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Friday, December 4, 2015

Brilliancy Prize by Donald MacMurray

     I have posted about MacMurray, who died December 2, 1938 at age 24, and his brilliant accomplishments before. The Brooklyn Daily Eagle of the 1930s was filled with his exploits and his name appeared in the paper 887 times. 
     You can read Blog post, Chess Essay by Donald MacMurray, Mathematician HERE. In the book, Language Maven Strikes Again by William Safire, a fellow named Arthur Morgan tells a story about how in the 1930s he was friends with MacMurray and they used to play chess with MacMurray giving Queen odds. Morgan says he won once. He also played a game where MacMurray said he would force Morgan to checkmate him. Morgan's strategy was to give away all his pieces so there would be nothing left he could carryout mate with. It didn't work. MacMurray, by a series of checks, arrived at a position where the only legal move Morgan had delivered mate!
     The following game from Boston, 1938 features a win over the city champion, Weaver Adams. MacMurray won the event with a score of 10.5 out of 11. This game also won him the brilliancy prize. 
     Brilliancy prizes, which usually involved a small cash prize and/or trophy, used to be a lot more common back in the days when spectacular swashbuckling combinations were played. These days at the highest levels you just don't see that type of play. Also, these days any troll with a smart phone can immediately refute a sacrifice, so players can't get away with faulty brilliancies as they often did in the past.  
     Back in 2013 at the closing ceremony at Linares where they offer a "most beautiful game" prize which was determined by a vote of  journalists in attendance (many of whom may not know a lot about chess), the award went to Radjabov for his win over Kasparov. The problem with the award was that Radjubov's position was lost when Kasparov committed a gross blunder allowing Radjabov to turn the tables. When the prize was announced Kasparov made a spectacle of himself when he pulled a Kanye West and stormed the stage.
     I, myself, being one of those ubiquitous Internet trolls with an engine, didn't find anything especially “brilliant” about this game. But, I tried to imagine playing it in a tournament...there were moments when it was really, really complicated, so I can see how it could have gotten a prize back in the day when players weren't so jaded.

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