Canberra Times Chess Column for March 5

Linares is a small southern Spanish city, planted between hundreds of hectares of olive groves, which for the past two decades has hosted one of the most elite tournaments in the chess world. The town has taken the tournament to heart, with the Linares city council taking over the sponsorship of the event and players being swamped by autograph hunting children after games.

Five times in the 1990s Garry Kasparov's name was added to the winners list, the world number one being headed only in 1991 (by Ivanchuk), 1994 (by Karpov) and 1998 (by Anand). In 1999 Kasparov scored his best score to date, winning by a massive 2.5 point margin. The recent Wijk aan Zee tournament might have indicated that this century would continue as the previous one had left off but Linares 2000 already looks to be rather more difficult for the 38-year-old Russian.

The early rounds in the 2000 tournament, which concludes at the end of this week, saw Kasparov with only one victory, and that thanks to a piece blunder by Alexey Shirov in a totally drawn position. Shirov, who has returned to live in his native Latvia but continues to represent his adopted home Spain in international competitions, is once again showing why he is regarded as the most entertaining player in world chess.

Bouncing back after his defeat, Shirov narrowly missed defeating Peter Leko in the second round and then scored the upset of the tournament so far by handing world number two Viswanathan Anand his first defeat for 11 months.

Linares 2000
White: V.Anand
Black: A.Shirov
Opening: Petroff's Defence

#1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.Nxe5 d6 4.Nf3 Nxe4 5.d4 d5 6.Bd3 Bd6 7.0-0 0-0 8.c4 c6 9.cxd5#

The sharpest line, although Shirov, playing White against Leko, used 9.Qc2 in round 2.

#9...cxd5 10.Nc3 Nxc3 11.bxc3 Bg4 12.Rb1 Nd7 13.h3 Bh5 14.Rb5 Nb6 15.c4 Bxf3 16.Qxf3 dxc4 17.Bc2 Qd7 18.a4 g6 19.Be3#

Two rounds earlier Kasparov had tried 19.Bd2 against Shirov but achieved little.

#19...Rac8 20.Rfb1 c3 21.a5 Nc4 22.Rxb7 Qe6!? 23.Ra1!#

The first new move. "After 23.Ra1 I disliked my position very much," said Shirov, whose reply cost almost an hour on the clock.

#23...Bb8?! 24.Bb3! Qd6 25.g3 Nxe3 26.Bxf7+! Kh8 27.Qxe3 Qf6 28.Be6 Rce8 29.d5 Be5! 30.Ra2?#

Taken aback by the fact that his planned 30.Qxa7 does not win by force due to 30...Rxe6! 31.dxe6 Bd4! 32.Rxh7+ Kg8 33.Qb7 Qxf2+ 34.Kh1 c2!, Anand starts to go wrong. 30.Rb4 Rb8 31.Rc4 was very strong for White.

#30...Bd4 31.Qe1#

Only now did Anand realise that his intended 31.Qe2 would lose to 31...Qxf2+!! 32.Qxf2 Rxf2 33.Rxf2 Rf8 34.Rbf7 Rxf7 35.Bxf7 c2.

#31...Qf3 32.Kh2 Qxd5! 33.Bxd5 Rxe1 34.Kg2?#

34.Rf7 would have kept Black's advantage within limits.

#34...Bxf2! 35.Rf7#

35.Rxf2 Rxf2+ 36.Kxf2 c2 was hopeless but now the c pawn is a winner.

#35...Rxf7 36.Bxf7 Bc5 37.Bb3 Kg7 38.Rc2 Bd4 39.a6 Kf6 40.Ra2 Ke5 41.h4 Ke4 0-1#