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07 US Ch Brilliancy Prize Winners!

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Ta-dah! Here they are, folks, the prizes you've all been waiting for. The winners scattered to various parts of the country after the US Championship finished in Stillwater, so it took a little while to track them all down and get their comments. The envelopes please...

3rd Daily Dirt Reader Brilliancy Prize of $200: Gregory Kaidanov for his his 8th round win over Ivanov. The modest Kaidanov, back home in Kentucky, said this attack "basically played itself." Well, it's winning a prize anyway. Judges Larry Christiansen and John Watson both liked this smooth kingside breakthrough demolition job. Kaidanov qualified for the World Cup with his 6/9 score. He said the secret this time was doing almost no preparation at all, contrary to his reputation as one of the best prepared player in the country. He said it worked out about the same as preparing, which would make it an easy choice for me.

2nd Daily Dirt Reader Brilliancy Prize of $500: Alexander Shabalov for his 3rd round win over Ibragimov. The rich get richer. This effort by the eventual tournament winner was consistently referred to as the best game of the tournament. We just spoke to Shaba where he's currently at 2/2 at the Chicago Open. He also thought this was his best effort and is annotating the game for New In Chess. He said he was surprised Ibragimov followed this line, which was discredited in Kobalia-Akopian last year, and he played the first 20 moves in a minute.

In additional comments, Alex thanked the organizers and sponsor Frank Berry and also said he hoped to see Erik Anderson and the AF4C back next year. He said everything was great in Stillwater and had no trouble at all with the MonRoi devices. Shaba dedicated this tourney victory to Jesse Kraai, by the way. He said that without the wake-up call beating Kraai inflicted on him at Foxwoods in April he never would have won his fourth US Championship title! (Shabalov started out with 5.5/6 in Foxwoods, but lost to Kraai and then to Stripunsky.) Does that mean he'll be cutting Jesse a percentage of his winnings? I didn't think so.

1st Daily Dirt Reader Brilliancy Prize of $1165: Julio Becerra for his 9th round win over Nakamura. This beautiful takedown probably got bonus points for the strength of the opposition, timeliness of the win, and cumulative points thanks to several other spectacular Becerra games. His wins over Sarkar and Akobian were also prize-worthy. (I teased him a bit when after I told him about the prize he asked, "for which game?" But he had a point!) Even his loss to Ibragimov was close to being a brilliant win. But the sacrificial assault against Nakamura was praised not only by readers and judge Larry Christiansen, but also by our other two prize winners.

We spoke with Julio back home in Miami at the popular Miami chess academy run by Blas Lugo and home to many of the "Cuban Mafia" in American chess. He was thrilled with the prize and also with his qualification for the World Cup and the quality of his play in Stillwater. He said it was the best tournament he's played in a long time. He surprised everyone by going back to his childhood love, the King's Indian, and that it really put him in a fighting mood. He wasn't depressed by the loss to Ibragimov because it was an exciting fight and he kept his confidence high throughout the tournament.

Of the final, prize-winning, game, Julio said he was happy to see Nakamura's offbeat Ponziani opening, although of course he hadn't prepared for it. He says he's sure now that his 3..f5 must be best against 3.c3. He added that he knew something strange was coming when Nakamura spent ten minutes thinking about his first move! I didn't catch the name of the person Julio said had been working with him and who mentioned this tidbit to him, but his friend and old trainer told him something from Alex Yermolinsky's excellent book, "The Road to Chess Improvement" on the subject of meeting players with unorthodox openings and styles like Nakamura. Namely, that it can be better to play for a win against them with black. (See also "Morozevich")

Grandmaster Becerra has already sent us the winning game extensively annotated and we'll put it up here in the Dirt as soon as we translate it. Many thanks to him, and congratulations to all our winners. The checks are in the mail! Thanks to everyone who donated and participated. It went far beyond my expectations and might even make inroads into new sponsorship models (actually old ones, just online now) for chess in places like the US where it's not really considered a sport. Museums, concerts, and other cultural events across the US are supported by enthusiasts. Why not chess? In the old days there would be subscriptions taken up for everything from tournaments to medical bills for Grandmasters. More on this topic later.

This tournament wasn't long on traditional brilliancy prize candidates, but there were many great games. Our judges really didn't agree on much so we went to the fans for the tiebreaks, so to speak. (I've learned my lesson. Next time just one judge!) The following really should be highlighted. I really wanted to give something to Eugene Perelshteyn's pretty 18..Rxe3! against Akobian. It was purest flash. But it was also forcing and one-sided, and as judge IM Watson put it, everyone in the room was expecting it. Onischuk's fine win over Shabalov was too much of a one-move pony to make the cut, although it was a beautiful idea. Onischuk-Browne and Nakamura-Onischuk were also touted. Three near misses for the defending champ, but his second-prize check will salve his wounds. You can download all these games in PGN here.

Thanks also to our estimable judges. Acclaimed author and reviewer IM John Watson was again an on-site commentator at the US Championship. His latest books include Dangerous Weapons: French as well as Mastering the Openings 1 and 2. GM Larry Christiansen is a three-time US Champion and author of Storming the Barricades and Rocking the Ramparts books on attacking chess.


I think Krush should've got an honorable mention for her first round game against Kaidanov. If she had won it would've been more impressive.

It is great to see Becerra have a nice breakthrough tournament. First place brilliancy prize and qualification into the World Cup must feel very nice. He is surely well deserving of this success!

The prize winning game is indeed a very beautiful game.

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    This page contains a single entry by Mig published on May 26, 2007 6:08 PM.

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