Fire in Hamburg – Shirov visits ChessBase

by ChessBase
3/13/2006 – Alexei Shirov, born in Riga, Latvia, 36 years after Tal, seems to have inherited all of the uncompromising fighting spirit of that legendary chess genius. His books, Fire on Board I and II, document his remarkable career. Now Shirov has turned to the new media and has started to record training sessions in the ChessBase DVD format. Something to look forward to.

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Shirov in Hamburg

Alexei Shirov (Aleksejs Širovs) is one of the most interesting chess players in the world. He was born 33 years ago in Riga, Latvia, just like the immortal Mikhail Tal, 36 years earlier. Tal's style was characterised by uncompromising attacking play. He would sacrifice material easily in return for initiative, and for complications which he could see through better than his opponents. Amazingly exactly this can be said about Shirov, who has a tendency to "set fire to the board" – an image he himself has chosen as the title of one of the two books dedicated to his games.

Alexei Shirov in the ChessBase offices in Hamburg, Germany

Young Alexei became the under 16 World Champion in 1988, and second in the World Junior in 1990. He received his GM title in 1992, at the age of 20. Shirov has won a large number of international tournaments, like Biel 1991, Madrid 1997, Ter Apel 1997, Monte Carlo 1998, Mérida 2000, the Paul Keres Memorial in Tallinn (twice), etc. In 1998 he defeated Vladimir Kramnik in a ten-game qualification match that was staged to select a challenger for World Champion Garry Kasparov. Unfortunately sufficient funding was not found for the Kasparov challenge and the match was abandoned. In 2000 Shirov reached the final of the FIDE world championship, losing to Vishy Anand in Teheran.

In 1994 Shirov became a citizen of Spain, a country for which he still plays, although he currently resides in Lithuania, married to Lithuanian IM/WGM Victoria Cmilyte.

Alexei Shirov has written two "Fire on Board" books – the first was published in 1995, the second ten years later. Now the master is turning his attention to the new media. A few weeks ago he spent time with ChessBase in Hamburg, Germany, recording DVD lessons in the Chess Media System. These will become available soon and are sure to excite chess players all over the world.

Signing his Fire-on-Board book for chess fans

Shirov's DVDs contain a selection of high-quality games, mainly in the Ruy Lopez and Sicilian openings. Chess fans are treated not just to a portrait of this extraordinary player, but can also learn a lot about the development of the two openings over recent times. Entertainment and enlightenment all packed in one.

In the Chess Media Studio in Hamburg

Although this was Alexei's first attempt at working with the Chess Media System he soon became very adept at working in the ChessBase studio. After a while he started to analyse very recent games spontaneously in front of the camera. This gives the viewer an additional insight into the way top grandmasters look at games.

The latest star of the Fritztrainer DVD series

One of the things that is clear to the viewer is that Shirov is perfectly objective, and in fact sometimes ruthlessly critical, when analysing his own games. 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.

Shirov was often the first to arrive at the ChessBase office and the last to leave in the evening. Our team was so delighted by the work done together that they asked him if he would consider taking a job in the office. "Okay," he replied, "but maybe just for a week."

Here are two games to whet your appetite First we take a look at a truly wild encounter between Shirov and is big rival Vladimir Kramnik:

Kramnik,Vladimir (2710) - Shirov,Alexei (2705) [D11]
Linares 12th Linares (12), 1994
1.Nf3 d5 2.d4 Bf5 3.c4 e6 4.Nc3 c6 5.Qb3 Qb6 6.c5 Qc7 7.Bf4 Qc8 8.e3 Nf6 9.Qa4 Nbd7 10.b4 a6 11.h3 Be7 12.Qb3 0-0 13.Be2 Be4 14.0-0 Bxf3 15.Bxf3 Bd8 16.a4 Bc7 17.Bg5 h6 18.Bxf6 Nxf6 19.b5 e5 20.b6 Bb8 21.a5 exd4 22.exd4 Bf4 23.Qc2 Qd7 24.g3 Qxh3 25.Bg2 Qh5 26.gxf4 Ng4 27.Rfd1 Rae8 28.Rd3 Qh2+ 29.Kf1 f5 30.Qd2 Rf6 31.f3

Look at the above position. The square e4 is covered my multiple white pieces and looks like the last place for a mighty rook to move. But Shirov does it anyway, twice in the course of the next four moves. And watch how he handles the multiple promotion threats by White on the square b8. 31...Re4! 32.Nxd5 cxd5 33.c6 Rxf4 34.cxb7 Re4 35.Rc1 Kh7 36.b8Q Qxb8 37.fxg4 Qh2 38.Rf3 Rxg4 39.b7 Rfg6 40.Rc2 Rxg2 41.Qxg2 Rxg2 42.Rxg2 Qh1+ 43.Kf2 Qb1 0-1. [Click to replay]

The second game became instantly famous for containing one of the most astonishing moves in chess.

Topalov,Veselin (2740) - Shirov,Alexei (2710) [D85]
Linares 15th Linares (10), 04.03.1998
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 d5 4.cxd5 Nxd5 5.e4 Nxc3 6.bxc3 Bg7 7.Bb5+ c6 8.Ba4 0-0 9.Ne2 Nd7 10.0-0 e5 11.f3 Qe7 12.Be3 Rd8! 13.Qc2?! Nb6 14.Bb3 Be6 15.Rad1 Nc4! 16.Bc1 b5! 17.f4! exd4 18.Nxd4 Bg4 19.Rde1 Qc5 20.Kh1 a5 21.h3? Bd7 22.a4 bxa4 23.Ba2 Be8! 24.e5 Nb6 25.f5 Nd5 26.Bd2?! Nb4! 27.Qxa4 Nxa2 28.Qxa2 Bxe5 29.fxg6 hxg6 30.Bg5 Rd5! 31.Re3 Qd6 32.Qe2 Bd7 33.c4 Bxd4 34.cxd5 Bxe3 35.Qxe3 Re8! 36.Qc3 Qxd5 37.Bh6 Re5 38.Rf3 Qc5 39.Qa1 Bf5 40.Re3 f6 41.Rxe5 Qxe5 42.Qa2+ Qd5! 43.Qxd5+ cxd5 44.Bd2 a4 45.Bc3 Kf7 46.h4 Ke6 47.Kg1

Black is two pawns up, but with opposite colored bishops the task of converting this material advantage to a win is far from easy. For instance after 47...a3 48.Kf2 a2 49.Ke3 Bg4 50.g3 Kf5 51.Bd4 it is unclear how Black can progress; and the same applies to the try 47...Be4 48.Kf2 Kf5 49.g3. So how did our Latvian hero solve the problem? Spend a few minutes trying to figure out what he could have played (if you don't know this famous position already). To help you find it: think incredible and improbable, something too deep for even computers to find. The solution is given in our game replay.

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