An imaginative attacking player, Shirov is the closest the chess world has yet come to an heir to the legendary Mikhail Tal. He grew up in Tal’s native city and first met and won a simultaneous game against the 8th World Champion as an 11-year-old. He was invited to the Botvinnik-Kasparov School and went on to win the World U16 Championship. By the age of 20 he had reached No. 4 on the FIDE rating list, and would remain in the Top 10 for almost two decades. His tournament victories include Biel (1991), M-Tel Masters (2009) and the Shanghai Masters (2010). A love of intuitive sacrifices has made him a favourite among chess fans, with his game collection fittingly entitled “Fire on Board”.
Shirov achieved perhaps the greatest success of
his career as a 25-year-old in 1998, but it was followed by his greatest
disappointment. He defeated Vladimir Kramnik 5.5-3.5 (2 wins, 7 draws, no
losses) in a match that was supposed to decide Garry Kasparov’s next challenger.
Ultimately, however, negotiations broke down, and not only did Shirov see his
defeated rival Kramnik eventually go on to take the World Championship from Kasparov,
he also failed to receive the winnings he was due for the match. Those events
cast a long shadow, with Shirov never mounting another challenge for the title
and going on to have a disastrous career record against Kasparov.
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