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I saw a DVD with GM Roman Dzindzichashvili, where he recommended, when white avoids the Dzindzi-Indian by playing 3. e4, that black adopt a Benoni setup but with the important difference of playing going Ne7 instead of Nf6.

[FEN "rnbqk1nr/pp3pbp/3p2p1/2pp4/2P1P3/5N1P/PP3PP1/RNBQKB1R w KQkq - 0 7"]
1. d4 g6 2. c4 Bg7 3. e4 c5 4. d5 d6
5. Nf3 e6 6. h3 exd5

White I find this this attractive when indeed black manages to take control of the central dark squares and then play Ne7-f5-d4, I find that white with exact play can make black's position quite uncomfortable. This is especially so when white does the following: 1. When white recaptures cxd5 instead of exd5 (in the exd5 case the white king is more exposed, giving black dynamic possibilities) when the f5 square is not as definitely under white's control, certainly so when the light squared bishop goes do d3. Roman recommends black playing for an f5 break in these positions, but seems to me to be super-risky. 2. Prevent Bg4 and thus Bxf3 by playing h3 3. Going for a quick Bf4 before black gets to play Nd7, pressurizing d6 and intending e4-e5.

My questions is: Is it possible to state in general terms that when plays cxd5 and h3 and a quick Bf4 --> play Nf6, otherwise play Ne7? Someone who has another take on this question?

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Like all positions in chess, it's incredibly difficult to come up with general terms and common rules for openings. The particulars of each situation must be judged separately.

That being said, the idea that Dzindzichashvili is recommending is a good one - Ne7 stays flexible (and keeps your bishop open) and allows you to quickly strike at white's center with f5 (a crucial pawn break against d5-e5 structures). As you said, this pawn break can be double edged because you are creating a critical hole in your position: e6. So only consider it if there is no chance for white to sink a knight or bishop onto e6.

Now to respond to the line you are suggesting: I would argue that this plan still works in this line as well. Moreover, striking in the center while you are castled and your opponent is not seems principled as well.

[FEN ""]
1. d4 g6 2. c4 Bg7 3. e4 c5 4. d5 d6 5. Nf3 e6 6. h3 exd5 7. cxd5 Ne7 8. Nc3 (8. Bf4?? Bxb2) O-O 9. Bf4 f5!? 10. e5 dxe5 11. Bxe5 Nd7

I agree that you're still in a cramped position, and you obviously have to be careful about the d pawn pushing forward. But let's look at the dynamic positives here as well. The center has blown up and white still needs 2 moves to castle. You have a queenside majority that can instantly start pushing with a6-b5. And you have the ultimate blockader on d7 already setup. So there's no worries there. There are also interesting opportunities for f4 followed by Nf5. These are the types of explosive lines you are signing up for when you allow your center to gain a huge center as early as move 3.

Side note: If you truly want to trade off your light squared bishop, then your best bet is to play 5. Bg4 instead of e6.

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    I have doubts about the position you reach. Simply 12.Bxg7 Kxg7 13.Be2 f4 [13...Qb6 14.Qd2, 13...Nb6 14.d6] 14.0-0 or 14.Qd2 and White seems clearly better. – Evargalo Jul 4 '18 at 13:09
  • @NoseKnowsAll - about 5.. Bg4, that unfortunately runs into the unpleasant Qa4+, whereafter (unless black now withdraws the bishop, which probably is best, though now white has unpinned and won a tempo, in a sense) white can play Nd2 and unpin, leaving the bishop on g4 rather misplaced. – acye Jul 6 '18 at 6:26
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After further analyzing these lines and also looking into "regular" (non 1.. g6) Benoni lines, I realize this plan of an early Bf4 is challenging to black no matter what, but I definitely feel there are lines where I would prefer my knight on f6 rather than e7. This is especially so seeing as Ne7 more or less commits black to the plan of pushing f5, and aside from the fact that white can respond with e4-e5 after which black lives on the edge, white can also simply let the black pawn on f5 remain, as below.

[FEN ""]
1. d4 g6 2. c4 Bg7 3. e4 c5 4. d5 d6 5. Nf3 e6 6. h3 exd5 7. cxd5 a6 8. Nc3 b5 9. Bf4 Ne7 10. Bd3 O-O 11. O-O f5 12. Re1 fxe4 13. Rxe4

I would much rather prefer to try to stabilize the king's side and instead seek counter play on the queen's side, and in such a situation it seems preferable to have the knight on f6 rather than on e7 for two main reasons: 1. to be able to put the rook on e8, unblocked by the knight, countering e4-e5 ideas by white. 2. if white does play e4-e5, after the capture dxe5, the knight on e7 can be hit by d5-d5.

Here we see how black can expand on the queen's side and adequately meet black's central push, by a nice Qd8-c7-c5 maneuver. [FEN ""] 1. d4 g6 2. c4 Bg7 3. e4 c5 4. d5 d6 5. Nf3 e6 6. h3 exd5 7. cxd5 a6 8. Nc3 b5 9. Bf4 Nf6 10. Bd3 O-O 11. O-O Re8 12. Re1 c4 13. Bc2 Qc7 14. e5 dxe5 15. Nxe5 Qc5

With the knight on e7, however, this becomes much more awkward. Re8 is not included in this variation as it makes no sense, of course. Here we see how the Qd8-c7-c5 maneuver fails:

[FEN ""]
1. d4 g6 2. c4 Bg7 3. e4 c5 4. d5 d6 5. Nf3 e6 6. h3 exd5 7. cxd5 a6 8. Nc3 b5 9. Bf4 Ne7 10. Bd3 O-O 11. O-O c4 12. Bc2 Qc7 13. e5 dxe5 14. Nxe5 Qc5 15. d6

To be hones, ALL these lines seem like living on the edge for black, but maybe that's the mindset one must have when playing the Benoni structures. Of course, white is likely not to play the best moves at all times and could also run into trouble.. Still, I think playing black here is much more difficult and dangerous, and certainly so when going for these Ne7 plans. I think GM Roman Dzindzichashvili oversimplified here when recommending Ne7 as simply a better option for black in these 1.. g6 lines.

  • I believe you are completely correct when you say "all these lines seem like living on the edge for black." I have my doubts about this entire opening for black based upon the analysis I went through in forming my own answer. – NoseKnowsAll Jul 13 '18 at 16:00
  • I would also like to separately note that a4 in response to black's a6 is always an option to stop the b5 thrust from happening too soon. – NoseKnowsAll Jul 13 '18 at 16:01
  • @NoseKnowsAll - are you doubts against the Benoni as a whole when white goes for this quick Bf4 plan, or only against this version with Ne7? – acye Jul 14 '18 at 5:17
  • I'm not a huge fan of the Benoni, but in particular I don't like the idea of playing exd5 followed up by a6. 8 moves into the game, and you've only developed one piece! Stockfish agrees that after a6, it's already +1 if white responds with a4. – NoseKnowsAll Jul 16 '18 at 23:01

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