Shirov is currently rated 2656 which ranks him number 97 in the world among active players, but that wasn't the case in 1991. Shirov was the world under-16 champion in 1988, the world under-20 co-champion in 1990 (second on tiebreaks to Ilya Gurevich).
In 1998 Shirov's ranking rose to number four in the world and he played a ten-game match against Vladimir Kramnik to select a challenger for World Champion Garry Kasparov. Shirov won the match with two wins, no losses and seven draws. However, the plans for the Kasparov match fell through when sufficient financial backing could not be found. When Kasparov instead played Kramnik for the world title in 2000, Shirov maintained that the match was invalid and he was the rightful challenger. In 2000, Shirov reached the final of the FIDE World Chess Championship, losing 3½–½ to Viswanathan Anand.
Shirov, who studied under Tahl, is a great tactician who loves complications and his games, like this one, often contain unusual material imbalances. All of his games are not filled with unremitting violence however; Shirov consideres himself to be a calculator which is a skill that is particularly useful in the ending. As a result, he is also a very fine endgame player.
In 1991 the USSR Championship was played in Moscow from November 1st to the 13th and was a 64-player Swiss event, which included some of the most senior as well as newest GMs and Masters in the Soviet Union. Artashes Minasian and Elmar Magerramov tied for first, with with Minasian declared winner on tiebreaks. The Soviet Union would dissolve over a month later, and while the separate nations that made up the USSR would continue to hold their individual championships, there would never again be a Soviet championship.
Shirov finished tied for places 10 to 14 with Kharlov, Frolov, Vaganian and Tiviakov all of whom scored 6.5 points. Nikolenko finished with a gaggle of players in places 24 to 38 at 5.5 points. Besides Nikolenko, the others were: Shabalov, Yakovich, Ionov, Yurtaev, Aseev, Dokhoian, Bagirov,Ibragimov, Serper, Sorokin, Sveshnikov, Lputian, Rashkovsky and Balashov.