Nihal Sarin wins Gazprom Brilliancy Prize

by Johannes Fischer
1/21/2021 – In the past, many tournaments offered brilliancy prizes for particularly beautiful games, but unfortunately this fine custom has gone a little out of fashion. But the FIDE Online Cadet and Youth World Championships 2020 paid respect to this tradition and awarded a brilliancy prize. It was donated by the Russian company Gazprom, and it was won by 16-year old Indian prodigy Nihal Sarin for an impressive game full of sacrifices and unexpected moves. | Photo: Nihal Sarin (ChessBase India)

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Sac, sac, attack

Nihal Sarin, born on July 13, 2004 is considered one of the world's greatest talents. He became a grandmaster at age 14, and at the same age jumped the mark of 2600 Elo-points. Only two players had ever achieved this at the age of 14: John Burke from the USA and Wei Yi from China.

However, Burke's achievement was partly due to the peculiarities of the Elo-system. In July 2015 the American had a rating of 2258, but after a series of very good results and thanks to a K-factor of 40 he had jumped to a rating of 2603 in August 2015. At the moment Burke has a rating of 2522 and is almost 100 points behind Nihal Sarin, who currently comes to 2620 rating points.

In December 2020, the young Indian celebrated another success. He won the U18 group in the FIDE Online Cadets and Youth World Championships. His game against Francesco Sonis was particularly spectacular and brought Nihal Sarin the Gazprom Brilliancy Prize.

Nine well-known YouTube chess streamers had been asked for their vote, and five of them were particularly impressed by Nihal's stunning sacrificial attack.

Replay the game:


On his YouTube channel, Daniel King, one of the judges, took a closer look at this brilliancy.


Nihal Sarin is not only a brilliant attacker, he also knows something about the endgame. Which he showed when he was a guest in two of Karsten Müller's Endgame Magic Shows.

Endgame Magic, February 25, 2020: Guests: Nihal Sarin and Srinath Naranyan

You can watch these shows on-demand with a ChessBase account. Don't have an account? You can register a free 90-day account to watch!

Endgame Magic, May 14, 2019: Guest: GM Nihal Sarin


Johannes Fischer was born in 1963 in Hamburg and studied English and German literature in Frankfurt. He now lives as a writer and translator in Nürnberg. He is a FIDE-Master and regularly writes for KARL, a German chess magazine focusing on the links between culture and chess. On his own blog he regularly publishes notes on "Film, Literature and Chess".


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Astuteness Astuteness 1/24/2021 04:23
Now coming to Sarin and Burke. Obviously Sarin is not even close to 2700, but that's not the point here. He came up the hard way from 2400, while Burke jumped from 2250 to 2600+ using a partial and faulty rule. Has Burke at least gone back to that level even once after that? No!

We are discussing his brilliancy price. Factually the article makes complete sense - Burke is not at Sarins Level. At least not for now.

If the American readers get offended by this, let them. It's fact. Johannes has worded it beautifully. It's mostly FIDEs fault that such people get so high up while older but stronger players struggle to increase elo.
chessbibliophile chessbibliophile 1/22/2021 09:54
Both players are young. They still have a long way to go. Let each fulfil his potential. I don’t think Johannes Fischer was promoting here either ChessBase or the Indian player(s).If he writes an article showcasing young Burke’s achievement next time, I hope, it will not be claimed, he is being partial to American chess players. GENS UNA SUMUS.
P.S.: There are specific problems faced by young players (and don’t forget the old, they are more hard hit) in every country, be it India or the USA. If ChessBase highlights them it will be much appreciated. We need greater awareness of these issues and see how solutions may be found. That’s a positive way of looking at things worldwide.
saturn23 saturn23 1/22/2021 08:44
Scorpion29 Nihal's Achievement (number 171 in the world) is also not special. At the same age, Fischer was a WC candidate, Kamsky (at a younger age) was number 8 in the world, Carlsen was number 17 in the world, etc.
saturn23 saturn23 1/22/2021 08:33
KevinConnor This happens over and over again on this website. Indian players are heavily promoted, especially the young kids. This is unfair to equally (or more) talented kids from other countries. And when you try to point it out they attack you saying that you hate Indian players. Not to mention that there were some extremely bad articles making ridiculous claims. I still remember one such article where they compared one Indian player rated around 2200-2300) with none other than Fischer.

At 16 years and 6 months, Sarin is number 171 in the world. At the same age, Carlsen was already number 17 in the world. Many other players were in top 50 at the same age. Sarin has little chances of reaching top 10 in the future. Especially considering the fact that the whole covid-19 nightmare did not allow him to play top classical tournaments.
Scorpion29 Scorpion29 1/22/2021 06:38
Kevin Connor Burke's Achievement is not special. With K40 he managed to do in a month what ordinary IMs and FMs struggle for years. The K40 rule is the most partial and blatantly stupid rule issued by FIDE to benefit the children of a few officials. Give me or any random player K40 and we will also do the same. People who know chess will understand what I am talking about.
amarpan amarpan 1/21/2021 05:25
I had followed the game on youtube, and I think it's worthy of mention.
Masquer Masquer 1/21/2021 12:04
Bring back the brilliancy prizes, and maybe we'll see fewer lifeless draws and more risk-taking.
brabo_hf brabo_hf 1/21/2021 11:26
I fully agree with the comment of KevinConnor. Those paragraphs should be removed. Let the moves speak instead as that is what a brilliancy prize is about.
KevinConnor KevinConnor 1/21/2021 09:57
Strange to downplay the achievement of this Burke kid just to make look Nihal even better! The Indian market must be really important to Chessbase.