Benjamin's Games with the Nimzovich Defense
Continuing my series on GM Joel Benjamin's unorthodox openings, I have posted an article on his games with the Nimzovich Defense, focusing on Christiansen - Benjamin, Seattle 2000.
I was surprised that this excellent game (one of my favorites) receives only passing mention in his recent biography American Grandmaster (Everyman 2007). After showing an early round loss to Boris Gulko at the 2000 U.S. Championship in Seattle, Benjamin writes: "The next day I took on Christiansen in a Nimzovich Defense. Improving on a game I lost to A. Ivanov the year before, I quickly achieved a dominating position. It wasn't Larry's day" (211). That's the entire comment. I was even more surprised upon finishing the book to find not a single additional reference to the Nimzovich, let alone a game with it, when I think Benjamin has made important contributions to the theory of that opening.
Benjamin seems to follow in a long line of New York players not afraid to open with Black's "right Knight" and to typically follow it up with ...e5 rather than ...d5 (as Nimzovich himself favored). After writing about 1...Nc6 intending ...e5 in previous articles (especially "Sidney Bernstein, Opening Innovator," "The Panther," and "1...Nc6 or The Kevitz System Bibliography"), I have come to see this as practically a native opening tradition which I like to call "The New York System." I hope my article helps to add Benjamin to the family tree of New York System innovators.
I will be posting more articles in this series in the coming weeks, along with a full review of American Grandmaster (which received a very favorable notice from Bruce Pandolfini in Chess Life). And, by the way: happy birthday wishes to GM Benjamin (born March 11, 1964).