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Alexey Shirov vs Veselin Topalov
Linares (1998)  ·  Sicilian Defense: Kan. Modern Variation (B42)  ·  1-0
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Kibitzer's Corner
Sep-08-06  Tomlinsky: This is a really tactically interesting game, I've never looked at this one before to my recollection. Topalov's triple-fork on 29...Ne3 'looks' fabulous but isn't all it seems. He then plays 30....Rg8 when I think Qc6 is the only move that doesn't lose. This game is really growing on me, some fine play going on here.
Sep-08-06  babywizard: I think the real question is whether the sacrifice of the e-pawn was correct. The move looked very good to me and Shirov certainly felt the same during the game until he annotated this game for NIC.

5.Bd3 - Shirov normally plays 5.Nc3 but after Svidler suprised him in Tilburg 1997 with 5...b5 6.Bd3 Qb6 7.Nb3 Qc7, which was new at the time, he decided to try something new.

7.Qe2 - 7.0-0 or 7.c4 are other serious alternatives.

10.e5? - Shirov gave it a "?" in his annotations, even though he admitted that he felt it was a good move during the game. Rybka thinks the move leads to equality (see the note to white's 15th move) and gives 10.a3, 10.g4 and 10.Be3 as possible continuations.

13...Ndxe5 - Shirov thinks black is slightly better here because it requires him quite an effort to find enough play for the pawn.

15.Kh1 - Rybka does not like this due to the note to black's 17th move. Rybka gives 15.Be3 Qc7 16.Bf4 as best and drawing by repetition.

15...Nxd3 - Shirov said that he was more afraid of 15...Ng6!? but after 16.Be3 Qc7 17.Na4 0-0 (17...Nb4 18.Be4 f5 19.c3!) 18.Bxg6 hxg6 19.Nb6 Rb8 20.Nc4 Shirov reckoned that has some compensation. Rybka evaluates the position as around equal but Rybka prefers 15...Nxd3 more.

17...Kh8?! - Shirov doubted this move because it loses a tempo and puts the king into a worse position. Rybka and Shirov gave:

<(17... f5 18. Bc7 Qa7 19. Na4 Bd8 20. Nb6 Bxc7 21. Qxc7 Rf7 22. Nxc8 Rxc7 23. Nxa7 Nxa7 24. Nd4 Nb5 25. Nxe6 Rxc2 26. a4 (26. Rxf5 Re8 27. Ref1 h5 (27... h6 28. Rf8+ Rxf8 29. Rxf8+ Kh7 black is slightly better according to ♖ybka) 28. Rf8+ Rxf8 29. Rxf8+ Kh7 black is slightly better, Shirov.) 26... Nd6 27. Rd1 Nc4 28. Rd7 white would have a hard time defending the endgame)>

24...Re8! - Black cannot allow the exchange of bishops. 24...Be6 25.Bd6 and black is worse.

26.Nc5!? - Shirov calculated and thought that 29.Qd3 would work, only to find out then that it actually doesn't work.

27...Nd4?! - A mistake according to Shirov, but Rybka regarded it as the best move. Another alternative is 27...Be6.

28.Bxe5! Nf5! - 28...fxe5? 29.Nd6 wins

29.Qg4! - The best move for white.

<(29. Qd3? Shirov Bb7! 30.Qd7 (30. Rxf5 Bxe4 31. Qd7 Bxg2+ 32. Kg1 Be7 33. Bd4 Bh3 34. Qd5 Bxf5 35. Qxf5 and black is better according to ♖ybka.) (30. Ng5!? suggested by ♖ybka and not mentioned by Shirov Bxg2+ 31. Kg1 Bxf1 32. Rxf1 b5! 33. Rxf5 fxg5 34. Bd4 and black has some advantage) 30... Bc6 31. Qf7?! (31. Qxf5 Bxe4 32. Qd7 Bxg2+ 33. Kg1 Be7 34. Bd4 Bxf1 35. Rxf1 Rd8 36. Qxe7 Rxd4 and black is better according to ♖ybka, but it's better for white than Shirov's analysis.) 31...Nh6 32. Qh5 fxe5 and black is suddenly winning, Shirov.)>

29... Ne3?

<(29...fxe5 the only move 30. Rxf5 Be7 31. Qf3 Bxf5 32. Qxf5 and Shirov thinks white has a slight advantage here but ♖ybka thinks it's dead equal after Qc6)>


<(30... Qc6 the only move, but white still has the advantage 31. Rd6 Bg4 32. Rxc6 Bxh5 33. Re1 Nxc2 34. Rxc2 Rxe5 35. Rc8 etc..)>

Conclusion: Shirov is right about the pawn sac that it is not good. It seems that with accurate play, black should at least draw in this line.

Sep-09-06  Monoceros: I've been so busy lately I haven't had a chance to follow things here; I've tried to read the last few pages but only superficially.

The sample games I played against myself (I lost) earlier today were all Maroczy Bind games. If the Bind is to be avoided, then what general strategy should be adopted? Nc3 and soon a Kingside push with an early f4? Wish I could be more useful. >_<

Jan-13-09  zev22407: A complicated masterpiece
Premium Chessgames Member
  plang: Shirov: "For some years I considered the present game to be my best ever, mainly because the calculations I made and the moves I found weren't seen or anticipated by anyone who was watching, including some strong players in the pressroom and, of course, the computers. But does this precision in the later stages allow me to ignore my rather weak play in the opening and still evaluate the game as the very best? I don't know for sure." Emm's book on the Kan variation gives 6 c3 as a promising alternative to 6 Nb3. After 9..Be7 the set-up was similar to a Scheveningen with Black having used an extra tempo with his queen to chase the white knight from the center. Topalov's 17..Kh8? completely missed Shirov's idea of playing on the queenside with 18 Bc7. The complications at the end were mind-numbing. For example, one variation provided by Motwani: if 30..g6 31 Rxd8!..gxh 32 Rxf6!..Kg7
33 Re6+..Kf7 34 Ng5+..Kf8 35 R6xe8#.
The bishop on e5 remaining en prise for the last six moves was another attractive feature of the game.
Premium Chessgames Member
  jmboutiere: 10.e5 + 0.00 Rybka 3
15.Ne3 - 0,20; 6. 0-0 - 0.27
26,Nf5 + 0,09; 27 ... fe - 0.09; 27.Ne3 + 1.42; 28....Rg8 + 2.25; 28...Qc6 + 1.26 32.Nd6 + 2.21
Aug-30-11  DrMAL: One of my favorite games from Shirov demonstrating his creativity as well as ability to handle huge risk. Main line Kan (Paulsen) is 5...Qc7 although this rendition with 5...Qb6 first is common (where 6.Nb3 is greatly preferred to 6.c3 so that the other knight can be developed to c3). 7.Qe2 is unusual normally white simply castles (and plays 8.Nc3). With 8...d6 transposing to Scheveningen ("Amsterdam" with f4 normally played on move 6) the position is identical to Kurajica vs Azmaiparashvili, 1995 after 9.f4 here.

Shirov's choice of 10.e5!? forfeits a pawn for space. After 17.Qg3 it's a double-edged game perhaps slightly favoring black if pawns become mobilized via 17...f6 probably the best move (17..f5 is also good). Topalov played 17...Kh8?! as an intermediate move missing the unusual tactic 18.Be7! trapping black's rook. With the resulting R for B+P difference the game after 23...Qxa8 was still very close to equal with slight edge to white.

24.Rd1! to try and trade the DS bishop was very strong (as was 24...Re8 to avoid it). Here, 26.Qf3 to continue on the Q-side was a strong plan but Shirov preferred to maneuver his knight to the center as did black with 27...Nd4 also a good move. My engine is occupied with computing a "what if" in Fischer vs Geller, 1967 but I am willing to bet 27...Nd4 computes as best by an engine such as Houdini. The game seems dead even to me here.

The amazing (to me) part of this game comes from Shirov's ability to not only see the best continuation from here but to leave all his pieces hanging in playing it OTB. In those complications, black made a subtle blunder as one might expect. Starting with 28.Bxe5! quite shocking in itself, Topalov played his one good move 28...Nf5 and white continued with 29.Qg4!! an even bigger shocker as it not only places the queen in front of black's bishop but also reveals a triple fork where all five of white's pieces are hanging.

From here, simply 29...fxe5 was OK after 30.Rxf5 the intermediate move 30...Be7! allows the rook to be taken for equality (e.g., 31.Qf3 Bxf5 32.Qxf5). If this was chosen the game would probably have been drawn (e.g., 32...Rd8 33.Rxd8 Qxd8 =). But Topalov could not resist 29...Ne3?! a subtle mistake because of 30.Qh5! attacking the rook. Here, the critical move was missed to probably save black's game 30...Qc6! defending. After the second subtle mistake 30...Rg8?! Shirov found 31.Qf3! threatening 32.Nd6!

Topalov had nothing better to play than what he did. With the final blow 34.Nd6 Shirov emerges a whole piece up since 35.Qd5! is threatening still. The best continuation seems to be 34...Nxd2 35.Qd5! Rf8 36.Bxb2 + -). An amazing game by Shirov, one to be extremely proud of!

Aug-30-11  DrMAL: <babywizard: 27...Nd4?! - A mistake according to Shirov, but Rybka regarded it as the best move.> Having finally read this post (I never read engine output beforehand anyway, usually others do not give their engine sufficient time to compute and results are often wrong), I am happy to see some verification. Although complicated and double-edged it seemed the game was very much equal from here. Also pointed out were the mistakes (and potential game saving move 30...Qc6!), they seem to be verified but re-checking with a newer engine helps, as apparently <jmboutiere> at least partially did. I do not think the pawn sac was "wrong" it may not be best but as a positional sac to gain space it leads to a sharp double-edged game, cheers.
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