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Levon Aronian vs Magnus Carlsen
World Championship Candidates (2007), Elista RUS, rd 1, May-28
Benko Gambit: Accepted. Fianchetto Variation (A58)  ·  1/2-1/2



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Kibitzer's Corner
May-28-07  Ulhumbrus: It may be that it was because Carlsen had not castled that Aronian attacked the Queenside by the pawn thrust b4 , with the idea that Black's uncastled King would hamper Black's play on the Queen side. If that is the case, Aronian showed his mastery in this game.
May-28-07  Shajmaty: The game followed Bacrot-Carlsen, World Blitz Ch 2006, until 10...Qa5 (10...Nb6 played there). Home analysis: Magnus only spent 25 minutes for the whole game!
May-28-07  cheski: After 15.b5 rather than 15.Nb5, it looks as if White might have reached

click for larger view

by move 21, in a mostly forced sequence.

15.b5 Ndb6 16.Qb3 Bc8 17.a4 Qa7 18.Nd2 Nxa4 19.Ra1 Bxc3 20.Rxa4 Qxa4 21.Qxc3

Obviously Aronian looked at this. What was it that dissuaded him? I would love to know in detail why he decided against this logical and in my view rewarding sequence.

May-28-07  jhoro: <cheski>, regarding the line you gave <15.b5 Ndb6 16.Qb3 Bc8 17.a4 Qa7 18.Nd2 Nxa4 19.Ra1 Bxc3 20.Rxa4 Qxa4 21.Qxc3>

18...Nxa4 and 19...Bxc3 are not very strong moves. also 17...O-O seems like a possible alternative for black too.

btw Rybka agrees with Levon on the choice of 15.Nb5, though engines are not always right in the long run

Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: agentrgent should be pleased by this game.
May-28-07  Ulhumbrus: If Carlsen got a draw after starting the attack 10 ...Qa5?! before having castled, this suggests that he might have got an advantage had he castled first.
May-28-07  nikolajewitsch: ,Ulhumbrus> I am not sure whether I can agree with that argument. What alternative move are you suggesting? <10...0-0>? I don't see an advantage for black here.
May-28-07  Ulhumbrus: <nikolajewitsch> 10...0-0 may be better than 10...Qa5, to give but one example of Black's options, 10...0-0 11 0-0 Qa5 12 a3 Rfb8
May-28-07  Solon: Fascinating. The Volga is actually playable, even against one of the best players in the world.
May-28-07  Ulhumbrus: <Solon: Fascinating. The Volga is actually playable, even against one of the best players in the world.> I don't know whether you have seen Pal Benko's book on the Benko gambit. He says that the Volga gambit is not quite the same as the Benko gambit for some reason or other. It may be that with best play Black's positional compensation is more than enough for the pawn and that it is a mistake for even the strongest player to accept the gambit. This leaves open the possibility however that White may have an advantageous way of declining the gambit, for example, as in the game Korchnoi vs Sax, 1980
As I said during the game, in trying the gambit in an important game, Carlsen was in good company as Kasparov played the Benko gambit pawn sacrifice in an important game, more specifically, in the game V Tukmakov vs Kasparov, 1981
Premium Chessgames Member
  Eric Schiller: Benko Gambit is the correct name. The communists simply didn't want to see an opening named after a defector. There is no doubt that Benko developed and popularized the gambit. I did manage to win a blitz game against him once with 4.a4, which I played consistently for many years.
May-28-07  Davolni: Was this home prep game an "unsuccessful trap" by Carlsen that Aronian managed to get a draw out of???

Does anybody know what Carlsen had prepared? or where Aronian could have made a mistake?

May-29-07  whatthefat: Nice to see the Benko at the top level. It's unusual to see Black avoid castling for so long, instead favouring immediate queenside activity with 10...Qa5 and 11...Nb6. I must say though, leaving the h8 rook at home seems somewhat contrary to the spirit of the Benko.
May-29-07  Ulhumbrus: <Davolni: Was this home prep game an "unsuccessful trap" by Carlsen that Aronian managed to get a draw out of??? Does anybody know what Carlsen had prepared? or where Aronian could have made a mistake?> One possibility is this: Aronian avoided Carlsen's home preparation by means of a brilliant stratagem which Aronian found over the board during the game. More specifically, Aronian took advantage of the fact that Carlsen's King had not castled, by making use of one of the consequences of this, namely, that it could hamper Black's play on the Q side ( and tilt the scales in White's favour on the Q side) if White were to start a battle on the Q side by playing b4. To repeat what I said in my earlier note, if by thinking along such lines Aronian actually derived the idea of starting a fight on the Queen side from the fact that Carlsen had not castled, Aronian showed his mastery in this game.
Premium Chessgames Member
  BishopofBlunder: Is it normal to fianchetto both bishops in the Benko Gambit? Especially if black isn't planning on castling any time soon. Is it unusual for black to postpone castling in the Benko?
May-29-07  Ulhumbrus: <BishopofBlunder: Is it normal to fianchetto both bishops in the Benko Gambit?> Yes, if you mean both King bishops as in the game, it is one of the main lines in the Benko gambit <Especially if black isn't planning on castling any time soon.> Black may postpone his option of castling but if White pays any sort of price by the act of not developing his KB on the long diagonal, Black may then decide to castle. <Is it unusual for black to postpone castling in the Benko?> I offer a guess is that it is, on the assumption that Black will want the use of his King's Rook to support his Queen side attack, or indeed any kind of attack. Castling counts as a developing move.
May-29-07  acirce: So the Soviets cleverly foresaw events and called it the Volga Gambit long before any defector had invented it. Cunning. Luckily we had truth-seeking Americans to see through this ploy and give the opening its REAL name after years and years of Soviet falsification.
Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: In chessbase the earliest example of 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 c5 3. d5 b5 4. cb a6 is

[Event "YUG-ch"]
[Site "Belgrade"]
[Date "1948.??.??"]
[Round "14"]
[White "Bozic,Aleksandar"]
[Black "Udovcic,Mijo"]
[Result "0-1"]
[Eco "A59"]
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 c5 3.d5 b5 4.cxb5 a6 5.bxa6 Bxa6 6.Nc3 d6 7.e4 g6 8.Bxa6 Nxa6 9.Nge2 Bg7 10.0-0 0-0 11.f3 Qd7 12.Be3 Rfb8 13.Qd2 Nc7 14.Rac1 Rb4 15.Rc2 Rab8 16.Nc1 Nfe8 17.Nd3 R4b7 18.Rb1 Na6 19.Ne2 Nec7 20.Rbc1 f5 21.b3 fxe4 22.fxe4 Nb4 23.Nxb4 Rxb4 24.Rc4 Rxc4 25.Rxc4 Rf8 26.Rc1 Qg4 27.Qd3 Be5 28.h3 Qh4 29.Kh1 g5 30.Bg1 g4 31.Nc3 Rf3 32.Qd2 Bf4 33.Qe2 Bxc1 34.gxf3 Qxh3+ 35.Qh2 Qxf3+ 36.Qg2 Qxc3 37.Qxg4+ Qg7 38.Qc8+ Qf8 39.Qg4+ 0-1

Yugoslavian names seem to predominate in the early games. Too bad Belgrade Gambit is taken...of course there could be dozens of old Soviet games that aren't in the database. Anybody know more about the origins of this defense?

May-29-07  Davolni: Thanks <Ulhumbrus> for explanation. Appreciate it.


May-29-07  acirce: <By the way where does the name “Volga Gambit” come from? In the second edition of the magazine “Schachmaty in USSR” 1946, there was an article by B. Argunow from Kuybyschew at the Volga river on the gambit continuation 3...b5!?. That's why the term “Volga Gambit” was suggested and found its way into Russian chess literature. This name was taken over by many countries in Europe. At the end of the sixties this idea was also promoted Pal Benko, the Hungarian grandmaster living in the USA, who provided many new suggestions. This is the reason why in chess literature, particularly in the English speaking countries, one can also find the term “Benko Gambit”.>

(Kuybyshev is today's Samara, recently in the news because of the Russia-EU summit and Kasparov's airport incident.)

May-29-07  Ziggurat: <Anybody know more about the origins of this defense?>

I have Ståhlberg's tournament book about the interzonal tournament in Saltsjöbaden 1948. There a game Bronstein vs E R Lundin, 1948 which is not a "pure" Benkö/Volga gambit with the <1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 c5 3. d5 b5 4. cb a6> move order but which transposes to one of its main lines.

Ståhlberg comments: <A pawn sacrifice which has been used in this position and similar ones by the Czech master Opocensky. In Sweden, the variation has been thoroughly analyzed by Fritz Kaijser, who has also had good practical results with it. Even though it cannot be considered entirely theoretically sound, it offers Black good practical chances and leads to a complex fight.> (my translation)

Because of the Kaijser connection mentioned by Ståhlberg in the quote, the gambit is sometimes called Kaijser gambit in Sweden. From Edward Winter's Chess Notes (

<In Sweden the Volga Gambit turned up at the end of the 1920s. According to Fritz Kaijser (Vällingby SS), who over the years has been regarded as the Swedish expert in this area, there was an old teacher of our grandmaster Gösta Stoltz, named Dahlqvist, who started playing the Volga Gambit in Sweden. Not much attention was paid to the variation until [Bruno] Dahlin, a newspaper assistant to the international master Erik Lundin, frequently played the variation during the Stockholm city championship at the end of the 1920s. Whether he, in turn, had obtained the idea from Dahlqvist is not known. Dahlin was not just anybody. His playing strength was so good that he had been Stockholm city champion.

One of Dahlin’s earliest opponents with this opening was Fritz Kaijser himself. Kaijser was curious about the opening and later he introduced it to his colleagues. There were four players who were together and trained at chess: Gideon Ståhlberg, Gösta Stoltz, Stig Lundholm and Kaijser. The training was organized in such a way that thematic tournaments were played. Once there was an idea of making a compilation of the thematic tournaments. Lundholm was the first victim who compiled material on his opening. Kaijser was the next. But harder times came with the Second World War. Chess was not the first priority, so the Volga Gambit, which was Kaijser’s department, was never finished. We therefore never had the chance to see how the ideas developed over the years. According to his own statement, the move 4…a6 did not occur at the outset, but was an improvement by Kaijser.>

Premium Chessgames Member
  plang: "Benko Gambit is the correct name. The communists simply didn't want to see an opening named after a defector."

This is not logical. Since the term "Volga Gambit" was initiated in 1946 and Benko did not use it till the 60s it is hard to argue that one is more "correct" than the other.

Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: acirce, ziggurat: thanks. As the saying goes, great ideas are seldom the property of a single person. I knew about the Bronstein-Lundin game, but the Swedish back story is new to me. I'd love to see Argunov's article.
Premium Chessgames Member
  Maxim Dlugy: I'd be a little surprised if Carlsen tries the Benko again in this match.
May-31-07  Hayasa: Bravo LEVon!!!

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