Reviews | February 21, 2013 18:29

Review: Attack with Black

Review: Attack with Black

Last year two new books were published where the author took up the challenge of offering Black players a complete repertoire against 1.d4. After having reviewed The Alterman Gambit Guide – Black Gambits 1, I felt the urge to read both new publications on this subject as well, offering potential readers a fair equation. This essay covers my findings from the first book I read.

Valery Aveskulov, 27 years old, is an experienced Ukrainian GM who nowadays mostly dedicates his time to giving chess lessons online and in his native town of Kharkov. At the age of 21 he won the prestigious championship of Ukraine and throughout his career, playing from the black side of the board, the Benkö Gambit has served him pretty well. In Attack with Black, a comprehensive repertoire against 1.d4 has been offered with the Benkö Gambit as its starting point.

Before the critical main continuations are examined the Ukrainian author takes you through all variations where White avoids the Benkö Gambit. In the first two chapters a clear distinction has been drawn between the aggressive lines (Diemer, Veresov and Trompowsky) and systems where a specific move order doesn’t play a key role (Colle, Zukertort, London and Torre). The explanation of his choices are very helpful, especially for club players, and make you feel well-armed. A good example is the justification of Black’s move 3…g6 against the Zukertort System (1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 c5 3.e3):

…This setup features b3, Bb2, e3, Bd3 and 0-0, and several move-orders are possible. The Zukertort setup is most often seen when Black plays …d5 and …e6. The king’s knight can move to e5, spearheading an attacking push on the kingside that may also feature f4 and Nbd2-f3 and/or a rook-lift on the third rank. White can also seek a more boardwide battle by playing c4 and Nc3. However, the move 3.e3 is somewhat committal because White can no longer develop his queen’s bishop to f4 or g5, while playing the pawn to e4 would involve a loos of time. With that in mind I propose that Black plays…

Apart from such words encouraging you to play this opening, in my opinion Aveskulov has also succeeded in reaching a large audience because of his outstanding analytical work. In various lines he has attempted to improve upon established theory, keeping in mind other recent publications such as The Alterman Gambit Guide – Black Gambits 1 and Grandmaster Repertoire 1.d4 Volume 2 written by GM Boris Avrukh. In the following example, he mentions a very interesting new idea in a critical line of the Blumenfeld Gambit. A short variation explaining some typical plans might open a new world for every player:

PGN string

The fact that Aveskulov succeeds in his task of providing such an exacting repertoire against 1.d4 within only 224 pages is quite an achievement. However, Aveskulov has also tried to delve deep into the position in lesser-known lines and, as a result, he comes up with surprisingly new resources. Thanks to an excellent cooperation with the editorial director of Gambit Publications Ltd, Graham Burgess, the Ukrainian GM has managed to advance opening theory to a higher level. Some inspiring examples:

PGN string

One of the drawbacks of this repertoire in general is that various different type of pawn structures have to be mastered, especially in cases where White decides not to take the gambit pawn. Rather than trying to avoid the transformation of pawn structures, the author has attempted to cover the most critical continuations, taking up the challenge of encouraging black players to accept positions which are reminiscent of (for example) Benoni or Isolated Queen’s Pawn set-ups.

The second part of the book basically focuses on all side and main lines within the Benkö Gambit, whereas the third and final part aims to increase your general understanding of this specific type of positions. I can perfectly imagine that it would make more sense for newbies to this opening to study the last part (Understanding the Benkö) first, which features the chapters ‘Dream Positions for Black’, ‘Positions to Avoid’ and ‘Tactical Exercises’. In fact, this suggestion has also been made by the author himself, recognising the importance of understanding the opening rather than memorising detailed analysis. The following example, taken from the chapter ‘Dream Positions for Black, is something every Benkö player should wish to implement in his own games:

PGN string

Being a trainer myself I can only embrace the idea of including typical middlegame plans for both sides in an opening book, as any student will definitely benefit from obtaining a deeper insight into possible plans in that phase of the game. Especially in the Benkö Gambit it’s very useful to be acquainted with the ensuing endings, and it is very logical to include this type of position into the ‘Exercises’ section. However, for that reason I found it a bit disappointing no separate section with model games has been included, where transitions into the following phase could be covered in greater detail. Such model games could be a valuable tool facilitating the learning process, particularly for those who aren’t yet familiar with Benkö structures.                                    

On the other hand, it should be said that the refreshing analyses are quite user-friendly. The elaboration of the analysis remains very clear and the author has consciously avoided a labyrinth of variations. For example, against the Dlugy Variation (5.f3) a practical line starting 5…axb5 has been recommended rather than the main continuation 5…e6. Aveskulov explains why he chose not to include Black’s main option:

After 5…e6 the most critical lines start with 6.e4 exd5 7.e5 Qe7 8.Qe2 Ng8 9.Nc3 Bb7 10.Nh3 c4 and here White has a choice between 11.Be3, with positional compensation for the pawn, and 11.Nf4 Qc5 12.Nfxd5! Bxd5 13.Be3 Qb4 14.a3 Qa5 15.Bd2 Be6 16.Nd5 Qd8 17.Qxc4. This is the end of a forced line. The position is very complicated, but it seems that Black is running much greater risks here – any inaccurate move can lead to a lost position because of his uncastled king and White’s passed pawns on the queenside. That’s why I recommend avoiding these variations by playing 5…axb5 instead.

Dedicated theoreticians will certainly be most interested in Aveskulov’s inventions in the main line with 10.Rb1, which is nowadays considered to be the most unpleasant variation for Benkö players. What stands out is the Ukrainian’s objective eye as he attempts to improve upon earlier publications, but not without losing sight of a correct evaluation. In the following analysis a clear comparison with Avrukh’s work has been made. It seems as if Aveskulov has indeed managed to crack some of Avrukh’s lines (published in 2010) with the aid of the increased strength of engines. On the other hand, I don’t believe every Benkö player will be entirely happy with the final evaluation of his Main Line, leaving White with a risk-free edge.

PGN string

All in all, I think Aveskulov deserves attention from motivated club players and grandmasters, who will both certainly benefit from his outstanding analytical efforts. Moreover, it’s definitely a valuable tool for people who are eager to start out on this new repertoire, since the basic ideas are well explained. Highly recommended!


Robert Ris's picture
Author: Robert Ris

Robert Ris is an International Master, professional trainer and teaches in schools, clubs and individually. He is one of the editors of ChessVibes Openings and ChessVibes Training and from time to time also writes book reviews. Other interests: travelling, sports and Greek food.


Chess Expert's picture

I purchased this book several months ago and enjoyed it thoroughly. It is well written and covers new ground that other recent publications on the Benko do not. While I am still only learning to play this opening, and I have just an Expert USCF rating, I second Robert Ris' recommendation.

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