Nigel Short is past his prime, but he continues to play at a high level, thanks in part to his continued ability to innovate, as in the following game.

Nigel Short, 51, is past his primes but he is still among the top players in the world (No. 60 in the latest rating list), partly because he continues to come up with fresh ideas in his games. The following game against Peter Wells, a compatriot, is a good example. 

Wells, P. vs. Short, N.
Bunratty Masters 2017 | Bunratty IRL | Round 4.1 | 18 Feb 2017 | ECO: D02 | 0-1
1. Nf3 d5 2. d4 Nf6 3. c4 e6 4. g3 Bb4+ 5. Nbd2 O-O 6. Bg2 In a relatively common position in the Catalan opening, Short tries a new idea.
6... a5!? This looks a little retro to me, but it has a point. When Black plays a4, he will be discouraging b3.
6... dxc4 This is the main move. As far as I know, Black is fine.  )
7. O-O a4 Now black's idea is clear: It is not easy for White to develop his dark-squared bishop.
8. a3
8. b3 axb3 9. Qxb3 Nc6 And White's queenside structure would have been somewhat compromised.  )
8... Be7 9. Qc2 Naturally White wants to play e4, which is a typical idea in any closed Catalan. But Short finds another interesting move to discourage this idea.
9... Nc6! This prevents e4, and the knight does not stand nearly as badly on c6 as it normally does in the Queen's Gambit because it has a potentially nice outpost on a5.
10. Rd1
10. e4 dxe4 11. Nxe4 Nxe4 12. Qxe4 Na5! The point. The threats of Nxc4 and/or Nb3 are pretty annoying.  )
10... Bd7 11. e4 Qc8!? Normally, I would condemn allowing e5, but Short made a pretty convincing case for this move. It keeps the position unbalanced.
11... Nxe4 12. Nxe4 dxe4 13. Qxe4 Na5 This position should be fine for Black, but it is not as interesting as what was played in the game.  )
12. e5 Ne8 13. Nf1?! I don't like this move.
13. cxd5 exd5 14. Nf1 This looks like a very pleasant structure for White.  )
13. b4!? The engine's choice is very strong. Black is unable to use the a5 square.
13... axb3 14. Nxb3 dxc4 15. Qxc4 Na5 16. Nxa5 Rxa5 17. Bg5  )
13... dxc4! 14. Bg5 White goes all-in.
14. Qxc4 Na5 With obvious counterplay for Black.  )
14... b5! Black calls White's bluff! Black now has a pawn majority on the queenside.
15. Bxe7 Nxe7 16. Ng5 Going after the Black rook in the corner is the only way to justify White's previous play.
16. Ne3 h6  )
16... f5! 17. exf6?
17. Bxa8 Qxa8 The computer evaluates the chances in this position as equal, but it looks very unpleasant for White. His rooks are permanently passive and the weakness of his light squares will be a major problem. Still, this was his best chance.  )
17... Nxf6 18. Re1? Now White is just down a pawn.
18. Bxa8 For better or for worse, White had to take the rook.
18... Qxa8 19. Qe2 Qd5 Black looks more comfortable, but at least White is up an exchange.
20. f4 h6 21. Ne3 Qd6 22. Nf3  )
18... Ra6! This saves the rook, defends e6, and prepares to transfer the rook to d6, its ideal square.
19. Ne3 h6 20. Ne4 Nxe4 21. Bxe4 Rd6 It did not take many mistakes for the game to change course. Black is up a pawn and his pieces are perfectly placed.
22. Rad1 Nf5
22... Bc6 This move looks more natural to me, but the move played in the game is also effective.  )
23. Qc3 Nxe3 24. Qxe3 Qd8 25. h4 Qf6 26. f4 Rd8! The last accurate move. The f-file was no longer useful for Black. Now the d-pawn is the target.
27. Rd2 Be8 28. d5 Bf7! With the d-pawn also about to fall, White had seen enough.


Samuel Shankland is a United States grandmaster ranked No. 4 in the country. He is a professional player and recipient of the Samford Fellowship in 2013, the most prestigious award in the United States for young chess players. He was also a member of the team that won the gold medal at the 2016 Chess Olympiad. He is at @GMShanky on Twitter, has his own site, and is also on Facebook.