2012 Ottawa Simul
Report by John Upper
For the third February in a row, GM Alexei Shirov returned to Ottawa’s RA Chess
Club for a simul and lecture. On February 23, he scored 19 wins, one draw, and
no losses at the RA Club. The next night he travelled across the Ottawa River
to Gatineau where he scored 18 wins and one loss, for a combined score of +37
While it is not uncommon for a strong GM to play a simul without losing a game,
even with the one loss Shirov’s result is particularly impressive because while
most simul-givers take White in all their games, in his simuls Alexei concedes
some of his advantage by alternating between White and Black. Usually.
But a Friday afternoon storm dumped ten cm of snow on Gatineau just before his
second simul, keeping several of his opponents away.
Gatineau’s Maison du Citoyen (City Hall), here in Summer without the
So when Alexei arrived at Gatineau’s Maison du Citoyen he found his opponents
had taken not only all the available Whites (and as few as possible of
the Blacks) but one player sat down as Black and turned the board around! Alexei
good-naturedly didn’t object (“well, if that’s what makes them happy...”) even
though it meant he played 15 of his 19 games as Black, including one stretch
of ten Blacks in a row with a former 2300+ player at one end and two experts
at the other. Can you imagine other simul masters?
Well, if that's what makes them happy... Alexei Shirov playing with the black
Count the blacks! An aerial view of the Shirov simul in Gatineau
Shirov is famous as an attacker, and (of course) some of his simul games had
him sacrifice for strong attacks (vs Dagenais and Upper) or turn a development
or positional advantage into a winning attack (vs Cote and Ivanenko).
But this time the dominant theme was endgame skill: on at least a half
dozen boards Shirov entered endgames where he was between equal and lost, and
won them all. Amos Kuttner was completely outplayed from an equal rook
endgame, and Roger Hubley missed a chance to exchange down to a very drawish
opposite-coloured Bishop ending.
Alexei in action: the Latvian GM usually alternates Black and White in his
Worst of all, from the home-team’s point of view, Mate Marinkovic and Bill
Doubleday were both winning in tricky rook endings and both lost. Only Saeid
Sadeghi showed sufficient endgame resourcefulness to steer an inferior position
to a dead drawn rook ending. If there is an antidote to Shirov then surely Saeid
has the patent: this is his third draw in three simuls against the Super-GM.
In the opening phase of the simul...
... and the last man sitting: Mate Mankovic ponders his 57th move
Marinkovic,Mate - Shirov,Alexei [A26]
RACC Shirov simul Ottawa, 23.02.2012
The game is basically drawn, but continued 57.Rxc6+ Ke7 58.Ra6 Rg2+
59.Kf1 a2 60.g5? Rc2!–+ 61.h5 Rc1+ 62.Kf2 a1Q 63.Rxa1 Rxa1 64.Kxf3 Rg1
65.g6 Kf6 66.Ke3 Rc1 67.d4 Rc3+ 68.Kd2 exd4 69.e5+ Kg7 0-1. The game
is extensively analysed in our replayer below.
Alexei got burned only once (picture above), when he played an overly ambitious
exchange sac from a passive position, and Pat Duquette’s solid play combined
with a fingerfehler from Shirov to bring in the full point. The game
My favourite game features both Shirov’s talent for combinations and
his endgame skill: against Michel Desjardins he played an endgame combination
which sets up an unavoidable and deadly exchange sacrifice.
Desjardins,Michel - Shirov,Alexei [C02]
RACC Shirov simul Ottawa, 23.02.2012 [Upper,John]
28...Nxb2!! White resigned! That's unusually early in a simul
game – where players often drag losing positions all the way to mate –
but Michel is strong enough to know how bad his position is. The key point is
not simply that Black gets a R+P for N+B, but that White has no obvious way
On Saturday Alexei reviewed his simul games against those attending the lecture;
in effect, a post-mortem with a Super-GM. Like any joint analysis, what you
get out of it depends on what you put in. Some players had clearly reviewed
their games carefully and were prepared to talk about where their OTB analysis
differed from their books’ recommendations and computers’ evaluations. Others
seemed reluctant to say anything, even when asked a totally normal post-mortem
question like, “Did you consider this move?” It is possible they were intimidated,
but I find this difficult to understand, since I don’t find Alexei intimidating
at all. Of course he knows vastly more about chess than I do;
and he sees things much faster and more clearly than anyone I’ve met.
But he’s prepared to share some of that with you if you ask – and that’s
why we keep inviting him.
Shirov analyses with simul participants and explains the latest theory on
So, if you’re lucky enough to get the chance to analyze with him: do your homework,
ask some questions, make some suggestions. You’ll get more out of it, and maybe
Alexei will too: during last year’s visit I told him about a novelty I’d found
a few years ago in an opening we both played. The day after this year’s lecture
he showed up at the Club and played some blitz games against the regulars (5
min v 2 min; score: Shirov 8 – RACC 0). Then he told me he’d shown
my idea to another 2700 player (who I won’t name). This player had wrinkled
his nose at it and suggested a continuation I hadn’t considered. Alexei showed
me their idea and.... [waffle]... the position is too complicated for me to
come up with an adequate response to a pair of 2700's without a lot of
silicon help. So the ball is back in my court. At the moment, I’m not optimistic.
A few of Alexei’s more interesting insights are included in the notes to the
games. Before you read them, ask yourself these questions:
Are you more likely to cause a GM trouble in a simul by going into tactical
complications or into a pawn ending? (vs Kuttner)
How about playing a line that is generally regarded as bad in a highly
tactical opening like the Anti-Meran Botvinnik System? Isn’t that just crazy
against a guy with as much experience in it as Shirov? (vs Doubleday)
Do GMs get “take-backs” in simuls? (vs Duquette) I don’t know the
answer to this, so I’d like some feedback. I’ve never heard that the simul-giver
has the right to take back a move once played, and have always assumed that
a simul is just like a tournament game: touch move. But both Shirov and
Nigel Short (last Fall) said that they believe the simul-giver has the right
to take back a move until he has moved on to the next board. If so, it ought
to be common practice to announce this at the start of the simul. Are there
any conventions about this, ChessBase editors and readers?
Selected games with analysis
A complete set of games from the RACC simul can be found at the Club
website. Thanks goes to: Gordon Ritchie for arranging and hosting
Alexei’s visit, and to Marcel Laurin for running the Gatineau simul.
Text and photos are by John Upper.