Posts Tagged ‘Pal Benko’

Benko’s Great Sacrifice

August 29, 2019

Chess has a rich history full of stories that I share with my students to add extra colour to our lesson material. Below is the tale of Pal Benko’s incredible life’s journey and his great sacrifice which allowed Bobby Fischer to make history.

Pal Benko was born while his Hungarian parents were vacationing in Amiens, France, on July 15, 1928. After learning how to play chess from his father at the age of eight, Pal improved quickly and impressed many during a time when the horrors of war and famine came to Hungary. At the age of twenty, Pal Benko became the Hungarian National Champion and with his chess success came the opportunity to eat and travel. At the 1952 chess tournament, Pal made his attempt to escape the suffering and defect to the West. However, Pal Benko escape was unsuccessful and he was imprisoned in a concentration camp for a grueling 16 months. After Joseph Stalin’s death, Benko was offered clemency and immediately returned to competitive chess as a means to earn food. At the 1957 Reykjavik World Student Chess Championship, Benko made his second attempt at defecting to the United States and this time he was successful.

Pal Benko in 1964.

In the decades that followed, the name Pal Benko was synonymous with chess creativity both in his opening discoveries and his artful puzzles. During the height of his career he was, easily, the most successful open tournament player in the United States winning the U.S. Open Chess Championship a record 8 times! Ironically, the most famous sacrificial move in Pal Benko’s chess career didn’t destroy his adversary but rather elevated him.

In 1970 Benko placed third in the US Championship which guaranteed him a seat in the Interzonal tournament. (Interzonal chess tournaments were tournaments organized by FIDE from the 1950s to the 1990s as a qualifying stage for the World Chess Championship.) Bobby Fischer, who at the time was taking a break from tournament chess, suddenly decided that he wanted to make a serious attempt at the World Championship. However, because of his absence from the US Championship he did not qualify for the Interzonal. In order for Fischer to enter the World Championship cycle, someone else who qualified from the United States would have to give up his seat. The US Chess Federation asked Pal Benko if he would be willing to make this sacrifice for Bobby. Pal Benko realistically knew that Fischer had much better chances than he did at the Interzonal and thus gave up his spot for the benefit of American chess. Bobby Fischer went on to win the Interzonal, the Candidates and the 1972 World Championship Match. None of this would have been possible without Pal Benko’s Great Sacrifice.

Below is a puzzle that Pal Benko stumped Bobby Fischer with in 1968. Can you solve it?

White to move and mate in 3! (Puzzle by Pal Benko)

Pal Benko, Who Stepped Aside for Bobby Fischer, Dies at 91

August 27, 2019

Pal Benko, Who Stepped Aside for Bobby Fischer, Dies at 91

Pal Benko, a chess grandmaster who was among the world’s best players for two decades, but who gave up his place in the 1969-72 world championship cycle to Bobby Fischer, paving the way for Mr. Fischer to become world champion, died on Monday in Budapest. He was 91.

— Read on www.google.com/amp/s/www.nytimes.com/2019/08/26/sports/pal-benko-dead.amp.html

Betcha Can’t Solve This Chess Puzzle! 13

March 3, 2018

A tricky endgame study by the great player/composer Pal Benko. White to move and win.

White to move and win. (GM Pal Benko, 1977)

Pawn Sacrifice: Bobby Fischer Chess Puzzle 1

October 7, 2015

The movie Pawn Sacrifice has put the games of Bobby Fischer back into the spotlight. Below is a puzzle from one of Bobby’s games. Can you spot the winning combination?

 

What did Bobby Fischer(white) play here?

What did Bobby Fischer(white) play here?

 

Here is the complete game for your further enjoyment:

 

[Event "Curacao Candidates"]
[Site "Willemstad CURACAO"]
[Date "1962.06.14"]
[EventDate "1962.05.02"]
[Round "22"]
[Result "1-0"]
[White "Robert James Fischer"]
[Black "Pal Benko"]
[ECO "C11"]
[WhiteElo "?"]
[BlackElo "?"]
[PlyCount "61"]

1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. e5 Nfd7 5. f4 c5 6. dxc5 Bxc5
7. Qg4 O-O 8. Bd3 f5 9. Qh3 Bxg1 10. Rxg1 Nc5 11. Bd2 Nc6
12. Nb5 Qb6 13. O-O-O Bd7 14. Nd6 Na4 15. Bb5 Nd4 16. Be3 Ne2+
17. Bxe2 Qxb2+ 18. Kd2 Qb4+ 19. Kc1 Nc3 20. Rde1 Nxa2+ 21. Kd1
Nc3+ 22. Kc1 d4 23. Bf2 Rfc8 24. Bd3 Na2+ 25. Kd1 Nc3+ 26. Kc1
Rc5 27. Qh4 Ra5 28. Kd2 h6 29. g4 fxg4 30. Rxg4 Kh8 31. Qxh6+
1-0

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