Chess: The short draw

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AS THE PCA world championship qualifier in Groningen, the Netherlands, reaches its final rounds, the top players reach for their calculators. With three rounds left, Anand led with 6 points from eight games, followed by Gulko, Adams and Tiviakov on 51 2 . 71 2 points will be enough to claim one of the seven qualifying places, while the tie-break system guarantees that 7 points will be enough for those who have faced the strongest opposition. So all four leaders can draw their way into the next stage of the PCA world championship.

An epidemic of instant handshakes has already broken out on the top boards, with Anand's last two games drawn in 16 and 9 moves respectively. The following game, however - although also a quickish draw - was one of the most exciting games of the tournament so far:

White: Shirov

Black: Kramnik

1 e4 c5 13 Rg3 Kh8 2 Nf3 Nc6 14 Rf1 h6 3 d4 cxd4 15 e5 dxe5 4 Nxd4 Nf6 16 fxe5 Be8 5 Nc3 d6 17 Qf4 Nh5 6 Bg5 e6 18 Bxh6 Nxf4 7 Qd2 Be7 19 Bxg7+ Kh7 8 0-0-0 0-0 20 Rxf4 Rg8 9 f4 Nxd4 21 Rfg4 Rxg7 10 Qxd4 Qa5 22 Rxg7+ Kh6 11 Bc4 Bd7 23 Rg8 Kh7 12 Rd3 Rad8 24 R8g7+ draw

The first 11 moves are standard, when 12. e5 dxe5 13. fxe5 Bc6] is comfortable for Black. Shirov instead played for a direct attack, bringing his rook into play along the third rank. Kramnik's 14 . . . h6 precipitated a crisis. After 15. e5]? dxe5 16. fxe5 Be8] White had to find a square for his queen. 17. Qh4 Qxe5 is good for Black, and 17. Qe3 may be met by Ng4 or Nd5, but Shirov's choice of 17. Qf4 allowed Nh5 attacking everything.

His intention was a remarkable queen sacrifice, leading, after 20. Rxf4, to the diagram position.

Kramnik's 20 . . . Rg8 lead to a forced draw after 21. Rfg4 (threatening mate with Rh3+), but he could have won with 20 . . . Qxc3]] After 21. bxc3 Ba3+ Black forces mate, while 21. Rxc3 Bg5] (threatening Bxf4+ and Rd1 mate) leaves White with nothing better than 22. Rh3+ Kxg7 23. Rg3 Kh6 24. Rh3+ Kg6 25. Rg3 Rh8] when 26. Bd3+ Rxd3] 27. cxd3 Rh4 wins for Black. Short draws can be very exciting.