Benko-Kortschnoi: Riddle solved

by Karsten Müller
9/28/2020 – At the Candidates Tournament 1962 in Curacao, Pal Benko (pictured) and Viktor Kortschnoi reached a very complicated minor piece endgame. Karsten Müller asked the readers to help analysing this endgame which Benko won. Zoran Petronijevic once again came up with the best analysis, and in a short interview he reveals how he analyses such endgames.

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Riddle solved: Benko missed a hidden win

The duel "bishop against knight" is tricky and often leads to long manoeuvring. At the Candidates Tournament 1962 in Curacao Pal Benko had such an endgame against Viktor Kortschnoi.


Karsten Müller asked the readers to help analysing this endgame.

Pal Benko

In fact, Benko missed a deep and hidden win.

Usually, the bishop strives for dynamic play while the knight prefers more static positions. In this case, after 46...h3, Benko's knight has everything under control and all the time in the world. However, it still takes some time before it is apparent how White can win.

Kevin Cotreau and Scorpion29 found correct solutions.

Zoran Petronijevic once again sent in the best solution.


  1. The starting position is a draw.
  2. 46...h3? is a grave error after which Black is lost.
  3. Benko missed a hidden win, and after his move 57.Nh7? Black could have defended.
  4. Benko and Timman think that 62.Kg3 is a mistake but the position is already a draw and the move is not a mistake. Benko and Timman propose 62.Ke2 but this, too, is not enough for a win.
  5. Benko and Timman also think that 64...Kc4 is an error. But even after this move the position is still a draw.
  6. The decisive mistake is 66...Kd3?. After this move Black is lost.



Magical Chess Endgames

In over 4 hours in front of the camera, Karsten Müller presents to you sensations from the world of endgames - partly reaching far beyond standard techniques and rules of thumb - and rounds off with some cases of with own examples.

Our reader Ted Jewell wanted to know more about Zoran Petronijevic, who again and again provided the best solutions to Karsten Müller's Endgame Riddles, and he invited Zoran to an interview to gain insights into his analytical methods:

Are you a strong player? Do you have a FIDE-rating or a title?

I am an International Master with a current rating of 2405. However, in 2003 I have stopped to play over-the-board chess. By profession I am a teacher for philosophy and logic, but currently I am unemployed.

Since 2003 I have worked as a chess coach online and that makes me happy. Occasionally, I play some blitz chess on sites such as, ICC,, lichess.... My handle is "zoranp".

In chess I try to find the truth, or at least, to come closer to it. I regularly analyse games for the Chess Informant where I have a small column about endgame errors. A long time ago, I also made a CD for ChessBase about Caro-Kann. Moreover, I edited and revised two parts (pawn endings and rook endings) of the Encyclopedia of Chess Endings which is  published by Chess Informant.

Which engines do you use? How long do you let the computer run on a particular line? How deeply do you go into a line before ending the search and moving to another variation?

I use Stockfish 11 – usually the latest version. Before I let an engine analyse a game, I analyse myself on the board to try to find the most important ideas. How deep we should analyse with an engine depends on the complexity of the position. We should know in which positions the engine can help us, and in which positions it is helpless (or almost helpless). In sum: if we want to find the best moves, we need to have an understanding of chess.

Do you do much of the analysis yourself? Or do you let the computer analyze various branches and then assemble the results?

I always analyze on the board first, and only afterwards with an engine. I steer the engine through the variations – not the other way round – particularly in positions, in which the engines are not that strong. In positions, in which there is no clear plan (or in which there is a deep, hidden plan) the engines are not particularly useful. In fact, analysing on the board without the help of engines is one of my passions.

Do you research all published analysis of the game, which you want to analyse, first? Do you do anything in particular before using an engine?

If the game is well-known, yes. One should know where previous analysts stopped. Of course, you should check their analyses before you go deeper into the position. E.g., the last riddle that was published on the ChessBase website (Schlechter-Lasker) has been heavily analysed and there were a lot of important analyses one should simply know and check. I therefore own a decent number of chess books (about 2,000).

Tu sum it up again: to analyse well, you have to know something about chess. Engines do not understand some typical positions, some well-known endgame ideas, fortresses, etc... But you should know this. Because I no longer play tournament chess, I hardly ever analyse openings. I mainly analyse middlegames and endgames.

Thank you for your time and insights!


Karsten Müller, born 1970, has a world-wide reputation as one of the greatest endgame experts. He has, together with Frank Lamprecht, written a book on the subject: “Fundamental Chess Endgames” in addition to other contributions such as his column on the website ChessCafe as well as in ChessBase Magazine. Müller's ChessBase-DVDs about endgames in Fritztrainer-Format are bestsellers. The PhD in mathematics lives in Hamburg, where he has also been hunting down points for the HSK in the Bundesliga for many years.
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Karsten Müller Karsten Müller 10/1/2020 09:00
So Zoran Petronijevic has índeed started to use Stockfish 12. The interview was conducted before that release. Fascinating news! I am very curious, what the new engine and the NN engines like Fat Fritz 2 will find in the future...
chessbibliophile chessbibliophile 10/1/2020 04:32
In the interview Zoran Petronijevic mentions that he uses Stockfish 11. The latest version released in in September 2020 is Stockfish 12. Their site clams that this version is based on updatable neural network.
Karsten Müller Karsten Müller 9/29/2020 04:02
Good point! But after 53.Ke3 Kf7 54.Nf3 Bxf3 55.Kxf3 Kg6 the pawn ending is drawn as well.
skent skent 9/29/2020 09:49
In variation 46... Be4 =, what is an idea of the move 53.b5? Then I think, the draw is obvious due to drawish pawn ending.
What would happen if White had played 53. Ke3 with an idea to play 54. Nf3 and bring the knight out of the captivity?