Best game of January - Shirov-Radjabov
The persons having attended the conference in our viewing room in January are: Mikhail Kobalia, Sergei Zagrebelny, Sergei Ivanov, Evgeny Gleizerov, Sergei Soloviov, Vladimir Barskij, Andrey Deviatkin and Michal Krasenkow. From now on the phrases in quotes are Evgeny Gleizerov's.
As Sergei Ivanov has almost guessed the Top Five, I will cite his considerations without changing, rearranging or taking anything out of context. Other things apart there are some flattering words about me there, so why should I take them out of context? And only after that we will allot everyone his place and cite Evgeny Gleizerov's "point" remarks.
"The year's beginning has been very eventful which already fills me with somewhat subtle optimism. In January a series of diversiform tournaments has taken place: a Wijk aan Zee trio, tournaments in Gibraltar and in Moscow, the ACP World Cup in Odessa and a number of other smaller events. I guess our unchallenged host had had a real hard time of finding genuine treasures in this pearly world, but he managed, and splendidly as always at that! The selection is a feast for the eyes, and to make a purposeful choice has been really difficult too. After some long and poignant reflection I arranged the Top Five in a following order.
Number five is Shimanov – Belov game, which is remarkable in the first place for a fantastic black knight move (17...¤h6-f5!!) under white pawn's attack. This move reminds me of a similar Spassky's one (¤b8-c6!!) in his game against Averbach (Leningrad 1956). And although it has been proved later, that White could have beaten off the attack retaining his material advantage, it belittles Vladimir Belov's merits not in the least. Another item in the collection of famous chess moves! Number four is another game calling up "historical" associations, namely Shaposhnikov – Malakhov. Here we have every reason to think of another world champion, Petrosian, in whose creative work a positional offer of exchange has been one of the common methods. Vladimir Malakhov has developed the subject still further by positional offering of two exchanges. This game is worth not of the detailed analysis but of watching and enjoying it! Unlike the third game in my list, Atalik – Eljanov, which requires just that – a careful and painstaking analysis. Black seems to give up an exchange (14...¤fe4!?) just for nothing, without creating any tangible threat, simply giving White the opportunity to take his light-squared bishop off the board. But later it was the absence of this very bishop that has become Atalik's bane, as Eljanov's decisive attack was developed along the light squares. Very nice-looking is a provoking, "brutal" maneuver 17...Ґh4!? – one is eager to turn this impudent bishop out neck and crop immediately. So White falls for it – and on 18.g3? there follows a cold shower 18...Јh3!, and it is impossible to take the bishop - 19.gh4? Јg4 20.ўh1 ¤e4 21.Јc2 Ґd3! – gentlemen, lie on your oars! Afterwards Atalik had resisted long and stubborn, but his position was rolled out, as if with a steamroller. An excellent creative achievement of a young Ukrainian GM! My second place is given to the best Vladimir Kramnik's game in Wijk aan Zee – his clean, elegant, technically amazing victory over Vishi Anand. There are no dramatic surface effects in this game, but the fact itself that one of the best chessplayers in the world was inexorably outplayed with such a logical consistency ranks it with outstanding positional achievements of Capablanca, Karpov, Fischer and... of Kramnik himself. And finally the first place goes – and I haven't had a slightest doubt about it – to the game Shirov – Radjabov! King's Indian keeps afloat on the elite level now only thanks to Radjabov. And in Wijk aan Zee Teimour had given a real extravaganza winning four out of five King's Indian games, ant only Kramnik managed to hold a draw against him. His game against Shirov turned out breathtakingly fascinating; both opponents played resourcefully and inventively. White had spectacularly sacrificed his queen, and victory seemed within spitting distance, but... Radjabov's estimation turned out to be more accurate. With a series of counterblows he had transposed the game into an ending with an extra exchange which he quickly won. Well done, Teimour, chess world is waiting for your further victories! (At the same time I cannot but express my indignation about the scandalous incident with Teimour Radjabov and his father in Mexico and about boorish and insulting for every normal human person conduct of local authorities and organizers of Morelia tournament. Hold on, Teimour, things are bound to get better!)
Most of the experts share Sergei's opinion. January winner is Teimour Radjabov. His masterpiece was placed first by Ivanov, Soloviov, Deviatkin and Kobalia, second in two lists and third in another one. Andrey Deviatkin remarked that the study of such games makes one start playing King's Indian, and as both sides at that, and Evgeny Gleizerov's comment is as follows: "Most interesting, typically King's Indian takeover, demanding highest accuracy".
Second place was shared between games Atalik – Eljanov and Kramnik – Anand. Eljanov has two first places (Krasenkow and Gleizerov), one second and one third; Kramnik has one clean first (Zagrebelny) and one shared first place (Barskij), one second and one third.
Atalik – Eljanov. «There are no doubts here – Pasha Eljanov managed to carry out a brilliant, absolutely unconventional and above all apparently correct positional exchange sacrifice. The following black play also impresses greatly".
Kramnik – Anand. «No showy charms here, but for those who know better it's a real treat. I, being an incorrigible "Catalan", particularly loved it".
Those three games are absolute January favorites, and the game Shirov – Radjabov is an unconditional winner (it is the only one to be included in every Top Ten). The next places go to:
4. Shaposhnikov – Malakhov. One third place, is present in seven lists out of eight.
«A really spectacular canvas, a feast to the eyes. Regretfully, the opening idea is not original, and the second exchange sacrifice is self-suggesting».
5. Aronian - Kariakin. Twice runner-up.
«A twin of Kramnik's victory, the same variation even up to the move 15. All aforesaid applies to it».
6. Shimanov – Belov. Shared the first place in Barskij's list. See Sergei Ivanov's comment above.
7. Ponomariov - Topalov. Two third places.
«The game was played by Topalov in his famous computer manner. I couldn't but include it in Top Ten».
8. Ivanchuk - Radjabov. This specimen of masterly technique has one third place.
9. Negy – Spoelman. One third place also.
«Young Indian genius conducted an irreproachable and very far calculated winning combination. Why not place it higher? A "bare stem", almost no variations".
10. Akopian - Ippolito. "An interesting though evident enough novelty on the move 18, a fine and not at all evident rout".
I should also note that one second place was given to the game Kriviborodov - Sergienko. And another two of Evgeny's opinions:
Greenfeld - Ippolito. «Akopian had the same co-author. For some reason it brings to mind a Soviet motion picture "The irony of fate"... By the way, you should know how to lose gracefully too!"
Jakovenko – Vachier-Lagrave. "Mitya Jakovenko has for the nth time demonstrated, how terrible he is in ang... sorry, I meant to say when he has an initiative!"
With this let me take my leave. Our separation won't be long; a new review is coming up.
The persons having attended the conference in our viewing room in January are: Mikhail Kobalia, Sergei Zagrebelny, Sergei Ivanov, Evgeny Gleizerov, Sergei Soloviov, Vladimir Barskij, Andrey Deviatkin and Michal Krasenkow.
From now on the phrases in quotes are Evgeny Gleizerov's.