Tal-like moments and "Dracula-Frankenstein" in Shirov Simul

by ChessBase
2/11/2011 – The work of a grandmaster extends far beyond just playing in tournaments, and includes lectures and simuls to allow others to enjoy their skill and knowledge. Shirov passed through Ottawa, Canada where he enjoyed local activities, and distributed a few Tal-like moments, even playing a "Dracula-Frankenstein" variation! John Upper brings us an illustrated report with games and fun anecdotes.

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Shirov Simul and Lectures at RA Chess Club, Ottawa (Feb 3-6, 2011)

By John Upper

Four days and five time zones from his disappointing result in the Tata Steel super tournament in Wijk aan Zee, GM Alexei Shirov played 33 opponents at the RA Chess Club in Ottawa.

Shirov having some tough times against Kevin Pacey

Shirov scored +27 =5 -1, which is particularly impressive as he played White and Black on alternate boards. This was an improvement over his +25 =9 -2 score last year, and may have been because he loaded up on fresh air by skating 7km on the Rideau Canal that morning, or because his pretty wife Olga was in the room giving moral support. The home team still had something to cheer about, including Kevin Pacey’s win, and junior Mate Marinkovic pressing until after midnight on the good side of a R+4 vs R+3 draw to end the simul.

Last man sitting - last simul game, Marinkovic-Shirov (draw)

Here is one of his Tal-like moments from the simul:

Dunne,Fracesco - Shirov,Alexei [C77]
RACC Shirov Simul Ottawa, 03.02.2011 [Upper,John]

Black has a comfortable position after a dull Lopez. Shirov livens it up in his most Tal-like game of the simul. 17...dxe4 18.dxe4

18...Bxe4?! On the way to the airport I asked if he thought this sacrifice was sound, or whether it was, as Tal used to say, "a bit of hooliganism". Shirov said he didn't like his position and thought this gave him adequate compensation, but that he'd just missed White's strong defensive retreat on move 21; and if he'd seen 18...Qc8 he would have played it. 18...Qc8! 19.Bd5 Bxd5 20.exd5 Bxf2+ 21.Kxf2 Ne4+ 22.Kg1 Qxf5 with an advantage for Black. 19.Rxd8 Raxd8 20.Nxh6+ gxh6 21.Qc1! The move Shirov missed. 21...Nh5 22.Nd4! Re5 23.f3?? Better was 23.Bd1! Rg5 24.Bxh5! with the idea of 24...Bxg2 25.h4! and winning.

23...Bxf3!! With a vicious attack. 24.gxf3? 24.Qf1! Bc6 25.Kh2 Bxd4 26.cxd4 Rxd4 27.Qf2 was less clear.

24...Rxd4!! There's no stopping mate, which White sportingly allowed the spectators to see. 25.cxd4 Bxd4+ 26.Kg2 Re2+ 27.Kf1 Ng3# 0-1. [Click to replay]

One of the joys of a simul, is that it is one of the few places one can see a Super GM play even the oddest opening choices. One need only recall that this is the only source of the Evans Gambits on record played by Fischer. Here we get to see Shirov play the (in)famous "Frankenstein Dracula" variation, the highest rated player to date known to contribute to its theory.

Desjardins,Michel - Shirov,Alexei [C27]
RACC Shirov Simul Ottawa, 03.02.2011 [Upper,John]

1.e4 e5 2.Nc3 Nf6 3.Bc4 Nxe4 4.Qh5 Nd6 A few days after the simul Michel told me he wasn't expecting to play White, and was surprised that Shirov played this line. He remembered that Qxe5+ here is slightly better for White but drawish, and commendably chose to play the critical line. 5.Bb3 Nc6 6.Nb5 g6 7.Qf3 f5 8.Qd5 Qe7 9.Nxc7+ Kd8 10.Nxa8 b6

The so-called "Frankenstein-Dracula Variation". Black obviously has *some* compensation in development and centre control, but is it enough for an exchange and a pawn? After a minute of analysis, Rybka rates this postion +1.5. It is nice to think that GMs still understand compensation much better than computers -- think of David Bronstein's games against them -- but maybe it's time for an opening survey done with the latest software!? For what it's worth, Shirov is now the highest-rated player to play this position. 11.Nxb6 axb6 12.Qd3 f4 13.c3. Better is 13.Ne2 e4 14.Qh3! Michel told me that after the game he ran his engine on this position for ten hours, and it couldn't find enough compensation for Black. When I asked Alexei about it he admitted that he hadn't checked these lines with the recent generation of computer programs, but that once he'd started down this line with ...Nxe4 he didn't see a way out of it. 13...e4 14.Qe2 Ne5 with compensation. 15.Bc2? 15.Kd1 was better. 15...Bb7 16.Qf1 f3 17.gxf3 exf3 18.Kd1 Qh4 19.d4? 19.h3! Ne4! 20.Rh2! Qf4 with attack. 19...Ng4!-+ 20.Be3 Bh6 21.Qh3. 21.Bxh6 Nxf2+ 22.Kc1 Qxh6+ 23.Kb1 Nxh1-+ 21...Nxf2+ 22.Bxf2 Qxf2 After 23.Qxh6 Qf1+ 24.Kd2 Nc4# 0-1. [Click to replay]

Here are a couple of ther moments from the master of attack.

Amirshadov,Edward - Shirov,Alexei [B50]
RACC Shirov Simul Ottawa, 03.02.2011 [Upper,John]

27...cxb4 28.Rxd4 Rxc2 Black is temporarily up a pawn and his fantastic Ne5 rules, but White's natural-looking next move gives Black a mating attack. 29.Red1? 29.Bb3 Rc5 30.Rxb4!? Nd3 31.Rd1 Nxb4 32.Rxd7 with a clear advantage for Black.

29...f3!-+ [29...a5? 30.Bb3 Rc7 31.Rd5 is unclear. 30.gxf3 Rxf3! 31.Bb3. 31.Nxf3? Nxf3+ forces mate next move 31...Rg3+ 32.Kh1 Rxh3+ 33.Kg1 Rch2 34.Rxd7 Rxh4 35.Rc7 Nf3+ 36.Kf1 Rg4! There's no good defence to ...Rg1# 0-1. [Click to replay]

Shirov,Alexei - Ritchie,Gordon [B12]
RACC Shirov Simul Ottawa, 03.02.2011 [Upper,John]

An advanced Caro-Kann is about to go pear shaped for Black, and being a generous host with a fine wine cellar buys you no mercy when your dark squares are so weak. 12.e4!+/- dxe4 13.Nxe4 Nf5 14.Nd4 0-0?

15.g4+- Nxd4. 15...Qh4 16.Nf3 Qxg4 17.Nf6+ Only move. 17...gxf6 18.Rg1+-; 15...hxg4 16.Nf6+! gxf6 17.Qxg4+ Kh7 18.Nxf5 exf5 19.Qh4+ Kg7 20.Rg1# 16.Rxd4. Alexei actually thought about this for 30 seconds, probably trying to see if the immediate Nf6+ wins. (It does!) 16...Bc6 17.Nf6+! No surprise. 17...Kh8 18.Qg5 It's cold comfort for Black, but three games had already been lost before this one. 1-0. [Click to replay]

However, one should not think of simuls as being just about Super GMs giving classes in skill to amateurs. It is also an opportunity for amateurs to have a moment of glory against a player they would normally never have a chance to play against, and to see that even great players are fallible.

Pacey,Kevin - Shirov,Alexei [A28]
RACC Shirov Simul Ottawa, 03.02.2011 [Upper,John]

1.c4 e5 2.Nc3 Nf6 3.Nf3 Nc6 4.e3 Bb4 5.Qc2 0-0 6.Nd5 d6 7.a3 Ba5 8.b4 Bb6 9.Nxb6 axb6 10.Bb2 e4 11.b5!?N 11.Ng5 Bf5 12.d3 Re8 13.dxe4 Nxe4 14.Nxe4 Bxe4 15.Qc3 Qg5 16.0-0-0 Qe5 (16...f6 with a small edge for Black.) 17.Qxe5 Nxe5= Arancibia Guzman,E (2352)-Huschenbeth,N (2461)/Khanty Mansiysk 2010/(0-1,49) 11...Na5. 11...exf3 12.bxc6 bxc6 13.gxf3 is unclear. White has the bishop pair and a nice centre in return for a slightly shaky king. 12.Ng5 Re8 13.d3 Bf5 14.dxe4 Nxe4 15.Nxe4 Bxe4 16.Qc3 Qg5 17.h4! Qh6 18.Rh3!? Re5 19.g4! ... sauce for the gander. 19...f5?? 19...f6!

20.g5!+- the Be4 is trapped! 20...Qh5 21.Be2 Qf7 22.f3 f4 23.exf4. 23.fxe4! Rxe4 24.Bd3 Rxe3+ 25.Rxe3 fxe3 26.0-0-0+- 23...Qxf4. 23...Bf5! 24.fxe5 Bxh3 25.exd6 cxd6 is bad, but leaves Black with more of a mess to conjure with. 24.fxe4 Rf8 25.Rd1! Qxe4 26.Qd3+- Only move. It defends e2 and creates a double attack on Qe4 and Re5, forcing off Black's queen and killing any chance for tricks. 26...Re7 27.Qxe4 Rxe4 28.Rd4 Re6 29.h5 Rfe8 30.Rh2 Nb3 31.Rf4 Nc5 32.Kd1 Re3 33.h6 g6 34.Bf3 Bd5+ wins more material. 1-0. [Click to replay]

Shirov,Alexei - Doubleday,William G [B33]
RACC Shirov Simul Ottawa, 03.02.2011 [Upper,John]

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Qb6

The point of the Grivas Sicilian: Black spends two tempi (Qd8-b6-c7) to improve his queen and decentralize White's knight, while White spends two tempi (Nd4-b3-d4/e2) to either put his piece back where it was, or decentralize it further. As Efstratios Grivas says in "A Complete Guide to the Grivas Sicilian" (Gambit, 2005): "In most of the games White, sooner or later, brings the knight back to d4, essentially giving Black an extra tempo!" Personally, it is hard for me to believe this isn't much more popular for Black. 5.Nb3 Nf6 6.Nc3 e6 7.Be3. 7.Bd3 d6 8.Be3 Qc7 9.f4 a6 10.Qf3 Be7 11.g4 b5 12.g5 Nd7 13.0-0-0 Nb6 14.Kb1 Na4 15.Bd2 Nxc3+ 16.Bxc3 e5 17.Bd2 exf4 18.Bxf4 0-0 19.h4 Be6 1/2-1/2 Shirov,A (2732)-Grivas,E (2492)/Rethymnon 2003 In his Sunday Q&A (Questions and Answers) Shirov said he thought he should have played on here. In his book, Grivas says the position is unclear after: 20.h5 Ne5 21.Qg3 Bxb3 22.cxb3 Rac8 23.Rh2!? 7...Qc7 8.f4 d6 9.g4. In the 8 games between rated players from here in Mega2011, White has scored 75% and ELO+200. 9...Be7N 9...h6 10.Qe2 a6 11.Bg2 Be7 12.0-0-0 Nd7 13.h4 b5 14.g5 hxg5 15.hxg5 Rxh1 16.Rxh1 g6 17.Rh8++/- 1-0 Onischuk,V (2488)-Nyzhnyk,I (2504)/Kharkov 2009 (33) 10.Qe2 a6 11.g5 Nd7 12.h4 b5 13.Qf2 b4 14.Ne2 [14.Na4!?] 14...Bb7 15.h5 a5 16.Bg2 e5 17.f5 a4 18.Nd2 Na5 19.f6 gxf6=/+ 20.Ng3 Ba6 During the Sunday lecture, Alexei said the computer likes the following line for Black: 20...fxg5 21.Nf5 f6 and asked Bill why he didn't play it. Bill said what I think most humans would when considering defending Black's position against Shirov: "I thought I'd get mated on the light squares". 21.Nf5 Bf8. 21...fxg5?? 22.Ng7+ Kd8 (22...Kf8 23.Ne6++-) 23.Qxf7+- There's no way to save both the Qc7 and Be7. 22.gxf6 Nc4 23.Nxc4 Qxc4 24.Bf1 Qc6 25.0-0-0 b3 26.a3. As pointed out by Bill, 26.Ng7+! is better because it keeps the f6-pawn defended. 26...Nxf6! Alexei said he'd just forgotten that this move was possible! 26...bxc2 27.Rd2! with an attack.; 26...Qxc2+? 27.Qxc2 bxc2 28.Rxd6! with an advantage for White. 27.c3. The point is that 27.Nxd6+ Bxd6 28.Qxf6 is not possible because of 28...Qxc2# 27...Nxe4 28.Bg2 d5 29.Bxe4! dxe4

So far this is pretty well indistinguishable from a regular tournment game, but now both players go seriously wrong. 30.Nd6+?? 30.Rhg1!? Bd3 31.Ng7+ Bxg7 (31...Kd8 32.Qxf7 Bxa3 is unclear.) 32.Rxg7 Qe6 33.h6 Black has two extra pawns, but I don't see how he can break White's dark-square blockade without exposing his king.; 30.h6?! Bd3 31.Ng7+ Kd8 32.Bg5+ Kc8 33.Qf5+ Kb7 34.Qxf7+ Ka6-/+ 30...Bxd6-+ 31.Qf6 Bd3?? So close! Black didn't see that he could zig-zag out of trouble and keep the extra piece. Better was 31...Kd7!-+ With the idea of 32.Qxf7+ Kc8 Only move. 33.Rhg1 (33.Qe6+ Kc7 34.Qf7+ Qd7 35.Qd5 Bd3-+) 33...Bd3 34.Rg8+ Rxg8 35.Qxg8+ Kb7 36.Qxh7+ Qc7-+ 32.Qxh8+= Kd7 33.Qxh7 Bxa3 34.Rxd3+ 34.Qxf7+ Kc8= 34...exd3 35.Qxd3+ Bd6 36.Qf5+ Ke8 37.Rg1 a3! 38.Rg8+ Bf8 39.Qxe5+ Kd7 40.Qf5+ Qe6 41.Qb5+ Qc6 42.Qf5+ A real fighting game. 1/2-1/2. [Click to replay]

On Saturday and Sunday, Shirov lectured on his 2007 Candidate’s knock-out matches and discussed several of the simul games with the players.

Highlights from Shirov’s visit:

  • Alexei successfully managing a 7km skate on the Rideau Canal, while Olga sensibly stayed in the restaurant with Gordon Ritchie and enjoyed another traditional Canadian activity with an ice-cold liquid.

Shirov on the Rideau Canal posing in front of a portrait of D’Arcy
McGee, one of the men responsible for the Canadian Federation.

Cold? Me? Nah....

  • A funny moment early in the simul, when Shirov, as White, forced a draw on move 15 and immediately apologized, saying he’d forgotten his analysis and had to force the draw or get a much worse game. I found this doubly funny. First, because his very well prepared opponent had done the same thing last year by perpetualling Shirov’s Queen on move 15 in a Gruenfeld. Second, his opponent was so well prepared because he was playing a line recommended by Shirov in his Chessbase DVD on the Caro-Kann. (A good advertisement for his DVDs, but will this discourage future Chessbase presenters from being so candid?)
  • Being reminded how even super-GMs have trouble keeping their analysis straight, even in the most important games. Shirov said he spent 30 minutes trying to remember the difference between 13...Qb8 and 13...Qc8 in the second game of his first round match against Robert Gwaze, and still got it “totally wrong”.
  • The problems of using computers to prepare: what to do when you don’t like 16.Nxa4 but the computer does... except that the computer also keeps changing its evaluation...?
  • Hearing how a couple of good ideas from opponents in our simul will make him go back and rethink parts of his repertoire.
  • Hearing that the Botvinnik Semi-Slav is “dead”.  (What! Again?) Not because of 23.f3! (van Wely-Smeets, 2005), but because of... well... I’ll leave the details for Shirov’s next game against it as White. But here’s a little hint: the stem game was played more than ten years ago.
  • During dinner on Sunday night I told Shirov about a Novelty I had found five years ago but hadn’t had a chance to play. Three moves into the second variation Alexei burst out laughing when he saw the fourth move: “if Qc2 Rd2!”. In a busy restaurant, with the Super Bowl on TV, a live band across the room, in the middle of a meal, after two (?) glasses of wine, in a complex position and without sight of a board, Shirov still found the best move. Super GM’s are not like the rest of us.

Thanks to Gordon Ritchie for organizing the event; Mrs. Ritchie for hosting the Shirovs; Tim Bouma for photos; Peter Arsenau and Tim for skating excursions; all the people who volunteered to set up and take down the simul gear; and of course, Alexei and Olga for coming.

Alexei Shirov and his wife Olga

Full report with all simul games will be available at the RA Chess Club Website soon.

Pictures by Tim Bouma and John Upper

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