Fourth of July Shirov celebration

7/5/2007 – Alexei Shirov is not just one of the world’s very best grandmasters; he’s one of the most popular players, too. His ability to create “fire on board” and successfully navigate his way through the blaze has made him a fan favorite since he burst on the world scene in 1990. In his Thursday night lecture our Playchess trainer Dennis Monokroussos shows us how we can learn from Shirov.

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Dennis Monokroussos writes:

In the United States, we’re celebrating the country’s birthday on the Fourth of July, but the chess world is – or should – celebrate another birthday on that date, that of Alexei Shirov. Shirov, who is now 35, is not just one of the world’s very best grandmasters; he’s one of the most popular players, too. His ability to stir up wild complications – to create “fire on board” – and successfully navigate his way through the blaze has made him a fan favorite since he burst on the world scene in 1990.

What’s really fun is when he plays another barn-burner like Kasparov, Topalov, or his co-star this week, Loek van Wely. When these two face off, violent play is almost guaranteed. Of their 40 games, an incredible 33 of them have been decisive (25-8 in Shirov’s favor). The two players go at each other as if they’re enemies, and that competitive zeal combined with the sharp openings van Wely loves to play pretty much ensures that fans will be treated to exciting and bloody battles.

And that’s what we’ll see this in this week’s game: excitement and blood – van Wely’s, on this occasion. In this contest from the 2002/03 Bundesliga season, the play starts off a little slowly when Shirov employs an anti-Sveshnikov line against his opponent’s Sicilian, but it sharpens quickly. Chess is often a game of imbalances, and one of the most common imbalances in the Sicilian pits White’s speedier development and extra space against Black’s potentially awesome pawn center. If Black can neutralize White’s dynamic advantages, the endgame will often be his; if he can’t, really bad things can happen to him. On this occasion, really bad things happened to him, as Shirov finished him off with flair.

Buy the DVD: Shirov's best games in the Slav and the Semi-Slav

We may not be able to attack like Shirov, but we can learn from him, and this Thursday night we’ll have entertainment and education alike. The time is 9 pm ET; hope to see everyone there!

Dennis Monokroussos' Radio ChessBase lectures begin on Thursdays at 9 p.m. EDT, which translates to 01:00h GMT, 02:00 Paris/Berlin, 11:00h Sydney (on Friday). 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).

Dennis Monokroussos is 40, lives in South Bend, IN, and is an adjunct professor of philosophy at the University of Notre Dame.

He is fairly inactive as a player right now, spending most of his non-philosophy time being a husband and teaching chess. At one time he was one of the strongest juniors in the U.S., but quit for about eight years starting in his early 20s. His highest rating was 2434 USCF, but he has now fallen to the low-mid 2300s – "too much blitz, too little tournament chess", he says.

Dennis has been working as a chess teacher for seven years now, giving lessons to adults and kids both in person and on the internet, worked for a number of years for New York’s Chess In The Schools program, where he was one of the coaches of the 1997-8 US K-8 championship team from the Bronx, and was very active in working with many of CITS’s most talented juniors.

When Dennis Monokroussos presents a game, there are usually two main areas of focus: the opening-to-middlegame transition and the key moments of the middlegame (or endgame, when applicable). With respect to the latter, he attempts to present some serious analysis culled from his best sources (both text and database), which he has checked with his own efforts and then double-checked with his chess software.

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