Shirov Beats Sveshnikov 5.5-0.5 in Friendly Match

Shirov Beats Sveshnikov 5.5-0.5 in Friendly Match

PeterDoggers
PeterDoggers
Sep 29, 2014, 6:56 AM |
18 | Chess Event Coverage

Twenty-two years after it was first discussed, a friendly match between Alexei Shirov and Evgeny Sveshnikov finally took place over the weekend in Riga, Latvia.

Shirov won 5.5-0.5.

All games were Sicilians and Sveshnikov played “his” defense twice, and another pet line, the Alapin, twice. 

Last weekend, two of Latvia's most famous grandmasters faced each other behind the chess board: Alexei Shirov and Evgeny Sveshnikov. The former, 42 years old, is an ex-world championship candidate famous for his sharp and uncompromising play as well as his endgame skills. The latter, 64 years old, is one of the few chess players with an important opening variation named after him during his chess career.

“I wanted to play Shirov as long ago as back in 1992,” Sveshnikov told Chess-News. “I challenged him to a match and proposed to bet our own money. Back then, I was the Latvian champion, while Shirov was already a young star, his Elo 100 points better than mine. However, I was not considering myself any weaker that time.

Shirov & Sveshnikov before the start of the match. | Photo courtesy of the official site.

“Eventually, Alexey felt a bit offended because he didn't like the idea that GMs should bet their own money in chess competitions, and the idea of the match has failed," said Sveshnikov. "But now, that's different. We've got sponsorship for the event. Even so, Shirov and myself decided to contribute our own money to the prize fund in order to make a better presentation for the public.”

The two grandmasters certainly did not disappoint the spectators, and played six highly interesting games. There were perhaps a few more mistakes than you'd normally expect at this level, but keep in mind that it was a rather fast time control: 50 minutes plus 10 seconds per move for the whole game.

Shirov's victory was justified, although 5.5-0.5 wasn't reflecting the course of the games. Sveshnikov missed a number of chances, and should have at least drawn a few more games.

The first game started with 1.e4 c5 2.b3!? where Shirov probably expected 2.c3, his opponent's favorite line. Sveshnikov even wrote a book about it!

The opening went quite well for the veteran GM but then he basically tucked away his king in the wrong corner.

Sveshnikov vs Shirov: two Latvian legends. | Vladimir Barsky courtesy of the Russian Chess Federation.

In the next game Shirov was White. Did we see a Sveshnikov Sicilian? Yes, and one with the Kalashnikov move-order, which Sveshnikov considers more accurate these days.

Shirov played some creative moves, but again his opening wasn't a great success. However, Sveshnikov used too much time on the clock and lost an ending he should have won.


The players played two games per day: two on Friday, two on Saturday and two on Sunday. After a good night's sleep, play resumed, and this time Sveshnikov did go for the Alapin. He played another fine game, and in the only draw of the match he was the one who had some winning chances.

An Alapin this time! | Vladimir Barsky courtesy of the Russian Chess Federation.

In game four, Shirov chose one of the absolute main lines of the Sicilian Sveshnikov these days: 9.Bg5 and 11.c4. He got a positional edge and then the tactics worked in White's favor as well. A smooth win for Shirov that clinched the match win, but he did miss a queen-winning rook move at one point.

Game five was another Alapin, and another tense affair, which was basically decided by a blunder from Sveshnikov.

In game six, Shirov finally managed to get out of the opening with a clear advantage. He went back to his 9.c4 sideline in the Sveshnikov (which can be seen as a test to Sveshnikov's theory that 4...e5 is more accurate), followed theory a bit longer and reached a clearly better ending. He won what was probably his best game in the match. 

Improving on game two, Shirov won game 6 convincingly. | Vladimir Barsky courtesy of the Russian Chess Federation.

Shirov-Sveshnikov | Match Score

# Name Rtg Perf G1 G2 G3 G4 G5 G6 Score
1 Shirov,A 2701 2918 1 1 ½ 1 1 1 5.5/6
2 Sveshnikov,E 2502 2285 0 0 ½ 0 0 0 0.5/6

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At the end of last year, Shirov also played a 6-game match against Russian talent Daniil Dubov. He won 5-1. In October, Shirov will be facing Anish Giri in another 6-game match in Hoogeveen, The Netherlands.

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