SIMPLECHESS

Shirov shines in the Shanghai shake-up!

In Shanghai from the 3rd to the 8th of September, four of the World's top players are competing for two places in Bilbao where they will meet Magnus Carlsen and Viswanathan Anand in the final of the masters for 2010.
Alexei Shirov is the best placed at present with two wins and two draws.

In many sports, there is a 'Masters' event where the top players of the year are selected. The chess version is a recent idea, but quite a good one as it's great for chess fans to see these superstars competing against each other.

Each player has a logical reason for their selection. Wang Hao is the highest rated chinese player and Alexei Shirov the No.1 Spaniard.

Levon Aronian and Vladimir Kramnik are the World's No.s 4 and 5, with Aronian also being the holder from last year.

Two of these four will survive to the next stage.

Next month in Bilbao (9th to the 15th of October) there will be Magnus Carlsen (winner of Wijk aan Zee, Nanjing and Bazna not forgetting the fact that he is World No.1) and Viswanathan Anand (World Champion and No.3 in the world).

Veselin Topalov (No.2 in the Elo ratings) is the main absentee for these events, apparently for personal reasons.

There are some new rules in order to make the event more enjoyable for spectators (debatable, but the idea of discouraging draws has its supporters).

The time limit: 90' for 40 moves and then 60' plus an increment of 10" for the remainder of the game.

Sofia rule: No premature draws accepted (the arbiter and a technical assistant must give their accord!).

Bilbao point scoring system: 3 points for a win, 1 for a draw.

Tie-breaks: A two-game Blitz match (4' plus 3" increment) with the possibility of an 'armageddon' game (5' for White, 4' for Black who gets draw odds) if necessary.

The results of the earlier rounds were as follows:

Round 1 (3rd of September)

White piecesRatingCountryResultBlack piecesRatingCountryMovesOpening
Wang Hao2724CHN0-1Levon Aronian2783ARM35E11 Catalan/Bogoljubov
Vladimir Kramnik2780RUS0.5-0.5Alexei Shirov2749ESP58D52 Queen's Gambit Cambridge Springs

A bad start for the youngest player as Aronian first obtained a comfortable game and then seized the initiative with alarming ease. Black's opposite-bishop attack proved to be too strong.

Wang Hao against Aronian © chinaqiyuan.com

The early exchange of queens with White having the bishop pair led to a gritty struggle after Kramnik sacrificed a pawn for activity. Shirov activated his king which kept his position intact.

Round 2 (4th of September)

White piecesRatingCountryResultBlack piecesRatingCountryMovesOpening
Levon Aronian2783ARM0.5-0.5Alexei Shirov2749ESP54D45 Semi Slav 6 Qc2
Wang Hao2724CHN0.5-0.5Vladimir Kramnik2780RUS47E32 Nimzoindian Classical

Shirov certainly came out fighting as he sacrificed a piece to prise open Aronian's king. The Armenian defended but Shirov was able to snatch several pawns and so had sufficient compensation.

An early exchange of queens again for Kramnik. Here he seemed to be comfortable throughout despite White having bishop for knight. Indeed at the end it was Wang Hao who had to be the most careful.

Round 3 (5th of September)

White piecesRatingCountryResultBlack piecesRatingCountryMovesOpening
Alexei Shirov2749ESP1-0Wang Hao2724CHN65B42 Sicilian Kann
Vladimir Kramnik2780RUS0.5-0.5Levon Aronian2783ARM36D19 Slav main line

Wang Hao played aggressively, perhaps too much so, as he was eventually obliged to give material to keep his piece-play alive. Later on, he really should have drawn the endgame of Rook and Bishop versus Rook and pawn, although when time is short the defence is notoriously tricky.

In the other game Kramnik playing White had more space, but Black (Aronian) held firm in an uneventful Slav.

Round 4 (6th of September)

White piecesRatingCountryResultBlack piecesRatingCountryMovesOpening
Alexei Shirov2749ESP1-0Vladimir Kramnik2780RUS38E20 Nimzoindian 4 f3
Levon Aronian2783ARM0.5-0.5Wang Hao2724CHN50E06 Catalan Opening

A disastrous loss for Kramnik who is now in serious danger of missing the party in Bilbao. Shirov played an old favourite of his (the double-edged 4 f3) but it was Kramnik who was better after the opening. The Spaniard defended well and gradually turned the tables.

Wang Hao put up the blockades and kept his position solid throughout. Aronian's Catalan looked toothless.

Two Catalans in the mini-match involving Aronian and Wang Hao and two model handlings for Black.

StandingPlayerRatingAgeCountry1W1B2W2B3W3B4W4BScore (Bilbao)Score (Standard)
1Alexei Shirov274938ESPXX.=1=1.83/4
2Levon Aronian278328ARM=.XX.==162.5/4
3Vladimir Kramnik278035RUS=0=.XX.=31.5/4
4Wang Hao272421CHN.00==.XX21/4

Shirov's two wins put him in the driving seat and he can already think about getting his tickets for Bilbao. Kramnik may have to beat Aronian with black if he is to catch him in the race for qualification.

Kramnik versus Shirov © official site.

Official site

Follow the games live from 8h30 from the Spanish site (tomorrow and Wednesday) on http://www.bilbaofinalmasters.com/2010/


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