The phrase “Fire on Board” is associated with Latvian grandmaster Alexei Shirov, both because of two autobiographical works with that title (very highly recommended, especially the first volume) and – more fundamentally – because of his style. Shirov like no one else the past 25 years has been able to create and survive the wildest complications in game after game, producing masterpieces on a regular basis and enjoying great practical success as well. Shirov was especially close to becoming the World Champion around the turn of the century, and remained in the absolute elite throughout the ‘00s.
His rating has fallen a bit, and he has recently spent more time just south of 2700 rather than comfortably above that threshold. He nevertheless remains a very dangerous opponent for practically anyone, and is always capable of winning games like the following, from the ongoing Hasselbacken Chess Open in Stockholm, Sweden:
Not a bad game at all, and typical of Shirov. His opponent was an experienced grandmaster as well, and yet the Swedish native was bamboozled as the thicket of complications grew increasingly dense and time ran increasingly short. As noted above, Shirov wins a great many games like this, but occasionally he is the one burned by the fire on board. In Round 5 of the same event, the young American grandmaster Sam Sevian won an incredible game, solving problems that were significantly more complicated than those that had stumped Akesson in the earlier battle.
Spectacular chess. If Sevian can maintain the ability to calculate at this level while growing in his overall understanding of the game, he will soon be a player to reckon with at the highest stages of world chess.
Dennis Monokroussos is a FIDE master who has written about chess on his blog “The Chess Mind,” since 2005. He has been teaching chess for almost 20 years and for the last 10 years has been making instructional chess videos, which can be found at ChessLecture.com. Between 1995 and 2006, he taught philosophy, including a four-year stint at the University of Notre Dame.
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