Benko Gambit

The Benko Gambit is a completely different response to 1.d4 than say the Albin-Counter Gambit. This approach involves offering two pawns for one in an attempt to open up files a and b for Black.

If the gambit is accepted then Black can put both rooks in command of the two now open files. He will also have a bishop on a6 which will prove a thorn in the side for White's kingside. With this gambit Black can win the development race hands down, fortify his king and build overwhelming pressure on the queenside.

What can White do in the face of these threats. Well White has some strong replies to these lines. Both players need to know their lines in this one because it can get very sharp, very quick. There are three ECO entries devoted to this gambit (A57-59). You can upload your own articles and games on the Benko Gambit.

History of the Benko Gambit

Benko Gambit

Benko Gambit

The Benko Gambit was first played in serious competition in the 1930s. Karel Opocensky, Gideon Stahlberg and Paul Keres employed it in those days. David Bronstein used it to score a good win over Mark Taimanov in a Candidate's Match in 1953.

It was originally known as the Volga Gambit after the Volga River when an article was written on it in Russia in 1946. It's still widely referred to as the Volga Gambit in Russia. In the 1960s, the Hungarian Grandmaster Pal Benko conducted deep analysis on the opening and published a book on it. In his book, The Benko Gambit, many new ideas for the gambit had been unearthed.

The term was retained following that book, particularly in Anglophone countries. Both terms are used and some people even use the term Volga-Benko Gambit.

Benko Gambit Accepted

Benko Gambit Accepted

Benko in the fully accepted line

When White accepts with 4.cxb5 we are entering into a lively encounter as Black will almost certainly come back with 4...a6 offering the second pawn. If White accepts this (he will often refuse playing 5.b6 instead) we are in true Benko territory. Before long we have Bxa6 and the gloves are off.

White's main dilemma is what to do on his kingside. Playing his pawn to e4 has the drawback of the light-square bishop exchange where he will lose the right to castle. Now he's in the King Walk Variation where he will lose a number of moves getting his king safe and developing his rook.

His only real alternative is to fianchetto his kingside bishop. Now he can castle in peace but the problem is he's lumbered with a passive bishop. Playing Ng2 before e4 is another option of course allowing the knight to recapture instead of the king. In this variation, castling remains an option. Here is an analysis of the Benko Accepted using Fritz.

Benko Gambit Declined

Benko Gambit Declined

Benko Declined

White can simply decide that the problems described above are ones he would prefer to avoid. He can do this by declining the gambit. This is usually done by playing 4.Nf3 or 4.a4. Alternatively he can play along with it for one more move before playing 5.e3.

The option of cxb5 will likely remain for a number of moves. White can always opt for the semi-accepted Benko by playing b6 later after Black pushes his outside pawn to a6.

The Declined lines are not so carefree for Black. In the Accepted lines he has a mainly trouble free opening while White deals with all the headaches. The Declined lines are a slightly different story with Black having to watch his step and play quite accurately to achieve equality. Here is an analysis of the Benko Declined courtesy of Fritz.

Post Your Benko Gambit Adventure

Have you ever played the Benko Gambit? Quick development and great queenside initiative for Black. Careful and assured response required from White. Did you play this opening as either White or Black? What are your thoughts on Black's efforts to conquer the queenside and station his light-square bishop as the enemy king's chief tormentor? Is the King Walk Variation or the kingside fianchetto White's best reply? Post a Benko Gambit game you played or maybe one that a famous master played complete with your annotations. Talk us through your game move by move. We want to share your glory! Post Your Benko Gambit Adventure.

Benko Gambit Adventures by other Contributors

Click below to see Benko Gambit Adventures left by other Contributors...

Benko Gambit, Zaitsev Line Not rated yet
In the Benko Gambit, Black can lead development, protect his king and pressurize White’s queenside. White must play accurately to withstand the queenside …

Volga-Benko Gambit Not rated yet
The Benko Gambit is also known as the Volga Gambit. It is a type of chess opening characterized by the move 3…b5. It arises by way of 1.d4 Nf6

Antoshin - Vasiukov Not rated yet
This is a classic Benko Gambit game (fully accepted) played by Vladimir Antoshin and Evgeni Vasiukov in Moscow, Russia in 1972. In this game Evgeni Vasiukov …

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Moving On

Let's finish up by looking at the Benko in action in some real games. We have some success for both sides.

Black has plenty of options then in terms of gambits to tempt White with after 1.d4. But what if White opens on the other side with 1.e4. Surely there is a morsel or two that Black can dangle in front of White.

Our next gambit should not be offered to a grandmaster but you may have good fun with it down the club or playing casual games online. This is the Latvian Gambit.

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