RUSSIA'S Alexander Morozevich plays mind-boggling chess. I saw his international breakthrough, at the Lloyds Bank Masters in 1994 in London, a relatively unknown 17-year-old – almost Tal-like in his stunning, sacrificial wins – shocked everyone with an emphatic winning score of 10.5/11.
I remember also the shock in the Biel press room just nine years later after a similar emphatic victory, when "Moro" announced his semi-retirement from the game because he didn't believe he had the "A-game" needed to play at the elite level, let alone become world champion.
He also had persistent health issues and revealed he had considered quitting the game altogether. Instead he opted to turn semi-pro.
The self-proclaimed amateur with the uncompromising brand of chess – likened to 19th-century masters – is nothing if not a big crowd-pleaser, and although his appearances are few and far between, it's always something of a treat for the chess fans to see him in action – especially when the Muscovite is playing at his best and winning.
And in the recently concluded Russian Championship "Higher League" in Taganrog, Morozevich was again playing like the elite super-GM he once was by finishing in clear first with 8/11, a half point ahead of his nearest rivals Artyom Timofeev and Alexander Galkin.
All three surprisingly qualified for the powerful Russian Championship at the end of the year, ahead of all the pre-tournament favourites.
A Morozevich - D Khismatullin
Russian Higher League, (7)
1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nc3 Bb4 4 Qc2 Nc6 5 Nf3 d6 6 Bd2 Qe7 7 a3 Bxc3 8 Bxc3 e5 9 d5 Nb8 10 e3 0–0 11 Nd2 c6 12 dxc6 Nxc6 13 Bd3 b6 14 Ne4 h6 15 Nxf6+ Qxf6 16 0–0 Bb7 17 f4 Qe7 18 b4 Rac8 19 Rad1 Nb8 20 fxe5 dxe5 21 Qf2 Nd7 22 Qf5 g6 23 Qh3 h5 24 Qg3 Rcd8 25 Bc2 Kh7 26 Rd2 h4 27 Qh3 Bc8 28 g3 Kg7 29 Qxh4 Qxh4 30 gxh4 Rde8 31 h5! g5 32 Bf5 Nf6 33 Bxc8 Ne4 34 Bf5 Nxc3 35 Rc2 1–0