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How To Play A Brilliancy

How To Play A Brilliancy

Every serious chess player dreams of creating his own Mona Lisa — a game so beautiful and memorable that he will look back on it for the rest of his career. 

Unfortunately, many players tend to equate the word brilliancy with four specific games: Anderssen-Kieseritzky (The Immortal Game), Anderssen-Dufresne (The Evergreen Game), Morphy-Isouard, and Glucksberg-Najdorf (The Polish Immortal).

All of these games featured inimitable combinations involving several breathtaking sacrifices. However, all of these displays of tactical prowess were extremely one-sided. In each case, the losing side simply put up no resistance, considerably diminishing each game's aesthetic value. 

I believe that a true brilliancy is the work of two players, both of whom display tremendous imagination and tactical precision. To support my opinion, I would like to carefully examine a fairly unknown game that perfectly fits the definition. To help us penetrate its complexities, I will apply the Seirawan approach, breaking the game down into its component stages and closely scrutinizing each one. And now, dear reader, buckle your seat belt and enjoy the ride!

Before we begin, a quick introduction is in order. I first saw the following game in Alexei Shirov's excellent two-volume work Fire on Board. Through the years, I've analyzed it and re-analyzed it multiple times, with the aid of several engines. Hopefully, the monstrous Stockfish 6 and my own improved chess understanding will allow us to unlock its secrets once and for all. Note: Tempting though it was, I did not consult Shirov's analysis; unless otherwise noted, all comments and variations are my own

Opening

2...Bf5 was a rather brazen experiment, and it nearly ended in calamity. As a result of Kramnik's indecision, however, Shirov was able to undermine White's control over the center and attain very respectable central counterplay. A fascinating middlegame struggle is in the books! 

Middlegame: Part 1 (Positional)

A shocking transformation! Thanks to Shirov's audacious bishop sacrifice, a low-key maneuvering battle has metamorphosed into full-blown tactical warfare.  

Middlegame: Part 2 (Tactical) 

The climax has been reached. It is all-or-nothing time, win or go home. Without revealing anything specific, I will mention that the first time I saw this game, Shirov's next move almost drove me to tears.  

The Brilliancy 

This game convinced me that chess is an art as well a sport. Enough said! 

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