Independent Pursuits: Chess

LITTLE HAS gone right for Alexei Shirov since he beat Vladimir Kramnik a couple of months ago to win the right to a match with Garry Kasparov this autumn. After that success, Shirov came last in Dortmund, and he has now made a poor start to the Rubinstein Memorial tournament in Polanica Zdroj, Poland. A large part of his mind is, no doubt, occupied with preparations for Kasparov, but poor results never do much for a player's confidence. The only consoling factor of Shirov's position in the middle of the field with three points from six games is that he is level with the Fide world champion Anatoly Karpov, who is also finding wins hard to come by these days.

Shirov started with 11/2 out of 4, but this draw in the fifth round seemed to irritate him back to form:

White: A Shirov

Black: B Macieja

1 e4 e5 13 Qc2 Qe7

2 Nf3 Nc6 14 Kh1 Rad8

3 Bb5 Nf6 15 Rad1 c6

4 0-0 Bc5 16 Be2 Bc7

5 c3 0-0 17 Rfe1 Rd7

6 d4 Bb6 18 Nf1 Rfd8

7 Bg5 h6 19 Ne3 Bb6

8 Bh4 d6 20 Nf5 Bxf5

9 a4 a5 21 exf5 Ng4

10 dxe5 Nxe5 22 Rxd7 Rxd7

11 Nxe5 dxe5 23 Bxe7

12 Nd2 Be6 Draw agreed

Black's 21...Ng4! was a clever way to free himself from the pin that had been making his game difficult since the early opening. At the end Black draws by perpetual check with 23...Nxf2+ 24.Kg1 Ng4+ 25.Kh1 (25.Kf1?? Nxh2 mate) 25...Nf2+.

The following day, Shirov woke up and scored a win in typically imaginative style. When Black accepted the offered pawn with 14...Nxe4,he seemed to be walking into trouble. After 16.Nh4, the pin on the e-file looked fatal, but Shirov had accurately calculated the results of 16...Bxf2+! After that combination, Shirov provided an encore with 24...bxa3! exposing the slowness of White's minor pieces.

White: T Markowski

Black: A Shirov

1 Nf3 d5 17 Rxf2 Nxf2

2 g3 Bg4 18 Rxe7 Bxc2

3 Bg2 Nd7 19 Rxd7 Rad8

4 c4 e6 20 Rxd8 Rxd8

5 cxd5 exd5 21 Nc4 Nd3

6 0-0 Ngf6 22 Ba3 b5

7 d3 c6 23 Na5 b4

8 Qc2 Bc5 24 Nxc6 bxa3

9 e4 0-0 25 Nxd8 Nb4

10 h3 Bh5 26 Nf3 Nxa2

11 Nbd2 dxe4 27 Nc6 Be4

12 dxe4 Re8 28 Nfd4 Bxc6

13 b3 Qe7 29 Nxc6 a5

14 Bb2 Nxe4 30 b4 axb4

15 Rae1 Bg6 White resigned

16 Nh4 Bxf2+