The Top Chess Players in the World

GM Pal Benko

Pal Benko
Photo: F.N. Broers/Dutch National Archives, CC.
Full name
Pal Benko
Jul 15, 1928 - Aug 26, 2019 (age 91)‎
Place of birth
Amiens, France
United States


Pal Benko was a Hungarian and later American grandmaster. He was Hungary's national champion in 1948. Because of World War II as well as Soviet influence on Hungary after the war, Benko's life in his home country was tumultuous—even resulting in time in a concentration camp—and he moved to the United States in 1958. After circumstances in Hungary improved, he spent plenty of time in his home country and helped to train the Polgar sisters. He passed away in Budapest in 2019 at the age of 91.

Benko was a candidate for the world championship twice, in 1959 and 1962. Although he never won the closed U.S. Chess Championship, he did win first or a share of first in the U.S. Open Championship on eight occasions. Benko also wrote for Chess Life magazine and is probably best known today for the gambit bearing his name: 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 c5 3.d5 b5.

Benko is also famous for his endgame studies and chess problems. Here’s a famous example, which he composed at the age of 15 but was published in 1968 in Chess Life & Review.

White to mate in three.

Benko was a prolific writer. His column in Chess Life ran just over 46 years, from April 1967 through December 2013. In 2013, he chose to retire but continued contributing regularly after that.

You can read more about Benko in's obituary.

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