Shirov & the Advance French
Another French Bites the Dust…
While Alexi Shirov has a number of good systems to play against the ever-popular French Defence, his most ambitious line is to play the ‘old’ Advance variation.
This line is rarely played by today’s top grandmasters, but Alexi has not less than 69 games with it (!) and has scored an excellent 67%. That is, Alexi wins 2 out of every 3 games when he plays it.
This line is complicated, both strategically and tactically. While White does not try to shut down or limit Black’s counterplay (as in , for example, the Tarrasch Variation-3.Nd2-), he quickly tries to establish and maintain a bulk head on e5.
Practice has shown that while Black can achieve a kind of position that all French players consider satisfactory, one false slip can be fatal, and this is probably why Shirov is such a big fan of the Advance Variation.
The line carries with it some risk for White, as is natural whenever one is ambitious from the very beginning, but over the long run (69 games and counting) this variation has paid Shirov handsome dividends. I recommend the reader to take a close look at his games in this line.
Shirov’s game in round 5 from the Arica Open with the Peruvian grandmaster Cristhian Cruz saw Shirov employ once more this sharp variation.
The opening proceeded along established theoretical lines of play by both sides. In the middlegame Cruz was faced with difficult choice: where to play his King? Black decided to keep his King in the centre, always a risky decision, but one little slip later on allowed Shirov the opportunity to brilliantly finish the game in his favour.
gm Shirov,A – gm Cruz, C
A very thematic game! Kudos to both players for showing uncompromising attitudes and especially for Shirov weaving a beautiful finish!
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