18 May

Burnt on Board

Although chess clubs existed in London and Paris from the 1770s, none has survived and the honour today of being the oldest belongs to the Schachgesellschaft Zürich in Switzerland, founded in 1809. The second oldest can be found in the Scottish capital is Edinburgh, founded in 1822, who took part in a famous correspondence match that led to the creation of the Scotch Opening. Two famous chess clubs known to historians of the game - but can you tell me which is the third oldest?


That dubious distinction would seem to belong to the Mechanics Institute in San Francisco, stretching back to 1854. Not far behind is Stockholm’s Chess Society, founded in 1866, which this year reached a milestone of its 150th anniversary, and they celebrated their jubilee in style by recently organising one of Sweden’s strongest chess events, the Hasselbacken Open. This 450-player, nine-round Swiss featured 34 grandmasters and 13 international masters.

The top two seeds were Dmitry Andreikin of Russia and the legendary “Fire on Board” Alexei Shirov. It was Andreikin, though, that finished in a tie for first on 7.5/9 with India’s Baskaran Adiban, as the former Russian junior world champion took the bragging rights to the title with the better tiebreak score. While for Shirov - who was formerly the world No.2 in 1992 and had an aborted title challenge with Garry Kasparov - he was in the chasing pack a half point behind the winners, after being on the wrong side of one of the best sacrificial games of the tournament.


Shirov, now 43, was born in Riga, Latvia and was trained by the great Mikhail Tal, and his influence perhaps rubbed off on his young student, as Shirov went on to be one of the game’s most exciting players. His game collection, Fire on Board, Shirov Best Games, is rightly regarded as a modern classic - but it was more like “Burnt on Board” following an exciting tussle with the 15-year-old rising American star, Sam Sevian of Massachusetts.

Photo © | Lars OA Hedlund

GM Alexei Shirov - GM Sam Sevian
Hasselbacken Open, (5)
Scotch Opening
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 The Scotch opening, which came out of arguably the most famous correspondence matches of all time, the epic four-year 'Pre-Penny Post' battle of 1824-28 between the two great clubs of London and Edinburgh. 3...exd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nxc6 bxc6 6.Qe2 A rarity here. 6.e5 is more normal. 6...Bb4+ Also worthy was 6...Bc5. 7.c3 Be7 8.e5 Nd5 9.Qg4!? You get the feeling that Shirov was attempting here to bamboozle the young American teenager. Instead, more normal and very Scotch-like here is 9.c4. 9...Kf8 Of course, 9...g6 was option, but that would have weakened the dark-squares around the Black camp. But 9...Kf8 keeps everything solid, there's no weaknesses, and Sevian is threatening ...d6 to to take advantage of White's lag in development by opening the game up. 10.Qe4 d6 11.c4 Nb6 12.Qxc6?! This is a very dangerous game-plan from Shirov. He snatches a pawn, but Black has a big lead in development and lots of open lines. 12...Rb8 13.Nc3 Bb7 14.Qb5 Nd7! The discovered attack on the White queen gives Black an extra tempo to better position his pieces. This is one of those positions for Black where you don't give a damn about a pawn or two. 15.exd6 Bxd6 Black can't rush into a direct assault for now, such as 15...Bxg2? 16.Qa5! Bxh1 17.dxc7 and White's winning. 16.Qg5 f6 17.Qh5 Qe7+ 18.Be2 Bxg2 19.Rg1 Be4 20.c5?! This is a mistake. Shirov seems totally mesmerised by the upcoming sacrifice; perhaps a blessing and curse of his Latvian heritage. 20...Nxc5 21.Rxg7 It looks like Shirov still hopes to fire up the embers at the board - but alas, he hasn't seen just how powerful Sevian's fire extinguisher is. 21...Kxg7 22.Bh6+ Kg8 23.0-0-0 Now the big threat is Rg1+ followed by Rxg6+ and Qxg6 mating. 23...Bg6 24.Bc4+ Ne6 25.Qh3 Kf7 The only defence - but it is a good one, as Shirov hasn't anticipated Sevian's escape plan. 26.Nd5 It all looks strong and winning, as after 26....Qd7, White has 27.Nxc7 crashing through Black's defences to leave a series of unpleasant pins. But now Sevian is the one to set a fire in his opponent's half of the board. 26...Rxb2!! (See Diagram) 27.Kxb2 The only option for Shirov. Instead, there's a nasty twist at the end if he takes the queen: 27.Nxe7 Rc2+ 28.Kb1 Rb8+ 29.Qb3 (29.Ka1 Be5+! 30.Rd4 Bxd4+ 31.Qc3 Bxc3#) 29...Kxe7!! 30.Qxb8 Rxc4+ 31.Ka1 (31.Kb2 Rc2+ 32.Kb3 Nc5+ 33.Ka3 Nd3+ 34.Kb3 (34.Ka4 Rxa2+ 35.Kb5 Rb2+ 36.Kc4 Ne5+ 37.Kc3 Rxb8 easily winning.) 34...Rb2+ 35.Kc3 Rxb8 and Black should have no trouble winning here with his extra two pieces!) 31...Be5+ 32.Qb2 Bxb2+ 33.Kxb2 Rc2+ 34.Ka1 Rxf2 easily winning with his extra material. 27...Rb8+ 28.Bb3 Be5+ 29.Nc3 c5?! The only slip-up from Sevian in an otherwise wonderful game from the young American. Instead, after 29...Ke8! he simply walks out of the pin and now can play ...Nd4 with a big winning advantage. 30.f4! Now Shirov has dragged himself back into the game after Sevian's slip-up. Of course, had the American played ...Ke8, f4 couldn't be played as Black could now play ...Nxf4 winning. Such is life. 30...c4 31.fxe5 cxb3 32.a4! Keeping lines closed is best for White here - and the perfect protection for his king is one of his opponent's pawns, as Sevian can't sacrifice through it! 32...Nc5 33.exf6 Qc7 34.Rd4 Perhaps safer was 34.Qh4!? with the idea of threatening Qc4+. Now Black will have to play 34...Ne6 and White has 35.Rd5 with equality. 34...Rd8 35.Rxd8 Qxd8 36.Qe3 Qd6 37.Nb5? Typically, Shirov relentlessly continues to push the envelope for a win when he should be settling for a draw here. Perhaps he was gambling on Sevian's extreme time pressure here, but the young American sees his way through the mayhem to win. Instead, Shirov should have opted for safety by exchanging queens with: 37.Qe7+! Qxe7 38.fxe7 Bc2 39.Bg5 Nd3+ 40.Ka3 b2 41.Ka2! and a draw as Black can't do anything with his pawn on b2 and his pieces are all tied up protecting it to move. 37...Nd3+! If Shirov pressed the gamble button, it just backfired in a big way for him. 38.Kb1 Not 38.Kxb3 Qb4+ 39.Kc2 Qb2+ 40.Kd1 Bh5+ winning. 38...Ne5+ With his flag metaphorically hanging on his digital clock, Seveian wisely repeats moves to safely make the time control and then work out the win. 39.Kb2 Nd3+ 40.Kb1 Nf2+! 41.Kc1 If 41.Kb2 Nd1+ forks king and queen. 41...Qd1+ 42.Kb2 Nd3+ 43.Ka3 Qa1+ 44.Kxb3 Qb2+ 45.Kc4 Qb4+ 46.Kd5 Be4+!! 0-1 The only winning move, and now after 47.Qxe4 Qc5 is mate. A beautiful finish that even Shirov in his pomp back in the day would have been proud to have included in his games collection.

2 Comments May 18, 2016

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