Michael plays the white side of a Benko Gambit and shows how to punish some anti-positional moves from black. I play the Benko myself occasionally and have had mixed results. The only way to win with it is to generate counter-play as quickly as possible, striving for open lines on the queenside as much as possible. Black’s approach is different and white builds up a good position very quickly.
Replay game here: Kennedy vs. Reynolds
Kennedy vs Reynolds 2009, Benko Gambit
1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 c5 3. d5 b5 4. cxb5 Bb7
This is a very unusual move in this position. The overwhelmingly favoured move is a6, immediately challenging the b5 pawn. White then can take on a6 (Benko Gambit Accepted) or advance to b6 (a more modern treatment) or stay where it is. In any case, black gets lots of play on the queen side as compensation for the lost pawn.
5. Nc3 g6
The logical follow-up to Bb7 would be to play e6, to try and isolate the d5 pawn and put pressure on the central white squares.
6. e4 d6 7. Nf3 Bg7 8. Nd2
White immediately starts a plan to transfer the knight to c4. This is a common theme in Benoni-type positions, with pawns for white on e4 and d5, and black pawns on c5 and d6. In those positions, black has normally played e6 and loosened protection for the d6 pawn. White’s plan there is to increase pressure on d6. Here, it is more likely to increase the pressure on the queenside and forestall the freeing advance e5/e6.
8…O-O 9. Nc4 Nbd7 10. Be2 Nb6
To be considered now for white is Na5!, increasing pressure on the bishop on b7 and the weak c6 square, which he may even try and occupy. His own move keeps an advantage however.
11. Ne3 Qc7 12. a4 Rad8 13. O-O e5
Now black’s problems are almost fatal. e5 fails to weaken white’s grip on the white squares or open the e-file, he is facing a5 followed by Nc4 next, his fianchettoed black-squared bishop is blocked, and he is still a pawn down. The position resembles a King’ Indian (at least on the kindside) but the difference here is that white has an overwhelming position on the queenside.
14. a5 Nc8 15.Nc4 Qe7 16. Bg5 h6 17. Be3 Nd7 18. Qd2 Kh7 19. Bd3 f5
A move that at least generates counterplay. Again, this move is almost invariably part of a King’s Indian plan to counter-attack on the kindside. But the chances of succeeding here are not good.
20. exf5 gxf5 21. f3 Qf6 22. g4!
A great move, that completely turns the tables on black’s attack. It might be hard to visualise such a move, which looks weakening, but in fact it is right. Black, of course, cannot advance the f5 pawn, and because of white’s superior space advantage and better pieces, his attack crashes through.
22…Ne7 23. Kh1 Rg8 24. gxf5 Nxf5??
But this is the final blunder and black’s position collapses. He exposes his knight to the pin, with no hope of saving it.
25. Ne4 Qf8 26. Nexd6
Attacking both b7 and f5…
26… Ba8 27. Bxf5+ Kh8 28. Bg6
Or Bxh6, which might be even quicker! 28…Bxd5 29. Qxd5 1-0