WINNING THE WON GAME
Lessons from the Albert Brilliancy Prizes
Dr. Danny Kopec & Lubomir Ftacnik
The Albert Brilliancy Prize is an award made to games adjudged to be the best in the U.S. Chess Championships. It has been sponsored for the last 20 years by Paul M. Albert Jr, a very keen chess player himself. His interest in providing this sponsorship was encouraged by someone who is well known to Westcountry players - International Master James Sherwin. At the time he first met Albert, Sherwin was an Executive Vice President of one of companies that Albert was dealing with in his capacity as representative of an investment bank Sherwin was also President and Trustee of the American Chess Foundation. In the late 1970's, Sherwin invited Albert to become a Trustee of the Foundation and his deep interest was then generated.
Danny Kopec and Lubomir Ftacnik have used the games earning the award as a basis for "Winning the Won Game". The title of the book may seem rather strange when the games included have won a brilliancy prize, but Kopec explains this in a foreword to the games. He states that a master is supposed to be able to demonstrate his skill in all phases of play - "comfortable in the challenges of opening play, able to negotiate the tactical intricacies and strategical demands of the middlegame, while being able to draw upon sufficient knowledge and technique to win a won ending." However, he then claims that some masters and even Grandmasters may be able to play some parts of the game accurately but it is rare that an entire game is played correctly. This is the criteria used in annotating the games in the book - the search for a brilliant technique that will deem the game being scrutinised to be "brilliant."
The game given below is a fine example of this approach. It is not the sort of game that some people would consider to be "brilliant" but it shows that the player of the white pieces gains an advantage in the early middlegame and then by means of brilliant technique, nurses the advantage to a win.
The book contains 64 well annotated games together with a listing of the games given the award in particular years starting in 1984. It is interesting to note that there is a fair sprinkling of woman players who have won the award.
Ftacnik has arranged a list of ten games that he considers are the best brilliancy prize games and he rates the following game as first providing an explanation "Shocking tactical decision, instructive endgame."
On the whole the book is interesting, but is marred by some typing errors, one of which is contained in the following game. The conclusion drawn from the analysis following Black's 34th move ("when Black has a won game".) is clearly wrong.
The annotations have been written in a style that tends to set my teeth on edge. This is a style which seems to emanate from translations in former years from languages other than English (principally Russian) which is again exemplified in the following game. The note after White's 35th move starts "Also strong for White is 35.Qe7 Rc1........". I would certainly feel more comfortable with "35.Qe7 is also strong for White .....".
"Winning the Won Game" is published by Batsford and is produced
in their normal impeccable style. It has 207 pages and is priced at
£13.99 a fair price given my comments above.
With White, Benjamin's opening play is especially impressive. He manages to nurse a very small advantage from the opening right into the endgame.
1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nd2 dxe4 4.Nxe4 Nd7 5.Nf3 Ngf6 6.Nxf6+ Nxf6 7.Bg5 The goal of White's simple development is to cause Black serious problems with the mobilisation of the rest of his forces.
This ambitious move may be the source of Black's problems. Rather than, for example, playing ....Be7 and ...0-0, Black delays castling in return for immediate central counterplay.
8.Bb5+ Bd7 9.Bxd7+ Qxd7 10.Qe2 0-0-0
As indicated below, Seirawan takes a course which is more risky than Korchnoi's ....Be7 followed by ....0-0. Nonthe less he comes quite close to equalising.
Another sensible continuation is 10...Be7
has been played, and after 11...0-0
Leko - Korchnoi, Corus 2000 White was slightly better.) 11...0-0
(Leading to a dead equal position was 12...Qa4
Van der Weil - Van der Sterren, Dutch Championship 2000) An exciting but not the best continuation is 13.d5?!
when Black is better.; 12.Kb1
(Also played has been 13.dxc5
Timman - Korchnoi, Luzern 1989 was very slightly better for White.) 13...exd5
when White is slightly better.) 14.Rhe1
Nisipeanu - Rogozenko, Ciocaltea Memorial 1998.) 12...Qa4!?
Also possible is 13...Rad8
(Another move played in this position is 13...Bxc5
(Korchnoi obviously plays this variation with the intention of winning with Black. Another game of his continued 15.Rd3
Hernadez - Korchnoi, Merida 1996.) 15...Rfd8
Leko - Korchnoi, Vienna 1996, when he was slightly worse.) 14.Ne5
as in Dolmatov - M. Gurevich, Bundesliga 1992 when again White was slightly better.; 10...cxd4
Mikhalchishin - Chernin, Cienfugos 1981) 12.Qe5!+/-
(White was also slightly better after 12.Kb1
Sturua - Gretarsson, Elista Olymopiad 1998) ; Leading to an unclear position was 10...Rc8
Damjanovic - Cosma, Belgrade 1995.
11.Rd1 Qc7 12.0-0 cxd4
Black would be essentially equal after 12...a6!?
White would only be a tiny bit better after 13...Bc5
A forceful stroke, exploiting Black's lag in development.
Black must accept the offering; if 14...Re8?
and White is better.) 17.Bd8+
and a and again White is on top.) 18.Rfe1
when Black has compensation for his material sacrifice.) on 15...Qxd8
White has a won game.
and White has a won game.; On 15...Nd7
White is also winning after 16.Bxd8
16.Bxf6 gxf6 17.Rd4! Bc5
Here on 18...a5
also loses after 19.Qxa6+
19.Rxc5 Qxc5 20.Qxd7 Qxc2 21.Qd6+ Ka8 22.Qxf6
Two pawns up. the rest is a fairly easy technical task for Benjamin.
22...Rc8 23.h3 Rc6 24.Qd4 Rc4 25.Qh8+ Rc8 26.Qe5 Rc5 27.Qe3 Rc8 28.Qb3 Qe2
Seirawan seeks salvation in piece activity, as the rook ending is lost for him. Losing for Black would be 28...Qxb3
29.a4 h5 30.Qb4 Rc4 31.Qf8+ Ka7 32.b3 Rc3 33.Qb4 Qd3 34.Re1 Qd2
when Black (sic) has a won game.
Also strong for White is 35.Qe7
35...Qd3 36.h4 Rxb3 37.Qc5+ Ka8 38.Qc8+ Ka7 39.Qc5+ Ka8 40.Qxh5 Qe4 41.Rd1 Rb1
A sad necessity, as White was preparing to use both of his heavy pieces against the black king. If instead 41...Qxa4
and White wins.
43.axb5 axb5 44.Kh2 Rxd1 45.Qxd1
In queen endings, it is not the number of pawns that matter - but how they're positioned. However here Black would find it difficult to advance his b-pawn as after 45.Qxd1
46.h5 Kc6 47.h6
Also winning was 47.Qh1!?
47...b4 48.Qh5 Qh7 49.Kg2 Kb6
Of course with two extra pawns there are many bargaining chips for White, facilitating his road to victory.
50...Ka5 51.Qg7 Qe4+ 52.Kh2 Qf3 53.Qa7+ Kb5 54.h7 Qh5+ 55.Kg2 Qd5+ 56.Kg1 Qd1+ 57.Kh2 Qh5+ 58.Kg1 Qd1+ 59.Kg2 Qd5+ 60.f3!
Otherwise White would have to be satisfied with a draw by perpetual check on 60.Kg1
60...Qd2+ 61.Qf2 Qh6 62.Qe2+ Kb6 63.Qd3 Kc5 64.g4 Qg7 65.Qf5+ Kd6 66.g5 b3 67.Qf6+ Qxf6 68.gxf6 b2 69.f7 b1Q
70.f8Q+ Kc6 71.Qf6+ Kd5 72.Qg5+ Ke6 73.h8Q
As the disparity in the number of queens on the board usually spells huge trouble for the weaker side, Seirawan duly resigned. 1-0