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Pal Benko: My Life, Games, and Compositions [Paperback]

Our Price $ 38.25  
Retail Value $ 45.00  
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Item Number 287649  
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Item Specifications...

Pages   668
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 10.14" Width: 7.34" Height: 1.84"
Weight:   3.5 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Publisher   Siles Press
ISBN  1890085081  
EAN  9781890085087  

Availability  1 units.
Availability accurate as of Oct 23, 2016 08:05.
Usually ships within one to two business days from Momence, IL.
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Item Description...
Pal Benko: My Life, Games, and Compositions by John L. Watson Pal Benko

Buy Pal Benko: My Life, Games, and Compositions by Pal Benko, Jeremy Silman, John L. Watson & John L. Watson from our Christian Books store - isbn: 9781890085087 & 1890085081

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More About Pal Benko, Jeremy Silman, John L. Watson & John L. Watson

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Reviews - What do our customers think?
How Chess co-authorship *should* be done.  Aug 13, 2007
Oh no--three authors! (GM Benko, IM Silman, and IM Watson). This usually means, in chess circles, that the "big name" Grandmaster (Benko) donated nothing more than his name (and perhaps his notes), and let the co-authors do all the real work.

Fortunately, in this case, this suspicion is unfounded. Each author contributed what he is best at: Benko contributed over 130 deeply-annotated games--including a whole section on the development of the Benko gambit--and 300(!) engames and studies. Silman added long and very interesting interviews, as well as "milking" Benko for information about his life and views of other leading players, resulting in almost 100 pages of candid interviews, as well as (in the "games" section) Benko's recollections of his life and his opinions of numerous famous players. Finally Watson (an opening expert) gives us over 100 pages analyzing Benko's significant contributions to opening theory.

No stops were pulled in the production department. A huge, large-format hardback of over 650 pages, it contains, apart from all of the above, many high-quality, rarely-seen photographs of Benko himself and his other chess masters. This is how a chess autobiography should be written.
Pal Benko Offers Inspiration as well as Chess  Nov 4, 2006
I like the book and found his games interesting and his life an inspiration. I met Pal benko at a World Open chess Tournament in Philadelphia and he offered some words of advice during a review of one of my games. When I told him I was playing not to lose in a game in which I was clearly at an advantage that ended in a draw, he encouraged me to go for the win and believe in your instincts and go for the win when you have the advantage or you will miss out on the rewards of winning, in words to that effect. I have not for forgotten our meeting though it was years ago.
Much Better Than Expected  Aug 7, 2006
I am a USCF expert who likes good chess books that help me improve. When I first heard that Silman had written a biography of Pal Benko, I was disappointed. You see, I was hoping for another installment in the REASSESS YOUR CHESS series. At first, then, I ignored this Benko book. Yet it was Silman, and he has been excellent, so eventually I broke down and purchased the hefty volume. For awhile it sat on my shelf untouched. Finally I picked it up and started reading its many, many pages.

What a pleasant surprise! The first several games were annotated with the usual Silman excellence, and the quality of the play was ten times better than I had expected. Slowly I came to my senses and realized how superbly one must play chess in order to become a two-time candidate for the world championship (Benko made it to the candidates cycle in '59 and '62). Best of all, Benko's play is an unusual and intoxicating mixture of imaginative originality and impressive power. This guy played great games from which we can learn plenty today.

Much more surprising, however, is that these games, imaginative and interesting, were situated within the fascinating historical context of Benko's struggles to play chess professionally while battling the horrors of communism, including a concentration camp. This gives the book serious educational value, as we learn much about personal life under communist rule.

As we move along to the years when Benko escaped to the United States, we are treated to thought-provoking details about the trials and tribulations of Americans who aspire to play chess professionally. Given the hideous conditions faced by Grandmasters in the United States, their stellar performance is all the more impressive, and we cannot help but wonder how many more World Champions America might produce if we had some kind of serious system in place to provide American Grandmasters with financial support and, even more importantly, moral support.

As things stand, however, it is a mystery how American GMs maintain any semblance of morale. Gently and tactfully, Silman uses the life of Benko to reveal how an American Grandmaster routinely faces undeserved and often unintentional disrespect from well-meaning but terribly unsophisticated chess sponsors and fans. This part of the book is sad. Through Benko's eyes we see how often an American chess sponsor will make heavy demands on Grandmasters' time and energy--and then expect gratitude for it! Americans compete against European GMs who enjoy celebrity status, public support, and ten times the opportunities to compete for FIDE titles. Yet when American teams triumph over "higher rated" teams from Russia or Germany--as they did just recently--American chess fans look at nothing but FIDE ratings and continue the tired, old drumbeat of how "weak" American GMs are compared to the "great" players from Russia and Europe.

Silman is tactful and restrained about this, but the main points are all there: American GMs get little respect, earn little money, and suffer the heavy loneliness that weighs upon those whose own countrymen belittle them as a result of apparently incurable ignorance. It is clear why an American GM might get depressed and bitter; it seems a miracle that some don't. This book makes the life of a professional chessplayer in America appear so abjectly rotten that it is impossible to understand why they would attempt it, other than perhaps the sad fact that they were young when they started out and lacked perspective on the serious consequences of their life choice.

Mammas, don't let your babies grow up to be Grandmasters. At least, not in the USA.

After all this heartbreaking material, we are treated to an endgame section of the book which is superbly instructive and entertaining. Chess fans best know Benko from his long-running endgame column in CHESS LIFE. As a bonus, however, this book opened my mind to the beauty of composed studies intended exclusively for enjoyment. Bravo! to art for art's sake.

Another treat in this book is that we see how Fischer, Botvinnik, Portisch, Tal, and other chess stars looked through Benko's eyes. His anecdotes and commentary make an interesting feast, serving up plenty more food for thought about how changes in a grandmaster's personal life will deeply change what happens on the chessboard. This book reveals how a grandmaster puts his soul into his games, much as Rembrandt painted his soul on canvas, and Mozart filled the air with the sounds of his beautiful soul.

Yet not everything in the book is quite so great. There are some problems with the interview section. Most of the interview material is excellent, yet some of it has little to do with Benko and is in poor taste. In particular, there is no excuse for treating us to the ridiculous, trivial episode where some national master offered Sammy Reshevsky pot and Reshevsky turned it down. That tells us nothing about Benko and is so out of place that it reads as if its inclusion was an editorial mix-up. Still, we are talking about minor flaws--only a few paragraphs here and there--and this in a giant book packed with fascinating, instructive, and rewarding material.

To sum up, this enormous chess biography of Pal Benko is superb. It ranks high in the honor roll of chess literature. Silman has delivered yet again, and in a big way, literally. I congratulate him, and thank him most sincerely for the extensive effort it must have required to produce this monumental tome. It would be nice if this work led to an increase in the sophistication of the American chess fan and chess sponsor, but that is probably hoping for too much. After all, from reading this book I can only say that as a chess fan I have gone from utterly unsophisticated to slightly less so. Chess is a difficult game to play and the accomplishments of GMs are difficult to appreciate. At any rate, we can all look forward to more outstanding work from Silman for years to come.
More Analysis than Biography  Feb 14, 2006
My only problem with this splendid volume is that there is really very little biography included. The biography is broken up by 130 well-annotated games, resulting in less than 1/4 of the book being pure biography. We also have an entirely superfluous interview section.

The book itself is a wonderful oversized hardcover edition that will hold up to repeated readings and playing through of the chess games. This is a volume that will last generations.

After the biography we have both a 3rd party survey of Benko's openings from both sides, and a selection of his problems, mate in x, helpmate, selfmate and endgame studies.

This all adds up to a complete view of Benko the chess player. I was hoping for a bit more of Benko the person.

Still, it ranks with Tal's autobiography in the annals of chess biography.
An excellent chess book  Mar 28, 2005
This is an excellent book about chess in general and about Grandmaster Pal Benko in particular. Benko was a Candidate for the World Championship on two occasions, 1959 and 1962.

In the first part of the book, Benko tells about his life and annotates more than 130 of his best games. These include games against Botvinnik, Smyslov, Tal, Petrosian, and Fischer. It includes a fascinating description of life in Hungary during World War Two and of life under Communist rule in Hungary after the war. In 1957, Benko escaped from Hungary via Iceland to the West. Seven years later, Benko, now an American, was given amnesty by Hungary and was able to return there. Eventually, he wound up spending half his time in Hungary and half in the US.

Benko includes a section on his development of the Benko Gambit (1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 c5 3 d5 b5). There are eleven games in this section, all Benko Gambits. Benko has Black in ten of them. The eleventh is a game with White, against Berry.

The book also has a fine section by John Watson analyzing Benko's openings both with White and Black and concludes with a large selection of Benko's chess problems and compositions.

I highly recommend this book.

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