Mostly, he has succeeded, but playing through his games you find them as one reviewer put it, “...wild, daring, complicated, super sharp (and) absolutely a joy to replay. (His) games really put the fun back into chess.”
His claims to the contrary, Shirov is best known as an outstanding tactical player because of his association with Mikhail Tal, under whom he studied in his youth. At the same time, he is also recognized as a fantastic endgame player.
Alexei Shirov (born July 4, 1972) is a Latvian GM who was ranked number two in 1994. Shirov became the world under-16 champion in 1988, the world under-20 co-champion in 1990 and was awarded the GM title in 1990. The winner of many international tournaments, in 1998 his ranking rose to number four in the world. On the basis of his rating, he was invited to play 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. Since then he played in candidate matches in 2000 and 2007.
In 1994 Shirov married an Argentine, Veronica Alvarez, moved to Tarragona, Spain and became a Spanish citizen. He was married to Lithuanian GM Viktorija Čmilyte from 2001 to 2007. Shortly before the Shanghai 2010 tournament, Shirov got married for a third time to WIM Olga Dolgova. At that time he still played for Spain, but he and his wife also had an apartment in Riga, Latvia. In 2011, Shirov began representing Latvia again.
The following game was played in a little known tournament held in Reykjavik in 1992. All the players except Thorsteins, an IM, held the GM title.
1-2) Alexei Shirov and Johann Hjartarson 7.5-3.5
3) Vasilios Kotronias, 6.5-4.5
4-5) Hannes Stefansson and James Plaskett 6.0-5.0
6-8) Margeir Perutsson, Jon Arnason and Olivier Renet 5.5-5.5
9) Karl Thorsteins 4.5-6.5
10-11) Hekgi Olafsson and Stuart Conquest 4.0-7.0
12) Thtostur Thorhallsson 3.5-7.5
In the opening Shirov played a novelty at move 7 that was first suggested by GM Alex Shabalov while they were analyzing and listening to pop music. Now it's generally known as the Shirov-Shabalov Gambit.