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    Entries in Shirov (16)

    Saturday
    Nov052011

    Gretarsson-Shirov from Round 1 of the European Team Championship

    It's an interesting game and a bit of a man-bites-dog story, so following a reader suggestion (third comment down) I've annotated the round 1 upset win by Hjorvar Steinn Gretarsson (an FM, not to be confused with GM Helgi Gretarsson) over the famous super-GM Alexei Shirov. Most of the sources for games from this event - including the official site(!) - failed to include the game, but an Icelandic site was understandably happy to supply it.

    Have a look, here.

    Tuesday
    Oct252011

    Too Much Theory?

    A few days ago I was really amazed to see the following position as a puzzle in Chess Today:

    V. Onischuk - S. Dvoirys, Chigorin Memorial 2011, White to move.

    Why amazed? Because Shirov fell for essentially the exact same trap three years ago in Morelia/Linares 2008 against Radjabov. (The only difference is that Dvoirys's last move was 20...g7-g6? while Shirov played the alternative lemon 20...Bf6-h4? instead.) That was a very high-profile game, obviously, the line is pretty well-known in general and Dvoirys is an experienced grandmaster and a Najdorf specialist. Aside from the fact that White's next move isn't that hard for a GM to find, how could he have fallen into the trap in the first place? It's very strange.

    If you're a Najdorf player yourself, make sure you avoid this trap! The full game, together with the Radjabov-Shirov game and a couple of suggestions for Black can be found here.

    Wednesday
    Sep282011

    Games of Interest in Today's European Club Cup Action

    No time to annotate or post the games, but after a quick look at some of the top boards I'd suggest interested readers have a look at Jakovenko-Gelfand, Tomashevsky-Ponomariov and Petrosian-Shirov. The first game was a nice endgame win by Jakovenko, demonstrating just how important activity in the endgame can be. The second was a brutal attacking performance by Tomashevsky, and the latter was a remarkable triumph of caveman chess by Shirov.

    Event website here - enjoy!

    Friday
    Jul292011

    This Week's ChessVideos Show: A Look at the Crazy Morozevich-Shirov From Biel

    Alexander Morozevich and Alexei Shirov played a crazy game in Biel a few days ago, one that deserved a closer look. So that's what you'll see here. There are all sorts of material imbalances, tactics galore, big swings in the evaluation - everything a fan of complicated, tactical chess would like. So I present the game in some detail, and stop periodically to invite viewers to make their own way through the complications as well. (You'll want to watch this video when you're feeling mentally energetic!)

    The show is here, is free (free registration required), and will be available on demand for the next month or so.

    Sunday
    Jun052011

    Anand Defeats Shirov 4.5-1.5

    Poor Alexei Shirov never looked like he was in this match, and it's in keeping with his catastrophically bad score against Viswanathan Anand over the years. Day 3 was just like days 1 and 2, with Anand winning one game in powerful fashion while comfortably drawing the other one.

    As in day 2, Anand won the black game, game five, on the black side of an Advance Caro-Kann. This time Shirov didn't play a bridge-burning line, or perhaps you could say that he offered one but it was declined. Eventually, the game turned into the sort of positionally one-sided affair that first buried the Advance Variation in the 1920s. (Have a look at this classic game, Nimzowitsch-Capablanca, where Black gets a favorable French structure without the bad light-squared bishop.) Shirov wound up in a miserable position, and a very nice Anand tactic gave him a decisive attack. Unfortunately, Anand botched it with a blunder, but Shirov immediately "forgave" him and lost the way he "should" have. On balance, it was a good game for Anand and a nice advertisement for the Caro-Kann.

    The last game was (understandably) rather dull, as Anand was content to finish the match with a safe draw.

    It doesn't look as if Anand was too rusty, so if this is how he plays when he's slightly out of practice, Boris Gelfand will have his hands full next year when he's playing at maximum strength.

    The last two games, with my annotations, are here.

    Saturday
    Jun042011

    Anand-Shirov, Day 2: Anand Leads 3-1

    As he did yesterday, the world champion won the day 1.5-.5, but there were some differences. On day 1, Viswanathan Anand succeeded the traditional way: a solid draw with Black followed by victorious aggression with White. This time it was the opposite: Alexei Shirov came out smoking with White in game 3, and got burned, badly. In the rematch, Anand played without ambition and "used" the white pieces to draw in 23 dull moves.

    There's not much to say about game 4, but game 3 was eventful. As in the previous Shirov white game they contested the Advance Caro-Kann, with Shirov deviating on move 4. After 1.e4 c6.2.d4 d5 3.e5 Bf5 Shirov played the rare 4.g4, as opposed to the currently popular Short Variation with 4.Nf3 or the favorite from the '90s: 4.Nc3 e6 5.g4. The difference between this last line and the sideline Shirov chose is that in the '90s variation the bishop must retreat to g6, when it's subject to all kinds of harassment (f4-f5, h4-h5, Ng1-e2-f4, etc.), while after 4.g4 the bishop can retreat the way it came, to c8 or d7 (Anand's choice). In this case the pawn on g4 isn't assisting in play against a bishop on g6, but looks like nothing more than a horribly weakening move.

    To judge by the evidence of this game, the preceding judgment receives some confirmation. If we think of 4.g4 as a candidate to be recognized for sainthood and this game as an investigation into the claim, the verdict is that it's not only not going to be canonized, it might even be damned. Everything that could be a problem with g4, was: White had problems on the a8-h1 diagonal, had to waste tempi defending the pawn, suffered in some lines from f4 being weak, and when the bishop went to g2 fresh problems emerged on the a6-f1 diagonal. In sum, things went very poorly, and after 14 moves Anand had a winning advantage.

    Amusingly, this was not evident to all the spectators. I watched the game on ICC, and here are two consecutive screen messages (with a name omitted to protect the guilty):

    [1] [Random IM] kibitzes: The plan is very simple: h4-h5-h6-hxg7, Qh6,
      Qxh7 mate. Can black deal with that?

    Game 1: Black wins

    Shirov threw in the towel after 17 moves, and rightly so, despite the even material and lack of an immediate major malfunction. Quite the disaster, and that, combined with the quick draw in game 4, puts Anand on the verge of match victory. The final two games will take place tomorrow; for today's games, with my notes, have a look here.

    Friday
    Jun032011

    Anand-Shirov, Day 1: Anand Leads 1.5-.5

    Day 1 at Leon is complete, and World Champion Viswanathan Anand has moved ahead in true professional fashion, drawing with Black and winning with White.

    Alexei Shirov boldly allowed the Anti-Moscow Gambit in the second game and produced the first new move, but Anand seemed to be better prepared. Shirov tried to relieve the pressure by sacrificing a pawn, and it enabled him to activate all his pieces and to break the initial wave of White's initiative. Unfortunately, one problem Shirov never managed to solve in that game was that of king safety. His king was stuck in the center, on e7, and when the second wave of the attack began with 21.b4 and reached its acme with 28.Nd5, Black was busted. A small final combination and some good sportsmanship from Shirov allowed Anand to finish by giving checkmate, giving him the lead after day 1 of this three day, six game rapid match.

    The games, with my brief comments, are here.

    Wednesday
    Jun012011

    Leon (Anand-Shirov Rapid Match) Starts Friday

    The world champion will be playing in his first event since Amber, and we'll see if new dad Viswanathan Anand can overcome a little rust and the sleeplessness of being a new parent when he takes on Alexei Shirov starting on Friday. It's a 6 game rapid match with two games a day on Friday, Saturday and Sunday; the time control is g/45, with 30 second increments after each move. (Awfully slow for "rapid"!)

    The overall score between them is heavily in Anand's favor, but as they almost always have exciting games it should prove interesting whether it's lopsided or not.

    Event website here. Games start at 16:30 local time (CET); 10:30 a.m. ET.

    Friday
    Jan212011

    This Week's ChessVideos Show: A Look at Deep Theory

    Inspired by some of the mega-prep at Wijk aan Zee this year, especially the 79-move "speed chess" game Nepomniachtchi-Shirov from round 5, I thought back to another bit of seemingly flawless home cooking by Shirov. In Madrid 1996 he drew a 42 move game with Azmaiparashvili that had been worked out in advance all the way to the end. In Fire on Board Shirov drolly concluded his commentary on the game "Sometimes the Botvinnik variation gets so boring", and with that the line chosen by Azmai was buried.

    Very impressive, but before you bury your head in anti-theory or take up Chess960, learn a lesson from Loek van Wely. He took a more careful look at Shirov's idea, and more importantly, thought deeply about what it was intended to achieve. By varying just before Shirov's own improvement, he was able to thwart Shirov's idea, and now the burden of proof is on Black to stay alive in that variation.

    There are a lot of lessons to be learned from this game, and the game itself is pretty good too! To see it, and hear some further ruminations on the matter, have a look here. The show is free, as always (free registration required) and will be available on-demand for the next month or so.

    Sunday
    Jan092011

    Events in the Interim

    The Wijk aan Zee tournament starts later this week, but other events have transpired in the meantime.

    One relatively minor event was the Paul Keres Memorial in Tallinn, a two-stage affair won by Alexei Shirov with 6/7, a full point ahead of Jaan Ehlvest and Normunds Miezis.

    A second, smaller but stronger event was a rapid and blitz match between Sergey Karjakin and Ian Nepomniachtchi, apparently reprising their tiebreak battle in the recently completed Russian Championship. Both rapid games were drawn, and four blitz went 2-2 (Karjakin won, then lost, then two draws) before they once again went to Armageddon. In the Russian Championship Karjakin had White in that game, stood better, but only managed a draw; this time it was the reverse. Nepomniachtchi had White and was probably winning the queen vs. rook and knight ending, but missed some tactics and stood worse when the draw was agreed. This was apparently for the something called the Russian State Social University Championship, where I'm sure the two study academic subjects at least as hard as top athletes do in the United States before they turn pro in football and basketball.