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Every Russian Schoolboy Knows: The Modern Benko - Part 6

Opening: A59:

Player(s): Yermolinsky, Doyle, Plaskett

Sometimes the new is a long-forgotten old. This well applies to the topic of my new video series. For years I have struggled with accepting the Benko Gambit as White. Somehow the nature of resulting positions disagreed with my vision of what White should be doing in the opening. The mounting pressure of the Queenside cannot be resolved by the usual method of exchanging pieces. On the contrary, Black seems to be doing better, as pieces leave the board. The lack of a coherent plan plagues White. I ended up turning to a variety of sideline responses to the Benko, the best of which seemed giving back the pawn with 5.b6. While my results with it were more of less OK, I had experienced a certain sense of dissatisfaction, almost as if I was chickening out. The change came thanks to my old friend, GM Suat Atalik. Suat is a tireless researcher of opening ideas, and it's not the first time I benefit from his generosity. This time it was his new idea in the main line Benko. 
In order to understand how this move, 12.a2-a4, came about, I think it would be best to go back some 20 years ago and study Atalik's games with 12.Rf1-e1. The first video features four games that should convince the viewer that White will greatly benefit on economizing on the standard move 12.h2-h3. In videos 2 and 3 I move on to studying the critical response, 12...Nf6-g4.
Despite achieving reasonable results with 12.Re1 GM Suat Atalik had eventually grown dissatisfied with White's prospects. Black's main response, 12...Ng4, opens a forced line which limits White's choices. Suat then turned his attention to the plan with fianchettoing White's bishop and stayed with it for more than a decade. Videos 4 and 5 highlight Atalik's return to the mainline Benko with a new twist, 12.a4!, a multipurpose move, which combines two ideas. One is to invite 12...Ng4, which no longer works, as White gets to chase the black knights back to their camp. The second one is to create an outpost for the white knight on the b5-square. In the latter case, White has the time to complete the Q-side development and remove all possible targets from the long diagonal. This 12.a4 move sold it to me. I began to believe in White's chances in the Classical Benko. I began to believe in White's chances in the Classical Benko. In Video 6 I present two of my latest efforts. The Doyle game features Black rather clumsy attempt to make 12...Ng4 work, which I was able to turn away in resolute fashion. Things weren't that straightforward when I faced a stronger player in English GM James Plaskett. White had to be content with a more modest approach, yet the ideas I learned from Suat's games carried me through to a satisfying victory. I no longer fear the Benko!

Teacher's library (692) A59 Yermolinsky Doyle Plaskett opening

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