(1) Karjakin,Sergey (2694) - Shirov,Alexei (2739)
World Cup Khanty-Mansiysk RUS (6.3), 11.12.2007

Alexey Shirov became the second finalist of the World Cup. In the tiebreak versus the Ukrainian Sergey Karjakin he drew the first game and won the second one, qualifying into the Finals, where he will meet the American Gata Kamsky.

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 e5
The famous Sveshnikov Sicilian - an opening variation named after the Russian grandmaster Evgeny Sveshnikov, who contributed a lot to its theory. Just few years ago Sveshnikov Sicilian used to be the most topical opening subject in tournaments of different levels, including the very top. Lately top players "discovered" the Marshall Attack and the consequence was that Sveshnikov Sicilian became a slightly less frequent guest in practice. In the introductory part of my theoretical article in ChessBase Magazine 121 I reflected about the reasons behind the decrease of its popularity. Without entering into details now, I will just bring up the following sentence from the mentioned article: "...this partial loss of its recent popularity represents first of all a complex process of evolution, which is rather typical for any fashionable opening". With other words Sveshnikov Sicilian still represents a dangerous weapon.

6.Ndb5 d6 7.Bg5 a6 8.Na3 b5 9.Nd5
Just like many top grandmasters, at the beginning Karjakin used to play the lines starting with 9.Bxf6, but later switched to the "more solid" 9.Nd5, being nowadays one of the leading experts in this line.

9...Be7 10.Bxf6 Bxf6 11.c3
In this position the strategical battle is around square d5. Karjakin and Shirov have played it two times before. In both games Shirov tried a different set-up with black, but failed to equalize and both games were won convincingly by the Ukrainian (the last victory in November 2007). This time Alexey finally goes for the main line.

[11...0-0 12.Nc2 Rb8 13.h4 Be7 14.g3 Be6 15.a3 a5 16.Nce3 Re8 17.a4 b4 18.Bb5 with a very unpleasant position for Black, Karjakin,S (2694)-Shirov,A (2739)/Crete 2007]

12.Nc2 0-0
[12...Ne7 13.h4 Bh6 14.a4 bxa4 15.Ncb4 0-0 16.Qxa4 Nxd5 17.Nxd5 a5 18.Bb5 Kh8 19.b4 f5 20.Bc6 Ra7 21.exf5 Bxf5 22.bxa5 Bd3 23.Bb5 Bxb5 24.Qxb5 Raf7 25.0-0 Qxh4 26.Qe2 and again it turned out that Black is in troubles, Karjakin,S (2678)-Shirov,A (2715)/Wijk aan Zee 2007]

13.a4 bxa4 14.Rxa4 a5 15.Bc4 Rb8 16.b3 Kh8 17.Nce3
This plan to delay castle short became very popular after the game Ponomariov-Kramnik, Wijk-aan-Zee 2005. Since then its theory developed a lot. White's idea is to wait for the answer ...g7-g6 and then sacrifice the h-pawn in order to create an attack on the h-file. [17.0-0 f5 18.exf5 Bxf5 19.Nce3 Bg6 20.Be2 Bf7 21.Nc4 Nd4 22.cxd4 Bxd5= Shirov,A (2710)-Kramnik,V (2790)/Monte Carlo (rapid) 1998]

17...g6 18.h4 Bxh4 19.g3 Bg5 20.Qe2
A new move. Usually White was trying to use the second rank for the transfer of his rook to the h-file. Karjakin's idea is to transfer the queen on h2. [The main theoretical variation continues 20.f4 exf4 21.gxf4 Bh4+ 22.Kd2 Ne7 with wild complications, where Black seems to have enough resources to keep the balance.]

20...f5 21.f4 exf4 22.gxf4 Bh4+ 23.Kd1 Rb7 24.Qh2 g5 25.Ba6
Difficult to say what went wrong in the Karjakin's preparation, but after this move Shirov takes over the initiative with a rather obvious exchange sacrifice.

25...Rxb3! 26.Kc2 Bxa6 27.Kxb3 fxe4 28.fxg5 Qb8+ 29.Rb4
A sad necessity, in order to avoid mate. [29.Kc2? Bd3+ 30.Kd2 Qb2+ 31.Kd1 Rf2 and Black will mate soon]

29...axb4 30.Qxh4 bxc3+ 31.Kxc3 Qa7 32.Qxe4 Ne5 33.g6 Bd3
It is very likely that Black could achieve even more, since now Karjakin succeeds to enter an endgame with big chances to escape.

34.Rxh7+ Qxh7 35.Qxe5+! dxe5 36.gxh7 Bxh7
Only precise analysis can tell whether the endgame is winning for Black or not.

37.Ng4 Rc8+ 38.Kb4 e4 39.Ngf6 Bf5
[39...Kg7? 40.Nxh7 Kxh7 41.Nf6+ Kg7 42.Nxe4= ]

40.Nh5 Bg4 41.Ng3 Bf3 42.Nf5 Rc1 43.Nc3 Kh7 44.Kc4 Rc2
[44...Kg6 45.Ng3 e3 46.Kd3= ]

45.Kd4 Kg6 46.Ne3 Rd2+ 47.Ke5 Rd3 48.Ned5 Rd2 49.Nxe4
This is a draw, but Shirov checks the resistance of his young opponent til the end.

49...Ra2 50.Nf4+ Kh6 51.Ne6 Ra5+ 52.Kf4 Bd1 53.Nd4 Kg6 54.Nc3 Bh5 55.Ne4 Rd5 56.Ke3 Rd8 57.Nc6 Re8 58.Kd4 Ra8 59.Ne5+ Kg7 60.Nd6 Kf6 61.Ne4+ Ke6 62.Nc5+ Kf5 63.Nc6 Re8 64.Nb4 Rd8+ 65.Ke3 Be8 66.Nbd3 Bb5 67.Nb4 Rh8 68.Nbd3 Rh3+ 69.Kd4 Rh4+ 70.Ke3 Rc4 71.Nb3 Re4+ 72.Kd2 Rh4 73.Kc3 Ke4 74.Nd2+ Kd5 75.Nb4+ Kd6 76.Nc2 Rh3+ 77.Kb2 Kd5 78.Na3 Ba4 79.Nc2 Kc5 80.Kc1 Rd3 81.Ne1 Rc3+ 82.Kb2 Kb4 83.Nb1 Rb3+ 84.Kc1 Rh3 85.Nc2+ Kc4 86.Ne1 Rh1 87.Kd2 Rh2+ 88.Ke3 Bd1 89.Nd2+ Kd5 90.Nef3 Re2+ 91.Kf4 Re8 92.Kg3 Rf8 93.Kg2 Bxf3+ 94.Nxf3 Ke4 95.Nd2+ Kd3 96.Nf1 Rf6 97.Ng3 Rf4 98.Nh5 Rf8 99.Ng3 Ke3 100.Nf1+ Ke2 101.Ng3+ Ke1 102.Ne4 Rf7 103.Ng3 1/2-1/2