Happy 90th Pal Benko and eleven twins solutions

by Frederic Friedel
7/15/2018 – On his 90th birthday, which we celebrated with a major biographical article earlier today, we add to the congratulations: Happy 90th, Pal, please stay with us as long as you can, and remain as incredibly creative as you still are. It is also appropriate to present our readers with the solutions to Benko's record-breaking twin problems, which turned out to be harder than expected.

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Pal Benkö — A Very Happy 90th!

As you have seen the great chess personality Pal Benko turns 90 today. For a very long time now he has been friends of ChessBase and contributed vigorously to our news page. At the bottom of this page, you will find a list of his articles, which always provided life and entertainment to the regular chess news. The last article, Eleven Twins, was a composition feat that broke records. The eleven puzzles were also quite difficult. If you were not able to solve them on our interactive diagram boards you will be interested to see the solutions in the player below.

On a personal note: while formatting the Eleven Twins page I ran into some problems. I have a template for a single and for two columns of interactive diagrams, but eleven meant that in the final row there was just one diagram. After wrestling with the HTML code for a while I decided to try, instead, to compose an additional twin. I came up with the following:


This, I thought, was a valid twin, since it changes just one piece from the previous diagram (replacing the black pawn with a white knight). It also has a cook-free solution. However, Pal informed me that there was a problem:

Your three knights are interesting, but the problem breaks the unity, and it is not natural. The twin definition is simple: only one change, with the same conditions. Piece change, color change, or shifting the position change. A promoted piece on the board is a different category, belonging rather to fairy chess problems. These are ortodox mate problems, and a promoted piece would lower the value of the probems, and a regular problem tournament would not accept it. I checked the FIDE Album 2010/12 to convince you that this is not just my rule. There are 984 three-movers and I could not spot one promoted piece! Does this mean something?

I accept this completely — would Pal have not found a twelfth problem himself, if there was one that fit the category of twins legitimately? I still have a few things to learn. But: out of curiosity, I give you the solution to the fairy chess problem in the replayer below.

And one more problem that has been with me for most of my chess life. I found it in a book of chess puzzles and tried to solve it by myself. I remembered that I gave up after ten or fifteen minutes and peeked at the solution in the back of the book. It was so enchanting that I regretted not having found it myself.


I hope our readers will spend some time figuring out this problem. The solution is not given in the following replay app, but I will quietly add it to the list in about a week. Surely you will find the moves yourself before that?!

Solutions to the twin problems

Note: in our solutions replay board you can switch on an engine (fan icon) to analyse with machine assistance. Hovering with the mouse over individual buttons below the board and notation will indicate their function

Some earlier ChessBase articles by and about Pal Benko

Pal Benko celebrates his 90th birthday
7/15/2018 – Today, July 15th, Pal Benko turns 90. As the progenitor of the Benko Gambit, chess theory will always remember him, but he also had an interesting life. He was a ladies man, spent a year and a half in a Soviet prison camp, fled from Hungary to the US, played in two Candidates tournaments, and is a renowned composer of endgame studies and problems. Frank Zellner offers more details.

Pal Benko – eleven twins
7/7/2018 – In problem chess "twins" are two or more problems, normally composed by a single author, that are slight variations of each other. This is usually brought about by moving pieces slightly or subtly, or adding, removing or exchanging a piece. Sometimes the position is moved to another location on the board. The solutions should be different. Now our dear and faithful friend Pal Benkö has sent us a record-setting eleven twins. Have fun solving these unique problems.

Problems of the past month – did you see the solutions?
5/6/2017 – We have published a number of problems in the past months, initially without the solutions. After some days or weeks we added the solutions on the original page, but of course, many readers might have missed this. And some may have missed the problems themselves. So today we bring you a special report with the problems of Pal Benko and Miguel Illescas, with their solutions.

Pal Benko: April Swindles – unusual chess problems
4/1/2017 – Eighty-eight – that is what the first two problems in the April 1st collection symbolize. That is the age of the composer, the indefatigable Pal Benko, who sent us five very unusual positions for this auspicious day. Do not expect to fire up the positions on your computer and press Ctrl-Alt-Del for engine assistance. Today you will have to think – you know, mobilize all that grey matter. And a fair bit of humour. We wish you fun and unusual enjoyment.

Benko's Christmas problems solutions
1/25/2018 – Every year Pal Benko, grandmaster, former World Championship candidate, and one of the best problem composers in the world, sends our readers very special seasonal greetings. They come in the form of chess problems in which the pieces represent figures — this time a Christmas tree and candles. This year it was seven problems, one shaped like a tree and six like candles. Here the solutions — and some new and amusing problems to tickle your mind.

Pal Benko's Christmas problems
12/25/2017 – Every year Pal Benko, grandmaster, former World Championship candidate, and one of the best problem composers in the world, sends our readers very special seasonal greetings. They come in the form of chess problems in which the pieces represent figures – this time a Christmas tree and candles. It is the start of our Christmas puzzle week, which we bring you for the eighteenth year in succession. Prepare for puzzles that cannot be easily solved with a computer, tasks which require you to think all by yourself. And a nostalgic look to the past.

Pal Benko's Valentine Day problems
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.

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 composer 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 contemporary 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 chess player 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 hometown 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 hometown of Budapest, sent us a birthday report in two parts. Today we learn of Benkos escape from Communist Hungary to the USA, 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 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 news page. 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.

Editor-in-Chief emeritus of the ChessBase News page. Studied Philosophy and Linguistics at the University of Hamburg and Oxford, graduating with a thesis on speech act theory and moral language. He started a university career but switched to science journalism, producing documentaries for German TV. In 1986 he co-founded ChessBase.


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