The name of Alexei Shirov should be said as if we were in the hall of the Fisher King’s castle. The Hispano-lettón symbolizes the Grail that all chess fans aspire to, both in the Llobregat Open Chess Tournament and in any other place in the world where chess is played.
So much has been written about his ability to produce beauty that this portrait is doomed to fall short but, just as Perceval found it hard to recognize the Grail when it was shown to him, the reader would be wrong to look only at Alexei’s sporting successes (of which there are many, of course) because, having brushed the world crown with his fingertips, fate had other plans for him: Shirov is our spiritual reserve, the beauty of creativity and calculation, the light that sheds saving light for those of us untouched by the gods to survive the routine of everyday life.
I must confess that, throughout my career as an interviewer, I had never approached Alexei: I had heard very good things about him, but I did not want my idol to be humanized. “That’s unprofessional.” No, it is not. The chronicler whose amateur heart fails him has a problem, which he passes on to the people who read him. We had to wait for the right moment, which was shortly before the awards ceremony of the IV El Llobregat Open Chess Tournament, with him among the winners.
A green tea with Shirov is a pleasure that clears many doubts and opens the way to new questions. The cavernous, unmistakable voice of the big man with the hyperactive gaze exudes solemnity. There is a certain haste in his manner, as he tries to channel the flow of his ideas into a common thread, but one senses at the moment that each word is a retaining wall against the avalanche that remains silent. There is, in this process, a very powerful accumulation of energy. In confidence, I don’t know if that’s good or bad for your chess.
“Are we the way we play? Do we play the way we are?”. That is often said and, knowing Alexei’s daring style, it now fits me better that he is a man as prolific in wives as he is in children. Our hero is a romantic, and we spend the afternoon talking about poetry, a literary genre of which he proves to be very knowledgeable. Shirov, in the autumn of his career, sets fire to the leaves on the board as in his younger years and, wherever he plays chess, he carries the passion of our sport with him.
You can enjoy, below, one of his beautiful chess games, a 1989 victory over Vereslav Eingorn that runs along amazing lines. Fire on the board!
By Jorge I. Aguadero Casado, editor-in-chief of Peón de Rey.