With his second consecutive win, Alexei Shirov has seized control of the Shanghai Masters tournament.
The tournament is a qualifier for the final in Bilbao, Spain, next month. The two top scorers will advance, and right now Shirov is almost a lock to grab one of the spots. The tournament uses an unusual scoring system (3 points for a win, 1 point for a loss) and Shirov has 8 points, Levon Aronian of Armenia has 6, Vladimir Kramnik of Russia has 3, and Wang Hao of China has 2. As there are only two more rounds to go, it seems unlikely that Kramnik or Wang can overtake Shirov.
Monday, Shirov beat Kramnik, who simply blundered away a piece in a worse position at the end of the game.
It is not the first time that Kramnik, the world champion from 2000 to 2007, has made a terrible blunder in a competition, but it is symptomatic of the way that he is performing recently. In July, he also had a substandard result, at least for him. He finished third at the Sparkassen Chess-Meeting in Dortmund, Germany, a tournament that he has won nine times.
It was not so long ago that Kramnik was playing exceptionally well, and he has been through fallow periods before. He is also 35 — past the peak years for a player — though Shirov, 38, Viswanathan Anand of India, 40, the world champion, and Boris Gelfand of Israel, 42, who won the World Cup last year, have shown that older players can still perform at very high levels.