Magazine article The Spectator

Born Again

Magazine article The Spectator

Born Again

Article excerpt

NIGEL SHORT cannot have been happy that the latest Fide (World Chess Federation) ranking list deposes him from his number one slot in the UK ratings. Worse, Short is not even number two, but has dropped to third position behind Michael Adams and Matthew Sadler. At the start of the year, after his victory in Groningen, it appeared that Short was on the point of reestablishing his old form which swept him to a world title challenge against Garry Kasparov. Thereafter, though, the doubts and uncertainties which had afflicted him on and off since his defeat by Kasparov in 1993 returned once again to plague him. Mediocre result followed upon mediocre result.

Finally, however, Nigel has delighted his supporters with an excellent result in the Novgorod tournament (see the crosstable in the 5 July issue). In the first cycle of this double-round event Short appeared to confirm his recent terrible form, scoring a mere one point out of a possible five and languishing at the bottom of the tournament table. But in the second cycle Short rose like a phoenix from the ashes, notching up a barely credible four points from five possible, permitting only Bareev and Kasparov to escape with draws and administering sharp defeats on Gelfand, Topalov and Kramnik. Indeed, it was only Short's win again Kramnik that enabled Kasparov to keep his nose in front and clinch overall tournament victory by half a point.

Uneven Short's results may be, but he is still the only British player capable of scoring consistent wins against the world's best. Here is how he despatched Kramnik, widely regarded as the most likely future human challenger to Kasparov's throne.

Short-Kramnik: Novgorod 1997; Sicilian Defence.

1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 NK 5 Nc3 d6 6 h3 Normal is 6 Bg5, but Kramnik is supremely well prepared in theoretical highways of the Sicilian Defence. One of the secrets of Nigel's success in the second half of Novgorod was that by employing aggressive yet offbeat openings he was able to derail his more classically minded opponents. For example, the game GelfandShort commenced 1 d4 e6 2 c4 b6 3 e4 Bb7 4 Bd3 Nc6 5 Ne2 Nb4 while Topalov-Short went 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 e6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Qb6 5 Nc3 Bc5 6 Na4 Qa5+. Neither of these Black defences could in any way be described as mainstream. …

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