BENEDICT CHESS: first thoughts on opening theory: how should Black respond to 1.e3?

Andrew Perkis

Has anyone composed any Benedict Chess problems yet? Here's a good one.



Before reading further, anyone unfamiliar with Benedict Chess should check out the rules- either on this site or at In this article I use normal algebraic notation and place the locations of any flipped pieces in brackets after each move.

Has anyone composed any Benedict Chess problems yet? Here's a good one:


Black to play and survive

The 1.e3 strategy is very single minded: get the White Queen into play and cut the Black Queen out of the game. It seems to work well. Even against what, so far, have been the three most popular defensive options, 1...e6, 1...c6 and 1...c5, White gains a strategically won game very quickly.

[After 1.e3 e6/ 2.Qe2 Qe7/ 3.Qb5(b7 d7), the Black Queen is already restricted. If 3...kd8(d7), then 4.Qc5(c7 e7) and now if 4...Ke8(e7)/ 5.Nc3 and wins.

After 1.e3 c5/ 2.Qf3(b7 f7) White is won:eg 2...Qa5(a2 d2)/ 3.Qd5(c5 d2 d7) & now if 3...Kd8(d7), then 4.b4(a5) Nc6(a5 b4)/ 5.Qe6(c6 d7 e7) wins.

After 1.e3 c6/ 2.Qf3(c6 f7) Qb6(b2 c6 e3)/ 3.Qh3(d7 e3 h7)! and White has a winning advantage.]

My thought was that it must be possible to limit this expansiveness of the White Queen. It just seemed to good to be true that, whatever defence Black adopts, White, can always keep the Black Queen from properly entering the game.

After a lot of experimentation I believe I have discovered a defence against 1.e3, namely 1...b5. Of course, this will need more testing. A large part of the apparent effectiveness of this defence is that it immediately sets out to limit the White Queen. (It prevents both Qf3 and the manoeuvre Q-e2-b5.) This defence has been tried a few times before, but never, it seems, by a player who has been committed to discovering its potential.

Here I will focus on only one of White's two best continuations (2 Qg4, leads, after best play, only to a draw) namely 2.Qe2(b5).

The other strong response is 2.Nc3(b5). There is a lot to explore here. I shall just give one continuation here, as an indication of the resources Black should have: 2...e6/ 3.Nd5(c7) Nf6(d5)/ 4.Qf3(d5 f6) Bb4(d2)/ 5.Kd1(d2) Bc5(e3)! with ...Qe7 to follow at a suitable moment, should give Black an OK game.


...probably wins against any reply but 2...c5. After this there are two options for White.

In a game I played against Ingemar Assarsjö ("Bridge"), Ingemar tried 3.Qc4(c5 f7) but after 3...d5(c4) chances already seem roughly equal. This game continued:

  1. b3(c4) Nc6
  2. Qd4(d5 g7) e5(d4)
  3. c3(d4) Qd6(c5 d5)


Already Black's strategic goal has been achieved. Each Queen limits the other

The game ended:

  1. b6(a7) Qc7(a7 b6 f7)
  2. Na3 b5
  3. Qf4(e5 f7)? [Better was Nc4(e5) with unclear complications]
  4. ...b4(a3 c3)
  5. Bb2(a3 c3) Qa5(a3)
  6. Bc1(a3)? Qa6(a3 f1)
  7. Resigns

The alternative to 3.Qc4 is Qd3. At first this looks better, but, whereas 3.Qc4 probably leads to a position with even chances and a lot of play, Qd3 possibly leads merely to a draw. My game against "Rodantero" went:

  1. e3 b5
  2. Qe2(b5) c5
  3. Qd3(d7 h7) c4(d3)
  4. Be2(d3) Nc6 [better than 4...c3(b2 d2) 5.Nf3(d2)]
  5. Qg6(c6 f7 g7) [Best. Not 5.Qe4 (c6 e7) then f5, followed by Nf6 and Ng4 is good for Black]
  6. ...Bb7(c6)
  7. Qf6(c6 e7) Rc8(c6)
  8. Qe6(c4 c6) Ba8(c6)
  9. Qf6(c6) Bb7(c6)


White has the active Queen but it is hard to make progress. The Nc6 can do some nasty things if the White Queen stops flipping it. Can anyone out there find a White win here?

  1. Qh6(c6)

Some interesting variations show how tricky it is for White to try for a win here.


  1. b6(a7) and now all the pawns are White!
  2. ...Ne5(c4 d7) with a probable draw.


  1. Qf3(c6) Ba8(c6)
  2. Qd5(c6) aiming to continue flipping while infiltrating to b6
  3. ...Nf6(d5)
  4. e4(d5) this is forced as ne4 wins after Nc3
  5. ...Ng8(e7) and White has nothing better than Qe6, after which the position is essentially unchanged.
  1. ...Ba8(c6)
  2. Nc3 White tries a different way.
  3. ...Ne4(c4 d7 f7)
  4. Qf4(c4 e5 f7) Not d4, f4 or Nf3 because of Rc6
  5. ...Qc7(c4 e5)
  6. Nf3(e5) d4 was an alternative, but not 12.Qf5(d7 e5), then 12...Qd6(d2 d7 e5 e7)! wins, because of the double threat of Nd3/f3+ and d1=Q+
  7. ...Qb8(b5 e5)
  8. Qf5(d7 e5) Qc7(d7 e5)


After 13.....Qc7(d7 e5) The second key position. Can anyone analyse through to a White win from here? I doubt it!

The only way I can see for White to even attempt a win is to manoeuvre into being able to play Qf5, when the Black Queen is already at c7. It can't be tried immediately because of Qd6! (see note to move 12). So d4 will be necessary. The game could go 14.Qf4(c4 e5) Qb8(e5)/ 15.d4(e5) Rc5(c4 e5)/ 16.Qg5(e5) At first I thought this was winning for White as 16...Qc7(e5)/ 17.Qf5(e5 d7) Bc6 (d7 f3), for example, only holds on for a while.

However, I then realized that Black can play 16...b4(c3)!!


Position after 16....b4(c3) Who is better here?

After this the position holds lots of surprises. One point is that 17 Nc6(b4 b8) loses to ...Rb5(b8 g5). Beyond that I will say no more. Readers can make their own assessment of this position! [It's worth noting here that White could had played Nc3 at a different moment- with the B at b7, rather than a8. Then Black Qb8 would not have flipped b5. However, this seems to make no difference. Certainly in the line given above, b5 would then be flipped when Black played Rc5.

Rodantero did not find this or any other winning attempt an attractive option, and the game ended

  1. Qf4(c4 e5) Qb8(e5)
  2. Qf5(d7 e5) DRAW AGREED

Readers may contact me at with any comments or analysis. I have written an introductory article on Benedict for Variant Chess Magazine already. A second article, which will cover several opening issues will appear in Issue 61.

So I would be very grateful for feedback to arrive within 6 weeks or so. In addition, it would be great if some of you could try out this opening!


andrewP05/02/2009 11:03I am very interested to see the two thematic mini tournaments going on, using the 1....b5 opening. One weakness in my article is that I only really glanced at the 2.Nc3 line which may be more problematic for Black than I first thought. It will be interesting to see if there is really a way through for Black in this line.
Rick Groszkiewicz05/13/2009 13:53Based on preliminary results of the two mini tournaments, there are no convincing lines for Black:
andrewP05/20/2009 20:15I agree that the 2.Nc3 line is very very tricky for Black- for a while I thought clearly lost for Black, even after 2...Na6, which has emerged as Black's only chance. Looking at the games being played right now, however, I do see some glimmers of hope for Black. On the other hand I'm still inclined to think that Black can get reasonable play after 2...Qe2.

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