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The Gambit Guide to the Modern Benoni [Paperback]

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Item description for The Gambit Guide to the Modern Benoni by John Watson...

The Modern Benoni is one of Black's most swashbuckling openings, used to devastating effect by such players as Tal, Fischer, Kasparov and Topalov. From the outset, Black creates extreme imbalance, setting his piece activity and queenside play against White's spatial preponderance and central majority. However, during the 1980s and much of the 1990s, the Benoni fell under a cloud as a result of some very direct attacking systems by White. In this book, John Watson particularly focuses on various subtle move-orders by which Black can try to avoid White's most dangerous systems and direct the game into more palatable channels. King's Indian players will also find this book invaluable, since Watson covers many lines that can arise from King's Indian move-orders.

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Item Specifications...

Pages   208
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 8.26" Width: 5.75" Height: 0.64"
Weight:   0.64 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Mar 20, 2001
Publisher   Gambit Publications
ISBN  1901983234  
ISBN13  9781901983234  

Availability  0 units.

More About John Watson

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International Master John Watson is one of the world's most respected writers on chess. In 1999, "Secrets of Modern Chess Strategy," Watson's first book for Gambit, won the British Chess Federation Book of the Year Award and the United States Chess Federation Fred Cramer Award for Best Book. His pupils include the 1997 World Junior Champion, Tal Shaked.

John Watson was born in 1930.

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Reviews - What do customers think about The Gambit Guide to the Modern Benoni?

Best REPERTOIRE book on Benoni  May 1, 2008
I have read Modern Benoni Revealed by Richard Palliser before study this books. This book is really confusing for beginner. But if you have pre knowledge about modern Benoni, It should be a good book for you. I suggest for beginner to buy starting out series first before go to this book.
good talker  Jan 12, 2005
we all know watson is a good talker, which shows in this book.

the theory is top rate, but of course it is the benoni so white can choose the tourture method.

well worth the money.
Must Win with Black? Then break glass:  Jun 28, 2004
When choosing a defense against 1 d4, there are essentially two schools of thought. For those wanting dynamism, there is the Grunfeld, Kings Indian, Benko, Leningrad Dutch, and Benoni. As well, there are less reputable lines such as the Albin or Budapest. For those wanting solidity, there is the Tartakower, the QGA, and the Slav. Somewhere in the middle is the Nimzo-Indian. For those who prefer dynamism, current fashion in top-flight chess might give one pause. The sharp defenses all seem to be in decline, in my opinion, and are wheeled out less than ever before. I have been looking at the games from the on-going FIDE WCh contest in Tripoli, and my comments seem justified. Still, the man who will certainly win this contest, V.Topalov, has in his repetoire the Modern Benoni. In crucial contests at Dortmund over the years, he has played it against Kramnik and Dreev. His victory over Dreev in 2002, in the dreaded Taimanov variation, should hearten any Benoni advocate. The Benoni is a complicated openings complex. Each subvariation gives both sides multiple options. Given the pawn imbalances inherent in this system, play can often become very tactical. By this, I mean that the Black player often has to embark on a tactical combination to break free of the grip white can put on the center. These operations benefit from extensive preparation and planning. Trying to work them out over the board can be a nerve-wracking experience. While black has many options against the various white deployments, the system tends to be very unforgiving if a mistake is made by black in the intial deployment of his forces. So intricate is the Benoni logic, it cannot withstand much stress from plausible, yet dubious moves. If white gets his pawn thrust with e5 or f5 in successfully, the experience is much like being gored with a trident. I have found the Modern Benoni to be a very difficult defense to wield. As an amateur player, trying to improve, and play in higher-rated events, it has been a gruesome experience playing the Benoni. Still, I tend to think that black would still have many problems no matter which defense he tried (among the dynamic ones I mentioned) all of them are under serious fire from one line or another. But to address the Benoni, and specifically Watson's book. Despite my defeats, I have become familiar with the theory of the Benoni. First of all, I think any player wanting to play the Benoni should try to acquire the old "Mastering the Modern Benoni and Benko" book. It explains usefull tactical ideas. To a lesser extent, so does the old Norwood book. I think the new ECO volume A 5th edition is very necessary. Kinsman's book is also usefull, but I have found some glaring omisions in his analysis (in the Modern Main line with 10 Nxb5, to be specific) that suggest caution in his opinions. The Attila Schneider three volume set is also packed with ideas. Watson himself used these volumes, with caution. There is a chessbase CD disk out there, which I found usefull. I have no idea what the upcoming "Starting out:the Modern Benoni" will be like, I have never heard of the author. But the very idea of chess juniors trying to play the Benoni evokes images of a game of chainsaw twister. Anyway, while every line of the benoni has some sting, most players tend to view the Modern Main line, or Modern classical as the key variation. Primarily because of its life-draining potential, this line is responsible for the deep decline of the benoni. It requires carefull knowledge of move-order nuances. A slight-move order twist can open all sorts of possible counterplay for black. But in the main line, most benoni experts tend to think black should play 9..b5, and then the bishop capture leads to a draw (with "best play", Karpov has banged his head against a wall trying to win these positions) where black seems to have no way of stirring up any winning chances. I have no idea what is happening after the knight recapture. Some friends have shown me lines where some of the sharp play seen by black comes under question. Nevertheless, I am still reasonable sure that this is where a benoni player should give his full attention. But not Watson. He recommends 9..Nh5, which ECO gives as +/= for white. Still, his analysis is certainly interesting. I am still too much of an amateur to offer a verdict of his analysis, but if it holds up, then the benoni player truly has something to be happy about. The other line is the Taimanov attack. This line, with dramatic games such as Gulko-Savon, and Kasparov-Nunn frightened many away from the benoni. The main line (seen in Gulko-Savon) seems to put black under fierce attack. But analysis (by Nunn in his brilliant chess minitures, a good book) seems to indicate that black can refute this attack. I tend to agree (although one slip and...) Watson does not try to tackle the main line of the Taimanov (a pity) but looks at the Qh4 lines. These try to soften up the white position by causing a loosing of the white king position with g3. Does it work? I don't know. Others have published refutations of some of Watson's analysis here, but I prefer to label it as "under discussion". These two lines tend to bring into focus what others have mentioned here: that many people's favorite benoni lines are ommitted from this book. While that is true, I can assure the reader that what lines are in the book are no less intersting than what is left out. The previous reviewer who complained about the move 13..Ne5 being ommitted from the Fianchetto line (if I recall correectly, seen in famous games such as Korchnoi-Mecking and Korchnoi-Kasparov) well..the move is a whirlpool of complications, not necessarily better for black. Watson's suggestion of 13..Nb6 is certainly the sounder choice. Another interesting line is the Penrose attack (from Penrose-Tal) where I like Watson's crazy alternative of 9..Ng4. In the Four pawns, his suggestion of Nbd7(also seen in Ward's Foxy video) is worth a look. Watson brings the reader's attention to the danger lurking in the move 7 Bf4, which I noted with horror, as I started going through the lines. Very scary stuff. All in all, I think Watson has done a great service to all would-be Benoni players, and come up with a number of interesting ideas. I keep an eye on Informator, to see what is going on in the Benoni, and I do not see many people tackling the main lines. Unlike the Kings Indian or Grunfeld (about which I know far less)where it seems to me many speak of very real problems that need to be overcome to keep the opening on the map, in the benoni I actually think the situation is not quite that bad. In theory, I think black can stay on the board. As a practical tournament weapon? I am less sure. While I have enjoyed studying the Benoni, playing it has proved a difficult task. It is not an easy opening to work through all the twists and turns. To play or not to play it is like being the battlefield commander trying to decide whether to use chlorine gas or not, and not being sure which way the wind is blowing. Both players could easily end up choking in a green fog..
Another great repertiore guide by Watson  Nov 14, 2003
As stated by an earlier reviewer, this book will not cover every variation in every line. Watson gives 2 (sometimes 3) workable lines and you choose whichever suits your style. All main lines and sidelines are addressed here, and there are quite a few of them.

A good bit of his analysis is original with the remainder being tweaks on more known lines. The real plus comes with his titanic efforts to come up with new ideas in the dreaded Taimanov and the Modern Main line. I used to have issues in both of these lines, but following Watson's (admittedly crazy looking) recommendations has given me a great chance to fight for the win again! Ah, the looks you will get when you deliver the easily blocked, tempo losing check in the Taimanov or the 5 move journey of your Kings Knight to a4 (!) starting on move 9 (!!) in the Modern Main lines. They'll think you're insane, but you'll know the truth...

For anyone thinking of taking up the Benoni, realize this is an EXTREMELY complicated opening, fraught with tactical pitfalls and frantic attacks for both get the most out of the opening for black will sometimes require material sacrifices (I am a King's Gambiteer, so dumping material for attack is really sort of normal for me). All of this turns out well, but if you aren't accustomed to the drama when you are down a pawn or an exchange, you may want something less freaky. One thing is for sure: this ain't CaroKann-esque in the least!

"Food for thought ..." (on the Modern Benoni)  Aug 31, 2003
I have had dozens of requests to review this book, 3 or 4 in the last few weeks alone. So ... by popular request - - - (I first started working on this review back in May or June of this year.) You should also know I am a Life-Master, and I have taught chess (professionally) for a number of years now. {I also have played the Benoni many times in tournaments.}

The first thing you notice when you pick up this book is the black color and the chessboard and pieces on the cover. The striking logo by the publisher, and the blurb on the front cover promises you: "THOROUGH coverage and INSIDER knowledge of a controversial opening system," by John Watson. (my emphasis) The book is fairly large ... a tad over 200 pages.

The price is fairly hefty; some book dealers want close to thirty bucks for this volume. (Thank goodness {for} this!)

The cover is a sturdy flex-type; the pages are opaque with minimal `bleed-through.' The font is very good, clear and easily readable. The diagrams are excellent. The typesetting was done by P. Nunn, and the editor was G. Burgess. Overall, you cannot ask for a better team than the one that this publisher, (Gambit); brings to you.

One thing that I noticed almost right away was the way the author handles certain systems. For example, instead of having separate chapters for "The Mikenas Attack," (and several other related systems); "The Early Nf3 and e5 Lines," (for lack of a better name); and "The Taimanov `Anti-Benoni' System," (8.Bb5+) ... ... ... the author takes the liberty of lumping them all under one chapter. (This is not necessarily bad, I would have preferred to have independent treatment of these complicated lines.)

So I began to study the lines. Although we are told the author used several chess analysis-engines to check his work, I found at least six or seven `holes' and/or oversights in just one chapter. I also found that I could NOT find many of my favorite lines in this book. For example: In Chapter 5, beginning on page 72, (After the moves 1.d4, Nf6; 2.c4, c5; 3.d5, e6; 4.Nc3, exd5; 5.cxd5, d6; 6.e4, g6; 7.f4, Bg7;) one of the sharpest and most controversial lines is the Mikenas Attack with 8.e5!? The main lines begin with 8...dxe5; any ECO will reveal this. But the author does NOT even examine these lines ... preferring to recommend (instead) the playable, but somewhat tame 8...Nfd7. (He does not even bother to analyze the alternatives.)

This scenario is repeated over and over. For example, In Chapter Six (6), the author deals with the "Fianchetto Systems," (pg. # 110) ... or those lines where the player of the White pieces choose to play an early g3, followed by Bg2 and then Castles. (0-0) Line # A311) page # 117, we find White playing the move, 12.Nc4. Now the hottest and topical lines are ALL the ones that follow the move, 12...Ne5. (They also might be the ones that give Black the greatest winning chances.) But IM J. Watson refuses to look at these lines, and instead provides the comment: "Theory approves of 12...Ne5; as well, but the theory on it could fill a small book. In my opinion, 12...Nb6; is fully satisfactory and provides plenty of winning chances." And turning to page # 120 after the move, 13...Nb6; the author again does not even bother to look at the move 13...Ne5; (`!') and instead tells us: "I'm choosing this move to be consistent with the 12.Nc4, Nb6; of Line A311. Most of the same themes certainly apply."

Now I don't know about you, but when I plunk down my hard-earned cash for a large book, I darn well expect the author to at least look at the main lines of any variation - especially after both the front and back cover promises: "thorough coverage" and "invaluable" analysis.

The above scenario repeated itself over and over again, I would look for the "main line" in a certain variation, only to have the author brush it aside and offer an inferior or less-played alternative. In fact, this happened so often, I went looking for the reason; I found it buried in the foreword to this book. The author tells you there that this book does NOT offer you comprehensive coverage, but rather this is a book where Watson chooses your repertoire for you, and ONLY analyzes those lines he deems as suitable or playable.

So let's talk about what is (majorly) WRONG with this book:
#1.) Many lines are NOT covered or analyzed at all.
# 2.) Players of the White pieces will find this book almost useless ... unless they are overly concerned with what this author's devout followers might have his devotee's playing.
# 3.) Too many sub-variations. (Many of the lower-rated players I showed this book to could not navigate their way through some of the endless lines contained in the various notes.)
# 4.) NOT enough verbiage and explanation telling us what the ideas and common threats are in any particular situation.
# 5.) Doubtful evaluations. (See page # 146. He considers this position equal, a check with any of the popular programs will reveal White has at least a slight edge and went on to win.)

So having said everything above, what is RIGHT about this book?
#1.) A complete repertoire. Any player who is rated BELOW 1800, (and isn't terribly ambitious); will find a complete system that he could play against virtually ANY conceivable line.
# 2.) MUCH new and original analysis - the author was not afraid to go out on a limb and look at many alternatives that have not been previously explored by theory. Any player who is looking for new and original ideas to surprise an `over-booked' opponent, should definitely check this book out.
# 3.) The analysis to the Taimanov System and the Modern Main line is a real blessing and almost completely rehabilitates some of these systems for the second player. (These two chapters are the book's redemption and make it worth the cost of this book, at least in my opinion.)

Players who want complete and concise analysis of the Modern Benoni will not find it here. (See the book by Kinsman instead.) Players who want a COMPLETE repertoire and maybe like the idea of going `out of book' early to surprise some players - should definitely consider getting this book.


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