Pal Benko bigraphy, stories - Hungarian chess grandmaster

Pal Benko : biography

July 14, 1928 -

Pal Benko ( born July 14, 1928) is a chess grandmaster, author, and composer of endgame studies and chess problems.


  • The Benko Gambit, 1974, RHM Press ISBN 978-0713429121
  • Chess Endgame Lessons, 1990 Revised 2nd Edition
  • Winning with Chess Psychology by Pal Benko and Burt Hochberg, 1991, Random House Puzzles & Games ISBN 978-0812918663
  • Basic Chess Endings by Reuben Fine revised by Pal Benko, 2003, Random House Puzzles & Games ISBN 978-0812934939
  • Pal Benko: My Life, Games and Compositions, by Pal Benko, Jeremy Silman, and John L. Watson, 2004, Siles Press ISBN 978-1890085087
  • Pal Benko's Endgame Laboratory, 2007, Ishi Press ISBN 978-0923891886

World title candidate

Benko's highest achievement was qualifying and competing in the Candidates Tournament—the tournament to decide the challenger for the World Championship—in 1959 and 1962. Both tournaments had eight of the world's top players. He finished eighth in 1959 and sixth in 1962.

Benko qualified for the 1970 Interzonal tournament, the leaders of which advance to the Candidates. However, he gave up his spot in the Interzonal to Bobby Fischer, who went on to win the World Championship in 1972.

Early life

Benko was born in Amiens, France, but was raised in Hungary. He was Hungarian champion by age 20. He emigrated to the United States in 1958, after defecting following the World Student Team Championship in Reykjavík, Iceland in 1957. FIDE awarded him the Grandmaster title in 1958.

Legacy and writings

Some chess openings he pioneered are named for him:

  • The Benko Gambit (1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 c5 3.d5 b5), which he popularised, and played with great success from the mid-1960s.
  • Benko's Opening (1.g3), which he introduced at the 1962 Candidates Tournament, defeating Bobby Fischer and Mikhail Tal with it.

He wrote a book on the Benko Gambit for RHM Publishing in the early 1970s.

Benko is a noted authority on the chess endgame. For decades, he has had a column on endgames in Chess Life magazine, which is published by the United States Chess Federation. In 2003 he revised the classic book Basic Chess Endings, by Reuben Fine. In addition to his success as a player, Benko is a composer of endgame studies and chess problems. He was awarded the title of International Master of Chess Composition by FIDE.

Benko was inducted into the U.S. Chess Hall of Fame in 1993.

Notable games

  • Ragozin tries the Budapest Gambit in Budapest, but Hungarian Benko is well prepared.
  • Szabo is a nine-time Hungarian champion, but the young Benko more than holds his own.
  • The young Fischer would go on to qualify, but he suffers a drastic loss here.
  • One of Benko's best games from this tournament.
  • Fischer overextends and is punished badly.
  • Benko lost the match, but he scores a nice win here.
  • Benko introduces an original opening scheme (1.g3), and defeats Bobby Fischer.
  • Benko again utilizes his new plan to defeat Tal.
  • An extraordinarily painful loss for Keres, who had beaten Benko in the three previous cycles of the tournament; it costs him a chance to qualify for the world championship match.
  • Benko plays the Benko Gambit for the first time.Benko Counter-Gambit, David Levy, (Batsford, 1978), p.11
  • Zaitsev came prepared with his own variation, but Benko manages to win anyway.
  • Benko is spotting young Seirawan 32 years, but shows experience and craft certainly counting for something in chess.

Other achievements

Benko finished in first place (or tied for first place) in eight U.S. Open Chess Championships, a record. His titles were: 1961, 1964, 1965, 1966, 1967, 1969, 1974, 1975. He won the 1964 Canadian Open Chess Championship.

Benko played some of his very best chess in team competition. He represented Hungary at the 1957 Student Olympiad in Reykjavík on board one, scoring 7½/12, and Hungary was fourth as a team. He had earlier played for the national Hungarian team at the Moscow 1956 Olympiad, on board three, scoring 10/15, and helping Hungary to team bronze. He moved to the United States, but it was not until 1962 that he appeared on their team. He would wind up on six teams in a row. At Varna 1962, Benko played board two, scored 8/12 for the silver medal on his board, and the USA finished fourth. At Tel Aviv 1964, he was again on board two, scored 9½/14, and the USA ended up sixth. At Havana 1966, Benko was on board three, scored 8/12, and the Americans won team silver. At Lugano 1968, he made 6/12 on board three, and the USA finished fourth. At Siegen 1970, Benko was on board four, scoring 8½/12, and the Americans again finished fourth. His last Olympiad was Skopje 1972, where he played on board three, made 9½/16, and the USA ended up ninth.Source:

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