How to play the modern Benoni like Mikhail Tal?

How to play the modern Benoni like Mikhail Tal?

Written by: Emadeldin Teama

How to play the modern Benoni like Mikhail Tal?

The Modern Benoni is also called the son of sorrow. It is an aggressive opening that tend to create many unbalances on the chess board right from the start. It suits players who always play for a win from the first move even with the black pieces. In this article we are going to discuss how the legendary Mikhail Tal played the modern Benoni and how you can play like him as well!

Why did Mikhail Tal prefer the modern Benoni with black?

Mikhail Tal is an aggressive player who strives for the initiative. Throughout his career, he wanted to destroy his opponents with mating combinations and aggressive play. This is simply possible with White because in chess the black player chooses the opening to be played while the white player chooses the variation ”for example if white plays 1-e4 black player can play 1-c5 choosing the Sicilian and now it is up to white to choose the variation and the system to play against”, However when it comes to black, it is not an easy task to play aggressively from an early stage. For those reasons, Tal started exploring the rare openings that were played long time ago and went out of fashion. The Benoni caught his attention as it creates complications from the second move after (1-d4 Nf6 2-c4 c5!).This simply suited Tal and his play perfectly .Tal strategy in every chess game he ever played can be understood through his famous phrase “You must take your opponent into a deep, dark forest where 2+2=5 and the path leading out is only wide enough for one”.he wanted an opening where he can achieve that and the modern benoni was the perfect candidate against 1-d4. He started using the modern Benoni regularly achieving great victories and he became the first world champion to employ this opening as his main weapon against 1-d4.

Is the modern Benoni a sound opening?

Many players dismiss this opening quickly, they believe that the fragile pawn structure of black gives him no chances to win. We would like to state that now at the computer age, nothing proved that black is worse in any of the modern Benoni lines!, the modern Benoni is a sound and a tricky opening that should be recommended for dynamic players and aggressive player. Many great legends applied this opening with great success such as Fischer, Kasparov and the legendary attacker Mikhail Tal. Now let’s discuss the pawn structure of the opening to know the advantages of each side and what to aim for.

The modern Benoni structure

This section will help you to understand the different plans of black and white .it will make you realize what to aim for either with the white pieces or the black pieces.

chess board position 1

In the previous structure, there are few advantages and disadvantages for each player.

White resources are decent in this opening. For a long time, every chess player thought that white is simply winning in the Benoni. We would like to state white advantages to understand why they wrongly thought so.

1-white has more space. He has easy development for his pieces and his plan is to try to force e4-e5 push supported with piece play which can be lethal if black is not ready for it.

2-white can play for an e4 e5 push supported with f pawn. Having a big center and a pawn storm there can prove to be deadly if black is passive.

3-white can also play in a positional way by moving the f3 knight to d2 then to c4. White tries to have an attack on black d6 pawn and to play slowly without having any weaknesses.

4-white can also play in the queenside simply by making a strong bind there with an early a4- a5 moves.

However, Black discovered later many resources for counter play in every white variation getting completely aggressive positions with great chances to attack in the queenside, the center and the kingside as well!

Here we are going to mention some of black strategic points to play for:

1- Black creates a huge tension in the center from an early stage of the game.

2- Black structure is solid. He has two pawn chains (h7-g6-f6) and (d6 –c5-b7-a7).

3- Black has a queenside majority which means in both the middle game and endgame, a queenside attack can be deadly.

4- Black can play in the middle game …c5-c4 to activate the Knight via c5.

5- Black can try to force a kingside attack by playing …f7- f5!

There are other many many ideas for black to show his creativity and play on every wing over the board.it is simply a lethal weapon for a any creative and aggressive black player

Model game by Mikhail Tal

In this section we are going to show a very famous game for Mikhail Tal in the modern Benoni. His victim was a very respectable grandmaster Gurgenidze Bukhuti. You can check the game here in the study Link to the game:

The point from that game is clear. One single mistake from white can cost him the whole game, an innocent looking move 14-h3 was punished so swiftly by Mikhail Tal beautiful and sound sacrifice. The attack now is unstoppable. White chances to survive grows slimmer with each move and black attack on the kingside combined with the pawn break 19…f5 is just too much to handle. We would to state that this is not the only win in the position!!. He could have won easily too by playing 23-..Rf8 instead of doubling rook on the e file. Check the next screen

chess board position 2

In this screen Rf8 ends the game, the threat is to take the knight on e6 then Rxf6 winning white queen , However, the way Tal played ended the game beautifully and accurately as well!

Conclusion about the modern Benoni

The Modern Benoni is a difficult opening to master. It offers Black a lot of piece activity in return for a rather fragile pawn structure in the center that could be attacked in the middle game. But as the game played by Tal above illustrates, it also offers great winning chances. It is a difficult opening to master this opening for both colors and should therefore be treated with respect. You can choose to play this opening in must win scenarios and when you have nothing to lose against players with 300 points higher elo points than you. The tactical positions arising in the middle game could made them regret playing 1-d4 against you once they make a tiny slip!