SPRAGGETT ON CHESS
There is an interesting tournament taking place right now in Hoogeveen, Holland that began on the 22nd and will finish this coming Saturday (30th). Four players are engaged in a double round tournament: Shirov, Vachier-Lagrave, Giri and Tiviakov.
The tournament is called the 14th Unive Tournament and pits 2 experienced GMs ( the Latvian born Shirov-now playing under the Spanish flag– and the Russian born Tiviakov-now playing under the Dutch flag) against 2 up and coming young promises (Giri -Holland– and Vachier-Lagrave from France).
So far 2 rounds have taken place and the results can be seen above.
THE IRRESISTIBLE FORCE
Alexi Shirov (born 1972,Latvia)
I have known Alexi since the Paris Open in 1990 when he was just a lanky 17 year old , beginning to compete in ”western” tournaments. Already at that time he was of GM strength and demonstrated a remarkable talent for complex, messy chess where the initiative is the only thing that really counts.
There are many gifted players who have attacking skills just as pronounced as Shirov’s, but what separates him from the crowd is that with Shirov’s attacks there is a certain irresistibility involved. Almost as if no matter how well you defend Shirov will always come out on top….his resourcefulness, imagination and tremendous energy never seem to exhaust themselves (they exhaust his opponents first!).
Witness his game yesterday against Sergei Tiviakov, where Shirov takes apart Sergei’s favourite opening by simply throwing everything at him and going straight up the board for the jugular….
A topical line of the Scandanavian (1.e4 d5 2.PxP QxP 3.Nc3 Qd6!? ). I have played it once or twice myself–from either side! Tiviakov seems to have made this his main defence against the King Pawn openings. I mean, he seems plays it almost all the time these days!
I have never understood why some very strong grandmasters (and make no doubt: Sergei is one of the best in the world) continually play opening lines that are slightly inferior. But let me qualify myself: the Scandanavian is slightly inferior because it seems that Black always has an uphill battle to achieve an equality that can be more comfortably obtained by playing a more theoretical opening.
Sergei Tiviakov (born Russia, 1973)
But Sergei has quite a reasonable score with it: he loses rarely, wins occasionally and makes a lot of draws. In other words, it has served him well and he obviously feels comfortable with the positions that arise from it. Nevertheless, I wonder if Sergei is not pressing his luck by playing the Scandanavian against whom ever sits down opposite him, regardless of his opponent’s last name. Some players simply should not be provoked, and Alexi is one such player…
POSITION AFTER WHITE’S 7th MOVE (7.f4!?)
This appears to be Shirov’s patent, having already played it successfully on several previous occasions. The Knight on e5 is now solidly implanted inside Black’s territory and is quite annoying. Trading it off requires some preparation and Black must be careful not to ignore his own development in the meantime. Play continued:
7… Nb6!? (Too passive is 7… e6?! 8. g4! c5 9. g5 Nd5 10. Ne4 Qc7 11. c4 with a big edge, as in Shirov- Kurkowski at the 2010 Scarborough CC Shirov simul) 8. g4!
A super-aggressive move typical of Alexi’s style. White wastes no time gaining space and already threatening to push Black’s pieces back. Nisipeanu , in 2007, now tried 8…g6 against Shirov and was able to make a draw, but only after some suffering. No doubt Tiviakov was aware of this game and did not want to see what improvement White had up his sleave….
8… Nbd5 !? 9. Bg2!?
This appears to be a new move, 2 other games in my database continued with the immediate 9.g5 Perhaps Alexi had prepared it at home, or perhaps he simply did not want to go into the line 9.g5 Nxc3 10 bxc3 Qd5!?
9… g6 10. g5 Nxc3 11. bxc3 Nd5 12. c4!
Black is pushed back, but has a solid position without any real weaknesses
12… Nc7 13. c5 Qd8
No doubt Tiviakov was satisfied with his position, he has d5 and f5 under control. White has pushed back Black’s pieces but at the price of creating a lot of weaknesses in his pawn structure; Black need only find the time to develop his pieces and then play …f6 and …Ne6 to have White on a full scale retreat! And the immediate sacrifice on c6 (2 pieces for a Rook and 2 pawns) could quickly turn against White.
The move that was supposed to be impossible! This is the remarkable thing that I mentioned earlier about Shirov’s attacking games: while most other attackers would have avoided this position for the reasons given in the previous note, Alexi’s resourcefulness, imagination and tremendous energy allow him to seek hidden ideas that justify his seemingly reckless ‘up the board and damn the consequences’ style of attacking!
Often I am reminded by similarities between Shirov’s style of play and that of the young Paul Keres (1916-1975, Estonia). Keres’ attacking skills were second to none in terms of bravura. Witness the following example taken from a game against former world champion Max Euwe, remarkably similar to the Tiviakov game:
POSITION AFTER BLACK’S 16th MOVE:
At first sight it appears as though Keres’ attack has run out of steam. The d5 and f5 squares belong to Black. But what did Keres play? You guessed it! 17.d5!!!
RETURNING TO THE SHIROV VS TIVIAKOV GAME:
Now if 14… Nxd5?! Black gets into worse trouble than in the game after 15. c4! f6 (forced as retreating will lose material) 16. cxd5 fxe5 17. Qa4! Bd7 18. dxc6 bxc6 19. Bb2 and it is difficult to suggest a constructive move for Black.
Another powerful blow to Black’s center! If now 15… Bg7 16. cxd5 O-O 17. O-O (17. Bb2 f6) 17… Bf5 18. Qb3 Rb8 19. Be3 and White dominates the game. (Horrible as it may appear, perhaps this is what Black should seriously consider playing!) Or if 15… Be6? 16. cxd5 Bxd5 17. Qa4! and Black can call it quits…
There is really nothing better, though it weakens the dark squares considerably! I think Tiviakov must have been worried about his position at this point. In particular, Black has no obvious reply to White’s next ‘natural’ move:
As natural as a baby’s smile….White threatens indirectly the Rook on h8. Moving it to g8 (16…Rg8) seems laughable, and simple moves such as 17.Rc1 continue to pile on the pressure. In particular, where will Black put his King?
16… Bg7 17. Nc6 !
Great champions make it seem easy! After the forced exchange of White’s Knight for the Black Bishop on g7, White will become unchallenged master of the dark squares in Black’s campe. Worse still, Black’s remaining pieces will have no good squares. Black is completely helpless!
17… bxc6 18. Bxg7 Rg8 19. Be5 !
I almost feel sorry for Tiviakov here! Without committing any perceptible error, he has a postion that looks as though he is a beginner in a simul against the local champion….White needs only castle, put a Rook on the b-file and play Qa4 to make the pressure unbearable.
I invite the readers to take a look at how Shirov put away his opponent in just a handful more move. A great effort by Shirov!
SPRAGGETT ON CHESS