12/03/2008 20:27



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.

Benjamin,Joel (2577) - Seirawan,Yasser (2647) [C13]
USA-ch Seattle (10), 05.10.2000
[Kopec and Ftacnik]

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 11.0-0-0 (11.dxc5?! has been played, and after 11...0-0 12.Ne5 Qd5 13.0-0 Bxc5 14.Rfe1 Nd7 15.Nf3 Leko - Korchnoi, Corus 2000 White was slightly better.) 11...0-0 12.dxc5 (12.Rhe1!? Rfd8!? (Leading to a dead equal position was 12...Qa4 13.Kb1 Rfd8 14.dxc5 Bxc5 15.Rxd8+ Rxd8 16.Ne5 Be7 17.f3 h6 18.Bc1 Nd5= Van der Weil - Van der Sterren, Dutch Championship 2000) An exciting but not the best continuation is 13.d5?! Nxd5 14.Rxd5 (14.c4 Bxg5+ 15.Nxg5 Qe7-/+ ) 14...Qxd5 15.Bxe7 Qxa2 16.Bxd8 Qa1+ 17.Kd2 Rxd8+ 18.Ke3 Qxb2 when Black is better.; 12.Kb1 Qc7 13.d5!? (Also played has been 13.dxc5 Qxc5 14.Ne5 Rfd8 15.Bxf6 Bxf6 16.Nd7 Timman - Korchnoi, Luzern 1989 was very slightly better for White.) 13...exd5 (Not 13...Nxd5 14.Rxd5 exd5 15.Qxe7 Qxe7 16.Bxe7 Rfc8 17.c3 when White is slightly better.) 14.Rhe1 Bd8 15.Bxf6 Bxf6 16.Rxd5= Nisipeanu - Rogozenko, Ciocaltea Memorial 1998.) 12...Qa4!? 13.Kb1 Also possible is 13...Rad8 (Another move played in this position is 13...Bxc5 14.Bxf6 gxf6 15.Ne1!? (Korchnoi obviously plays this variation with the intention of winning with Black. Another game of his continued 15.Rd3 Rfd8 16.Rhd1 Rxd3 17.Rxd3 Qg4 18.g3 Bb6 19.Qd2 Qf5 20.a3 Rc8 Hernadez - Korchnoi, Merida 1996.) 15...Rfd8 16.Nd3 Bf8 17.f4 Rd5 18.Rhf1 Rad8 19.Rf3!? f5 20.h3 Leko - Korchnoi, Vienna 1996, when he was slightly worse.) 14.Ne5 h6 15.Bxf6 Bxf6 16.f3!? Rd4 17.Rxd4 Qxd4 18.Nd3 Rd8 19.Re1 as in Dolmatov - M. Gurevich, Bundesliga 1992 when again White was slightly better.; 10...cxd4 11.0-0-0 Bc5 (11...Be7 12.Rxd4 Qc7?! 13.Qb5+ Qc6 14.Qxc6+ bxc6 15.Rc4 c5 16.Bxf6 gxf6 17.Re1+/- Mikhalchishin - Chernin, Cienfugos 1981) 12.Qe5!+/- (White was also slightly better after 12.Kb1 Qa4 13.Qe5 Rc8 14.Bxf6 gxf6 15.Qxf6 Qxc2+ 16.Ka1 0-0 17.Ne5+/- Sturua - Gretarsson, Elista Olymopiad 1998) ; Leading to an unclear position was 10...Rc8 11.0-0-0 c4 12.d5!? Nxd5 13.Ne5 Qd6 14.Rxd5 Qxd5 15.Rd1 Qxg2 16.Qd2 Damjanovic - Cosma, Belgrade 1995.

11.Rd1 Qc7 12.0-0 cxd4  

Black would be essentially equal after 12...a6!? 13.c4 cxd4 14.Nxd4 Bc5 15.Nb3 Bd6 16.h3 h6=  

13.Nxd4 a6?  

White would only be a tiny bit better after 13...Bc5 14.Nb5 Qb6 15.b4 a6 (Not 15...Bxb4 16.Be3 Bc5 17.Qc4+- ) 16.bxc5 Qxb5 17.Qe5 Rxd1 18.Rxd1 Rd8 19.Rxd8+ Kxd8 20.h3+/=  


A forceful stroke, exploiting Black's lag in development.


Black must accept the offering; if 14...Re8? 15.Rd8+ (Not 15.Nxc7? Rxe2 16.Bxf6 Kxc7 (If 16...gxf6 17.Nd5 Rxc2 18.Rc1 and White is better.) 17.Bd8+ Kc6 (On 17...Kc8 18.Bb6 Be7 19.Rfe1 and a and again White is on top.) 18.Rfe1 Rxc2 19.Re8 Rxb2 20.a4 b5 21.axb5+ axb5 22.Be7 Bxe7 23.Rxh8 Bc5 when Black has compensation for his material sacrifice.) on 15...Qxd8 (or 15...Rxd8 16.Nxc7 ) 16.Qc4+ White has a won game.

15.Qxe6+ Rd7  

If 15...Kb8 16.Bf4! Qxf4 17.Rxd8+ Ka7 (17...Kc7 18.Rc8# ) 18.Qf7 (18.Qe3+ Qxe3 19.fxe3+/- ) 18...Qe5 19.Rxf8 Ng4 20.g3 and White has a won game.; On 15...Nd7 White is also winning after 16.Bxd8 Qxd8 17.Rfe1 Qc7 18.Re4 Bc5 19.Rc4  

16.Bxf6 gxf6 17.Rd4! Bc5  

If 17...Be7 18.Rc4 Bc5 19.b4+-  

18.Rc4 Kb8  

Here on 18...a5 19.c3 a4 20.b4 axb3 21.axb3+- b5 22.Qa6+ ; 18...b5 also loses after 19.Qxa6+ etc.

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.axb3 Rc2 30.f4! Rxb2 31.f5  

29.a4 h5 30.Qb4 Rc4 31.Qf8+ Ka7 32.b3 Rc3 33.Qb4 Qd3 34.Re1 Qd2  

Not 34...Rxb3?? 35.Qc5+ Kb8 36.Re8+ when Black (sic) has a won game.


Also strong for White is 35.Qe7 Rc1 36.Kf1 Rxe1+ 37.Qxe1 Qd3+ 38.Kg1 Qxb3 39.a5 (39.Qe3+ Qxe3 40.fxe3 b5-+ ) 39...Qd5 40.f4+-  

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 42.Rd8+ Ka7 43.Qc5+ Rb6 44.Rd6 Qb4 45.Qxb6+ Qxb6 46.Rxb6 Kxb6 47.h5 and White wins.

42.g3 b5

42...Rxd1+ 43.Qxd1 b5 44.axb5 axb5 45.h5+-  

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 b4 46.Qa4+ Kb7 47.Qb5+ Ka7 48.h5  


On 45...b4 46.h5 Kb7 47.Qd7+ Kb6 48.h6+-  

46.h5 Kc6 47.h6  

Also winning was 47.Qh1!? Qxh1+ 48.Kxh1 b4 49.h6 b3 50.h7 b2 51.h8Q+-  

47...b4 48.Qh5 Qh7 49.Kg2 Kb6  

49...b3 50.Qf3+ Kc7 51.Qxb3+-  


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 Qd1+  

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  

If 69...Ke7 70.h8Q b1Q 71.f8Q+ White wins.

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