Reviewed by P.P.O. Kane
The Benko Gambit: Move by Move
By Junior Tay
Everyman Chess, 2014
With this book Junior Tay has written an excellent, workmanlike survey of the current state of theory in the Benko Gambit. As well, a series of questions and exercises proactively explore your understanding of the opening, and of chess in general. Alongside those exercises that are scattered throughout the book, there are 40 test positions (not all tactical puzzles) in chapter 10, appropriately entitled ‘Benko Dojo Time’.
Being by far the most popular, the fianchetto variation (1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 c5 3.d5 b5 4.cxb5 a6 5.bxa6 g6 6.Nc3 Bxa6 7.g3) and the so-called ‘king walk’ variation (7.e4 Bxf1 8.Kxf1) naturally garner most attention. Still, declining the gambit by 4.Nf3 or giving the pawn back by 5.b6 remain viable positional approaches, and both moves require relatively little analytical work. Tay presents a thoroughly worked out black repertoire which takes account of these moves and others.
The Benko Gambit gives Black early pressure on the queenside and an initiative that often persists well into the endgame, a practical advantage being that Black’s position is generally easier to play. On the whole, the investment of a pawn represents good value.
An enjoyable study of what seems a sound gambit.
About the reviewer: P.P.O. Kane lives and works in Manchester, England. He welcomes responses to his reviews and you can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org