The Benoni defense
The Benoni defense is, and has been always, one of the most important openings to play aggressively against white’s queen pawn. It’s an interesting opening that will allow you some activity and asymmetrical play with black.
We could call the Benoni the Sicilian for the queen pawn, it’s even characterized by the same move (c5). And it will give you great positions for the attack, is an incredible opening that many masters like.
The reason is simple, it will allow you so many plans with black, is an opening that gives you chances to play both in the queenside and kingside. Different from other defenses with black against the queen pawn, the Benoni gives you great chances to counter-attack.
However, there are many lines and ideas for both sides, and the amount of theory about it is huge. For that reason, we will explain to you some systems to play with black the Benoni defense, and how white should play.
If you want to master the Benoni defense you should really read this post. We will give you some theory first, then give some practical ideas that you can apply to the game instantly, and some samples to reinforce your learning.
The mainlines of the Benoni defense
First, to enter the Benoni defense you have to play the following moves: 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 c5 and this is the Benoni. We can reach the same position in different ways like playing c5 first instead of Nf6.
There is also a huge probability that any other queen pawn opening transposes to the Benoni defense. You have to know that what is characteristic in this opening is the pawn structure with pawns on d6 and c5.
There are many ways to reach the Benoni positions. This means that the plans we are going to see can be applied in other openings too.
We should play differently depending on the setup that white assumes, but the essence of the position is still the same.
For example: 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 c5 3.d5 e6 4.Nc3 exd5 5.cxd5 d6 6.e4 (is one of the most common approaches for White, e4, f4 and push e5 to créate a passed pawn on d5) g6 7.f4 Bg7 8.Bb5+ Nfd7 (forced, otherwise white plays e5 and we lose) 9.a4 O-O 10.Nf3 Na6 11.O-O Nc7 (Nb4 is also playable) 12.Bxd7 Bxd7. And here there are many ideas, like the aggressive f5 by white.
In this opening, our setup will be with the bishop on g7, Nf6, and the other knight could maneuver Na6-Nc7 or b4. We want to control the e-file and push b5 at the correct moment, we will talk more about that.
There is other important setup that we must talk about, the following: 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 c5 3.d5 e6 4.Nc3 exd5 5.cxd5 d6 6.e4 g6 7.h3 (important to stop Bg4 before it happens) Bg7 8.Nf3 O-O 9.Bd3 (here the move by black is interesting, requires explanation) b5 (a thematic move, White can capture the pawn, but you will recapture it on e4, this is mainline).
Now, there is the last setup we must talk about:
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 c5 3.d5 e6 4.Nc3 exd5 5.cxd5 d6 6.g3 g6 7.Nf3 Bg7 8.Bg2 O-O 9.O-O this is the fianchetto variation of the Benoni defense. It’s very interesting as it gives some problems to black.
Here I will recommend you to play with a fun exchange sacrifice! Like this: Re8 10.Bf4 Ne4 (to exchange a piece, which is good for black) 11.Nxe4 Rxe4 12.Nd2 Rb4 13.a3 Rxf4! (Like this we weaken white’s pawn structure and we will get a better development) 14.gxf4 Bxb2 15.Ra2 Bg7 16.e4 Na6. We have a whole game yet to be decided, but this is surely a great position for black!
Plans and ideas of the Benoni defense
There are important ideas we can list out:
- Remember that exchanging one piece is in most cases advantageous for black because has less space.
- Remember that your best piece is the g7 bishop
- You always want to have the e5 pawn advance by white under control in the opening
- If you have the opportunity to play b5 in conditions do it
- The e5 and d4 square are the ones you must fight to control
- When you play b5 make sure to open the b-file for your rooks, along with the g7 bishop you can have good pressure on b2.
These are pretty much the ideas that you have to consider. Along with your own analysis of the previous variation, you should have a better understanding of the Benoni defense now.
Sample games with the Benoni defense
Another impressive game:
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