Chess: Shirov showing his grand mastery

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LOOKING around for someone to depose Garry Kasparov as the world's best player, one arrives at a short list of seven grandmasters, all in the 18 to 23 age- range. Most of these carry the 'Made in the USSR' label. Vasily Ivanchuk (Ukraine) is the most talented, but least consistent; Gata Kamsky (United States) is the most ambitious; Alexei Shirov (Latvia) and Yevgeny Bareyev (Russia) are the most dynamic; Boris Gelfand (Belarus) is the most well-balanced. The two outsiders are Michael Adams (England) and Viswanathan Anand (India), both highly gifted and composed.

The current tournament in Munich has seen four of these players in action, with Shirov looking impressive. With one round left, he led with 71 2 points from 10 games, ahead of Gelfand 61 2 , Adams and Gurevich 6, and Bareyev and Lutz 51 2 . Yesterday's world title challengers, Artur Yusupov and Robert Hubner, were left well behind.

Shirov's win against Mikhail Gurevich (once USSR, now Belgium) was a splendid example of his imaginative approach. Playing an old variation invented by Wilhelm Steinitz, Shirov supported his central wedge at the cost of development. Making eight of his first 11 moves with pawns, he invited an explosive reaction which Gurevich provided with a piece sacrifice at move 14. Shirov wisely gave the piece back immediately to get his king into safety, and the consequent eruption in the centre led to a close-range slogging match.

White's play between moves 20 and 25 showed extreme accuracy in the fight for the initiative, and he emerged with a better endgame. Then, just as Gurevich must have thought he was back in the game, his king fell into a mating net.

----------------------------------------------------------------- White: Shirov ----------------------------------------------------------------- Black: Gurevich ----------------------------------------------------------------- 1 e4 e6 22 Qd3 Bf5 2 d4 d5 23 Nxe5 Rxe7 3 Nc3 Nf6 24 Rxf5 Rd8 4 e5 Nfd7 25 Rbf1 g6 5 Nce2 c5 26 Qc4+ Qe6 6 c3 Nc6 27 Qxe6+ Rxe6 7 f4 Qb6 28 Rf7 Nd2 8 Nf3 Be7 29 R1f4 g5 9 a3 f6 30 R4f5 Ne4 10 b4 cxd4 31 Rxb7 Rxd4 11 cxd4 0-0 32 h3 Rd5 12 Rb1 a5 33 Rb8+ Kg7 13 b5 a4 34 Rf7+ Kh6 14 Nc3 Ncxe5 35 Ng4+ Kg6 15 fxe5 fxe5 36 Rc7 Rd1+ 16 Bd3 e4 37 Kh2 Rb1 17 Nxe4 dxe4 38 Rg8+ Kf5 18 Bxe4 e5 39 Rf7+ Nf6 19 0-0 Nf6 40 Rgf8 h5 20 Bg5 Nxe4 41 Nxf6 1-0 21 Bxe7 Rf7 -----------------------------------------------------------------