Fire on Board – Shirov at his best

1/21/2009 – Alexei Shirov makes heavy use of tactical complications to defeat his opponents. In an equal or worse position he will often reach into his bag of tricks and bamboozle his opponent. As he did to long-time rival Vladimir Kramnik in an incredible game that our Playchess lecturer Dennis Monokroussos has in store for you tonight. See you on the server, Wednesday at 9 p.m. EST.

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Dennis Monokroussos writes:

For those of you who are fans of Alexei Shirov's chess – and who isn't? – this is the quintessential "Fire on Board" game. In it, he defeats his long-time rival Vladimir Kramnik, and does so by bamboozling him with a remarkable series of blows starting from a lost position. The most famous of these shocking moves, which I won't mention now, so as to avoid spoiling the surprise, was selected by Shirov for the frontispiece to the first volume of Fire on Board, and deservedly so.

Shirov and Kramnik have been among the world's absolute elite since the early 90s, and although they were friends for a while and had very similar repertoires, they are stylistic antipodes. Kramnik tends to win his games by keeping control and accumulating small advantages, while Shirov (like his early mentor and erstwhile countryman Mikhail Tal) wins many games by outplaying his opponents in tactical complications. Our game from this week is just that kind of battle. Kramnik obtained an advantage, and when Shirov made a more serious error the advantage grew.

It was at just this moment that Shirov reached into his bag of tricks. If he did nothing he'd lose, and lose by getting squashed. So it was important to randomize the position. It might lead to a quicker loss, but the important thing was to create a situation where even Kramnik could go wrong. Shirov succeeded on both counts, as you'll see tonight, to your surprise and delight. (Sorry!)

If you're a Playchess.com member (and why wouldn't you be?), you can watch the show live, for free, at 9 p.m. ET Wednesday (= 3 a.m. CET Thursday morning). Here's what you do: Log on, enter the Broadcasts room, look for "Kramnik-Shirov" under the Games tab, double-click on it, watch and enjoy. Hope to see you then!

Dennis Monokroussos' Radio ChessBase lectures begin on Wednesdays at 9 p.m. EST, which translates to 02:00h GMT, 03:00 Paris/Berlin, 13:00h Sydney (on Thursday). Other time zones can be found at the bottom of this page. You can use Fritz or any Fritz-compatible program (Shredder, Junior, Tiger, Hiarcs) to follow the lectures, or download a free trial client.

You can find the exact times for different locations in the world at World Time and Date. Exact times for most larger cities are here. And you can watch older lectures by Dennis Monokroussos offline in the Chess Media System room of Playchess:

Enter the above archive room and click on "Games" to see the lectures. The lectures, which can go for an hour or more, will cost you between one and two ducats. That is the equivalent of 10-20 Euro cents (14-28 US cents).


Four training DVDs by Alexei Shirov

Title: My Best Games in the Slav and Semi-Slav
Disk contents: Thirteen instructional videos, each based around a single game in which Shirov was a participant. The games span the years 1992 to 2006. Total video running time is nealy five and a half hours.
Comments: The introductory video explains the basic ideas behind the Slav, plus explains a novelty presented in that game. Each successive video explains theory in each variation presented. Note that I did use the word "explains": instead of merely cranking out variations for their own sake, Shirov takes the time to explain the reasoning behind the moves. This is the reason why the user should watch the videos and absorb the instruction in the recommended order; ideas are carried over, but the ideas not verbally repeated, from video to video. Of particular interest to computer chess fans, Shirov's 2001 victory against Shredder in an exhibition game is also included. It should be noted that all games on this DVD are presented in both Chess Media System format and as a regular ChessBase database game; although the latter also contain variations and a bit of symbolic commentary from time to time, the extensive instruction from the videos is not included in text annotation form.

Title: My Best Games in the Nimzo-Indian
Disk contents: Nine video lessons; after an introduction, eight videos (each based around a single game) follow. Total running time is more than four hours.
Comments: The DVD's title isn't completely accurate; Shirov actually discusses three separate openings on this disk, all of which follow the initial moves 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6. These include the Nimzo-Indian (3.Nc3 Bb4), the Queen's Indian (3.Nf3 b6), and the Catalan (3.Nf3 d5 [intending a transposition into a number of varied openings including the French Winawer] 4.g3). Especially interesting is Shirov's revelation in the introductory video that the games presented share a common thread: Shirov knew the general ideas of each opening at the times the games were played but lacked an in-depth knowledge of many variations -- thus he "flew by the seat of his pants" in each game and developed interesting (and successful) ideas in each opening while at the board, instead of relying on "home preparation." Shirov plays White in all but one game, so the user can look on ths DVD as being from "White's point of view", and also concentrates on more recent (post 2003) games (with one exception). As with the Slav disk, the games are also presented in a very-lightly annotated traditional database form.

Title: My Best Games in the King's Indian
Disk contents: Eleven instructional videos, each centered around a single one of Shirov's games. The total running time exceeds five hours.
Comments: Shirov again offers a glimpse into the mind of a grandmaster as he explains his thoughts in eleven of his best games. Both colors are covered, as Shirov plays both sides of this classic opening. Interestingly he includes three draws among the eleven games instead of presenting nothing but victories (how many players typically consider a draw among their "best games"?). The DVD concentrates on the Classical King's Indian (with White's Be2, Nf3, and 0-0 defining the tabia). The introduction contains a brief description of the history behind this opening (including Garry Kasparov's influence on this opening in the 1980's and early 1990's), after which Shirov adopts a "building block" approach to this opening: each subsequent video builds on concepts introduced in prior lessons. Again on this CD the eleven games are also presented in standard database form.

Title: My Best Games in the Caro-Kann
Disk contents: Ten instructional videos, each (with one exception) focuses on a single game in which Shirov was a participant. Total running time is just shy of five hours.
Comments: Shirov presents ten instructional videos, based on both sides (presenting ideas for both White and Black). One video isn't based on a particular game, but instead contains analysis of the Caro-Kann Advance in which Black plays the older move 6...Ne7 instead of the more current 6...c5. In fact, the main focus of this entire DVD is on the Advance thrust 3.e5 (Shirov's preferred line as White). Of particular interest is Shirov's 2001 blindfold game as White against former world champion Anatoly Karpov, an acknowledged master of the Caro-Kann defense. Unlike the other disks mentioned above, this one does not contain the games in standard database format in addition to the instructional Chess Media System format videos.



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