Shirov steals the show in Lublin

0 | Chess Event Coverage
Shirov wins Lublin Union MemorialAlexei Shirov won a strong GM round-robin in Lubin, Poland with a score of 5/7. He finished half a point ahead of Boris Grachev and Sergei Zhigalko. As so often, the tournament winner played a number of fascinating games that reminded us why chess can be such a nice game.

The city of Lublin in Poland had its 3rd chess festival running from May 15th till 21st, 2011. Lublin is the ninth largest city in Poland and has a population of about 350,000. The festival was part of the activities to promote the city, which is a candidate for becoming the 2016 European Capital of Culture.

The main part of the festival was a top GM group with Radoslaw Wojtaszek (POL, 2721), Alexei Shirov (ESP, 2709), Krishnan Sasikiran (IND, 2676), Evgeny Alekseev (RUS, 2673), Sergey Zhigalko (BLR, 2679), Boris Grachev (RUS, 2669), Michael Roiz (ISR, 2660) and Bartosz Socko (POL, 2654). They played a single round robin over 7 rounds, without a rest day. The rate of play was 90 minutes for 40 moves, followed by 30 minutes to finish the game, with an increment of 30 seconds from move 1.

The pairings had the top clash of the tournament, between top seeds Wojtaszek and Shirov, already in the first round. After a new idea by Shirov in the Meran, the following position was reached.

Wojtaszek-Shirov Lublin 2011

Diagram 1

With 22...g5!? Shirov continued aggressively, and not without effect. Perhaps White should have prepared his next few moves with 23.Rac1!? because after 23.Bb4 c5 24.Bb5 Ra7 25.Bc3 g4 Black got a strong initiative and won at move 42 (see the game viewer below).

In the same round, Michael Roiz of Israel showed that endings with opposite-coloured bishop aren't always drawn.

Roiz-Socko Lublin 2011

Diagram 2

73.g4! Do enjoy this instructive ending in the game viewer!

After a draw with Roiz, in the third round Shirov defeated Zhigalko, who had started with two wins.

Zhigalko-Shirov Lublin 2011

Diagram 3

24... Rxa2! A hammer blow, where 24... Na4 25. Qxb4 Qc7 26. Rc1 Qxe5 also looks great for Black. 25. f6?! 25. Kxa2 Qa8+ 26. Kb1 Qa3 looked just too scary to Zhigalko, and understandably. However, it definitely gives more chances than the text move: 27. Nc5! (27. Kc2? Rc8+ 28. Kd2 Qxb3 29. Rc1 Qb2+ 30. Kd1 Rxc1+ 31. Qxc1 Qxh2) 27... b3 28. Rg2! (28. Qd2 Ra8 29. Qb2 Qxc5 30. Qxb3 Qd4 31. Kc2 Nc4! -+) 28... Qxc5! (28... Ra8 29. Qd4 b2 30. Rxb2 Qa1+ 31. Kc2 Qxe1 32. Rxb6 Ra2+ 33. Rb2) and White still has a tough job to defend his king.

25... Qc8! 26. Rc1 Qa6 27. Qxb4 Rxh2 28. Rc2 Rxc2 29. Kxc2 Qa2+ 0-1

We have to focus on Alexei Shirov in this report even more, and not just because he won the tournament in Lublin. Also because the Latvian grandmaster (who plays for Spain) seemed inspired, like in his best years, to play creative chess. In the footsteps of Boris Spassky he even picked up the King's Gambit!

Shirov-Alekseev Lublin 2011

1. e4 e5 2. f4 exf4 3. Nf3 h6!? The Becker Defence, a move order that tries to avoid certain white systems. 4. Nc3 d6 5. d4 g5 6. g3 Bg7!? 7. gxf4 g4

Diagram 4

8. Rg1!? A move that hasn't been seen yet in a tournament hall - it has only been tried in correspondence games. 8... Kf8 9. Be3 Nc6 10. d5 Nb4 11. a3 gxf3 12. axb4 Qh4+ 13. Rg3 Nf6

Diagram 5

14. Qxf3!? In a King's Gambit you shouldn't shy away from sacrificing more material. 14...Nh5 15. Be2 Nxg3 16. hxg3 Qd8 17. Kd2 Bd7

Diagram 6

18. e5 dxe5 19. f5 Another pawn sac, which is a known theme from the Benoni. 19... b6 20. d6!? Be8 21. f6 Bxf6 22. Rf1 Bg5 23. Bc4 Qxd6+ 24. Ke2 Bxe3 25. Qxa8 Qd2+ 26. Kf3

Diagram 8

In this game Shirov has in fact gone a bit too far. After 26...Kg7 or 26...Bd4 Black should be winning. 26... f5? 27. Qc8 Kg7? 27... e4+ 28. Nxe4 fxe4+ 29. Kxe4+ Bf2! and White should probably give perpetual check. 28. Qxc7+ Kf8 29. Qxe5 Bh5+

Diagram 7

30. g4 Bxg4+ 31. Kg3 Qd4 32. Qb8+ Kg7 33. Qc7+ Kg6 34. Qf7+ Kg5 35. Qe7+ 1-0

In the penultimate round, against Sasikiran, Shirov managed to draw an ending two pawns down and his last-round game against Grachev, that ended in perpetual check, shouldn't be missed either.

After the tournament Shirov was the first to say that he had been "very lucky" and that he "didn't deserve to score five out of seven". But there will be hardly any chess fan who had a problem with Shirov winning this event, showing such entertaining chess...

All games for replay

Game viewer by ChessTempo

Lublin Union Memorial 2011 | Results

Lublin Union Memorial 2011 | Final Standings

The playing hall in the IBB Grand Hotel Lublinianka

The playing hall in the Crow Tribunal in Lublin's old town

A disappointing tournament for top seed Radek Wojtaszek in his home country

A disappointing tournament for top seed Radek Wojtaszek in his home country

Shirov: entertaining play rewarded with a tournament victory

Shirov: entertaining play rewarded with a tournament victory

Photos © official website, more here


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