Shak and Awe - The Power Play of Mamedyarov
42 games, 1999-2017
Shak and Awe - The Power Play Technique of GM Mamedyarov|
The key to the Shak and Awe is in a rapid and often early advance of one or more central pawns to the fifth and even sixth rank, keeping them mobile as long as possible. The goal is twofold:
1) To disrupt the harmony of the opponents position, often splitting the board in two.
2) Make way for the advance of the pieces for (usually) a direct attack on the opposition monarch.
It is essentially a Power Play line-clearing and square-clearing method. GM Mamedyarov has a high propensity for mobile centers as a means to the ends of line and square clearing. In a way it is a mobius-strip hypermodern idea - controlling rather than occupying the center.
It may be as simple as advancing e5 to make e4 a square for a piece – or a full advance of three central pawns, with one often moving to the 6th or even 7th rank. Shak has more games as White with a pawn on d6 than any other player I have studied!
While other attacking players such as Alekhine, Geller and Ivanchuk have used this idea - and line/square clearing are of course common strategic and tactical themes - GM Mamadyerov has taken it to an entirely new level of science and art!
Because it requires an initiative to execute, it is almost exclusively a White technique. As you can see in the games I have gathered, Shak-and-Awe may be conducted pianissimo or fortissimo; largo or presto.
The technique ‘resonates’ for me because of a lesson I was once given by a Senior Master on the QGA – “If you can play d5 without immediate and serious consequences to your position, do it, as it effectively dynamites Blacks position."
Finally, the Shak and Awe is a kissing cousin to the Spassky Battery motif… and they overlap often in GM Mamedyarov’s games.
- The Caro-Kann According to ...
11 games, 1885-2015
Masters of the Caro-Kann Defense.|
- The English According to...
33 games, 1843-2019
The English Opening as essayed by various masters over the course of modern chess history.|
- The French According to ...
29 games, 1896-2016
The French Defense as played by specialists over the course of modern chess history.|
- The Ruy Lopez According to ...
12 games, 1907-2009
How GMs through the years have handled the white side of the Closed Ruy Lopez|
- The Sicilian-Najdorf According to ...
15 games, 1953-2015
The Najdorf Variation as played by some of its top proponents over the years.|
- The Sicilian-Scheveningen According to:
24 games, 1925-2014
How masters past and present have handled the Scheveningen Variation of the Sicilian Defense.|
- The Spassky Battery
10 games, 1900-2014
A little-known series of books by Charushin highlights a number of attacking motifs typically discovered and used by a specific player: Alekhine's Block, The Steeplechase, Combination Cross, Mitrofanov's Deflection and Lasker's Combination.|
These motifs tend to be at the nexus of tactics and strategy. They are not as simple as a pin or double attack; relying more on specific and enduring positional characteristics.
In going over Spassky's games some years back I discovered what I call the Spassky Battery. The Spassky Battery involves having two or (usually) three or four pieces occupying the central squares for one, two or three moves. Such a setup radiates a tremendous and often conclusive amount of force on the opponents position. Thus, the Spassky Battery is - like a pin, double fork or passed pawn - something to strive for in certain positions.
The Primary SB squares are of course e4, d4, e5, d5. The Secondary squares are e3, d3, e6, d6. The Tertiary SB squares are c4, c5, f4, f5. Divisions may also be made based on whether the central squares are occupied with minor or major pieces. For a true Spassky Battery at least one piece must be on a Primary square.
- Triumph die Hypermoderne Schachpartie
154 games, 1921-2017
I've always been attracted to the Hypermodern style of play. It is usually more narrowly defined than it is, in fact. It also has much in common with the Dynamic style of play. |
Hypermodernism is not just about controlling versus occupying the center. Rather it is a tapestry of themes concerning the center and its relationship to pawns, pieces and time.
A) Central pawns may be held back and used powerfully in the later middlegame or even endgame (See Reti-Rubinstein and Botvinnik-Dueckstein). The later they make the appearance, the better they can be maintained and the more likely they can be pushed through.
B) Conversely, central pawns can be pushed aggressively through the center early and quickly to make room for the pieces and disorganize the opponents forces. (See Mamedyarov-Morozevich and Lalic-Hebden). This motif may also include the Spassky Battery.
C) As Black the idea of flexibility (or more recently called 'information') is a Hypermodern theme. As in the O'Kelly Sicilian or Hippo Robatsch Black waits before committing to any particular theme in the center. In a sense it is an 'anti-initiative' and could reasonably be considered the fifth-wheel of chess along with space, time (initiative), position and material. This theme endeavors to use White's move advantage against him. (See Corredor-Pravia-Ivkov). The two Norwood-Robatsch maneuvers involve saving ones own tempi whilst the opponent 'wastes' his are examples. In this category, especially in the Robatsch, move order can make all the difference in the world.
D) In a few instances, the pawn center may kept in restraint while the hypermodernist challenges from the wings. The Exchange Grunfeld and Alekhine's Four Pawn Attack see two flavors of this theme. Restraining a mobile pawn center is no easy task. (See Fedorov-Baburin). The Mobius Strip of this is the Strong Point defenses such as the Ruy Lopez Breyer, Philidor, Old Indian, Lion and Gunderdam. Also, in my opinion, very difficult to play for Black. There are also the Small Center defenses such as the Rubinstein French - but neither of these, IMHO, relates specifically to hypermodernism.
E) Closed games with pawn chains are also part of the Hypermodern venue; blocking the center and playing on the wings and against the pawn chain (See Polugaevsky-Stein).
F) Re-positioning a Knight or Bishop very early in the opening can create a totally different dynamic in the center and across the entire board. (See the 'Fischer-Random Piece' games.) Indeed, this is where the Ruy Lopez Berlin gets some of its resiliency - the Knight maneuver Nf6-Ne4-Nd6.
Thus, as opposed to occupying the center with pawns one may 1) Hold back the center pawns, 2) Push them through aggressively, 3) As Black, await developments before committing to a central theme,4) Allowing your opponent a large pawn center and attacking it or simply retraining it while attacking on the wings, 5) Block the center with the pawns and work against the extended pawn chain, or even 6) Alter the central dynamic with a Fischer-Random piece.
A player who skillfully combined the Hypermodern and Dynamic styles was Leonid Stein. His games with a double fianchetto are especially entertaining and instructive (See Stein-Hartoch).
Modern players who often use hypermodern themes include Larsen, Suttles, Lombardy, Barcza, Bilek, Ivkov, Szabo, Keene, Basman, Miles, Day, Welling, Gerzadowicz, Hort, Csom, Suba, Romanishin, Ivanov, Blatny, Davies, Nepomniachtchi, Rapport and Jobava.