Shirov-Sveshnikov match starts

by Albert Silver
9/27/2014 – A friendly match between two famous GMs from Latvia, Alexey Shirov and Evgeny Svshnikov, is taking place in Riga from September 26 to September 28. It is a match the two wanted to play 25 years ago, but issues prevented it from happening then. Now the two legendary Latvians meet at the board in a match where their reputations alone promise fun games, and the two do not disappoint.

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"I wanted to play Alexey Shirov as long ago as 1992," says Evgeny Sveshnikov. "I challenged him to a match and proposed to bet our own money. Back then, I was the Latvian champion, while Shirov was already a young star whose rating was already 100 Elo better than mine. However, I did not consider myself any weaker at the time. Eventually, Alexey felt a bit offended because he didn't like the idea of grandmasters using their own money in a chess competitions, and the idea of the match fell through. But now, it's different as we have sponsors for the event. Even so, Shirov and myself decided to contribute our own money to the prize fund in order to make a better presentation for the public."

The start of the match between two legends (picture by Vladimir Barsky)

The match between Shirov and Sveshnikov will consist of six games played at a 50 minutes plus ten second increment. Two games are played each day.

"For the first time in my life, I'm worrying more about the quality of our games rather than the outcome," Sveshnikov admitted. "One of the match's purposes is to see how many followers will be attracted by the match of two 'retirees', and my aim is to prove that our games can nevertheless be of commercial value".

The video coverage has allowed viewers everywhere to follow the games live

Both players have pedigrees that dispense presentation to chess aficionados. Alexei Shirov's firebrand games have garnered him fans for decades, and his book Fire on the Board is a modern classic, while Evgeny Sveshnikov's pioneering theoretical work has brought one of the most enduring and popular lines in the Sicilian to bear his name. The Sicilian Sveshnikov and the off-shoot Kalashnikov, are among the most important and enduring contributions to opening theory in the past few decades. It bears mentioning that Shirov is a well-known expert of the lines himself, and has authored a DVD on it.

Sveshnikov adjusts the pieces prior to game two

To the delight of the fans the opening was exactly what was expected

After four games, Shirov has taken a significant lead with 3.5/4, but despite the strong start, the games have been highly entertaining and great fun to watch. Nor does the score tell the whole tale as Sveshnikov was very close to winning game two after strong play throughout.

[Event "Shirov-Sveshnikov Rapid m"] [Site "Riga LAT"] [Date "2014.09.26"] [Round "2"] [White "Shirov, A."] [Black "Sveshnikov, E."] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "B32"] [WhiteElo "2701"] [BlackElo "2502"] [PlyCount "85"] [EventDate "2014.09.26"] 1. e4 $1 {Shirov knows what the audience wants to see, with his notable opponent playing black, and does not disappoint them.} c5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 e5 $1 {Was there any doubt? The two exclamation points until now are for playing for the audience as much as for themselves.} 5. Nb5 d6 6. N1c3 a6 7. Na3 b5 8. Nd5 Nf6 9. c4 b4 10. Nxf6+ Qxf6 11. Nc2 Qg6 {Shirov had actually played this against Anand in 2002.} ({but in their individual game from 2004, Sveshnikov played} 11... Be7 12. g3 O-O 13. Bg2 Bb7 14. O-O Qg6 15. b3 a5 16. Bb2 a4 17. Qd3 a3 18. Bc1 Bg5 19. Ne3 Rad8 20. h4 Bh6 21. Bd2 Kh8 22. Rad1 Qh5 23. Be1 Bxe3 24. fxe3 Bc8 25. Rd2 g5 26. Qd5 Ne7 27. Qa5 gxh4 28. gxh4 Rg8 29. Qc7 Rd7 30. Qb6 Bb7 31. Kh2 Ng6 32. Rf5 Qh6 33. Rxd6 Rxd6 34. Qxd6 Qxe3 35. Bd2 Qe2 36. Qf6+ Rg7 37. Bh6 Qxg2+ 38. Kxg2 Nxh4+ 39. Kf2 Nxf5 40. exf5 {1-0 (40) Shirov,A (2736)-Sveshnikov,E (2557) Tallinn 2004}) 12. Qd5 Bd7 (12... Bb7 13. Nxb4 Rc8 14. Be3 Be7 15. h4 O-O 16. h5 Qg4 17. f3 Qg3+ 18. Kd1 Bg5 19. Nxc6 Bxe3 20. Ne7+ Kh8 21. Qd3 Bg5 22. Nxc8 Rxc8 23. h6 gxh6 24. Kc2 d5 25. exd5 Bxd5 26. Qxd5 Rd8 27. Qc5 Rd2+ 28. Kb3 Kg7 29. a3 e4 30. Rh3 Qf4 31. fxe4 {1-0 (31) Anand,V (2757)-Shirov,A (2715) Linares 2002}) 13. h4 {As far as grandmaster play goes, this is a novelty.} h5 14. Rh3 $5 {All credit to Shirov for playing boldly, but this still seems a bit premature considering his lack of development.} Rc8 15. Rg3 Qh7 16. Bg5 Be6 17. Qd3 Be7 18. O-O-O f6 19. Bd2 a5 20. Ne3 Nd4 {To the credit of the elder grandmaster, who now stares at a nearly 300 Elo difference, he is doing much better here. Some things may suffer with time, but his understanding of these positions is second to none.} 21. Nd5 Bxd5 $2 {This is a rote answer, when taking on d5 is desirable if the piece must be recaptured by a pawn, instead of a piece, but there was no need. The knight on d5 is actually biting on thin air, and the white-squared bishop will be the more valuable of the two. Taking on e7 is not a concern here.} (21... f5 $1 {and opening lines on White's king was the way to go.} 22. Nxe7 Kxe7 {and suddenly White has serious issues. Taking on f5 is bad, and leaving e4 hanging is hardly a big improvement.} 23. Bg5+ (23. exf5 $4 Rxc4+ $1 {and Black wins a piece since} 24. Kb1 Bxf5 {loses the queen.}) 23... Kf7 24. b3 fxe4 25. Qe3 d5 $1 $17) 22. exd5 f5 23. f4 O-O 24. fxe5 dxe5 25. Bg5 Bc5 26. Re3 e4 {Again Sveshnikov has managed to outplay his younger and higher rated opponent.} 27. Qd2 f4 28. Ree1 Qf5 29. d6 $1 {As strange as it may look, Black cannot take, so the purpose is more a diversion to give White a chance to mount a defense.} b3 30. a3 e3 31. Qd3 Bxd6 32. Qxf5 Nxf5 33. Rd5 Rc5 {Black has played great until now and is winning here.} 34. Red1 Rxd5 $4 {An serious mistake that throws away much of the advantage.} (34... Re8 $1 {was correct here.} 35. Rxd6 $4 {is not possible due to} (35. Rxc5 Bxc5 36. Rd8 Rxd8 37. Bxd8 Nd4 $1 $19) 35... Nxd6 36. Rxd6 e2 $1) 35. Rxd5 Ng3 36. Bd3 Bc7 37. c5 $4 f3 ({Black misses his last chance to finish in glory.} 37... Re8 $1 {would have decided the game in his favor.} 38. Kd1 e2+ 39. Ke1 a4 $1 {threatening Ba5+} 40. c6 Bb6 {and the threat of Bf2+ as well is decisive.}) 38. gxf3 Rxf3 $2 {Black loses control and the position is now equal.} 39. Rd7 Bf4 40. Bxf4 Rxf4 41. c6 Rxh4 42. Ba6 e2 43. Kd2 {Black lost on time.} 1-0

The games can be followed in live video at the official site, and of course at Playchess.


The games are being broadcast live on the official web site and on the chess server If you are not a member you can download a free Playchess client there and get immediate access. You can also use ChessBase 12 or any of our Fritz compatible chess programs.

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, and the content creator of the YouTube channel, Chess & Tech.


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