Throwback Thursday: Benko’s First Columns

With the death last week of GM Pal Benko at age 91, it seems appropriate on this Thursday to take a look back his 46 years writing for Chess Life.

Long known as a leading authority on problems and studies, Benko’s first and longest-running contribution to Chess Life was “Benko’s Bafflers,” a monthly set of composed problems (usually studies) for readers to solve. Answers were initially provided two months later, i.e., a January issue would have answers from the previous November. Later they were printed in the back matter of the same issue.

Benko’s first column from April 1967 is also available in pdf format: page 1 | page 2

“Benko’s Bafflers” ran from April 1967 through December 2013, when Benko chose to retire from his column. At the time of his retirement Benko was also writing his legendary “Endgame Laboratory,” which focused on the endgame in all of its facets. Benko collected twenty years of his columns in the two volumes of his Chess Endgame Lessons (1989, 1999), both of which remain highly sought after by chess book collectors.

Benko’s “Endgame Lab” was published from January 1981 through December 2013. In his first column, shown here, Benko focused on a very common type of endgame – rook endings with four pawns for one side, and three for the other, with all the pawns on the same side of the board.

You can also read this inaugural column in pdf format.

Here are the games from the column in replayable format. Note that there is a correction to the Harandi-Vaganian game as it is presented in MegaBase. Benko’s version, with 44. … Ra4, is correct, as confirmed through reference to both the English and Russian language tournament books.

Benko took on the “Endgame Lab” series after a stint as the chief author of “In the Arena,” a monthly look at games from a tournament, often one Benko had played in. Dates for Benko’s authorship of this column are generally given as 1972-1981, but this is imprecise. Benko was already writing semi-regularly under this title in 1971, and a September 1970 entry called “Malaga Arena” is a definite precursor.

For 46 years Pal Benko made Chess Life a better publication through his presence in its pages. His is a legacy that every chess writer would do well to emulate.

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