Alexei Shirov prevails in Salamanca

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
2/7/2021 – Alexei Shirov won his last two games to remain ahead of David Anton and Eduardo Iturrizaga — who also won their last two encounters — and get clear first place at the Salamanca Masters. Shirov finished with an outstanding 6/7 score in the rapid tournament. Elisabeth Paehtz was the strongest among the women. | Photos: Official site

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Anton and Iturrizaga share second place

There was no lack of excitement on the final day of action at the Salamanca Masters tournament. Alexei Shirov went into the final two rounds as the sole leader, with David Anton and Eduardo Iturrizaga trailing by a half point. Despite being ahead in the standings, Shirov, true to his style, entered sharp lines in both games — and scored back-to-back wins!

The all-out strategy served the eventual champion well, as both Iturrizaga and Anton also scored 2/2 on Saturday. After playing riskily and nevertheless taking home the title, Shirov told El País’s Leontxo García:

It has been a long time since I’ve enjoyed so much while playing a tournament. And doubtlessly it has been the most enjoyable time I’ve had during the pandemic. This edifice — with such beautiful, age-old architecture — is very inspiring for someone like me, who considers himself to be not only a sportsman but also an artist.

It all worked out magnificently for the organizers, who not only got to put forth a top-notch tournament in a beautiful venue but also saw the most ‘romantic’ player of the field winning the main event.

Salamanca Masters Chess 2021

A socially-distanced closing ceremony

Shirov lived dangerously in his last-game encounter against the ever-fighting Elisabeth Paehtz, but neverhteless managed to come out on top:


11.h5 was not the soundest novelty in the world, but was the kind of straightforward move that characterized Shirov throughout his illustrious career! This is how the position looked after 20 moves:


Paehtz has survived the direct attack, and it has only cost her a pawn — in fact, she has more than enough compensation as her king is much safer than White’s uncastled monarch. From this point on, the German star coordinated her pieces on the queenside, looking to get an attack.

On move 28, however, she made a strange decision:


28...Rd4+ gives up an exchange, but does not lead to a winning attack! Shirov failed to notice this had been a mistake, though, and rejected the sacrifice by playing 29.Kc1. Paehtz brought her rook back to safety with 29...Rdb4, but the two lost tempi meant White was now in the driver’s seat.

Black’s losing mistake came after 30.Kb1:


Paehtz needed to change gears and start considering White’s chances to get something going on the kingside and play 30...Rf8, instead of breaking on the queenside with 30...a4 — easier said than done, of course! 

The German IM never looked back, though, and gave up a rook on b3 later on, only to see Shirov calmly dealing with the threats until forcing her to resign on move 37.


Alexei Shirov, Elisabeth Paehtz

Alexei Shirov defeated Elisabeth Paehtz

Despite her final loss against Shirov, Paehtz had a commendable performance, scoring 3/7 against a top field. She finished as the strongest female participant.

Strong performances were also seen by defending champion Iturrizaga and Spain’s number 2 Anton Guijarro. They both kept up the pace with Shirov and scored back-to-back wins on Saturday to finish in shared second place. While Iturrizaga took down tail-enders Sabrina Vega and Almira Skripchenko, Anton showed excellent endgame technique against both Veselin Topalov and Skripchenko.

This was the position he converted into a win against Topalov:


Endgame specialist Karsten Müller took a deeper look at the victories achieved by “El niño”. [Note that both games are presented in the replayer below; use the list in the bottom left corner to switch between games.]


David Anton

David Anton Guijarro

Final standings


All games



Carlos Colodro is a Hispanic Philologist from Bolivia. He works as a freelance translator and writer since 2012. A lot of his work is done in chess-related texts, as the game is one of his biggest interests, along with literature and music.


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