Pal Benko's Valentine Day problems

by GM Pál Benkö
2/14/2017 – Since the days of Geoffrey Chaucer in the 14th century Valentine's Day, February 14, has been associated with romantic love, with the presentation of flowers, confectionery and (often anonymous) greeting cards called "valentines". Our indefatigable friend, problem composer Pal Benko, sent us something different: twin problems in valentine shapes. Take a look, but be warned: they are trickier than you would expect – and definitely more romantic.

Valentine Day problems

By Pal Benko

The following problems are "twins" and in spite of the subtle differences in the positions often have completely different solutions. Take the first two: if you are able to solve the one on the left you will be delighted and astonshed to see how the position on the right, with just one piece different (the pawn on e4 is now a bishop) can change the solution completely, while keeping the problem thematically in the same spirit (the "hint" icon below the board will point you in the right direction). Remember: you can move the pieces on the board to try different solutions! And one little thing: underpromotions are entered by selecting a piece shown to the right of the (default) queen.

So enjoy. Chess is a beautiful canvas, and Pal Benko a supreme artist.


The solutions will be added here in a few days.

About the author

Pál Benkö, 88 (born July 14, 1928), is a Hungarian-American chess grandmaster, openings theoretician, author and problemist. He became Hungarian champion when he was twenty and finished in first place (or tied for first place) in a record of eight US Championships: 1961, 1964 (in that year he also won the Canadian Open Chess Championship), 1965, 1966, 1967, 1969, 1974, 1975. Benko's highest achievements were playing in the Candidates Tournament with eight of the world's top players in 1959 and 1962. He qualified for the 1970 Interzonal tournament, the leaders of which advance to the Candidates. However, he gave up his spot in the Interzonal to Bobby Fischer, who went on to win the World Championship in 1972.

In addition to his success as a player, Benko is a noted authority on the chess endgame and a composer of endgame studies and chess problems. He is an over-the-board GM and also a FIDE IM of chess composition. The only other person we know who has these two titles is Jan Timman of the Netherlands. Pal Benko is also a dear friend who keeps in touch with us regularly, sending problems and puzzles for the ChessBase news page on special occasions.

Some earlier ChessBase articles by and about Pal Benko

1/23/2017 – Trump, Kramnik, Botvinnik, Junge, Benko
"Don’t you think I could also be a GM if put in one or two year on chess?" Donald Trump wanted to know, when he met Pal Benko back in 1994. "You need to be born again," Benko replied. "I have never known anyone who started with chess after the age of 20 and became a grandmaster." It happened at the World Championship Candidates match, held in the Trump Plaza. In his article Pal Benko tells us some interesting things about the Botvinnik Variation.

12/25/2016 – Christmas puzzles with Pal Benko
Another year passes, and we end it with our traditional Christmas puzzles – this year for the seventeenth time. Over the holidays we try to give you something unusual: puzzles that cannot be easily solved with a computer, tasks which require you to think all by yourself. And once again, as happened frequently in the past, we received three wonderfully entertaining problems from the great composer Pal Benko, who wished us and our readers a Happy Christmas.

6/16/2016 – Can computers compose artistic problems? (2)
Earlier this week we brought you part one of Pal Benko's critique of machine composed chess problems. In part two this world famous problem composer shows us further examples and how they can be improved. He also gives us an example of composing together with a computer, "the first time in my life I did not create a chess problem fully in my own mind," and tells us why he has decided to drop out of problem competitions.

6/14/2016 – Can computers compose artistic problems? (1)
Some time ago Dr Azlan Iqbal presented a program, Chesthetica, that was composing chess problems. We published ten examples of three-movers by the machine. Now a leading expert in the subject, Pal Benko, who is one of the finest problem composers in the world, tells us what he thinks about the quality of the computer compositions – and also what are the criteria that make a chess problem valuable.

4/1/2016 – Pal Benko's April entertainment
Our loyal friend, Hungarian GM and problemist Pal Benkö, who at the age of 87 is still composing wonderfully imaginative problems and studies, has sent us four very unusual (and tricky!) puzzles to solve on this auspicious day. We present them to you without solutions, so you have a few days to try and find the hidden subtleties and traps. One thing is certain: Benko never ceases to delight.

12/30/2015 – ChessBase Christmas Puzzles 2015 (6)
This year was the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. Musing over the Napoleonic invasion of Russia, three years before, Pal Benko found a well-known chess problem that reflects the retreat of the French forces and the attacks by Cossack Hussards. It was composed by Alexander Petrov in 1824, but is somewhat flawed. Our problemist friend could not resist improving on it.

7/18/2015 – Pal Benko's birthday problems
On July 14 Hungarian problem componist GM Pal Benkö turned 87. His wife Gisela is 78, his daughter Palma 45, son David 44 and his grandson Adam 12. Why are we telling you this so specifically? Because Pal is celebrating with some wonderful number problems: positions shaped like digits, to share with his family and with problem lovers all over the world. Now with solutions!

7/12/2015 – Pal Benko: Variations on a Kubbel study (2)
Our good and faithful friend, GM Pal Benko, recently explained to us why one of the most famous studies of all time, composed in 1922 by Leonid Kubbel, was not completely flawless – and indeed worthy of improvement. He showed us how the process works, and in today's second part you can watch one of the greatest composers of our generation polishing flawed studies.

6/23/2015 – Valuation: variations on a famous Kubbel study
One of the greatest chess composers in history was Leonid Ivanovich Kubbel, born in 1891 in St. Petersburg, Russia. One of the greatest contempory composers is GM Pal Benkö, born in 1928. One of the most famous studies of all time is a 1922 composition by Kubbel. It is, however, not completely flawless, and so Benkö set out to polish it. He gives us a unique insight into the process.

12/31/2014 – Happy New Year 2015 from Pal Benko
Our friend, famous chess composer GM Pal Benko, got into the New Year spirit by sending us seven little problems to solve. They are all miniatures, requiring mate in three moves. And together they spell out HNY-2015. The positions look deceptively easy, but some have very clever solutions that are not easy to find. All are cook free. With Pal we wish our readers a Happy New Year 2015!

4/4/2014 – Benko: Fun problems to celebrate April 1st
Our friend and world famous chess composer GM Pal Benko got into the spirit of the day and sent us three problems to solve. They look deceptively easy, but you must consider the day of publication and not be fooled by the guile of the composer. We will leave you to work things out for a few days, and then give you the answers which may come as a surprise to some.

3/29/2014 – Pal Benko on Richard Réti’s endgames (2)
125 years ago a boy was born in the Austro-Hungarian part of what is today Slovakia. Richard Reti was a mathematician and world class chess master. Reti was also an endgame specialist who composed some of the most original endgame studies ever devised. Some were flawed, and now, almost a century later, his compatriot GM Pal Benko provides revisions to these studies.

3/26/2014 – Pal Benko on Richard Réti’s endgames (1)
At the turn of the last century an Austro-Hungarian mathematician shook up the chess world with revolutionary new ideas ("hypermodernism"), and with some of the most original endgame studies ever devised. To celebrate his upcoming 125th birthday another great chessplayer and endgame specialist, GM Pal Benko, has sent us some examples of Reti's works.

12/23/2013 – Pal Benko: Secrets of Study Composition (2)
One of the greatest study composers – as well as a former world championship candidate – is our friend Pal Benko, who never fails to send us a special Christmas gift. This year it was an article that offers unique insight into the process of chess composition. We brought you the first part a week ago. Today it is about breaking the pin and avoiding stalemate. And there is a remarkable study for you to solve.

12/17/2013 – Pal Benko: Secrets of Study Composition (1)
There is more to chess than tournament games. The area of chess studies and problems is equally creative and breathtakingly imaginative. One of its greatest composers is grandmaster (and world championship candidate 1959 + 1962) Pal Benko. The 85-year-old author of some of the most famous studies of all time has sent us an essay on the remarkable process of chess composition.

7/15/2013 – The Life Gambit à la Benko
Pal Benko (Hungarian: Benkö Pál) is, as 99% of our readers probably know, a legendary chess grandmaster, author, and composer of endgame studies and problems. He was born on July 15 1928, which made him 85 today. Diana Mihajlova met the fit and active octogenarian, who has been a "pal" of our company for a decade, in his home town of Budapest. Here is part one of her birthday report.

7/18/2013 – The Life Gambit à la Benko – Part two
On Monday Pal Benko, legendary grandmaster, author, and problem composer, turned 85. Diana Mihajlova, who recently met with the fit and active octogenarian in his home town of Budapest, sent us a birthday report in two parts. Today we learn of Benkos escape from Communist Hungary to the US, and his relationship with Bobby Fischer. And we get to solve two highly entertaining problems.

5/20/2011 – Greetings from Pál Benkö for 25 years of ChessBase
"Congratulations to ChessBase on your 25th anniversary! Your news page is the the first thing I look at every day when I go on the Internet. You do such wonderful work. Keep up your great service for the whole chess world." Heartening words from legendary great chess player, theorist, author and problem composer – who in addition sent six anniversary puzzles for our readers.

4/24/2011 – Easter puzzles by Benko – a World Champion challenge
Pál Benkö, 82 and still going strong, is a world class grandmaster, author and problem composer. He is also a faithful friend who periodically sends us puzzles for our newspage. This time, for Easter, he has selected four problems which stumped a World Champion. It is a challenge for you to do better, and win a special prize in the process. Enjoy.

12/30/2009 – Pal Benko improves on Troitzky
In 1856 the great Sam Loyd composed a chess problem, which 75 years later inspired Alexey Troitsky, one of the greatest composers of endgame studies, to create a puzzle with a similar theme. It proved to be flawed. 75 years after Troitzky another great composer, Pal Benko, took up his problem, improved on it and submitted it for our Christmas Puzzle page.

World class chess grandmaster, author, and composer of endgame studies and problems. Benko qualified for the Candidates Tournament for the World Championship in 1959 and 1962, and for the 1970 Interzonal tournament, when he gave up his spot to Bobby Fischer, who went on to win the World Championship in 1972. Pal was born in 1928 and lives in Budapest, Hungary.
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benedictralph benedictralph 2/14/2017 08:29
Interesting, but I'd much rather see and learn from puzzles that might actually occur in real games.
Frederic Frederic 2/14/2017 10:49
Chess is such a rich game, but 99% of the very interesting and beautiful mating patterns that are possible are never seen in normal games. Problem chess is a chance to see and experience things that you would otherwise simply miss. I sometimes look at a chess problem and think: this can only be possible once in the lifetime of the Universe.
satkul satkul 2/14/2017 02:53
interesting twins,but I am still awaiting answers to Christmas puzzles presented by Pal Benko.The puzzles were tried by us and we want to check our solutions
itizi itizi 2/14/2017 05:20
Where are solutions to Christmas puzzles??
Frederic Frederic 2/14/2017 07:04
Sorry, my bad. I have added the solutions now.
JusticeSeeker JusticeSeeker 2/14/2017 08:20
Is there an error in the text?
My 60 Memorable Games and several other sources report that Bobby Fischer won 8 U. S. Championships, including 1965-6 and 1966-7.
itizi itizi 2/15/2017 07:14
Thanks for Christmas solutions Frederic.
victormlee victormlee 3/17/2017 03:31
As I have not seen the solutions posted, here, and it has been a month, here are the ones I have for those interested.

Top left: 1. e8=B Ke7 2. Bh6! Kf6 3. Bg5# (or 2...Kd6 3. Bf8#)
Top right: 1. e8=N+ Ke7 2. Bg6 e4 3. Bg5#
Middle left: 1. Rdb4 Kd5 2. Ke7! Kxe5 3. R6b5# (or 2...Kc5 3. R6b5#)
Middle right: 1. Rdb6 Kd7 2. R8b7+ Kd8 3. Rd6#
Bottom left: 1. Rh7! Bg8 2. Nxg8# (or 1...Be8 2. either Ng8# or Re6#) (or 1...Bxd5 2. Nxd5#) (or 1...Be6 2. Rxe6#)
Bottom right: 1.Rfxg4 Bxd5+ 2. Nxd5# (or 1...Bg8 2. R4g6# / Nxg8#) (or 1...Be8 2. Ng8#) (or 1...Be6 2. R4g6#) (or 1...Bxh5 2. Ng8#) (or 1...Bg6 2. Ng8# - hence the importance of Rfxg4 to cover the g5 square)