The Fabulous 10s: US Chess League Benoni Insanity

Channeling Gashimov

From Week 3 action:

Joel Banawa (LA Vibe) – Dionisio Aldama (Arizona Scorpions)

Modern Benoni

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 c5 3.d5 e6(?!)

Very combative and probably not good according to the latest word in theory in this move order.  For adventurers, look at 3…a6!? hoping to get e6 in soon under better circumstances!

Too combative?

4.Nc3 exd5 5.cxd5 d6 6.Nf3(?)

As far as I know, the Modern Benoni in this move order is still considered dubious due to the straightfoward e4, f4, and Bb5+ despite some sporadic efforts by Topalov in the 1990s. That’s why it’s far more often seen after white commits his knight to f3.

6…g6 7.h3 Bg7 8.e4 0-0 9.Bd3

As recommended by Yermolinsky in the “Road to Chess Improvement” book.  Yermo scored several convincing wins in this clear-cut “central” strategy.

Previously thought to be very dubious for black, this setup has been re-invigorated thanks to the efforts of young world-class Grandmaster Vugar Gashimov.  Indeed, in the analysis room at the playing hall for Arizona, I instructed John Gurczak to kibitz “Gashimov!” around this point.

8…a6 10.a4 Re8

Igor Ivanov used to say categorically that any Rf8-e8 move is useless in the Benoni because the Rook needs to be on f8 to support a later f7-f5.

11.0-0 Nbd7 12.Re1 Rb8 13.Bf4 Qc7 14.Nd2 Ne5 15.Be2

I guess white wanted to observe h5 to prevent Nf6-h5. This position is fully acceptable for black.  But now mysterious things start to happen.

15…h6 16.Rc1 g5

I’m not sure about this move or the prior move.  White is gearing up for his strong 18th.

17.Bg3 Bd7 18.b4! cxb4 (?!)

In light of the unpleasant developments following this move, black should already be seeking alternatives.

19.Nb5 Qb6 20.a5!

Now it’s crazy (probably crazy bad for black).

Queen Quandary


What I wanted to see here was 20…Qxb5!!? 21. Bxb5 Bxb5, although 22. Bxe5 takes out most of the fun.

21.Nxd6 Ba4 22.Nb3 Qd8(?)

Here, I was expecting 22…Bxb3!? 23. Qxb3 Qa3!? with counterplay.

23.Nxe8 Nxe8 24.Qd2!  Now white is just winning.

Bxb3 25.Qxb4 Bxd5 26.Red1 Nc6 27.Rxc6?

White gets carried away.  27. Qe1 wins material.

27…Bxc6 28.Rxd8 Rxd8 29.e5 Nc7

Now black is very compact and white cannot break down the formation.

30.Qb6 Rc8 31.Bc4 Ne6 32.f3 Bf8 33.Kh2 Bc5 34.Qb1 Re8 35.Qf5 Bf8 36.Bd3 Bg7 37.h4 a5 38.hxg5 hxg5 39.Bf2 Rd8 40.f4 gxf4 41.Bh4 Rxd3 42.Qxd3 Bxe5 43.Qf5 Bc7 44.Kh1 a4 45.Be7 Bb6 46.Qg4+ Kh7 47.Bf6 Kh6 48.Kh2 Be4 49.Qg8 Bg6 50.Qa8 Bf5 51.Qxb7 Kg6 52.Be5 Bd4 53.Bd6 Bc5 54.Bxc5 Nxc5 55.Qc6+ Ne6 56.Qxa4 Kf6 57.Qc6 Bg6 58.Kg1 Kg5 59.Kf2 Kg4 60.Qd5 Bf5 61.Qe5 Bg6 62.Qe2+ Kf5 63.Qb5+ Kg4 64.Qe5 Bf5 65.Qc3 Kg5 66.Ke2 Bg6 67.Kd2 Kg4 68.Qh3+ Kg5 69.Kc3 Bf5 70.Qf3 Bg4 71.Qf2 Bf5 72.Qf3 Bg4 Game drawn by mutual agreement 1/2-1/2

Quite the tightrope act from Aldama!  Arizona wound up decisively winning the match, 3 1/2 to 1/2.


Swedish teenage phenom Nils Grandelius is not known to be a huge expert in the Modern Benoni.

The Georgians

The collective Georgian Women’s Olympic team also is not known to be a huge authority on the Modern Benoni.

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4 Responses to “The Fabulous 10s: US Chess League Benoni Insanity”

  1. Steve Says:

    IM Dr. Ginsburg,

    I was reading your great eulogy of Mark Diesen. I was wondering if you might provide me with some background info about Diesen. He was several time state champion in my home state of Louisiana. I always thought his play had a fascinating clarity about it, far beyond any of our local players.

    Also, what sort of doctors are yourself and Dr. Moskow? I would like to compile a list of the highest rated chess-playing physicians.

    You can respond to me via email if you would prefer not to post these things publically.

    Diesen grew up in Potomac MD (the next town over from me in Bethesda) and another future IM, Steve Odendahl, was one town over from me, Chevy Chase.
    I used to play blitz in HS with Diesen and Phil Goulding. Diesen had a good trainer (GM Kavalek) at the World Junior to help him win. Personally Mark Diesen was a very nice and mellow guy, always fun to hang around. Since he was a little older than me, he introduced me to some nightspots in the DC area.

    I have a PhD in Information Systems from NYU and Dr. Erik Moskow is a Medical Doctor.

  2. Steve Says:

    That’s interesting. Do you know what subspecialty Moskow is in? I’ve always wondered why there are not more strong chess players among physicians. Are doctors not that smart? Are Caissa and Aesculapius feuding? Tarrasch stands out, but being a doctor was very different back then.

    To me, that’s an easy question. You can’t just flip flop between a profession and chess. Being good at chess, particularly nowadays, is hard work. Dr. Huebner is a Phd in Papyrology! Dr. Tartakower was a Doctor of Law, but did not practice, it was mostly for show – he was very proud of it, according to New In Chess magazine.
    What good trial lawyer takes time off his or her trial to play in a GM round robin? Nobody. Similarly for tech consulting, it’s exhausting work making Powerpoint slides.
    When I worked payroll I was so tired I blew about 5 easy wins and wound up losing to Kaidanov, the same thing happened the next day against Yefim Geller. Can’t work and just turn some switch and then do chess!

    My question about Diesen was more pointed. I wanted to know what was his demographic/religious background. I heard he came from a really wealthy family. do you know what his father did?

    Mark’s dad Carl Diesen was a USCF expert; I played him in the 1970s. In some rook ending, he was fine, but got too creative and allowed me to sacrifice my rook and win with connected passers. I think he was an engineer. Everyone in Potomac Maryland is pretty well off but we are not talking about super wealth here.

  3. Steve Says:

    Thanks, that’s encouraging to me. That excuses some of my lousy results!(NOT)

    Curiously, I was just reading Soltis’s Chess to Enjoy(the book), and he delves into some of these very issues. He says “The ability to play chess is the sign of a sharp mind. The ability to play chess well is the sign of a misspent youth!” Or adulthood, in my case!

    Who is the highest rated physician chess player that you know of?

    Dr. Helmut Pfleger is a German Grandmaster physician. I think actually he is a psychiatrist MD and told me once he practiced “First Cry”. After some deduction I think he was talking about “Primal Scream”. Humorously (I believe this was a New In Chess magazine anecdote authored by Hans Ree), he experimented with beta-blockers to see if he could relax during a tournament game with Spassky. He relaxed, all right – too much – Spassky crushed him.

    In the US, Miles Ardaman is 2400-ish and is, I believe, a MD/PhD.

  4. Steve Says:

    Miles Ardaman is a great player. I’ve seen him a number of times.

    Pfleger should have practiced primal scream during his game with Spassky.

    Thanks, STeve

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