14 DECEMBER 1991, Page 60


Player of the Year

Raymond Keene

Having weighed the evidence from the past year's tournaments and matches I have no hesitation in declaring Nigel Short the Spectator Player of the Year. Nigel's record has been no worse than Kasparov's over the past 12 months. Indeed, he has won almost everything in which he has participated including match victories against Speelman and Gelfand, a shared first prize in Amsterdam ahead of Kaspar- ov and Karpov, and an almost unbeaten run in the super-tournament at Tilburg. Nigel's play has matured to the point where he hardly loses any more, even to the very best opposition. In the 1 January 1992 rating list Nigel will most likely occupy the number 4 slot behind only Kasparov, Ivanchuk and Karpov. This column celebrates the nomination of Nigel Short as player of the year.

Short — Gurevich: lmmopar, Paris, November 1991; Pirc Defence.

1 e4 d6 2 Nc3 Nf6 3 f4 g6 4 Nf3 Bg7 5 Bc4 By playing 5 d4 White could transpose into one of the popular main lines of the so-called Austrian Attack against the Pirc Defence. Instead of this Short adopts a scheme which recalls his treat- ment of Boris Gelfand's Sicilian Defence in the crucial third game of their match in Brussels earlier in the year. For the moment White avoids d4 and uses the 'd' pawn to bolster up the aggressive duo of pawns on f4 and e4. 5 . . . 0-0 6 d3 c6 7 0-0 d5 8 Bb3 Bg4 Black's plan is too simple. He intends to trade off his light-squared bishop and then establish a light-squared pawn chain in the centre to impede White's bishops. In theory this is fine but Nigel has plenty of experience in such positions playing on the White side against the Caro-Kann Defence. Here it would have been more flexible to play 8 . . . Na6 followed by . . . Nc5. 9 h3 Bxf3 10 Qxf3 e6 11 Bd2 Nbd7 Not 11 . . . dxe4 12 dxe4 Qxd2 13 Radl trapping the black queen. 12 e5 Ne8 13 Ne2 Ne7 If 13 . . . Nc5 14 d4 Nxb3 15 Qxb3 threatening both Qxb7 and Bb4. 14 c3 f6 Not unnaturally, Gurevich tries to blast open a path for his king's bishop rather than have this piece gnawing impotently at the granite wall spear- headed by White's pawn on e5. 15 exf6 Qxf6 16 Rael RaeS 17 d4 Nb5 18 Kh 1 Nd6 19 Bc2 Qd8 20 Position after 21 Qe3

Bel a6 21 Qe3 (Diagram) It is striking how certain themes crop up again and again in Nigel Short's games. For example, in almost all of the semi-open defences to 1 e4, the French, the Sicilian, the Caro-Kann and the Pirc as here, Nigel has a wealth of games where Black breaks for freedom with . . f6 to challenge a white pawn on e5, but after the reply exf6 Black suffers from weak dark squares around his kingside and a backward pawn on e6. This is exactly what happened in the game I mentioned against Gelfand, and Nigel now demonstrates in this game too what a master he is of such situations. Perhaps on the previous move Gure- vich should have made a bid for freedom with 20 . . . e5 21 dxe5 Nxe5 even though after 22 Qe3 he would lose the pawn on a7. 21 . . . Nf5 22 Qf2 Bf6 23 g3 h5 Black weakens himself in the interests of preventing g4, but since this is, in the long run, inevitable it would have been better to leave the 'h' pawn severely alone. 24 Rgl Kf7 25 Rg2 Be7 26 Kgl The start of a brilliant man- oeuvre. The white king marches to safety in the centre so that the advance g4 becomes feasible without White's monarch becoming entangled in a black counter-attack along the 'h' file. Mean- while the square gl will become a base for White's knight to reposition itself via f3 towards the enticing outpost squares e5 and g5. 26 . • • Rh8 27 Kfl Kg7 28 Ngl Bd6 29 Nf3 Nf6 30 g4 The decisive and long prepared advance. 30 . • • hxg4 31 hxg4 Rhl + If 31 . . . Ne7 32 Rxe6 or 31 . . . Nh6 32 g5. 32 Keg Rxel+ 33 Kxel Ne7 34 Ng5 NegS 35 Kdl The long march is complete. White's king is now tucked away and the attack can start in earnest. 35 . . . Qd7 36 Qh4 With the idea of Rh2, which Black hastens to prevent, only to walk into a stunning combination. 36 . • •

Position after 37 Nxe6+

Nh6 37 Nxe6+ (Diagram) A brilliant coup which activates White's bishops and mobile pawns and exposes the deficiencies in the defences of Black's king's field. Whether Black recaptures on e6 with rook or queen, the reply 38 f5 is crushing. 37 . . . Rxe6 311 f5 Nf7 If the rook moves, 39 Qxh6+ is terminal. 39 fxe6 Qxe6 40 g5 Nh5 41 Qg4 Qe8 42 Q13 Bc7 43 Re2 Qd7 44 Qd3 Qd6 White now enjoys a material advantage and retains the initiative so there can be little doubt about the result. 45 Re8 Bd8 46 b3 BxgS 47 Ba3 Qf6 48 13e7 Qf5 49 QxfS gxf5 50 BxgS NxgS 51 BxfS Kf6 52 Bg4 Ng3 53 Rb8 N5e4 54 Kc2 Preventing the fork . . . Nf2+ and defending his pawn on c3. 54 . . . Kg5 55 Bc8 Ne2 Bxb7 N2xe3 57 Bxc6 Nxa2 Black's last chance, rook for bishop in arrears, is to eliminate all of White's pawns, but in trying to achieve this Gurevich permits one of his knights to become incarcer- ated on the extremity of the board. 58 BxdS Nd6 59 b4 Nxb4+ Black could have been excused for resigning already. The final flicker of resistance is purely symbolic. 60 Rxb4 Kf4 61 Kd3 a5 62 Ra4 Black resigns.