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John Ragan vs Pal Benko
75th US Open (1974), New York, NY USA, rd 3, Aug-13
English Opening: King's English. Two Knights' Variation General (A22)  ·  0-1



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Kibitzer's Corner
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Nov-14-09  WhenHarryMetSally: I have absolutely no idea.

Material is even.
Black has a very dangerous H-pawn threat that must be taken care of by white.

What does not want to happen?
Black does not want whites f-pawn to disappear and to give the white f rook access to that f file. Black also does not want a white bishop fork on c6.

What would black want to do?
Id want to prevent the king from getting to g2, and would then try to move that h pawn one square further to coronation.

But there are too many pieces in the way.

22. Bxf3, Nf3.
23. Kh2, Ne4

And now I would put pressure on that g3 pawn by moving my dark squared bishop (Be5) and queen (Qg5) to attack squares. Thats the general mode of attack I would use.

Ill see if this plan has ANY semblance to sanity.

Nov-14-09  lost in space: I was not able to find a real punch in this position.

My best line is looking like this:

21...Ng4 22. Nf4 h2+ 23. Kg2 Be5 24. Rcd1 Qf6 25. bxc6 Bxc6 26. Nce2 Rab8

Black is much better, but White is still not beaten.

Nov-14-09  goodevans: <An Englishman: Good Evening: This is the second straight day that I already knew the game; anyone else experience that (aside from Bobby Fischer week, when we knew all the games)?> recycling puzzles two days running. Very, very disappointing.

Premium Chessgames Member
  agb2002: <An Englishman: Good Evening: This is the second straight day that I already knew the game; anyone else experience that (aside from Bobby Fischer week, when we knew all the games)?>

Yes, I didn't see the maneuver h2-Ng4-Qf6 the first time but I remembered it immediately when I saw the diagram today.

Taking into account that six months ago these puzzles were rated half star higher, it wouldn't surprise me to find a monday level puzzle tomorrow :)

Nov-14-09  remolino: There are a lot of atacking options, but intuitively I would sac the h pawn to open the h file and bring queen to h file as soon as possible.
Nov-14-09  horseP: And 26.NH3 checkMate a lot of
atack on the kingside!!!
Nov-14-09  gofer: I think have seen this one before too....

21 h2+

Option 1 (which white probably avoids as it loses an exchange and ends in roughly the same position, but 2 moves later):

21 ... Kg7
22 Bh3+ Kxh2
23 Bxf1 Rxf1
24 Qe6

Option 2 (when white can probably wriggle out of mate but at what cost?)

21 ... Kxh2
22 Qe6

Now white needs to create an escape sqaure for his king otherwise we get the following combination (22 ... Nf4 23 Ng4+ Kg1/Kg2 24 Qh6 with Qh2+ following)

22 ... Rfe1/Rfd1
23 Qh3+ Kg1
24 Ng4 Bg7
25 Nf3+ Bxf3 (Kf1 26 Nh2#)
26 Qh2+ Kf1
27 Qxf2#

22 ... f4
23 Qh3+ Kg1
24 Ng4 Rf2
25 Nf3+ Bxf3
26 exf3 Rxf3 (Nd4 Bxd4 exd4 opening the e-file game over) 27 Qh2+ Kf1
28 Nde3+ Ke1 (Rxe3 29 Rxe3 and its game over after Bxc3) 29 Qh1+ winning

22 ... f3
23 Qh3+ Kg1
24 Nxf3+

24 ... Rxf3 (losing the exchange)
25 exf3 Bxf3
26 Rxe3 opening up the e file which is winning...

24 ... Bxf3
25 exf3 Rxf3
26 Ng4

with the following coming again as above, I dont think white has many options...

27 Qh2+ Kf1
28 Nde3+ Ke1 (Rxe3 29 Rxe3 and its game over after Bxc3) 29 Qh1+ winning

Time to check...

Nov-14-09  gofer: Now that was pretty! A pity I missed it - twice!


Premium Chessgames Member
  johnlspouge: Saturday (Very Difficult)

J Ragan vs Benko, 1974 (21...?)

Black to play and win.

Material: Even. The White Kg1 has 1 legal move, h7, and is vulnerable to 21Nf3+ or 21h2+. The White K-side is lightly defended, and Bd7, Nf6, and Ng5 are ready to exploit its weak light squares. In particular, the Black Ph3 blocks h3, suggesting a clearance, and moreover, the indefensible squares h2 and h3 beckon the Black Qe7. The Black Kg8 is secured from check.

Candidates (21...): h2+


(1) 22.Kxh2 <Nf3+> (threatening 23Nd2 forking Qb3 and Rf1)

[Toga evaluates 22...Nf3+ at about -3 P for White vs. 22...Ng4+ at about -16 P.]

23.Bxf3 exf3

(1.1) 24.Ng1 Ng4+ 25.Kh3 Nxe3+ 26.Kh2

26Qe6 (threatening 27Qh6+ 28.Nh3 Qxh3#)

27.Nxf3 [or Ne2] [g4 Qe5+ 28.Kh3 Bxg4+ 29.Kh4 Bf6#]

27Qh3+ 28.Kg1 Qg2#

(1.2) 24.Nf4 Ng5+

25.Kg1 [Kh3 Nxe3++ then 26Nxf1 is enough to win]

25Qf6 (threatening 26.Qh6 27.Qh2#)

Black has no feasible defense.

(2) 22.Kg2 Bh3+ 23.Kxh2 Bxf1 is enough to win

I remembered 21...h2. The week is a trip down memory lane.

Premium Chessgames Member
  patzer2: The finish with 25...Qxf4! is a good instructional example (especially for novices) of deflection (removing the guard or defender). If 26. PxQ, then 26...Nh3#.
Premium Chessgames Member
  TheAlchemist: Perhaps now would be the time to confess that in the Informant the game actually finishes with 24...exf3 and 25.Nf4 Qxf4 is only given in parenthesis as a possible finish. When I uploaded the game I must have overlooked that and mistakenly added the pair of moves.
Nov-14-09  njchess: Nice puzzle. White's poor king is trapped by his own pieces. The key to this puzzle is White's lack of king mobility combined with his lack of control over f3. Nicely played by Benko.

White's play is predicated on the idea that his king is safe, and that the center is stable. He effectively ends his game with 11. Rc1? missing his chance to prevent Black's e4.

From there Black's pawn storm carries far more weight than White's attack since he is attacking White's king. White takes way too much time to get his attack going and Benko makes him pay.

Nov-14-09  Nullifidian: After considering 21. ... ♘f3+ for a few seconds and discarding it as counterproductive, I found 21. ... ♙h2+.

There seems to me to be two main lines, depending on whether White captures the pawn or moves ♔g2. I believe the latter, rather than the game move, is best for White. I would continue playing:

22. ♔g2 ♗h3+ 23. ♔xh2 ♗xf1 24. ♘f4

(25. ♖xf1? leads to a devastating attack by Black starting with ... ♘g4+! and followed by ... ♕f6)

... ♘g4+ 25. ♔g1 ♗d3 26. bxc6

(♘xd3 ♘h3+ 27. ♔g2 ♙exd3 28. ♔xh3 ♘xf2+ 29. ♔g2 ♕xe3)

...♕e5 27. ♘b5 ♗f8 (allowing the queen to be brought to the h-file)

28. ♕d1 ♙f5 29. ♗g2 ♕h8 30. ♘xd3 ♕h2+ 31. ♔f1 ♘h3 32. ♗xh3 ♕xh3+ 33. ♔e1 ♕g2 34. ♖c2 ♙exd3 35. ♕xd3 ♕g1+ 36. ♕f1 ♖xe3+! 37. ♙fxe3 ♕xf1+ 38. ♔xf1 ♘xe3+

click for larger view

When Black picks up the rook on the next move, White's position will be hopeless.

The game continuation, 22. ♔xh2, loses to 22. ... ♘g4+ and 23. ... ♕f6.

Nov-14-09  iamcoolright: Wow. The first time I got a non-Monday puzzle was on a Saturday? That's pretty neat.
Nov-14-09  TheChessGuy: Nope. Couldn't see it. Great attack from Nagymester Benko Pal!
Nov-14-09  WhiteRook48: I had 21...Nf3+
Nov-14-09  TheBish: J Ragan vs Benko, 1974

Black to play (21...?) "Very Difficult"

Wow, two games in a row where I was familiar with the games. I just happened to see this on CG when I was going through a lot of games, including some of Benko's.

I remember it went 21...h2+! 22. Kxh2 Ng4+ 23. Kg1 Qf6 and then White had to give up material to stop the mate.

Benko is a great player to study, to learn to play fianchetto positions and how to attack with them. And of course the endgame!

Nov-14-09  David2009: Saturday's puzzle J Ragan vs Benko, 1974 Black 21...?

I have looked at this for 10 -15 minutes without seeing a clear win. There are three plans: Plan A: 21...h2+ immediately: expecting 22 Kxh2 Nf3+ 23 Bxf3 exf3 24 Nf4 Ng4+ 25 Kg1 and there is no clear win for Black. Plan B: 21...Nf3+ first 22 Bxf3 forced h2+ expecting 23 Kh1 gxf3 24 Nf4 (protecting against Bh3 then Bg2+). 23 Kxh2 opening up the h file seems weaker
Plan C: simply pile on the pressure with 21...Ng4 threatening ...Nd5 and ...Nf3+. For example if White plays 22 d4 Nd5 23 bxc6 Bxc6 24 Nxc6?? then 24...either Nf3+ 25 Bxf3 Nxf3#. None of this is forced: the line is given only to illustrate the potential dangers.
We have guests coming, time to stop.
Much later the same evening: type out my thoughts. I think I will go for plan C - I suspect I am missing a lot. Time to check.
Missed it. I will revisit this on Sunday morning. Good night everyone and happy solving on Sunday!

Nov-14-09  SufferingBruin: 1000 rating, trying to get better.

Silman thinking technique:

Material: Dead even.

Minor Pieces: Blacks dark squared bishop is inactive at the moment but when the f6 knight moves, that changes. Blacks light-squared bishop is busy protecting two pawns including the advanced fellow on h3. Blacks g5 knight can jump into the hole on f3 and enjoy the support of the well-protected e4 pawn. The f6 knight can jump to g4 though its not clear what this will immediately accomplish. Whites minor pieces are comparatively inactive.

Space: Black enjoys a space advantage on the kingside while white has more space on the queenside.

Pawn Structure: Black has an isolated passer on h3. As mentioned, the e4 pawn provides an advanced home for a knight on either f3 or d3. Black has an isolated pawn on a7. White has two pawn islands, neither of which appear to be doing much. Whites f-pawn is backward.

Key Files/Squares: Besides the nice holes for the knights, the d and h files are half-open. Blacks light-squared bishop controls the c8-h3 diagonal.

Development: Blacks pieces are more developed. The white king has only one safe square to move to at the moment.

Initiative: Im embarrassed to say I cant spot this unless theres a major threat so lets move on.

Hmmm. Space advantage on the kingside, active minor pieces on the kingside, advanced h3 pawn and whites king is exposed lets play on the kingside! Candidate moves:
1. Nf3+
2. Ng4
3. Bb4
Im almost out of time (I give myself three minutes per star) so Im going with Ng4. It frees up the dark-squared bishop and threatens h2+.

Times up.

Crap. If I were to take a guess, I'd say I didn't call nearly enough attention to the exposed king which should have called for an immediate tactic (sacrificing the pawn) followed by the knight check. I got too caught up in other things.

Love this game.

Nov-14-09  donehung: As soon as i looked at the position i said to myself "i saw this before somewhere, i'll get" praising my memory. Sure enough after 10 mins i could'nt get it.


Nov-14-09  ohfluckaduck: A truly great game by Pal Benko!
Nov-14-09  randomsac: Just a brutal finish by Benko. Too bad I missed this great sequence.
Premium Chessgames Member
  offramp: A standard Stoke-Adams Attack.
Nov-15-09  CHESSTTCAMPS: I saw this late yesterday, but didn't get to post. It looks very familiar, so it may be another recycled puzzle.

Material is even, but the proximity of the h3-pawn, the immobility of white's Bh1, and the offside location of the white queen indicate strong attacking prospects for black. In general, the key factor for success in such attacks is to create efficient ways for the attacking queen to infiltrate. Therefore, I like

21... h2+

This is forcing; it makes h3 available to black attacking pieces, it prevents this pawn from shielding the h-file, and it gains tempo for bringing the Nf6 into the attack. Now

A) 22.Kxh2 Qe6!

A versatile move, because it threatens direct entry with Qh3+, and is also directed against f3 or f4 defenses.

23.Nf4 Ng4+ 24.Kg1 Qh6 25.Rfe1 Qh2+ 26.Kf1 Qxf2#

A.1) 23.Bg2 Ng4+ 24.Kg1 Qh6 25.Rfd1 Nf3+! 26.Bxf3 (26.Kf1 Ng4h2#) Bxf3 27.Qh2+ Kf1 28.Qxf2#

A.1.1) 24.Kg2 Qh6 25.Rfe1/d1 Qh2+ 26.Kf1 Qxf2#

B) 22.Kg2 Bh3+ 23.Kxh2 Bxf1 24.Rxf1 Qe6 looks like A, with white already an exchange down.

Apparently, mate within 8 or 9 moves can't be prevented. Time to check...

Premium Chessgames Member
  morfishine: Straightforward "Removal of the Lard" as Black tosses his big fat Queen



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