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Predrag Nikolic vs Alexey Shirov
Hoogovens (1993), Wijk aan Zee NED, rd 2, Jan-19
Semi-Slav Defense: Botvinnik System. Lilienthal Variation (D44)  ·  0-1



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Kibitzer's Corner
Premium Chessgames Member
  Peligroso Patzer: As Shirov himself noted, Nikolic’s <40. Ra4?> was a blunder.

In <Fire on Board>, by SHIROV, Alexei, tr. by Graham Hillyard(*), Everyman Chess ©1997, at pp. 192-193, Shirov writes: “With his last move before the time control, Nikolic throws away the draw he has almost achieved and which can be reached, as Ivan Sokolov pointed out in the post mortem, by <40. Kf3! Rh3 41. Kg4 Rxg4+ 42. Kh5 Rh3+> (42. … Kf5 43. Ra5+ Be5 44. Kh6! is also a draw) <43. Kg4 Rxb3 44. Ra5!>. Black cannot improve his position. White answers … Be5 with lateral rook checks, and if the rooks are exchanged, for example after … Re3-e5, White draws with Kh5 and g5-g6, eliminating the last black pawn.”

(*) - <Note>: The excerpt from <Fire on Board> herein quoted was among the portions translated by G. Hillyard (from German); the principal translator of the English-language edition was Ken Neat (of portions originally in Russian).

Premium Chessgames Member
  Peligroso Patzer: I discovered some interesting tactics while running this fascinating game through Fritz. In his notes on the game, Shirov, op. cit. (in previous post), at p. 192, in the position after <29. Qxd5+>, as follows:

click for larger view

… considers the alternative capture, <29. … Kxd5> (in lieu of the game’s actual <29. … Rxd5>), and continues his analysis with <30. Kh3! Rg8>, bringing about this hypothetical position:

click for larger view

Here, Shirov writes that White must avoid the “lurking danger” of <31. Raa2?>, after which he continues his analysis with: “<[31. …] Rxg5!> [sic; the annotation of 31. ... Rxg5 should be "?" - PP] (removing the defender of c1) <32. hxg5 Nc1>. Black wins back the exchange, follows up with … Rd2 and wins the ending against the helpless knight on a4.” (Ibid., at p. 192)

Fritz’s analysis, however, discovered that in the hypothetical position at the end of this analysis by Shirov (after <32. … Nc1>), as follows:

click for larger view

… White can play <33. g6!!>, and after the further <33. … fxg6> (clearly forced) <34. Nxc3+> (The “helpless” Knight gives its life heroically, with tempo, and to good effect.) <34. … bxc3 35. Ra5+ Kc6 36. Rc2>, White is clearly winning in this position:

click for larger view

The Black passed c-pawn has been contained, but the White K-side pawns (especially the f6-passer) are very dangerous.

Nevertheless, Shirov’s assessment of <31. Raa2> (in the hypothetical line after <29. … Kxd5 30. Kh3! Rg8> as a blunder is vindicated by Fritz’s analysis. In order to exploit the error, however, Black must play <31. … Nc1> immediately (“preparing” it with <31. … Rxg5> is unnecessary, as well as unsound [as demonstrated above]). White’s best response now is to continue as in the faulty (for Black) line with <31. Rxg5?>, e.g., <32 Nxc3+ bxc3 33. Ra5+ Kc6 34. Rc2>, after which Black is probably winning, but White has some defensive chances in the resulting position (with Black to move):

click for larger view

After <31. … Nc1> (in the line given in the preceding paragraph), even though the White Bishop is still on g5 and could legally play <32. Bxc1>, the inadvisability of this choice is rather persuasively demonstrated by Black’s strongest reply, as follows: <32. … Rxg3+ 33. Kh2 Rxh4#>.

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