Shirov vs Dubov - Battle of the Generations 2013

Tue, 2013-12-31 13:06 -- IM Max Illingworth

[pgn][Event "Battle of the Generations 2013"]
[Site "Moscow RUS"]
[Date "2013.12.02"]
[Round "1"]
[White "Shirov, A."]
[Black "Dubov, Danii"]
[Result "1/2-1/2"]
[ECO "D45"]
[WhiteElo "2695"]
[BlackElo "2629"]
[Annotator "Illingworth,Max"]
[PlyCount "67"]
[EventDate "2013.12.02"]
[EventRounds "6"]
[EventCountry "RUS"]
[Source "Mark Crowther"]
[SourceDate "2013.12.03"]

{In this week's post I'll go through the recent match between Latvia's Alexey
Shirov and Russia's Daniil Dubov. The purpose of the match was to give the
young Russian star an opportunity to play against a former top-5 GM.
Reflecting on my own match experience, I in fact haven't played a FIDE-rated
match in my life! Matches aren't really done in Australia but they offer a
great opportunity to work on your game, understand match psychology and learn
how to prepare for an opponent.} 1. d4 d5 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 c6 4. e3 Nf6 5. Nf3
Nbd7 6. Qc2 Bd6 7. b3 O-O 8. Bb2 {This is a very normal position, with White
aiming to break in the centre with e4 and Black with ...e5. But here Shirov
plays slightly unusually.} dxc4 $5 {Now White can recapture with Bf1xc4,
saving a tempo compared to the Meran with 6.Bd3.} (8... e5 {gains ground in
the centre and would be my choice.} 9. cxd5 cxd5 10. Nb5 Bb4+ 11. Bc3 Bxc3+ 12.
Nxc3 e4 13. Nd2 Nb8 $1 {for instance is very pleasant for Black, thanks to his
extra space.}) 9. Bxc4 (9. bxc4 e5 10. Be2 Re8 11. O-O exd4 12. exd4 {seems a
bit better for White because of his extra space and lead in development.}) 9...
b5 (9... e5 {is the move I would normally associate as the follow-up to
Black's last.}) 10. Bd3 Bb7 11. O-O (11. e4 {can as always be met with} e5 12.
Rd1 exd4 13. Nxd4 Re8 {with good activity. Black will advance his queenside
pawns with ...a6 and ...c5 to free the b7-bishop.}) 11... Rc8 12. e4 (12. Ng5
h6 13. Nge4 {to try and delay ...c5 for as long as possible was also deserving
of attention. After} Be7 14. Nxf6+ Nxf6 15. Ne4 Nxe4 16. Bxe4 {I don't see why
White shouldn't be a tiny bit better - his pieces are well placed for the
eventual opening of the position with ...c5.}) 12... b4 13. Na4 c5 14. dxc5
Nxc5 15. Nxc5 Rxc5 16. Qe2 Qb8 {Black is absolutely fine here with excellent
piece coordination.} 17. Bd4 ({Not} 17. e5 Bxf3) ({and} 17. Bxf6 gxf6 {also
plays into Black's hands as the doubled pawns can't be easily exploited, but
Black may play ...Kh8 and ...Rg8 to activate his other rook, and the unopposed
dark-squared bishop is a pest.}) 17... Ra5 {The rook looks funny here but
plays an important role in stopping the e5 break.} 18. g3 Nd7 {White still
wasn't threatening to take on f6, but Black wants to bring the knight to c5 to
put pressure on e4 from that angle, and also harass the d3-bishop.} 19. Nd2 {
Threatening Nc4.} Be5 20. Qe3 Rd8 21. Rfd1 Bxd4 22. Qxd4 {The bishop exchange
hasn't overly changed the position. Things are still very much in the balance.}
Bc6 {If White could get in Nc4-d6 he would have definite pressure, but as it
is Black is able to defend the fort.} 23. Be2 Nf6 24. Qe3 h6 25. Rdc1 (25. Nc4
{would seem logical given the previous note, but} Rxd1+ 26. Bxd1 Ra6 27. Bf3 e5
{also offers White little. The rook on a6 actually does a good job of tying up
the a1-rook.}) 25... Bb5 26. Rc2 Bxe2 27. Qxe2 Nd7 28. Nc4 Rc5 29. Rd1 Nb6 {
Now all the pieces are swapped off and the draw becomes fairly clear.} 30.
Rxd8+ Qxd8 31. Rd2 Qc7 32. Nxb6 Qxb6 33. Rd7 Rc7 34. Rxc7 {After each drawn
game, two blitz games would be played between the combatants. Dubov actually
scored 3-1 against Shirov in the blitz games they played, but they didn't
count towards the score of the match.} 1/2-1/2[/pgn]

[pgn][Event "Battle of the Generations 2013"]
[Site "Moscow RUS"]
[Date "2013.12.03"]
[Round "2"]
[White "Dubov, Danii"]
[Black "Shirov, A."]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "D44"]
[WhiteElo "2629"]
[BlackElo "2695"]
[Annotator "Illingworth,Max"]
[PlyCount "70"]
[EventDate "2013.12.02"]
[EventRounds "6"]
[EventCountry "RUS"]
[Source "Mark Crowther"]
[SourceDate "2013.12.09"]

1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 3. Nf3 Nf6 4. Nc3 e6 5. Bg5 {It takes either guts or
incredibly good preparation to take Shirov on in the Botvinnik Variation.} dxc4
6. e4 b5 7. e5 h6 8. Bh4 g5 9. Bg3 (9. Nxg5 hxg5 10. Bxg5 {is the main line,
with plenty of theory after that.}) 9... Nd5 {I don't completely trust this
position for White, as the d5-knight is very strong and with the position now
closed Black's lack of development is much more manageable.} 10. h4 Qa5 $1 {A
powerful reply, rightly meeting an attack with a more powerful counterattack.}
11. Rc1 (11. hxg5 Nxc3 12. bxc3 Qxc3+ 13. Nd2 Qxd4 {is unplayable for White.})
11... Bb4 (11... g4 12. Nd2 h5 13. Nde4 {gives White the dark-squared bind he
seeks in this variation.}) 12. hxg5 Nxc3 13. bxc3 Bxc3+ 14. Nd2 {The position
is extremely sharp; White has lost a lot of ground on the queenside but in
turn Black is getting decimated on the kingside.} Nd7 (14... Na6 {was the
suggestion of one engine at a very high depth, but normally in this line the
knight goes to d7 to support ...c5 and guard the Black king.}) 15. Rxh6 Rg8 16.
Be2 Bb7 {The issue for White is that the pin down the a5-e1 diagonal traps his
king in the centre, while Black is ready to castle queenside and thus
safeguard his king. So White tried} 17. Bh5 {to stop castling.} O-O-O $1 {In
such a wild position, king safety outweighs material factors.} 18. Bxf7 Rxg5
19. Bxe6 {If White was able to play Bh4 and Rh7, the Black king would be in
great peril. Sometimes a sacrifice is needed to please the chess gods!} Rxg3 $1
{As mentioned before these positions tend to have laws of their own. The
initiative here is very valuable and if the White side stays vulnerable and
Black's pieces stay active the material count will not be so important.} 20.
fxg3 Bxd4 (20... Kb8 21. Bxd7 Rxd7 {was correct, protecting the Black king
before continuing the attack.}) (20... c5 $5 {would also have been interesting,
to bring the b7-bishop into the game.}) 21. Bxd7+ (21. Qg4 $1 Bxe5 22. Rh7 {
was objectively quite good for White, though the position remains very
complicated after} Qa3 23. Bxd7+ Kb8 {.}) 21... Rxd7 22. e6 Re7 {If Black gets
time for ...c5, the bishop pair will rake across the board destroying all in
its path! So White needs to do something before that happens.} 23. Kf1 $2 {
This is perhaps already the decisive mistake.} (23. Qf3 c5 24. Qf8+ Qd8 25.
Qxd8+ Kxd8 {would lead to a crazy endgame, which the engine evaluates as 0.00
but I would always want to be Black in such positions as the queenside passed
pawns are much more cohesive and dangerous than the White passers.}) 23... Qa3
$1 {Now the threat of ...Qe3 kills White.} 24. Nf3 Qe3 25. Nxd4 (25. Qd2 Qxd2
26. Nxd2 Be3 27. Rh8+ Kc7 28. Ke2 Rxe6 {is hopeless for White. The passed
pawns on the queenside and White's weak king will decide.}) 25... Qxh6 26. Nf5
Qf6 27. g4 Rxe6 {Black is now up material without losing any of his initiative.
} 28. Qd2 c5 29. Kg1 Qd8 30. Qf2 Qd5 31. g5 Kc7 32. a4 Re5 33. Nh4 Rxg5 34.
axb5 Rg4 35. Re1 Qd4 {White resigned. In a match it's especially crushing to
lose with White.} 0-1[/pgn]

[pgn][Event "Battle of the Generations 2013"]
[Site "Moscow RUS"]
[Date "2013.12.04"]
[Round "3"]
[White "Shirov, A."]
[Black "Dubov, Danii"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "D43"]
[WhiteElo "2695"]
[BlackElo "2629"]
[Annotator "Illingworth,Max"]
[PlyCount "81"]
[EventDate "2013.12.02"]
[EventRounds "6"]
[EventCountry "RUS"]
[Source "Mark Crowther"]
[SourceDate "2013.12.09"]

{In this game we see Dubov try a Semi-Slav pawn grab for a change, but Shirov
is very strong with both colours in these sorts of wildly dynamic variations.
Of course nowadays the players can work out the variations with a computer
beforehand, but even the engines can struggle in some cases.} 1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6
3. Nf3 Nf6 4. Nc3 e6 5. Bg5 h6 6. Bh4 dxc4 7. e4 g5 8. Bg3 b5 9. h4 (9. Be2 Bb7
10. h4 g4 11. Ne5 {is a main line, but Shirov wants to outfox his opponent
with a different move order. Nowadays the opening isn't just about playing the
most common moves but often about finding a good 'shortcut' variation that's
no worse than the main line.}) 9... g4 10. Ne5 Bb4 $5 {Black tries to play
like Shirov did in the previous game!} (10... h5 {is the main line, protecting
the g4-pawn which does cramp White a bit.} 11. f3 {would then be well met by}
Rg8 $1 {when it's actually not so easy for White to break this defence of the
g4-pawn.}) 11. Be2 (11. f3 Rg8 $1 {would again be an interesting reply, as
fxg4 is always met by ...Nxe4 and White can't play Be2 because gxf3 discovers
an attack on the g3-bishop.}) 11... Bb7 $2 {Objectively returning the pawn
like this is just bad.} ({Black had to be brave and take the pawns with} 11...
Nxe4 12. O-O Nxc3 13. bxc3 Bxc3 {. One useful rule of thumb when deciding
whether to grab material is to determine whether you will still be under a lot
of pressure if you don't grab the material. If this is the case, you may as
well have something to show for the opponent's attack!} 14. Bxg4 Bxa1 15. Bh5
Bxd4 16. Qf3 Qe7 17. Bxf7+ Kd8 18. Rd1 c5 19. Qxa8 Qb7 20. Qxb7 Bxb7 21. Bxe6
Rf8 {would then be one mind-boggling variation, leading to a no less
complicated endgame!}) 12. Bxg4 Nbd7 (12... Nxe4 13. Qf3 Nf6 14. Bh5 {places
Black under a gigantic attack.}) 13. Nxd7 Nxd7 14. O-O {If Black had an extra
pawn on g7 we could say that White has full compensation for the pawn. But
here White has the pawn as well as the compensation!} Rg8 15. e5 $2 {White
wants to play Ne4, but underestimates his opponent's resources.} (15. a4 a6 16.
Bh5 $1 {for instance is a simple way to keep a nearly winning position.}) 15...
Qb6 (15... Bxc3 16. bxc3 c5 {is correct, when Black gets certain counterplay
against White's king. For instance} 17. Bh5 Qb6 18. Qd2 cxd4 19. Qf4 O-O-O 20.
cxd4 Rdf8 {followed by ...f6 gives Black great counterplay and is a little bit
reminiscent of the previous game!}) 16. a3 (16. Ne4 $1) 16... Be7 (16... Bxc3
17. bxc3 c5 {would be similar to the previous note.}) 17. a4 (17. Bh5 {stops
Black castling queenside (at least without giving up material) and therefore
was even better.}) 17... a6 18. axb5 axb5 19. Rxa8+ Bxa8 20. Bf3 {White is
winning in this position because Black is unable to find a safe place for his
king, and he is unable to challenge White's central superiority.} Bb7 21. Qd2
b4 22. Ne2 Rh8 23. Nf4 Rg8 24. Bh5 Nf8 25. Rc1 Ba6 26. Be2 {White wins a pawn
and the rest is fairly easy.} Ng6 27. Nxg6 Rxg6 28. Bxc4 Bxc4 29. Rxc4 h5 30.
Kh2 {Black is unable to defend the numerous pawn weaknesses in his position.}
Rg4 31. f3 Rg6 32. b3 Qa6 33. Rc2 Kf8 34. Ra2 Qb6 35. Ra8+ Kg7 36. Qd3 c5 ({or
} 36... Qb7 37. Qa6 Qxa6 38. Rxa6 {with a winning endgame.}) 37. Re8 Bf8 38.
dxc5 Qxc5 39. Qd8 Rxg3 40. Qf6+ Kh7 41. Kxg3 {Black gave up.} 1-0[/pgn]

[pgn][Event "Battle of the Generations 2013"]
[Site "Moscow RUS"]
[Date "2013.12.06"]
[Round "4"]
[White "Dubov, Danii"]
[Black "Shirov, A."]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "A07"]
[WhiteElo "2629"]
[BlackElo "2695"]
[Annotator "Illingworth,Max"]
[PlyCount "80"]
[EventDate "2013.12.02"]
[EventRounds "6"]
[EventCountry "RUS"]
[Source "Mark Crowther"]
[SourceDate "2013.12.09"]

{This game decided the match as it gave Shirov the 3.5 he needed to guarantee
the match victory. But at one point Dubov had a winning position and if he'd
converted it the match would have been thrown open again.} 1. Nf3 d5 2. g3 Bg4
3. Bg2 Nd7 4. O-O Ngf6 (4... c6 5. d3 e6 6. Nbd2 Bd6 7. e4 Ne7 {would be
another way of handling the position.}) 5. d3 e5 (5... c6 6. Nbd2 e5 7. e4 dxe4
8. dxe4 {is a typical position for this variation, where Black is extremely
solid and White will normally play Qe1, h3 and Nh4 to try and get some light
pressure on the kingside.}) 6. h3 Be6 7. c4 dxc4 (7... c6 {was the most solid
option, maintaining the central pawn duo.}) 8. d4 $5 {An interesting pawn
sacrifice, for which White gets an initiative in the centre.} (8. Ng5 Bf5 9.
Bxb7 Rb8 10. Be4 Nxe4 11. dxe4 Bg6 {would lead to an unclear position.}) 8...
Bd6 9. Ng5 Bf5 10. e4 (10. Bxb7 {regains the pawn, but after} Rb8 11. Bg2 O-O {
Black has a lead in development to make up for his bad pawn structure. It's
also not that easy for White to catch up as the c1-bishop is stuck on guard
duty defending b2.}) 10... Bg6 11. f4 $1 {Very aggressive play, trying to
destroy Black in the centre and trap the Black bishop with f5. You could
nearly call it Shirovian!} h6 (11... exf4 12. e5 fxg3 13. exf6 Nxf6 14. Re1+
Kf8 15. Bxb7 Rb8 16. Bc6 {is messy but probably better for White as Black has
problems coordinating.}) 12. Nf3 (12. fxe5 Nxe5 $1 13. dxe5 Bxe5 14. Nf3 Bxg3 {
with compensation for the piece was Black's idea.}) 12... Nxe4 13. Qe1 exf4 (
13... Be7 $5 14. Nxe5 Nxe5 15. dxe5 Qd3 16. Kh2 {is still unclear, but at
least here Black is able to neutralise White's initiative.}) 14. Nh4 $1 {Now
Black has to give up a piece as he can't save the e4-knight.} O-O 15. Nxg6 Nxg3
(15... fxg6 16. Qxe4 fxg3 17. Nd2 Rxf1+ 18. Nxf1 {favours White whose king is
pretty safe and the light squares are a sore point in Black's camp.}) 16. Nxf8
Nxf8 17. Rf2 Ne6 18. Nc3 {The knight looks scary on g3 but doesn't seem to do
anything. White's pieces are well poised to guard the kingside and it's not
easy for Black to attack before White completes his development with Bd2 and
Rd1.} Qh4 $2 {Black tries to stir up trouble on the kingside, but White is
able to defend.} ({Black had to go solid with} 18... c6 {, though} 19. Ne4 Bc7
20. Nxg3 fxg3 21. Rc2 Nxd4 22. Rxc4 {would still be good for White.}) 19. Ne4 (
19. Nb5 $1 {to stop Black playing ...Nxe4 or ...Nxd4 would be even better.})
19... Nxd4 20. Nxd6 cxd6 21. Bd2 $2 {Now Black escapes.} (21. Bxf4 $1 Nde2+ 22.
Rxe2 Nxe2+ 23. Qxe2 Qxf4 24. Rf1 Qd4+ 25. Qf2 Qxf2+ 26. Rxf2 {is a close to
winning endgame for White. Black may have four pawns for the piece but they
are all quite weak and once White's bishop comes to d5 he will dominate the
position.}) 21... f3 $1 {You only need to give a top player one get out of
jail card, and they will take it!} 22. Bxf3 Nc2 23. Bg5 $1 (23. Qd1 Nxa1 24.
Qxa1 Re8 {would give Black a real attack.}) 23... Ne2+ 24. Qxe2 Qxg5+ 25. Bg2
Nxa1 26. Qe1 $2 {Grabbing the knight immediately leads to White's downfall as
the Black pawns become too strong.} (26. Qxc4 {isn't such an easy move to play,
but it turns out that the knight on a1 is completely useless. Black can play}
Rf8 27. Rf1 Qe3+ 28. Kh1 Qe6 29. Qxe6 fxe6 30. Rxa1 Rf2 31. Bxb7 Rxb2 {in
response, when White doesn't have enough pawns remaining to claim any winning
chances.}) 26... d5 27. Qxa1 d4 28. Qf1 d3 $1 {This protected passed pawn is a
monster, and White's situation is dire.} 29. Rxf7 Rd8 30. Rf5 Qe3+ 31. Kh2 Qd4
{The d-pawn is almost ready to run!} 32. Bf3 Qxb2+ 33. Kh1 Qd4 34. Qg2 d2 35.
Bd1 Re8 {Now it really is over.} 36. Rf1 Re1 37. Qf3 Qe4 38. Qxe4 Rxe4 39. Kg2
Re1 40. Kf2 Rxd1 {White resigned as ...c3 and ...c2 can't be prevented.} 0-1[/pgn]

[pgn][Event "Battle of the Generations 2013"]
[Site "Moscow RUS"]
[Date "2013.12.07"]
[Round "5"]
[White "Shirov, A."]
[Black "Dubov, Danii"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "B48"]
[WhiteElo "2695"]
[BlackElo "2629"]
[Annotator "Illingworth,Max"]
[PlyCount "67"]
[EventDate "2013.12.02"]
[EventRounds "6"]
[EventCountry "RUS"]
[Source "Mark Crowther"]
[SourceDate "2013.12.09"]

{The remaining two games weren't significant from a sporting perspective, but
I have included them for your perusal.} 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 e6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4
Nc6 5. Nc3 Qc7 6. Be3 a6 7. Qd2 b5 8. Nxc6 Qxc6 9. O-O-O Bb7 10. f3 Rc8 11. g4
Nf6 12. g5 Nh5 13. Bh3 Be7 14. Bg4 g6 15. Bxh5 gxh5 16. h4 a5 17. Kb1 b4 18.
Ne2 a4 19. Nf4 b3 20. cxb3 axb3 21. axb3 Bb4 22. Qf2 Ra8 23. Nxh5 Ke7 24. Nf6
Rhc8 25. Rxd7+ Qxd7 26. Nxd7 Kxd7 27. Ba7 Ba6 28. Rd1+ Ke8 29. h5 Be7 30. g6
fxg6 31. hxg6 hxg6 32. Qb6 Kf7 33. Rd7 Be2 34. Qd6 1-0[/pgn]

[pgn][Event "Battle of the Generations 2013"]
[Site "Moscow RUS"]
[Date "2013.12.08"]
[Round "6"]
[White "Dubov, Danii"]
[Black "Shirov, A."]
[Result "1/2-1/2"]
[ECO "D45"]
[WhiteElo "2629"]
[BlackElo "2695"]
[Annotator "Illingworth,Max"]
[PlyCount "63"]
[EventDate "2013.12.02"]
[EventRounds "6"]
[EventCountry "RUS"]
[Source "Mark Crowther"]
[SourceDate "2013.12.09"]

1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 3. e3 Nf6 4. Nc3 e6 5. Nf3 Nbd7 6. Qc2 Bd6 7. Bd3 O-O 8. O-O
dxc4 9. Bxc4 b5 10. Bd3 Bb7 11. a3 a5 12. e4 e5 13. dxe5 Nxe5 14. Nxe5 Bxe5 15.
h3 Ba6 16. Be3 b4 17. Bxa6 bxc3 18. Bc4 cxb2 19. Rad1 Qe7 20. Bc5 Qc7 21. Bxf8
Rxf8 22. g3 c5 23. f4 Bd4+ 24. Kh2 Qb7 25. Rfe1 Rb8 26. Ba2 g6 27. e5 Nd5 28.
Rd3 a4 29. Qd2 Qc6 30. Qc2 Qb7 31. Qd2 Qc6 32. Qc2 {Merry Christmas!} 1/2-1/2[/pgn]