Benko: Fun problems to celebrate the day

by GM Pál Benkö
4/4/2014 – 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. [Now with solutions!]

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Fun problems for April 1st

By Pál Benkö

Here are some problems to celebrate the day. Be careful, they are not quite as easy as they seem!

Mate in one move

Is this checkmate? Can Black play ...hxg3 e.p.?

Black has just played his king from g8 to h8. But how could this be legal?
And is the position stalemate or can White win?


Thanks for the many letters, which showed us how entertaining the little puzzles by Pal Benko had been. Unfortunately we did not switch off the comments at the bottom of the page, so the solutions were quickly revealed to subsequent visitors. Here they are in full.

Pal Benko, 2014

Mate in one move

We must confess that we forced Pal to simplify a much more sophisticated version of the above idea, to give the puzzle a touch of an April Fool's prank. The position is indeed mate in one, but if you look at it carefully you will see that Black has no last move (...Bg3-h2 is impossible since the white king would have been in check). So it must be Black to move and the solution is 1...Kxg2 mate.

Pal Benko, 2014

Is this checkmate? Can Black play ...hxg3 e.p.?

It would only be checkmate if Black could not capture en passant. But if the white pawn had been on g2 before the last move, then Black has no previous move. The only possibility is that the white pawn moved to g4 either from g3 or from f3. In the first case the white bishop could have been on f1 or g2 and the black king on g4. White played 1.Bh3+ and Black replied 1...Kh5, after which White could deliver mate with 2.g3-g4#. The other possibility was that the white pawn on fd3 captured a black piece that had move to g4 on the previous move. So yes, the position is a legal checkmate, and Black cannot play ...hxg3 e.p.

For the third puzzle we must assume that the position before the diagram above had a knight on f7, which makes the position legal. The rest is a very nice study by Pal Benko.

[Event "?"] [Site "?"] [Date "2014.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "Benko, Pal"] [Black "White to play and win"] [Result "1-0"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "6k1/5Np1/6P1/8/8/8/B7/KN6 w - - 0 1"] [PlyCount "35"] 1. Nh8+ Kxh8 {This is the puzzle position.} 2. Bg8 $1 Kxg8 3. Nc3 Kf8 4. Nd5 Ke8 5. Kb2 Kd7 6. Nf6+ $1 Ke6 7. Nh7 $1 Kf5 8. Nf8 Kf6 9. Kc3 Ke7 10. Nh7 {etc. :} Ke6 11. Kd4 Kf5 12. Nf8 Kf6 13. Ke4 Kg5 14. Ke5 Kh6 15. Ke6 Kg5 16. Kf7 Kh6 17. Kg8 Kg5 18. Kxg7 {and wins.} 1-0

Some earlier ChessBase articles on Pal Benko

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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