Chess: Knowing when to let go

GIVING up one advantage to secure another is one of the most difficult decisions to take. When you have worked hard to win a pawn or gain some space, it can be hard to surrender it without a certain return for the investment. Yet many potential wins turn to draws through stubbornness in clinging to the gains from earlier skirmishes in the game.

Alexei Shirov, the young Latvian who recent won the powerful Munich grandmaster tournament, has no such inhibitions. His win against Eric Lobron from that event is a good example of his dynamic style. White's opening, invented by Tal and improved by Spassky, sacrifices the d5 square and accepts a backward d-pawn in exchange for the cramping influence of the pawn on e5. Black's seventh and eighth moves were not the best, and resulted in a passive position.

With 17. g4 Shirov's initiative began to look dangerous, but the blocked nature of the position and solidity of Black's game made it hard to develop an attack. White's 20. Bb1] began a plan to attack Black's only real weakness, the a-pawn.

The best move of the game is 30. Nd6] giving up White's extra pawn to move on to a direct attack. The final moves see Black's men lured to their positions for a tactical finish. 32. Qc2 brings the rook to a8 to prevent Qa4; 33. Rc1 forces the knight back to e7; 36. Qb4, with its threat of Nb5+, brings the queen to h4 to protect e7. The brilliant 38. d5]] crowns it all when exd5 or cxd5 lose to 39. Nxb6] Qxb4 40. Nxa8+. The desperate 38 . . . c5 was also no help, since the pawn is pinned after 39. Nxb6.

----------------------------------------------------------------- White: Shirov ----------------------------------------------------------------- Black: Lobron 1 e4 c6 21 Bxg6 fxg6 2 d4 d5 22 Qc2 hxg4 3 e5 Bf5 23 Rxh8 Qxh8 4 h4 h5 24 Nxa4 Nd5 5 c4 e6 25 Nc5 Qe8 6 Nc3 dxc4 26 Qe2 b6 7 Bxc4 Nd7 27 Ne4 Qf7 8 Bg5 Be7 28 Qxg4 Qf5 9 Qd2 Nb6 29 Qe2 Rh8 10 Bb3 a5 30 Nd6 Qxg5+ 11 a3 a4 31 Kb1 Qh5 12 Ba2 Bxg5 32 Qc2 Ra8 13 hxg5 Ne7 33 Rc1 Ne7 14 Nge2 Ned5 34 Qb3 Qg4 15 Ng3 Bg6 35 f3 Qh3 16 Nge4 Nc8 36 Qb4 Qh4 17 g4 Nxc3 37 Nc4 Nc8 18 Nxc3 Kd7 38 d5 c5 19 0-0-0 Kc7 39 Nxb6 1-0 20 Bb1 Ne7 -----------------------------------------------------------------