Alexei Shirov on the Irtysh at minus 20°C

2/9/2008 – The 2007 FIDE World Cup was held at the end of November in Khanty-Mansiysk, the heartland of Russia, temperatures and wind chill can drop to dangerous levels. Especially if you are riding a snowmobile on the frozen surface of a mighty river. As was done by World Cup finalist (and ChessBase DVD author) Alexei Shirov, who we are glad to report, survived the ordeal.

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Khanty-Mansiysk

We told you about Khanty-Mansiysk in the first report on the FIDE World Cup 2007. The town is located about 1400 miles (2250 km) east of Moscow, just north of Kazakhstan, on the Irtysh River, 15 km from its confluence with the Ob. The name is pronounced "hanty-mansisk", with the first part rhyming with "hunty", the second with "fun-sick". If you are up to it, pronounce the initial "k" like the guttural "ch" in the German "Dach" or the Spanish "rojo". The Russian original is Ха́нты-Манси́йск.

The original place was called Samarovsky Yam, and was founded in 1637 by 50 horse-drivers with their families. They set up camp on the right bank of the Irtysh River, at the foot of steep mountains, with the thick cedar forest growing on them.The settlement became known as Samarovo, and the town of Khanty-Mansiysk originated from it.


Khanty-Mansiysk – map by Google Earth

Looking at the maps above you can see that Khanty-Mansiysk if very close – about 15 km – from the confluence of two rivers, the Ob and the Irtysh. The latter is considered the tributary, although it is clearly longer than the main river: 4,248 km as opposed to 1,162 km for the Ob, which carries much more water. Together the river system is the seventh longest in the world:

No. River km miles output outflow Countries it touches
1. Nile 6,650  4,135  5,100 Mediterranean Ethiopia, Eritrea, Sudan, Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya, Rwanda, Burundi, Egypt, Republic of Congo
2. Amazon 6,400 3,980 219,000 Atlantic Ocean   Brazil, Peru, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Venezuela, Guyana
3. Yangtze 6,300 3,917 31,900 East China Sea  P.R. China
4. Mississippi 6,275 3,902 16,200 Gulf of Mexico United States (98.5%), Canada (1.5%)
5. Yenisei 5,539 3,445 19,600 Kara Sea Russia, Mongolia
6. Yellow River 5,464 3,398 2,110 Bohai Sea P.R. China
7. Ob - Irtysh 5,410 3,364 12,800 Gulf of Ob Russia, Kazakhstan, P.R. China

Output is in cubic meters per second. Stats on the 156 next longest rivers, all over 1000 km, can be found here.

Shirov in Khanty

Towards the end of November Alexei Shirov travelled to Khanty-Mansiysk not for potamological reasons, but in order to play in the FIDE World Cup 2007, where he went all the way to the final. There he lost to Gata Kamsky, who now goes on to play Veselin Topalov for the right to challenge the winner of the World Championship 2008 between Anand and Kramnik. Naturally it was a great disappointment for Alexei to falter so close to the finish line, and before the closing ceremony the Latvian GM sought some diversion that would take his mind off the defeat.


Alexei Shirov in Khanty-Mansiysk, about to embark on an icy adventure...


...together with his well-equipped second Manolo Perez


The guide on their adventure is experienced snowmobile driver Alexei Bondarev


Manolo in the snow. Due to his resistance to cold the Spaniard was christened Manolo Manolovich (Russian patronymic – his father is also named Manolo)


At minus 20° C on the frozen surface of the Irtysch river

These snowmobiles can reach a speed of 100 km/h on the surface of the frozen Irtysch river. The experienced guide could tell that Spaniard Perez was holding up well against the resulting wind chill, but Latvian Alexei Shirov..

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The World Cup finalist is showing signs of excessive cold and frostbite


The locals know to recognize the symptoms – the adventure had to be abandoned

During the tournament the Russian TV sports channel Sportbox broadcast a report on Alexei Shirov as a cross country skier. It is well known that Norwegian Magnus Carlsen is also a cross country fan, and Alexei was asked whether he would prefer to face Magnus in this discipline or at the board. The latter, he replied. "On skis I wouldn't stand a chance!"


Cross country skier Alexei Shirov in the Russian TV report


For the Latvian this kind of thing is a "piece of cake"


World class GM Alexei Shirov on skis in the snow-covered forest...


...and in the warm and cozy ChessBase studio where he has just recorded two new DVDs


Alexei Shirov Training DVD

1. Alexei Shirov: My Best Games in the Spanish

On this DVD the genius from Riga presents his most brilliant games in the Ruy Lopez. Let Shirov show you how to break down the super-solid Berlin Defence, or how he managed to achieve promising counterplay against Garry Kasparov in the Open Ruy Lopez. Follow this top player through one of his most famous lines in the Ruy, the Anti-Marshall with 8.h3. More than 4.5 hours private tuition with one of the most exciting top-class players in the world!


2. Alexei Shirov: My best games in the Sicilian

On this DVD Shirov focuses on his most outstanding achievements in the Sicilian (except the Najdorf, which is dealt with on a separate DVD), a peronal selection combining highest chess quality with aesthetic pleasure. His lectures are designed to not only explain the different opening lines, but also to present interesting and sometimes perplexing ideas and sacrifices in the middlegame. On this training DVD, with a total playing time of nearly four hours, you will find Shirov games against Anand, Kramnik, Leko and other top players.


3. Alexei Shirov: My best games in the Najdorf

Shirov’s uncompromising style of play is also reflected in his manner of commenting his own games. He is perfectly objective, and in fact sometimes ruthlessly critical of himself. Even when he is dealing with highly acclaimed games, his judgement is unbiased – no glossing over critical positions where he did not find the optimal continuation.

Chess fans are treated not just to a portrait of this extraordinary player, but they can also learn a lot about the development of particular opening lines at top level in the course of time. On this DVD you will find his most brilliant games in the Sicilian Najdorf. Shirov’s duel with van Wely in the Najdorf Keres Attack is for sure one of the highlights, just as the presentation of one of his best games against Kasparov. More than three hours entertainment and enlightenment, all packed in one.


4. My best games in the Caro-Kann

The Caro-Kann Defence, which arises after the moves 1.e4 c6 followed by 2...d7-d5, is considered one of the most solid and reliable replies to the double step of White’s e-pawn. Black fights for his share of the centre without accepting an unnecessary weakening of his position, patiently waiting for his chance. Shirov’s preferred weapon against this sound black set-up has always been the Advance Variation 3.e5, avoiding the simplification after 3.Nc3 dxe4 and reaching a type of position of greater tactical and strategic complexity – with chances and risks for both sides. Thus, the main topic of the DVD are the white and black plans following 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.e5 Bf5 4.Nc3, which the Latvian super grandmaster explains by means of the best games from his own practice. And apart from impressive White wins, these also include two examples with Shirov leading the black pieces! Video playing time: 4 h 53 m


5. My best games in the King’s Indian

With this DVD on the King‘s Indian Defence, Alexei Shirov continues the successful and highly praised series about his best games. As in the preceding DVDs the Latvian super grandmaster succeeds in spoiling his public with analysis of a high quality and with exciting insights into his games, and he does so in his own reserved, pleasant and modest style. As is the case with many of his openings, Alexei Shirov also plays the King‘s Indian with both colours. The DVD concentrates on the main line of the Classical King‘s Indian with Nf3, Be2 and 0-0. In the games, and they are almost exclusively victories, his opponents are renowned experts in this opening, such as World Champion Kramnik and Boris Gelfand with White. The black side is represented, amongst others, by the legendary King‘s Indian specialist John Nunn, but also by Teimour Radjabov, who may not yet be a legend, but who is reckoned at the moment to be the greatest expert in the King‘s Indian. Video running time: over 5 hours.


6. My best games in the Nimzo-Indian

With this DVD on the Nimzo-Indian Defence (including the Catalan and the Queen‘s Indian) Alexei Shirov continues the successful and highly praised series about his best games. As in the preceding DVDs the Latvian super grandmaster succeeds in spoiling his public with analysis of a high quality and with exciting insights into his games, and he does so in his own reserved, pleasant and modest style. The DVD concentrates on the Classical Nimzo-Indian with 4.Qc2. But when playing against the very solid Nimzo-Indian, which the author faced most often as White, it is enormously important to be able to vary your opening lines and so the author himself often switches to 3.Nf3; this then leads to games with 3.b6 (Queen‘s Indian) or 3.d5 4.g3 (Catalan). Amongst the opponents in the games he presents are, for example, Topalov and Leko. Video running time: over 4 hours.


7. My best games in the Petroff Defence

With this DVD on the Russian Defence (Petroff Defence) Alexei Shirov continues the successful and highly praised series of his best games. Since many players look on the Russian Defence with the suspicion that it is a drawish opening, and one which at the same time is both dry and boring, Shirov has in this DVD set himself the specific task of countering this view of matters. Thus he begins the DVD with a game featuring the Cochrane Gambit. Then of course Shirov concentrates on the solid and recognised lines, and in doing so continually manages to explain their deeper content. But the spectator will draw benefit not only from his remarks on the opening, because Shirov understands so brilliantly how to explain instructively and profitably for the student every phase of the game, with the result that at the end of the DVD on the Russian Defence, you will even have learned a lot about endgames. Video running time: over 5 hours.


8. My best games in the Slav and Semi-Slav

The Slav is typified by the move c6, and in the Semi-Slav e6 is also played; the relationship between the two is obvious. At some points, Shirov’s lecture is closely related to the history of the opening, because the Latvian has contributed to and advanced the development of many lines. In the Meran Variation, Shirov’s name is linked to a line which is now known as Shabalov Attack. After 1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Nf3 e6 5.e3 Nbd7 6.Qc2 Bd6 it was Shirov and Shabalov, who introduced the move 7.g4 into chess praxis in 1992. Today there are over 1000 games in the Mega Database with that variation. Shirov recounts the way this extravagant line arose and explains some of its most important ideas. Video running time: 5 hrs 20 min.


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