Shirov crushes Svidler to take León

6/7/2004 – Advanced Chess has been left behind but Alexei Shirov didn't need computer help to win in Spain. After a narrow escape against Teimour Radjabov in the first round Shirov won convincingly against Peter Svidler to take the Leon rapid tournament title. We have a full report, photos and analysis.

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Shirov still hot in León

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Hot on the heels of his triumph in the Bosna tournament in Sarajevo, Spain's Alexei Shirov added another title by winning the León rapid tournament. He squeezed by Teimour Radjabov in the first round and then notched a surprisingly one-sided victory over Peter Svidler in the final. In the other semi Svidler had easily dispatched local boy Paco Vallejo.

León is a four-player event composed of three four-game rapid chess matches. It was the site that gave birth to Garry Kasparov's "advanced chess" back in 1998. The organizers abandoned that man+machine format last year and Ponomariov took the title by beating Topalov in the final. This year Svidler and Shirov were the obvious favorites, while the 17-year-old Radjabov has show many times that he plays rapid chess at a top-10 level. Vallejo has pushed his rating to a very respectable 2666, but only managed 1.5/11 in the rapid section of this year's Amber tournament.


The terrifying "Peonín" is the symbol of the 2004 chess Olympiad in Mallorca.


Francisco Vallejo, Teimour Radjabov, Alexei Shirov, Peter Svidler

The only close match of the three was Radjabov-Shirov. At the opening press conference the youngster had boldly stated that the more experienced players were afraid when they sat down against him. They may have good reason! The young Azerbaijani took the lead twice only to see Shirov strike back immediately. After a drawn first game Radjabov won nicely with white to move ahead.

Shirov won the third and Radjabov offered a short draw in the fourth, apparently liking his chances in the faster games. With the rapid match tied they went to blitz playoffs. Radjabov again struck first blood, winning with black. Shirov evened the score and then won the final tiebreak game with black to advance to the final against Svidler. After the emotional match Radjabov declared that these had been the worst rapid games of his life!


Shirov-Radjabov went down to the wire.

The four-time Russian champion had had a much easier time in his semifinal match, at least on the scoreboard. Svidler won the first three games against Vallejo. The first game was very tight; afterward Svidler said that he thought he was going to have to play well just to draw. The poor Spaniard was even denied a consolation win in the final game when he misplayed a winning endgame to let Svidler off with a draw.


A fast-paced post-mortem.

The expected clash of heavyweights wasn't much of a clash. Alexei Shirov rolled over Peter Svidler to win 3.5-0.5. Either Shirov's form was just that good or maybe Svidler never recovered from his embarrassing 13-move loss in the first game! Losing with the French Defense in 13 moves is bad enough, but losing in 13 moves with white against the French is really humiliating!

White is clearly already in deep trouble in this messy position. White was left without a chance after 12.Qg5? Bb5! The bishop can't be captured or it's mate in two. Svidler tried to hold on with 13.c4 but Shirov ended things prettily with 13...Bg3! and White resigned.

Covering the mate threat with 14.Qd2 runs into the nice deflection shot 14...Bf4 and the white queen can't cover f2 and the c1 bishop. Painful stuff. White could have extended his life span a little with 12.Qf4 in order to meet 12...Bb5 with 13.c4.

Shirov won again in the second, although Svidler had solid claims of an advantage in that one before successive nervous blunders cost him a pawn and the game. In the third Shirov held an advantage but forced a repetition draw to clinch the tournament victory. In the superfluous fourth game Shirov completed his statement with his third win to make the final score 3.5-0.5.


It was all Shirov in the final.


Radjabov won a simul against Spanish juniors 13-0.

Our thanks to tournament director GM Zenón Franco for his reports, analysis, and photos.


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