Chess Puzzle of the Week (49)


Last week I asked you to adjudicate this game between Ted and Alice, with Black to move. Ted claimed he was winning easily: he was threatening mate in 2 and about to promote a pawn. Alice had seen further: she was going to play Kh6, and wasn’t sure how Ted was going to prevent Qh5#.

The answer is that the game should be drawn. Ted has three queen moves to cover the h5 square, but they all allow Alice to play Qd1+, when there’s no way to stop the checks. His other move is to play f5, but Alice would reply with e5, renewing her mate threat. Ted’s only reply would be Qe8, when Alice has a choice of perpetual checks via Qe4+ or Qd1+. So the game should be a draw, and Ted and Alice can both buy their own drink.

I was sad to hear of the recent death of GM Pal Benko at the age of 91. One of the great chess legends of the second half of the last century, he developed and popularised the Benko Gambit (1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 c5 3. d5 b5) and played in two Candidates Tournaments. Unlike most grandmasters, over the board play was not his only chess interest: he was also a composer of problems and endgame studies.


Here’s one of his studies (Vergio 1999). White to play and win. The first two moves are critical.