Playing the Benko Gambit

The Benko gambit is a fun opening that suits my playing style quite nicely. The idea is that Black sacrifices a pawn in order to have active counterplay against the Queenside. In the following game I played against Mike Odell (~1930 USCF) we followed the classical mainline and Black was able to develop a very nice game.


  • 6 years ago

    NM zkman

    Hi, I was just looking for some fellow Benko-lovers and stumbled across your game. I just had a few point of constructive criticism to expand your Benko knowledge. 

    1. Your comment on move 5 is not correct. You wanted to play 5. ...Bxa6 to be able to trade bishops and prevent white from castling if he plays e4. However, since White doesn't have a knight on c3, he cannot play e4. The reason 5. ...g6 is more popular is because after 5. ...Bxa6, a good line is 6. b3 the "Double Fianchetto" Line. This line gives white a small plus against 5. ... Bxa6. However, if Black decides to play 5. ...g6 and White does play 6. b3, Black can play 6. ...Bg7 7. Bb2 d6 8. g3 Nxa6!. This move allows for Nb4 which is very accurate against this system and exploits the weakness of the a2-d5 pawns that White has so far neglected to defend. This little move order subtlety isn't that important but may save you a few headaches in a game or two!

    2. I strongly disagree with your choice on move 11, 11. ...Nb6. White has just played the move Nge2 which does nothing and actually hinders (by blocking a potential Re1) e5. Black really has no need to worry about any center pushes. Also, in general when White's king is placed on g2, it can become exposed as well when a break in the center occurs. I also wouldn't suggest the natural Benko move 11. ...Qa5 against Nge2 due to the fact that this knight is very well fortified. I would probably just castle in this situation however, my plan against this system would probably be as follows. As your plan above indicated your interest in the e6 push, a better way to prepare this would be by, 11. ...0-0, 12. ...Ra7, 13. ...Qa8. This slightly less known setup is very effect due to its relative rarity in comparison to the well known Qa5. Also, if you like the center break idea with e6, this setup is very consistent with this attempt. Also, Rb8 after this setup is achieved puts a ton of pressure on White's Queenside. I'm sure Nb6 is not at all a bad move, maybe just not the best way to exploit White's setup and surely not for the reason of preventing an e5 push. Also a quick reminder, your knight can easily reach d3/c4 with the knight moving the the e5 square, which has so kindly been unprotected by your opponent by his move Nge2. Also, since your knight on d7 can move to b6 and is more useful then your knight on f6, the manuever Ng4-e5 is very useful. 

    I am sorry if this came off as harsh. I just thought that this criticism would definitely help your play and your overall view of the Benko, my favorite opening. I am by no means the strongest player (I'm around 2100 USCF) but have a passion for this opening and just wanted to dish out my two cents. If you have any feedback I would love to hear from you and bounce ideas off one another. 

    Have a good one,


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