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Friday, April 22, 2016

Shirov's Best Game?

     He did not think it was, but the Rook maneuver and three successive sacrifices at h5, f5 and d5 make it a fan favorite. After Chernin's mistake on move 23 which was the move that allowed Shirov to unleash his barrage of sacrificial moves, Shirov wrote that the rest of the game gave him "some aesthetic pleasure, which is not often the case in chess." That comment speaks volumes, but I don't know if it's about chess as it's played today or if it's just Shirov's opinion. That's why I prefer games played in the pre-engine days...they offer a LOT of aesthetic pleasure! This game does, too, so I am mystified by Shirov's comment...his attack was brilliant. 
     Also, I seriously doubt that most of today's players would even bother playing if they had to play for the paltry prizes offered in the tournaments of days gone by. Reshevsky once spoke of winning a tournament and his “prize” was “a few cordial words.” Or, how many kids today would play if the prizes were those once available to Fischer? 
     The Marshall Chess Club first refused to admit Bobby Fischer because Frank Marshall’s widow, Carrie, who ran the club, considered him a brat, but she finally gave in. At a tournament in New Jersey, Fischer won 1st prize, a good piece of luggage. He took one look at it and said, “I don’t need that!” and he won the U.S. Junior championship twice and both times, the prize was a typewriter. 
     In 1957 the Junior Championship in San Francisco on the morning before the tournament started Fischer was nowhere to be seen. Even in those days he was a mysterious character who would appear and disappear and no one had seen him since his unexpected win of the 1956 tournament. Even so, nobody thought he would win the 1957 championship because Gilbert Ramirez (a kid with a master's rating...a rare thing in those days!) was the overwhelming favorite.
     As an indication of things to come, when the first round started Fischer still had not shown up and rumors were flying that he wasn't going to defend his title, but 10 minutes after the clocks had started Fischer made his dramatic entrance wearing blue jeans with holes (which, unlike today, were not popular back then), two different colored tennis shoes, his signature flannel shirt and his head was shaved (again, not a popular style in those days).
     When some of the participants greeted him they were ignored as Fischer stormed up to the tournament director, George Koltanowski, and asked him, "What's first prize?" Koltanowski showed Fischer the table with the prizes sitting on it and guess what first prize was? An electric typewriter identical to the one he he had won the year before. A furious Fischer stomped his feet and screamed, "I don't want another typewriter!" 
     Ivan Vegvary, Fischer's first round opponent, snickered and told him not to worry because he wasn't going to win it. Fischer told him, "You don't know me." 
     After the first round Ramirez was outside the tournament hall playing 5-minute games when Fischer walked up, observed for a moment then walked away. After the second round Ramirez offered to play some 5-minute games against Fischer who, again, shook his head and walked away commenting, "Too weak." Finally, after the 4th round Fischer, who was tied with Ramirez for first with four wins, created a lot of excitement by finally agreeing to play Ramirez some blitz games. One of the interested spectators happened to be the legendary Miguel Najdorf. It's estimated that Ramirez and Fischer played 25-30 games and Fischer won all of them while using almost no time. Najdorf commented, "It's like angels are moving his hand!" Fischer went on to win the title and the story, true or not, is that the typewriter he won was the one he used to author My 60 Memorable Games.
     Where was I? The Shirov game...the game was played in a Professional Chess Association qualifier and for those too young to remember, the PCA was in existence between 1993 and 1996. It was created by Gary Kasparov and Nigel Short as a rival to FIDE and to market their world championship. 
     In 1993 Short won the Candidates Tournament and qualified to challenge Kasparov and under FIDE regulations the bids for their match should have been decided by FIDE and the players. According to Kasparov and Short, FIDE president Florencio Campomanes broke these rules when he determined on his own that Manchester, England would be the site. 
     As a result of Campomanes' one-sided decision Kasparov and Short formed the PCA and played their world championship match at the Savoy Theater in London under the sponsorship of The Times. Kasparov won easily with a score of 12.5–7.5 and was the PCA World Champion. 
     The result was that Kasparov was stripped of his FIDE World Champion title and FIDE held a match between Anatoly Karpov and Jan Timman, the two players Short had defeated. Karpov won that match and became FIDE World Champion. For the first time in history there were two “World Champions.” 
     Between 1993 to 1995 the PCA held their own tournaments for the world championship as did FIDE. Things were a mess with many of the same challengers playing in both and Karpov and Kasparov were both claiming the title. 
     In 1996 the PCA lost its main sponsor, Intel. Some speculated Intel pulled out because Kasparov boosted IBM's reputation, an Intel competitor, when he played a match against IBM's Deep Blue. Kasparov disputed this, claiming Intel withdrew their support some weeks prior to the initial planning of the Deep Blue match. 
     Without any sponsorship for qualifying events, Kasparov hand picked his challenger, Vladimir Kramnik against whom he ended up losing. That match was sponsored by Braingames. Finally, in 2006, a re-unification match between PCA Champion Kramnik and the FIDE World Champion Veselin Topalov, which was won by Kramnik, took place.

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