The Fabulous 00s: The Blumenfeld is not Good (This is Not News)

Decline the Blumenfeld!

I have seen quite a few Blumenfelds recently and some of them worked quite well (Molner’s win as black vs Shankland, actually winning a brilliancy prize game at the Copper State International, Mesa, 2010) but I must conclude that white does very well DECLINING this particular gambit.  ACCEPTING gives black a central preponderance with some not-so-vague attacking chances (see Alekhine’s famous win over Tarrasch, Bad Pistyan 1922) and DECLINING, in most cases, just gives black an ugly structure and white easy development, to boot!  An easy call!  I am surprised people accept these days because declining is so good.  I will be the first to admit that black SHOULD have insufficient compensation for the pawn if white accepts, but practically speaking I enjoy the structures that come out the recommended declining lines we see in this article.

Let’s see the powerful DECLINING.🙂

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 c5 4. d5 b5?! If chess were this simple….🙂

5. Bg5! The ueber-powerful DECLINING. :)  Now we follow, for a while, the very convincing treatment of GM Kaidanov vs. GM Ray Robson, US Championship, St. Louis, 2010. Perplexingly, Kaidanov went wrong at the very moment of victory and only drew.  A lucky escape for young Robson.

Decline to Win!

This position is already bad for black. I first suspected this fact when a Blumenfeld theme tournament was run in Holland (alluded to in a GM Hans Ree’s article in New in Chess) and black encountered very heavy weather in the complex of variations following 5. Bg5!.

Declining in order to win the game is not only a clever psychological ploy; it also follows the French proverb, “Reculer pour mieux avancer!” (retreat for a better attack!).  Conversely, declining gives black ZERO attacking chances and white EXCELLENT chances for a major positional pull.  Enough said!

5…Qa5+ This move is tricky, but no more than that.  Black’s choices are limited, though.  I probably don’t need to convince you too much that 5…h6? is outright weak and 5….d6 also leads to a white advantage.  Let me know if you don’t know why.  Do you have any other black moves you would like to try?  It won’t help, white is convincingly better in all lines.  The text move should get black in a lot of trouble.

See the comments section for the turgid try (has the practical effect of limiting white’s advantage, though) 5…b4.

6. Nc3! Very strong, and a move unjustly ignored by most theoretical works.  Other interposition moves are weaker.  Now white has a clear edge in all lines.  Very surprisingly, though, Kaidanov goes wrong ON THE VERY NEXT MOVE ruining his powerful 6th.

6…Ne4? Yuck.  Robson played this lemon violating the well-known precept against moving pieces twice in the opening.  Doubly bad because this horse is really the only minor piece out there so far.  6…b4 is objectively stronger, but I don’t need to try too hard to convince you that black’s position is not good after the obvious 7. Bxf6 gxf6 8. Ne4.  Let me know if you think black is all right there and I will give you a few more lines.

This position is terrible for black!

7. Bd2? No!!!!   Arghhh!   GM Kaidanov plays a shocking lemon in return ruining, for the most part, his fantastic position.

The bust to 6…Ne4? is the easy (and worse, known from theory) 7. cxb5!


Black is much worse in all lines.  I would expect any GM to win handily.  The variations are clear:

7. cxb5!  Nxg5 (very instructive is the bust to even weaker 7… Bb7? which is 8. dxe6 fxe6 9. Bd2 Nxd2 10. Nxd2 d5 11. e4! and it’s totally lost for black as in Borovikov,V (2472)-Sharapov,E (2387)/Sevastopol 2000) 8. Nxg5 Be7 9. Qd2 and white has a big plus.

Or, 7. cxb5! Nxc3 8. bxc3 Qxc3+ 9. Bd2 Qf6 10. e4 and white, again, has a big plus and should win. I will let the reader work out the powerful reply to the lame Benko-like move 7. cxb5 a6?! here.   Warning: in a prior game, white went wrong after 7. cxb5 a6 but as a clue, white has a big, big improvement right away (if you find that prior game, which might put you off course a little bit).

Here is the prior game: 7. cxb5! a6?! 8. Bd2! (only now!) Nxd2 (forced) 9. Nxd2! axb5 (nothing better) and now… what’s the right move?

White to play and get a big edge

In the prior game, the careless 10. e4? was played.  Unfortunately after 10. e4? c4! black has equal chances.  Replace the tenth move lemon with something stronger, readers.  Do you see it?  It results in a big white edge.  This is the final link in the chain proving 5. Bg5! is strong!

The Divergence 5. Bg5! d6!?

White, of course, can play 6. dxe6 and look forward to an edge.  However, also interesting is 6. cxb5!?.

A good answer to 5...d6

There might follow 6…Qa5+ (What else? 6…exd5? 7. Bxf6 is terrible for black; 6…h6 7. Bxf6 Qxf6 8. Nc3 is a solid white edge, and the lame “Benko move” 6…a6? is outright weak due to 7. e4! Be7 8. Nc3 with a big white plus) 7. Bd2 Qxb5 8. Nc3 (with white gaining so much time on black’s queen he must be better) 8…Qb7 (relatively speaking the best placement for black’s queen which is not a good advertisement for his position; of course 8…Qxb2?? fails to 9. Rb1 followed by Nb5 and white wins) 9. e4 exd5 10. exd5 Be7 (note that 10…Nxd5? 11. Qa4+ Nd7 12. Nxd5 Qxd5 13. Bb5+ loses for black. 11. Bb5+ Bd7 12. Bc4 and white is better.

For reader enjoyment, let me take one of these lines further:

5…d6 6. cxb5! a6? 7. e4! Be7 8. Nc3 exd5 9. Bxf6! (hyper-accurate!) 9…Bxf6 10. Qxd5 Ra7 11. e5! (a surprising unusual breakthrough!) 11…dxe5 (11…Be6 12. Qxd6 wins for white) 12. Qxc5 Rc7 (12…Rd7 13. Be2 wins) 13. Qe3 (or 13. Qb4 which is also quite good) 13…O-O 14. Rd1 and black is in very bad shape.

Dark days for the Blumenfeld, indeed!

Reader comments welcome.

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9 Responses to “The Fabulous 00s: The Blumenfeld is not Good (This is Not News)”

  1. Peter Sadilek Says:

    I’m also playing from the white side against the Blumenfeld and have some questions: It seem reasonable to me that black should avoid moves like 5…h6 and 5…Qa5+ because of white’s lead in development.
    There was a Blumenfeld game in Jeroen Bosch’s “Game of the month” on newinchess.com some time ago with the move 5…b4!? played.
    That game was Plachetka – Ganaus from Austrian “2nd Bundesliga”.
    What about that move and the other alternative, 5…d6?
    What’s your follow up to a white edge after that moves?

    I looked up Plachetka-Ganaus, Austria 2008. That game featured a blunder by white.
    5…b4 6. e4 d6 7. Bd3 Be7 8. O-O O-O (8…Nxd5?? 9. exd5 Bxg5 10. dxe6 threatening Be4 is very bad for black) 9. dxe6? (Terrible!).
    Here, Plachetka could have played the simple 9. e5! with an edge in all lines. For example, 9. e5! Nxd5 10. Bxe7 Nxe7 11. exd6 Nec6 12. a3 and white is better. Did Bosch mention this 9. e5! shot? It’s fairly obvious.

    The other indicated move, 5…b4 6. a3!? is also tempting. After 6. a3 h6, black *may* be able to hold the balance, but white improvements lurk here too. For example, there is a game Ivanchuk-Nispeanu, Khanty Mansiysk 2007, which went 6. a3 h6 7. Bh4 a5 8. axb4 cxb4 and here Ivanchuk played the uninspiring 9. Nd4?!. It seems 9. Nbd2! is stronger, simply developing.
    I will address 5…d6 separately.

    • Peter Sadilek Says:

      Thank you for your analysis!

      Bosch didn’t mention 9 e5! by the way…

      I’m reading your blog with great excitement and have to say that you analyze very interesting lines all the time. I also like your historical-based stories (the late 80s, 90s, etc.). Great stuff!

    • Peter Sadilek Says:

      I checked your suggestion 9 e5 (! M. Ginsburg) as noted above (as improvement for Plachetka – Ganaus), but according to Rybka things are not so easy as the white player wishes, because after 9…de5! 10 d6! Bd6! 11 Be4 (your idea, I suppose) Ne4! 12 Bd8 Rd8 and now a) 13 Nbd2 or b) Ne5;
      for a): 13..Nd2 14 Nd2 Nc6 15 Ne4 Be7 following with …f6 and/or Bb7
      b): 13 Ne5 Bb7 14 f4 (14 Nd3 Nc6) Nc6 15 Nc6 Bc6

      In both cases black has enough counterplay and can be satisfied with his position. Your opinion?

      Good stuff. I will look at it and comment shortly. I’m still in the US Open 2010.

  2. Daniel Clancy Says:

    Kiril Georgiev’s recent book, Squeezing the Gambits, from the Chess Stars has excellent coverage of the Blumenfeld, Budapest, Albin, and other dubious gambits for white. However the main attraction is the giant section (over half of a book slightly under 200 pages) on the Benko declined. The ‘Beating the Crap’ section is basically just tacked on but is more than sufficient to obtain a large edge.

    This year has been a great year for opening books with such fair as Dreev’s Moscow and Barsky’s Philidor books from Chess Stars alongside two new entries in Quality Chess’s excellent GM Repetoire series (Avrukh’s 1. d4 Volume Two and Schandorff’s The Caro-Kann). Coming soon are Ftacnik’s Najdorf/Scheveningen book, the final two volumes of Khalifman’s Anand series (on the Scheveningen and Najdorf respectively), two additional volumes from Marin on the English. We also might see a Grunfeld book from Avrukh and an additional volume on the Hedgehog from Shipov. This year has been quite amazing for a bibliophile like myself.

    I have the Avrukh 1. d4 book. Very impressive anti-Albin treatment.

    Philosophically I question 200 pages by Georgiev on declining the Benko (not having seen this book), because the Benko declined has more resources for black than the Blumenfeld declined. Whereas accepting the Benko has many interesting variations with the extra pawn. If a modern anti-Benko book were to be hatched, I would go with 80% accepting (in terms of variations coverage) whereas with the Blumenfeld I would go with 60% declining (since declining can lead to a hammerlock on the position). Declining the Benko gives black easier play.

  3. Daniel Clancy Says:

    Georgiev generally likes simple positional solutions (decline it with b6 and show why such an early b5 is premature in Benoni structures) compared to Avrukh who wants to maximum advantage possible that fits within his repertoire which unfortunately is hardly anything in some lines of the Catalan and especially the Fianchetto Grunfeld. That’s the problem with fianchettoing against the d4 Nf6 c4 g6. There’s nothing good for black in the Fianchetto KID but the Fianchetto Grunfeld offers many enterprising option as John Nunn preached to anyone who would listen in the 80s. Time has proved him right though Gallagher did get a chance to invent his own interesting variation, which unfortunately turned out to be rubbish. Bologan, Chebanenko, and Morozevich had some interesting ideas in the Panno that still hold up but the problem is actually getting a chance to play them as white has simple positional continuations like the Avrukh endorsed 8. Qd3 or even 8. Bd2 that kill the fun.

    I studied GM Vadim Milov’s Benko-decline treatment with b5-b6. Milov did well except for a loss to Anand and played a lot of model games. I am still not sure if it’s really anything, since theory has moved on. I will have to look at the Georgiev book!

  4. middie Says:

    Dear Mark:

    You did not mention Aagaard’s line for Black, which appears on pages 385-6 of his latest book, Attacking Manual 2, wherein he gives 5…exd5 6.cxd5 d6 7.e4 a6 8.a4 Be7! Thoughts?

    Yes, my thought is that I should be on a list to receive freebie books! Then I would be an all-knowing commentator. I have faced that Aaagard line myself vs. IM Osman. White is only a little better. I will dig up that game score and subject it to closer analysis.

    • Daniel Clancy Says:

      Georgiev says that line is a tiny bit better for white but is analyzed out to drawn endings where white has the better of it but black can hold (similar to how he evaluates 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 c5 3. d5 b5 4. cxb5 a6 5. b6 e6 and recommends the flexible 4. Nf3 instead that commits white to nothing except from playing the Nge2 Benko accepted lines). He recommends 2 moves, 7. e3 and 7. a4. e3 if you are lazy or only have 5 minutes to prepare (he analyzes it out to positions where white has a c4 knight versus black’s dark-squared bishop and 7. a4 if you want more.

  5. Robert Bauer Says:

    Dear Mark,

    you said:
    >>In the prior game, the careless 10. e4? was played.
    >>Unfortunately after 10. e4? c4! black has equal chances. Replace the tenth move lemon with something stronger, readers.
    >>Do you see it? It results in a big white edge.

    So tell us why 10. e4 is a lemon.

    After my analysis of the given variations there are some inaccuracies:

    1) 5. Bg5 Qa5+ 6. Nc3 Ne4 7. cxb5 a6?! 8. Bd2 Nxd2 9. Nxd2 axb5. I don’t think there’s a better move than 10. e4! (my sign) cause after 10. e3 c4 e.g. 11. dxe6 dxe6 12. a4 Bb4 or 10. a4 exd5 11. e3 c4 12. Be2 Bb4 White has only a very small plus.
    After 10. e4! c4 11. a4 Bb4 in the game Johansen,D (2465) – Depasquale,C (2280) Melbourne 1991 White continues with 12. Nxb5? but this was weak because of 12… exd5 13. exd5 0-0.
    So White should have played 12. Be2! Bxc3 13. bxc3 and he is clearly better after 13… Qxc3 14. Rc1! Qb4 15. axb5 c3 16. 0-0! because of the pin of the c-Pawn else Bc8 would be hanging.

    2) 5. Bg5 Qa5+ 6. Nc3 Ne4 7. cxb5 Nxc3 8. bxc3 so why should Black take now with Qxc3? Black must play at first 8… a6! 9. b6! (if 9. e4 then axb5) Qxc3+ 10. Bd2 Qc4 11. dxe6 Qxe6 12. g3 and White has the advantage but there is much life in the position e.g. 12… d5 or 12… Qxb6.

    3) 5. Bg5 Qa5+ 6. Nc3 b4 7. Bxf6 gxf6 8. Ne4 and i claim black is all right here after 8… Be7! So give us a few more lines.

    4) 5. Bg5 d6!? 6. cxb5 Qa5+ 7. Bd2 Qxb5 8. Nc3 Qb7 9. e4 and here Black plays instead of 9…exd5 the stronger move 9… Be7!

    I’ve played a correspondence game with the last given line and got no problems with black, see

    Sikorsky,H – Bauer,R, cr 2009

    1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 c5 4. d5 b5 5. Bg5 d6 6. cxb5 Qa5+ 7. Bd2 Qxb5 8. Nc3 Qb7 9. e4 Be7 10. Bb5+ Bd7 11. Bxd7+ Nbxd7 12. dxe6 fxe6 13. Ng5 Nf8 14. Qa4+ N6d7 15. O-O h6 16. Nh3 Qxb2 17. Rfd1 Qb8 18. Rab1 Qc8 19. Bf4 e5 20. Bg3 Rb8 21. f4 Rxb1 22. Nxb1 c4 23. fxe5 c3 24. Rc1 dxe5 25. Rxc3 Qb7 1/2-1/2

    Kind regards,

    Robert Bauer
    FIDE-ELO 2165, ICCF 2454.

    Thanks for this. I have some ideas in your lines and will comment after I get back from US Open 2010.

  6. ejh Says:

    Am I missing something, or did nobody ever come up with the improvement you invited us to find over 10.e4? I don’t know if exchanging on e6 first is what you have in mind: I certainly don’t see anything dramatic, and nor does my assistant.

    I claim there is no reason for the precipitous 10. e4 and the calm 10. e3 leaves White better.

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