Person of day   -  4 JULY 2020

ALEXEI SHIROV

ALEXEI SHIROV

He became the world champion among cadets when he was 16 and he qualified for the premier league of the Soviet championship in that same year, in 1988. It became apparent that Riga gave birth to an extremely talented chess player, for whom great achievements lay in wait. This was confirmed by Mikhail Tal, who invited the gifted young man to his chess sessions. “This boy already calculates better than I do!” the former world champion exclaimed when he saw Alexei’s sharp eye for combinations. 

By the middle of the 1990s, Shirov had become one of the world’s strongest grandmasters. In 1997, he won a tournament in Madrid and, one year later, one in Linares. 1998 brought another victory to Alexei: he won his candidates’ match against Vladimir Kramnik by 5,5:3,5 (two victories and seven draws) and won the right to play against world champion Garry Kasparov. However, Louis Rentero, the main sponsor of the candidates’ cycle, refused to finance a match between Kasparov and Shirov.

Of course, this was unfair to Alexei, who tried to overrule the decision in court. But alas, he never played in the match for the world championship. Towards the end of 2000, Vladimir Kramnik defeated Garry Kasparov in London and became the 14thworld champion. In that same year, Alexei Shirov qualified for the final of the FIDE world championship, where he lost to Vishy Anand, thus passing this opportunity to became a world champion. 

Alexei Shirov has many followers who value his style and his devotion to chess. This remarkable grandmaster won tens of tournaments and hundreds of dramatic matches. In 2007, he qualified for the final of the World Cup once again, this time losing to Gata Kamsky. He won a super-tournament in Sofia in 2009 and one in Shanghai in 2010. 

In the 1990s, Shirov moved to Spain, where he led that country’s national team. A few years ago, Alexey Shirov returned to Latvia. In his motherland, Shirov has already proven himself as an administrator- his return foreshadowed a re-vitalisation of Latvian chess life. For example, the country organised five Vladimir Petrov Memorials and the Alexei Shirov Cup for children. In 2017, the traditional rapid and blitz chess festival was dedicated to Mikhail Tal; the blitz tournament was decisively won by the man who organised it- Alexei Shirov. 

The grandmaster has developed a reputation as an experimenter. At his insistence, Latvia began to implement new timing controls and the grandmaster himself regularly plays in rapid and blitz tournaments, passing on his experience to Latvian chess players. After Shirov returned and Igor Kovalenko transferred to the Latvian federation, the national team became noticeably stronger: they are joined by a rising generation of younger chess players such as Nikita Meshkovs, Artur Bernotas and others. 

Alexei continues to perform commendably in classical tournaments. At the end of 2013, Shirov convincingly won a match against Daniil Dubov, a young Russian grandmaster, and he won the 2014 Russian team championship with Malachite from Yekaterinburg. 

Alexei Shirov’s famous two-volume Fire on Board was recently translated into Russia. Shirov also helped to publish books about Vladimir Petrov and Mikhail Tal in Latvia.