Listen the magician talk through his secrets

5/23/2008 – Going out for a win with the black pieces is a hard task for amateur players like most of us but for top players it is not really better - as long as they play opponents of their own level of course. On his latest DVD Alexei Shirov illustrates in another 13 of his masterpieces what must all be considered in order to achieve one's end here. Buy it now or read more.

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'My Best Games With Black' by Alexei Shirov

Review by Sean Marsh

'If you want to win with Black, you must decide which is the best strategy to achieve your aim. Should you take risks and go for the win right from move one, or should you patiently set about achieving equality and then wait for mistakes by White? Which opening should you choose and what is the role played by opening preparation?'

How does a player win with Black against the world’s elite? It’s tricky enough to push for victory in local club matches and tournaments, so it is intriguing to see how a top GM goes about the task.

GM Shirov is, of course, very well known as a tactical and risky player, unafraid of great complications over the board. So it’s natural to assume that this new DVD will be a collection of bold attacking games with a large dose of ‘fire on board’.

 

The astonishing run time of six hours and forty five minutes gives GM Shirov plenty of time to delve into the deeper points of his selected games.

His list of opponents makes very impressive reading: Sokolov, Ivanchuk, Movsesian, Leko, Fedorov, Shabalov, Najer, Navara, Sutovsky, Alekseev, Onischuk, Akopian and Karjakin. Only two escaped with draws!

GM Shirov’s only fault as a presenter is that he doesn’t look into the camera often enough, preferring instead to look at his own computer screen. That, however, is only a minor matter. The choice of opening must surely be a factor in success with the Black pieces.

The illustrative games feature a King’s Indian Defence, Symmetrical English, French Defence (three games), King’s Gambit, Four Knights’ Opening, Reti, Petroff, Grunfeld, Slav and Sicilian (two games).

Two other key factors are revealed: sometimes it is possible to prepare a strong surprise or novelty in a particular opening which can tilt the edge to Black and occasionally a player can some other subconscious belief in impending victory against a particular opponent. Winning the Black side of King’s Gambit might not be too tricky for a top player, but who does one set about playing for the full point with a Petroff or a Four Knights?

Analysing his game against Sutovsky from a 2007 team event, GM Shirov explains at the start that it’s more difficult to prepare in depth when the name of the opponent is not known until quite late on. Add that to a sleepless night and a bit of tension and animosity towards a particular player and the task is complicated further. Feeling out of sorts, he chose the Petroff not to try and win as Black, but merely ‘to survive’.

He admits to being very lucky during the game, especially in this position:

White’s 11 h3 improved an early game in which Black drew easily. Now 11.…0-0-0 looks tempting but Grandmaster intuition warned him off. Later he discovered that 12 Bb5 c6 13 Ba6 bxa6 14 Qe2 wins for White, even though in his troubled and tired state at the board he had not seen the variation.

He then navigated his way through a couple of uncomfortable moments before his opponent ran out of decent attacking tries and offered the draw. Shirov’s hand was in the process of extending itself in agreement when he suddenly changed his mind and opted to play on! He managed to win some time later, sealing an almost accidental victory.

He played into a Four Knight’s Opening against Najer as he wasn’t convinced by his opponent’s handling of certain variations. Nuances play an important part in a top player’s choice of opening; after 1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 he played 2...Nf6, knowing that in this case 3 Nc3 would follow and that 2...Nc6 would have been met by 3 Bb5.

Naturally, he brings typical ‘Planet Shirov’ chaos to the board in the majority of his games on this DVD and unusual positions abound, as these randomly selected samples amply demonstrate:


Akopian - Shirov
 


Shabalov - Shirov
 


Fedorov - Shirov

They look like positions from Hugh Courtney’s famous Chess Magazine Christmas Quizzes.

A great advantage of this format over chess books is that the presenter/author cannot just print lengthy variations and expect the viewer/reader to spend hours working over them; everything has to be explained in full view; the magician is obliged to talk through his secrets!

Click here for the full original review.


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