The Evolution of the Benko Gambit

Our November Chess Life infographic honors the legacy of Pal Benko by sketching the evolution of his most famous creation, the Benko Gambit. Here, in this extended web extra, we expand upon what appears in our memorial issue, giving some more details about the six positions provided there. Position 1: Taimanov vs. Bronstein Zürich Candidates Tournament, 1953
The "spiritual forebearer" of the Modern Volga / Benko Gambit. Bronstein's famous game at Zürich 1953 is widely considered the first such gambit, although Lundin played it earlier, including in a game against Bronstein, and Russian masters had analyzed it in print before Bronstein played this game.
[pgn]

[Event "Candidates Tournament"]
[Site "Zuerich"]
[Date "1953.08.30"]
[Round "1"]
[White "Taimanov, Mark E"]
[Black "Bronstein, David Ionovich"]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "A58"]
[PlyCount "84"]
[EventDate "1953.08.30"]
[EventType "tourn"]
[EventRounds "30"]
[EventCountry "SUI"]
[SourceTitle "Candidates"]
[Source "ChessBase"]
[SourceDate "1999.07.01"]
[SourceVersion "2"]
[SourceVersionDate "1999.07.01"]
[SourceQuality "1"]

1.d4 Nf6 2. c4 c5 3. d5 g6 (3... 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 (44) Szabo,L-Lundin,
E Saltsjobaden 1948}) 4. Nc3 d6 5. e4 b5 {[#]} 6. cxb5 Bg7 7. Nf3 O-O 8. Be2 a6
9. bxa6 Bxa6 10. O-O (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 (34) Bronstein,D-Lundin,E Saltsjobaden 1948}) 10...
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

[/pgn]
Position 2: Kaufman vs. Benko 69th US Open, Aspen, 1968
One of the first games in the Benko by Benko.
[pgn]

[Event "USA Annual op-ch69"]
[Site "Aspen"]
[Date "1968.08.??"]
[Round "?"]
[White "Kaufman, Larry C"]
[Black "Benko, Pal C"]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "A57"]
[PlyCount "92"]
[EventDate "1968.08.11"]
[EventType "swiss"]
[EventRounds "11"]
[EventCountry "USA"]
[SourceTitle "EXT 1999"]
[Source "ChessBase"]
[SourceDate "1998.11.16"]
[SourceVersion "1"]
[SourceVersionDate "1998.11.16"]
[SourceQuality "1"]

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

[/pgn]
Position 3: Kovacs vs. Benko Debrecen, 1975
A typical mid-70s Benko, and a pretty game to boot.
[pgn]

[Event "Debrecen"]
[Site "Debrecen"]
[Date "1975.??.??"]
[Round "?"]
[White "Kovacs, Laszlo M"]
[Black "Benko, Pal C"]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "A58"]
[PlyCount "52"]
[EventDate "1975.??.??"]
[EventType "game"]
[EventRounds "1"]
[EventCountry "HUN"]
[SourceTitle "EXT 2010"]
[Source "ChessBase"]
[SourceDate "2010.11.25"]
[SourceVersion "1"]
[SourceVersionDate "2010.11.25"]
[SourceQuality "1"]

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 c5 3. d5
b5 4. cxb5 a6 5. bxa6 Bxa6 6. Nc3 d6 7. g3 g6 8. Nh3 Bg7 9. Nf4 Nbd7 10. h4 O-O
11. h5 Ne5 12. hxg6 hxg6 13. Bh3 Qa5 14. Qc2 Rfb8 15. Ne6 Bh8 16. f4 Ned7 17.
f5 fxe6 18. fxg6 Nf8 19. Bh6 Bg7 20. Qc1 {[#]} Rxb2 21. Bxg7 Rxe2+ 22. Kd1 Ne4
23. Bd4 Nxc3+ 24. Qxc3 Qa4+ 25. Kc1 Qxd4 26. Qf3 Qxa1# 0-1

[/pgn]
Position 4: Dlugy vs. Cramling Brussels, 1987
In the 80s and 90s people began trying to find advantages by declining the gambit. Here Dlugy tries 5.f3, which gives White an advantage if Black goes for the standard ideas with ...g6 and ...Bg7. Eventually theory settled on 5...e6 as a good response, and while 5.f3 is still played, it is not considered critical.
[pgn]

[Event "Brussels mix"]
[Site "Brussels"]
[Date "1987.??.??"]
[Round "6"]
[White "Dlugy, Maxim"]
[Black "Cramling, Pia"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "A57"]
[WhiteElo "2545"]
[BlackElo "2445"]
[Annotator "Hartmann,John"]
[PlyCount "89"]
[EventDate "1987.12.??"]
[EventType "schev"]
[EventRounds "8"]
[EventCountry "BEL"]
[EventCategory "11"]
[SourceTitle "EXT 1997"]
[Source "ChessBase"]
[SourceDate "1996.11.15"]
[SourceVersion "1"]
[SourceVersionDate "1996.11.15"]
[SourceQuality "1"]

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 c5 3. d5 b5 4. cxb5 a6 5. f3 {[#]} (5. Nc3) (5. b6)
(5. e3) 5... g6 (5... e6 6. e4 exd5 7. e5 Qe7 (7... Nh5 8. Qxd5 Qh4+ 9. g3 Nxg3
10. hxg3 Qxg3+ 11. Kd1 Ra7 12. Ne2 Qf2 13. Nbc3 Bb7 14. b6 Bxd5 15. bxa7 Bd6
16. Nxd5 O-O 17. a8=Q {1-0 (17) Dlugy,M (2520)-Polgar,Z (2495) Mendrisio 1987})
8. Qe2 Ng8 9. Nc3 Bb7 10. Nh3 c4 11. Nf4 Qc5 12. Nfxd5 Bxd5 13. Be3 Qb4 14. a3
Qa5 15. Bd2 Be6 16. Nd5 Qd8 (16... c3) 17. Qxc4 $13 {1-0 (41) Nakamura,H (2704)
-Vachier Lagrave,M (2716) Cap d'Agde 2008}) (5... axb5 6. e4 Qa5+ 7. Bd2 b4 8.
Na3 d6 9. Nc4) (5... d6 6. e4 g6) 6. e4 d6 7. a4 Bg7 8. Na3 O-O 9. Ne2 Ne8 10.
Nc3 Nd7 11. Be2 Nc7 12. O-O axb5 13. Naxb5 Nxb5 14. Nxb5 Qb6 15. Qc2 c4+ 16.
Kh1 Ba6 17. Qxc4 Rfc8 18. Qb3 Qc5 19. Rb1 Ne5 20. Bg5 h6 21. Rbc1 hxg5 22. Rxc5
Rxc5 23. Qd1 Nc4 24. b4 Rcc8 25. Qc1 Nb2 26. Qxg5 Bf6 27. Qe3 Nxa4 28. f4 Nc3
29. Nxc3 Rxc3 30. Qd2 Bxe2 31. Qxe2 Rb3 32. e5 Bg7 33. h4 Rxb4 34. h5 dxe5 35.
hxg6 Rxf4 36. Rxf4 exf4 37. Qxe7 fxg6 38. d6 Bf8 39. Qe6+ Kg7 40. d7 f3 41.
gxf3 Ra1+ 42. Kg2 Rd1 43. Qe5+ Kh7 44. Qe8 Rd2+ 45. Kf1 1-0

[/pgn]
Position 5: Nakamura vs. Bologan Biel, 2012
Around 2010 12.a4 (and the associated 12.Qe2) was discovered in the Fianchetto line. The idea is to put the knight on b5, the rook on a3, etc., and Black has a surprisingly difficult time coming up with counterplay. Avrukh replaced his original recommendation in GM Repertoire 1.d4 with this move in the new second edition.
[pgn]

[Event "Biel GM 45th"]
[Site "Biel"]
[Date "2012.08.02"]
[Round "10"]
[White "Nakamura, Hikaru"]
[Black "Bologan, Viktor"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "A59"]
[WhiteElo "2778"]
[BlackElo "2732"]
[PlyCount "115"]
[EventDate "2012.07.23"]
[EventType "tourn"]
[EventRounds "10"]
[EventCountry "SUI"]
[EventCategory "21"]
[SourceTitle "CBM 150"]
[Source "ChessBase"]
[SourceDate "2012.09.14"]
[SourceVersion "1"]
[SourceVersionDate "2012.09.14"]
[SourceQuality "1"]

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. Nf3 Bg7 10. g3 O-O 11. Kg2 Nbd7 12. a4 {[#]} (12. Qe2
Qb6 13. a4 {is the move order in the Carlsen-Bologan game.}) 12... Qb6 13. Qe2
Rfb8 14. Bd2 (14. Nb5 Ne8 15. Bg5 Qd8 16. Ra3 Nb6 17. b3 Qd7 18. Ra2 f6 19. Bc1
f5 20. exf5 gxf5 21. Rd1 Nf6 22. Qe6+ Qxe6 23. dxe6 Ne4 24. Nh4 c4 25. bxc4
Nxc4 26. Nc7 Nc3 27. Nxa8 Nxa2 28. Nc7 Nc3 29. Rd3 Rc8 30. Nb5 Nxb5 31. axb5
Rc5 32. Rb3 Na5 33. Rb1 Bd4 34. b6 Nb7 35. Rb4 Bxf2 36. Kxf2 Rc2+ 37. Kf3 Rxc1
38. Nxf5 Rf1+ 39. Kg4 Nc5 40. b7 {1-0 (40) Carlsen,M (2837)-Bologan,V (2732)
Biel 2012 CBM 150 [Stohl,I]}) 14... Ne8 15. Rhb1 Nc7 16. Nd1 Qa6 17. Qxa6 Rxa6
18. a5 f5 19. exf5 Nxd5 20. fxg6 hxg6 21. Ra4 Nb4 22. Ne3 Rb5 23. b3 e6 24.
Bxb4 Rxb4 25. Rxb4 cxb4 26. Rc1 Nc5 27. Rc4 Bc3 28. Nd1 Nxb3 29. Nxc3 bxc3 30.
Rxc3 Nc5 31. Ra3 e5 32. Nd2 d5 33. Nf3 Nd7 34. Ne1 Nb8 35. Rb3 Nc6 36. Rb6 Rxb6
37. axb6 Kf7 38. b7 Ke6 39. h4 Kd6 40. g4 e4 41. h5 gxh5 42. gxh5 Kc7 43. h6
Ne5 44. h7 Nf7 45. Kg3 Kxb7 46. Nc2 Kc6 47. Kf4 Kd6 48. Kf5 Ke7 49. Kg6 Kf8 50.
Kf6 Nh8 51. Nd4 Ke8 52. Kg7 Ke7 53. Kxh8 Kf8 54. Ne2 Kf7 55. Nc3 d4 56. Nxe4 d3
57. Nd2 Kf8 58. Nf3 1-0

[/pgn]
Position 6: The Modernized Benko
The “Modernized Benko Gambit” has attracted flocks of Benko players, largely due to problems in the Benko proper. Black focuses on development and postpones decisions about the a6-pawn.
[pgn]

[Event "?"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "2019.11.01"]
[Round "?"]
[White "Modernized Benko"]
[Black "?"]
[Result "*"]
[ECO "A58"]
[Annotator "Hartmann"]
[PlyCount "29"]
[SourceVersionDate "2019.04.24"]

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 c5 3. d5 b5 4. cxb5 a6 5. bxa6 g6 $5 {[#] A new idea, and the
subject of Milos Perunovic's The Modernized Benko Gambit. Benko players have
flocked to it, largely because of the current problems in the Benko proper.} 6.
Nc3 Bg7 7. e4 O-O (7... Qa5 8. a7 $1) 8. a7 $1 {"The most dangerous idea for
Black. White's idea is clear: with Black's rook on a7, he can always win a
tempo with Nb5. Now we can't play ...Qa5 because after Bd2, White has the
threat Nb5." (Perunovic, 109)} ({Avrukh notes that we can't play} 8. Nf3 {
because of} Qa5 $1 {when the pin and attack on e4 forces us to choose between}
9. Bd2 ({and} 9. Nd2)) 8... Rxa7 9. Nf3 e6 {Perunovic's recommendation in The
Modernized Benko Gambit.} ({Black has a few alternatives:} 9... d6 10. Be2 Ba6
11. O-O) (9... Qa5 10. Bd2 $1) (9... Qb6 10. Be2 Ba6 11. O-O) 10. Be2 exd5 11.
exd5 d6 12. O-O Na6 (12... Ba6 13. Re1 {"a simpler route to an edge" (Avrukh)}
(13. Nb5 $5 {(Perunovic)})) 13. Nb5 Rd7 14. Bc4 {Solidifying d5.} Bb7 15. Bg5 {
Perunovic analyzes this position out to move 18, saying that Black has
compensation for the pawn. Avrukh extends that analysis to move 23 and thinks
that White gets the better end of things.} *

[/pgn]

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