Shirov overpowers Sveshnikov with 5.5/6

by Albert Silver
9/29/2014 – It was a match that had been discussed over twenty years ago, but never came to fruition, which is a pity since the match was great fun despite neither being in his prime. Shirov was always the stronger of the two, and time did Sveshnikov no favors despite his great fighting spirit. Still, for those who accompanied the games live, there was no shortage of entertaining chess.

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A picture of Riga near the playing venue

The two players at the match's opening

Both are renowned for their creativity and original thinking, whether it be Shirov's willingness to play with an uncontrolled cyclone on the board, or Sveshnikov's pioneering opening analysis that led to one of the Sicilian's best known lines to be named after him. Although today's grandmasters usually try to keep a broad array of openings, to avoid being predictable, there is a flip side to Sveshnikov's unwavering choices: how can you trap a player in an opening in which he is an encyclopedia?

For the online viewers, this was a familiar scene as all the moves and player moves could be seen

Alexei Shirov overpowered his compatriot

[Event "Match Shirov vs Sveshnikov"] [Site "Riga"] [Date "2014.09.28"] [Round "6"] [White "Shirov, Alexei"] [Black "Sveshnikov, Evgeny"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "B32"] [WhiteElo "2701"] [BlackElo "2502"] [PlyCount "92"] [EventDate "2014.??.??"] [EventCountry "LAT"] [TimeControl "3000+10"] 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 e5 5. Nb5 d6 6. N1c3 a6 7. Na3 b5 8. Nd5 Nf6 9. c4 b4 10. Nxf6+ Qxf6 11. Nc2 Qg6 12. Ne3 Be7 13. g3 Nd4 14. Bg2 h5 15. Nf5 Bxf5 16. exf5 Qxf5 17. Bxa8 Nc2+ ({Interestingly, the engines point out that a zwischenzug was the correct way to maintain the balance.} 17... O-O 18. Bd5 ({The point is that after} 18. O-O {avoiding Nc2+, Black plays} Rxa8 19. Be3 Nf3+ {and White's exposed king balances the material difference. Ex:} 20. Kg2 e4 21. h3 (21. Qd5 Nh4+ 22. gxh4 Qg4+ {with a perpetual.}) 21... Ne5 22. Qe2 Rc8 23. Rac1 Nd3 {and the super knight on d3 is easy compensation for the exchange.}) 18... Nc2+ 19. Ke2 Nxa1 20. Qd3 Nc2 $1 {and the knight escapes since} 21. Qxf5 Nd4+ 22. Kd3 Nxf5) 18. Ke2 Nxa1 19. Qd3 {Black misses the trick to avoid losing.} Qxd3+ (19... Nc2 $1 {lets the knight out of his cage.} 20. Qxf5 Nd4+ 21. Kd3 Nxf5) 20. Kxd3 O-O 21. Bd5 b3 22. Bd2 Nc2 23. axb3 Nd4 { The knight is out, but at what cost? A pawn was lost, and a6 is looking mighty weak.} 24. b4 Rb8 25. Ra1 Nb3 26. Rxa6 e4+ 27. Bxe4 Nxd2 28. Kxd2 d5 { Unpleasant but forced.} ({Taking immediately with} 28... Rxb4 {loses to} 29. Ra8+ Bf8 30. Kc3 Rb6 31. b4 {and the pawn cannot be stopped by the rook alone.} g6 32. b5 Kg7 33. Kb4 d5+ 34. c5) 29. Bxd5 Bxb4+ 30. Kc2 Bc5 31. Rc6 Bxf2 32. Rc7 Bg1 33. Rxf7 Kh7 34. h3 Bd4 35. b3 Kg6 36. Rf4 Bf6 37. c5 Kh6 {Shirov finds the best way to put an end to Black's suffering.} 38. Rxf6+ $1 gxf6 39. c6 Kg5 40. Be6 Rb5 41. Kd3 Rb6 42. Bd5 Rb8 43. Kd4 Kf5 44. g4+ hxg4 45. hxg4+ Kf4 46. Be6 Kg5 1-0

Still, it was not opening play that was his downfall, and despite the lopsided score in favor of the younger Latvian who won 5.5/6, the question as to whether they would retain commercial interest will depend on the audience. Some players will turn their noses up at any match that does not involve the very elite, while others will recognize the pedigree both players carry, and the deserved reputation for enterprising and entertaining chess. In this, they were served, and well.

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Pictures by Vladimir Barsky


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Born in the US, he grew up in Paris, France, where he completed his Baccalaureat, and after college moved to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He had a peak rating of 2240 FIDE, and was a key designer of Chess Assistant 6. In 2010 he joined the ChessBase family as an editor and writer at ChessBase News. He is also a passionate photographer with work appearing in numerous publications.
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Mattangriff Mattangriff 9/29/2014 08:53
He developed that opening and I think he has good reasons that he play it this way these days.
Karbuncle Karbuncle 9/29/2014 02:49
Not a fan of the 4...e5, 6...a6 move order, and the annotated game is a good example. With 4...Nf6, white can't get this variation because black just swaps on d5 the moment white plays a knight there. At any rate, I love playing the Sveshnikov (4...Nf6 version of course) on ICCF. It's a very solid defense with just enough traps to nab the occasional upset win there.