Games: Chess

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This week, the schism in world chess develops another fissure as Vladimir Kramnik and Alexei Shirov begin their match to decide who will challenge Garry Kasparov for his world title in the autumn. When Kasparov and Nigel Short formed the Professional Chess Association in 1993 to take their world title match away from the International Chess Federation (Fide), the legitimacy of the enterprise was open to doubt. But Kasparov was the world champion, and Short had won the right to challenge him, so any complaints seemed purely technical.

After one cycle of qualifying events and a successful title defence by Kasparov, the PCA then faded away leaving Kasparov a world champion of no known organisation. Now, without the formality of a contest to determine his challenger, he has formed yet another body, the World Chess Council, and attempted to anoint Viswanathan Anand and Vladimir Kramnik (ranked second and third in the world) as his designated challengers. Anand, however, has declared his loyalty to FIDE, which at least has a set of rules and a competition to determine its champion. So he has been replaced by Alexei Shirov, apparently on the whim of the main sponsor.

As long as Kasparov remains the highest rated player and stays undefeated in matches, I suppose this unsatisfactory state of affairs will continue. And whatever the legitimacy of the Shirov-Kramnik match, it promises some fine chess.

Here, as a foretaste, is their game from Linares 1997. Kramnik sacrifices his way out of difficulties to force a perpetual check at the end with 33...Qf1+ 34.Rd1 Qf4+.

White: Alexei Shirov

Black: Vladimir Kramnik

Sicilian Defence

1 e4 c5 18 Ba7 Nxe5

2 Nf3 d6 19 Qc3 Bd6

3 d4 cxd4 20 Qd4 Bc7

4 Nxd4 Nf6 21 Qc5 Qc8

5 Nc3 Nc6 22 Rhe1 Nc4

6 Bg5 e6 23 Bxb8 Qxb8

7 Qd2 a6 24 g3 Be5

8 0-0-0 h6 25 c3 Rc8

9 Be3 Be7 26 Qe7 b4

10 f4 Nxd4 27 Qxb4 Qc7

11 Bxd4 b5 28 Qb7 Na3+

12 Kb1 Bb7 29 Kc1 Bf4+

13 Bd3 0-0 30 gxf4 Qxf4+

14 e5 dxe5 31 Rd2 Rd8

15 fxe5 Nd7 32 Rhd1 Rxd2

16 Ne4 Bxe4 33 Rxd2

17 Bxe4 Rb8 Draw agreed

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