Who Has The Most Best Game Prizes?
Before you read this article, have some fun and try to guess who has won the most best game prizes (usually a brilliancy prize but sometimes a positional masterpiece).
Did you pick a player? Okay, then let’s see if you’ve picked the right guy.
Recently I was looking at a game that won a brilliancy prize when a question hit me: Who has won the most best game prizes?
This information is extremely difficult to find since it would take forever to hunt down every game that won a best game prize. The best book on this subject is the Russian ANTOLOGY OF CHESS BEAUTY (a misspelling of anthology), and it covers games from 1876 to 1995.
One important thing to point out is that in the 1800s and early 1900s these best game prizes were not as common as they are now. For example, Emanuel Lasker only got one prize, while low-rated players in the 50s, 60s, and 70s (when these prizes were common) have a few. Since there were no “best game” prizes in many tournaments, someone could play a game of god-like proportions and it would not make it into a best game book.
As a result, Pillsbury got one, Kramnik got two (!), Topalov got zero, and on and on it goes. For those that are dying to know, Alekhine had nine and Capablanca had seven.
The whole “Does a tournament have or not have a best game prize?” question is pretty much a matter of luck.
So who won the most best game prizes? Here are the top four: Anatoly Karpov and Rashid Nezhmetdinov both got 10, Kasparov got 12, but the big winner was Fischer with 89 prizes! EIGHTY NINE!!!!
Okay, okay, I made that up! Fischer only got four prizes. The real winner was Tal, with 15.
Tal via Wikipedia.
Here are all 15 Mikhail Tal prize-winning masterpieces:
A very famous game that featured the great Smyslov falling victim to a rampaging Tal.
In this game both players threw tactics at each other. Tal emerged with an advantage but White held on and, after some errors, a draw resulted. Both players shared the prize.
White had some advantage all through the game, until 25…d4. This seemed to turn things around and give Black all the cards. However, Tal had prepared a brilliant move that turns inferiority into victory.
Sometimes Tal’s attacks aren’t sound, but they are so complicated that most of his opponents can’t keep up.
This is one of those games where Tal simply piled complications upon complications onto the board until White melted from Tal’s heat.
A classic Sicilian attack.
To be honest, this game was full of errors. However, the judges loved the Black sequence starting at move 42, and you’ll love it too.
Everyone loves a king chase!
Two chess crocodiles try to eat the other, and when the smoke fades away parity (a draw) is called and the best game prize is shared.
White had an edge for most of the game, and when it came time for the knockout, Tal did it in style.
On move 15, White had several moves that would give him an edge (15.d6, 15.f3, 15.Nb5, etc.). As he so often did, Tal ignored the “normal” moves and instead sacrificed a piece just for the fun of it. Was it sound? Probably not, but I’m sure Tal wasn’t worried about the old, “Is it sound or isn’t it?” conundrum. Velimirovic collapsed from Tal’s nonstop assault, and Black’s king was eviscerated.
A theoretical battle that didn’t go well for White. In fact, by move 17 Polugaevsky’s position was in ruins. It’s a delight to see how Tal ripped his opponent’s position apart.
Tal initiated a flashy sacrificial kingside attack on move 17. However, Black held his position together and, after White’s 22.h3, it seemed that the attack would suffice for an edge but nothing more. However, Tal continued to target Black’s kingside and the fatigue of having to defend finally caught up with Mr. Flesch. A blunder on move 29 was all it took for Tal to end his opponent’s hopes.
A very interesting game. Tal achieved a clear positional advantage on the queenside, while Black had to play …f7-f5 and go after the kingside. However, Black misplayed it and suddenly White’s queenside domination turned into a flash attack against the kingside too! The first blow was the lovely 36.Rc5!, and the final blow was 39.Ncxe5!, which led to the demise of the enemy king.
Tal sacrificed a bishop for a powerful attack. It looked like it would be a short game, but Lautier fought back and forced Tal into an endgame. However, Black’s rook and one pawn (move 50) had no chance against Tal’s knight and three pawns.
Which brilliant Tal game was your favorite?