Game of the week; Shirov vs Manik 2009
Ohrid European Club Championship
1. e4! ”Best by test!”-Bobby Fischer
1… c5 How boring chess would be without the Sicilian!
2. Nf3 The open variations lead to the most interesting positions
2… e6 Just as popular as the …d6 lines
Before play begins. Shirov is playing board 2 on the defending champion Ural Svedrdlovskaya team. Manik is his opponent!
3. d4 The 3.d3 lines are not to Shirov’s taste
3… cxd4 4. Nxd4 a6
Luis Paulsen was a contemporary of the legendary Paul Morphy, and a very strong grandmaster in his own right. (Photo to the right: New York 1857, Paulsen playing Morphy) For a more detailed account of the life of Luis Paulsen (and his brother Wilfred), I recommend the readers to see my blog entry of February 9 of this year.
5. Bd3 !? The most popular move in master practice.
White can ofcourse play 5.Nc3, which most likely will transpose into another main-stream variation of the Sicilian. However, 5.Bd3 is more flexible. I recall that both Spassky (against Petrosian in the world championship match of 1969) and Fischer (against Petrosian in the candidates final of 1971) played this way when the chips were on the table.
5… Bc5 !? This move was introduced into praxis by former world champion V. Smyslov
Smyslov, born in 1921 and world champion 1957/58, was the author of a great many modern opening systems. The idea of …Bc5 is to drive the knight (d4) to a less active position, even if it costs Black a tempo. Praxis has shown the soundness of this concept hundreds, if not thousands to times in master chess.
I have a curious anecdote: at the strong New York Open (1987) I reached the above position and decided to stretch my legs. As I walked around to see how my colleagues were doing, Smyslov came up to me and told me that he was very proud that I was playing his system!
Monte Carlo 1968.
The most commonly played move. Sometimes 6.c3 is seen, but it leads to a completely different type of game from what occurs in this game.
Not the only move seen in modern praxis
7… Nc6 8. Nc3 d6 9. O-O Nf6 10. Kh1 h5?! 11. Bg5 Qc7 12. Qd2 Bd7 13. Rad1 Ne5 14. Be2 Bc6 15. f3 O-O-O?! 16. Nb5! (diagram) Shirov begins a very strong attack against the Black King 16… axb5 17. cxb5 Be8 18. Rc1 Bc5 19. Nd4 Kb8 20. b4 b6 21. a4! (diagram) Black is defenceless . The rest is a massacre. 21… h4 22. a5 Nh5 23. Bxh4 g5 24. Qxg5 f6 25. Qe3 Qg7 26. g4 Nf4 27. bxc5 Nxe2 28. Nxe2 Rxh4 29. c6 Rc8 30. Qxb6 Ka8 31. c7 1-0, Shirov – Korneev O , Salamanca 1998 Ch Spain (team) )
7. Be3!? Today considered the most precise way to develop
Previously Shirov had mostly relied on 7.c4 in this position, and perhaps he wanted to surprise his opponent with a more topical line. (Once Shirov even played 7.0-0) It is not unusual for top grandmasters to vary their play in the opening, not just to avoid preparation, but also it becomes boring playing the same way over and over again!
Black defends his g-pawn and plans to develop his Knights on c6 and e7. This idea has just taken off, and the results seem promising for Black. It is hard to say what is White’s best plan
7… Nf6 The immediate d6 is more often seen
8. N1d2!? A finesse
This plan (Be3 and Nd2) was first seen in the 1960’s in similar positions, but never caught on. Today (2009) this is considered all the rage! The idea is simple enough: in some lines the Knight can go to c4 and pressure both b6 and d6. In other lines, should Black play a premature …b5 then White will have either a4 or c4 at his disposal to break up Black’s Queen side. As a bonus, Black will now be deprived of a tempo-gaining …b4.
For decades development of this Knight on c3 was considered oblige: 8. Nc3 Nc6 9. f4 d6 10. Qf3 Qc7 11. O-O-O (11. O-O!? is considered by some experts to be better) 11… b5 12. g4 with a sharp game with chances for both sides. Thousands of games with this plan have shown that the better player usually wins.
9. f4 Strengthening the centre.
9… Qc7 !? Manik has a specific idea in mind
Grandmaster Manik is an interesting player who fears nobody, and who often experiments with provocative and razar-sharp ideas. He has beaten many players stronger than himself with this style. Here his idea is to avoid playing …d6, and instead to first develop his Bishop on b7 and then try to get in …d5 in just one move.
Black has interesting alternatives. He can castle immediately ( 9… O-O 10. Qf3 d6 11. O-O-O Nb4 with a position difficult to evaluate) or he can try 9… d6!? 10. Qe2 Nb4 11. O-O O-O 12. Bd4 Nxd3?! 13. cxd3 b5 14. Rfc1 (diagram) Nakamura,H – David,A Mulhouse, French team championship 2009 , though White is a bit better here.
RETURNING TO THE ACTUAL GAME CONTINUATION:
10. Qe2 [Ofcourse 10. e5?! gets into trouble after 10… Nd5]
10… b6!? original play
It was still not too late to play more classically: 10… d6 11. O-O-O b5 12. g4 with a sharp position similar to those discussed in the previous notes. It is worth noting that the immediate
10… b5 might be a bit weakening, given that White will be able to hit back with a4 or c4 in the next few moves.
11. O-O-O Shirov often castles Queen side in the Sicilian
11… Nb4 all part of the plan
Black prepares to react in the centre with …Bb7 and …d5. The resulting position requires accuracy from both sides.
12. Kb1 Now the King is quite safe. Shirov will soon start to attack
13. g4 ! Typical of this line, and of Shirov’s style.
13… d5 [13… d6 doesn’t make as much sense with the pawn on b6]
14. e5 Forced, but good
14… Nd7 A critical position. Here Manik spent a lot of time considering his options.
Clearly wrong is the greedy 14… d4? 15. Nxd4 Bxh1 as simply 16. exf6 leaves White on top. But it is not clear why Manik did not play 14… Ne4 (diagram), which seems like the logical idea given his earlier …b6 and …d5.
White defends everything, and plans to pick up the stray pawn on e4. Can it be so simple?
After the natural 16… O-O (16… Rc8 17. a3 Nxc2 18. Na1 does not seem playable) 17. a3 Nd5 18. Nxe4 Rac8 19. Rhe1 (diagram)
Black has two Bishops and a free game for the pawn, but White intends to simply consolidate and be a clear pawn up. If Black does not have anything in this position then he must go back and re-evaluate his entire opening plan (…b6).
White concentrates his minor pieces on d4 before proceeding with f5.
15… Rc8 [If 15… Nc5 then is the same as in the game with 16. f5]
16. f5 Philidor taught that pawn chains must be attacked at the base!
The square e6 is always a sensitive square for Sicilian players
16… Nc5 Ofcourse not 16… Nxe5?! as after the simple 17. Bf4 White recovers the pawn with a large advantage.
17. Nbd4 Increasing the pressure on e6
Manik realizes that something is amiss in his position, and so he seeks his only real counterplay (…Qa4). It is too dangerous to castle in this position.
18. h4 ! Shirov mobilizes all of his pawn resources on the King side. A typical Philidor idea
18… Qa4 Black must create some counterplay on the otherside of the board.
19. a3 forced.
19… Nbxd3 20. cxd3 Now how does Black create threats?
20… a5 [If 20… O-O then 21. Bg5 is annoying]
Black tries to create threats by …Ba6, putting pressure on d3. There is nothing better.
21. g5 ! It is clear that White dominates the King side
22. f6 Contact! [Also good is 22. Rhf1]
22… Bf8 There is nothing better
23. h5 Shirov’s play is very direct. Also good is 23. Rhf1
23… b5 Black puts his hope on …b4 trying to break open the White King position
Of course bad is 23… gxf6 24. exf6 and a sacrifice looms over Black’s King.
Tempting, but not quite good enough is 23… Ne4!? (diagram)
By tactical means Black tries to change the course of the game. He threatens …Ng3 as well as some sacs on c3 or a3.
Unfortunately, White’s attack is faster! 14. g6! hxg6 25. hxg6 Rxh1 26. Rxh1 Ng3 (diagram)
Black has done what he could, but….
27. gxf7! Kd7 28. Qd1 ! (diagram) White’s key resource! Black is forced to exchange Queens after which Black is left with a horrible position.
BACK TO THE ACTUAL GAME CONTINUATION:
24. g6 Shirov’s armada has arrived at its destination!
26… Kxf7 27. Rxh5 Rg8 28. Rh7 Ke8 29. f7 Kxf7 30. Qh5 mates in 4) 26. exf6 b4 27. Nxf7
RETURNING TO THE ACTUAL GAME CONTINUATION:
25. hxg6 logical 25…Rxh1 There is no better move , even though White will now get control of the h-file.
26. Rxh1 [Wrong is 26. gxf7?! Kd7! 27. Rxh1 b4 with counterplay]
26… b4 Note that 26… fg6 would be met by 27. Qg2!
This is the move that Manik was counting on. If Shirov now defends against the threat on d3, then he will have time to breath. Shirov’s next move must have come as a terrible surprise to Black!
27. Rh8! A beautiful move that is so typical of Shirov’s imaginative play. He forgoes defence and puts his trust in his initiative.
27… Bxd3?! This loses without much of a fight.
Although Black is lost in any case, much stiffer resistance is offered by 27… Kd7! (diagram) . Black maintains his threat of …Bd3 while improving the position of his King.
Now the winning variation is absolutely brilliant and leads to highly original positions!
28. Rxf8! the only way to play. (Bad is 28. fxg7 Bxg7) 28… Rxf8 29. fxg7 (diagram)
Shirov’s concept is that his King side pawns will win the game since he will be able to sacrifice the Queen to defend against the direct Black threats.
29… Rb8 ( ofcourse, hopeless is 29… Rg8 30. gxf7 Rxg7 31. f8=Q) (diagram)
Black has nothing better than to try to use his Rook on the b-file: it is , afterall, one more piece thrown into the counterattack!
30. gxf7 (diagram) A remarkable position! Despite the fact that Black now has all of his pieces thrown into the attack (Queen, Rook, Bishop and Knight), White’s pawns win the game!
30… Bxd3 ( Black also loses after 30… bxa3 31. f8=Q Rxb2 32. Ka1 and there are no more threats) 31. Qxd3 Nxd3 (diagram)
Black now has some threats! At first sight it seems as though Shirov had overlooked something….
32. b3!! (Not 32. f8=Q as after … Qd1 33. Ka2 b3 Black wins!) (diagram)
One of the most incredible moves that I have ever seen! And it is forced! It is amazing that White has time for such quiet moves! The question is now how does Black proceed?
Now if Black now tries 32… bxa3 then he loses simply to 33. f8=Q Rxb3 (33… Qb4 is answered by 34. Qf7 Qe7 35. Qxe7 Kxe7 36. Nc6 etc) 34. Ka1 Rb1 35. Kxb1 Qd1 36. Ka2 Nb4 (diagram)
37. Qxb4 axb4 38. g8=Q and the rest would be easy. White is up a lot of pieces and Black has no threats
32…Qxa3 (diagram) Black threatens mate in 1 move!
White has only one move, and it wins!!
33. Kc2!! (diagram) An incredible position!!
Despite being a Queen and a Rook down ,(and being faced with mate!) White will win with the passed pawns on the 7th rank. The White King will find safety nestled among his 3 minor pieces and the Black attack will soon fade out.
33… Qb2 (33… Rc8 34. Kxd3 Rc3 35. Ke2 Qb2 36. Bd2) 34. Kxd3 (diagram)
Now all that Black has are a few harmless spite checks, and then White will queen his passed pawns and win easily! A truly remarkable variation!!
28. Qxd3 Shirov had forseen that his Queen buys time for his attack to strike its deadly blow
29. fxg7 Threatening to mate Black
29… Qd1 [ Or if 29… Kd7 White wins with 30. g8=Q Qd1 31. Ka2 b3 32. Nxb3 fxg6 33. Nfd4]
Black’s problem is that he is missing a move or two to actually have serious threats!
30… Kd7 forced, as White’s threats are serious
31. Rxf8 Now it is becoming clear that the game is decided.
31… Re8 what else? [31… b3 changes nothing after 32. Nxb3]
32. gxf7 Have you ever seen such monster pawns?
32… b3 A spite check before dying…
Manik’s attack stopped dead, and faced with large losses of material, Black resigns. A magnificent struggle!
SPRAGGETT ON CHESS