Historical riddle: Benko vs Kortschnoi

by Karsten Müller
9/16/2020 – Karsten Müller is the Sherlock Holmes of unsolved endgame riddles, and he passionately searches for the truth in complicated endgame positions. This time, he wants to know whether the famous endgame Benko vs Kortschnoi, Curacao 1962, was indeed won for White. And he needs your help to find the solution. | Photos: Dutch National Archive

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The old riddle Benko - Kortschnoi

Hte Hungarian-American Grandmaster Pal Benko (July 15, 1928 – August 26, 2019) was a theoretician, an author, and an outstanding composer of chess problems and endgame studies. Of course, he also was an excellent endgame player and the following masterpiece has been often praised and analysed. However, endgame specialist Dr. Karsten Müller thinks that this fascinating duel knight vs bishop deserves to be studied and investigated again, and he invites the readers to do so.

The five Soviet participants (Paul Keres, Efim Geller, Mikhail Tal, Tigran Petrosian and Viktor Kortschnoi, front row, from left to right) and the Soviet delegation arrive in Curacao.

The duel bishop vs knight can be very complicated. Usually, the quick and wide-ranging bishop wants dynamic positions while the flexible but slow knight prefers static positions in which it can maneuver.

In the diagram position below Benko's knight is in control, and the only question is whether White can win or not. However, this question is not that easy to answer. So, dig deep!


The task is: was the endgame always won for White, and, if not, where did White and Black make mistakes? Use the comment section below to share your ideas, insights and analyses!

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.


Karsten Müller is considered to be one of the greatest endgame experts in the world. His books on the endgame - among them "Fundamentals of Chess Endings", co-authored with Frank Lamprecht, that helped to improve Magnus Carlsen's endgame knowledge - and his endgame columns for the ChessCafe website and the ChessBase Magazine helped to establish and to confirm this reputation. Karsten's Fritztrainer DVDs on the endgame are bestsellers. The mathematician with a PhD lives in Hamburg, and for more than 25 years he has been scoring points for the Hamburger Schachklub (HSK) in the Bundesliga.


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