The top two seeds, Vladimir Kramnik of Russia and Alexei Shirov of Spain, have been eliminated in the quarterfinals of the $3 million FIDE World Chess Championship in Las Vegas. Kramnik was soundly defeated by England's Michael Adams, but Shirov's loss to the much lower rated Liviu-Dieter Nisipeanu of Roumania on Friday was the biggest upset of the event. There were about nearly 100 aspirants who began the knock-out tournament on July 30, but were cut down to only four by Saturday.

In the semifinal, Nisipeanu, who also eliminated the Ukrainian star Vassily Ivanchuk, plays Alexander Khalifman of Russia, who defeated the American Gata Kamsky, Boris Gelfand of Israel and Judit Polgar of Hungary in previous rounds. The other semifinal is between Adams and Vladimir Akopian of Armenia. In the last FIDE championship in 1997 Adams made it to the tournament's final, where he lost to Vishy Anand of India.

Shirov is one of the most creative grandmasters today, but his inclination to mold marvelous tactical masterpieces from almost any position got him almost eliminated in the early rounds. He stayed the course against Nigel Short of England, creating the most exciting game of the event. Those who followed the game live often could not tell who is winning and who is losing.

Shirov - Short

1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Bg5 dxe4 5.Nxe4 Be7 6.Bxf6 gxf6 7.Nf3 Nd7 8.Bc4 c5 9.0-0 0-010.Re1 (Shirov prefers bringing the rook quickly into play with the plan to swing it into athreatening position along the 3rd rank.) 10...Nb6 11.Bf1 cxd4

12.Nxd4 Kh8 (A queen exchange, diminishing Shirov's magical attacking power, would be helpful. But after 12...e5 Shirov would not hesitate to play 13.Qh5! Qxd4 [On 13...exd4 14.Nxf6+ Bxf6 15.Bd3 mates.] 14.Bd3 Kg7 15.Re3! Rh8 [On 15...Qxb2 16.Rg3+ Kh8 17.Nxf6 Qxa1+ 18.Bf1 Bxf6 19.Qh6 Nd7 20.Rh3 white mates soon.] 16.Rg3+ Kf8 17.Qh6+ Ke8 18.Bb5+ Bd7 19.Nxf6+ Bxf6 20.Qxf6 Bxb5 21.Qxh8+ Ke7 22.Qxh7 black king is still a target.) 13.c3 e5 14.Qh5! Nd5 (Keeping the game afloat instead of sinking immediately after 14...exd4? 15.Nxf6! Bxf6 16.Bd3 and white mates.)

15.Rad1!? (Shirov would not consider leaving the battlefield with 15.Ne2.) 15...exd4 16.Rxd4 f5 17.Ng3 Bc5 18.Rd2 Qb6!? (The queen gets out of the pin thanks to a counterattack on the pawn f2.) 19.Qe2!? (The tempting 19.b4? is a losing blunder, since black has 19...Bxf2+ 20.Rxf2 Nf6 21.Qh6 Qxf2+ 22.Kh1 [Or 22.Kxf2 Ng4+ wins.] 22...Ng8! 23.Qxf8 Qxe1 and black wins.) 19...Nf6 20.Qe5!? Kg8 (While it seems logical to get out of the pin, black could have calmly connected his rooks with 20...Bd7, for example 21.Nh5 Rae8 22.Qxf6+ Qxf6 23.Nxf6 Rxe1 24.Rxd7 and white has some compensation for the exchange, but hardly more.)

21.h3! (Avoiding black's trick: 21.b4? Bxf2+ 22.Rxf2 Qxf2+ 23.Kxf2 Ng4+ and black wins.) 21...Re8 (Short must have realized that he had no time to finish his queenside development with 21...Bd7 22.Red1 Rfe8 23.Qf4 Rad8 because of 24.Rd6! Bxd6 25. Rxd6 Qxb2 26.Qg5+ Kf8 27.Qxf6 Qb1 28.Rxd7 Rxd7 29.Nxf5 winning.)

22.Qxe8+ (After 22.Qxf6 Rxe1 23.Rd8+ Bf8 black stops the attack.) 22...Nxe8 23.Rxe8+ Kg7 24.b4 Qc6 (Short could have steered the game into a quiet port after a beautiful tactical play: 24...Bd6 25.Rxd6! Qxd6 26.Rxc8! Qxg3! 27.Rxa8 Qxc3 28.Rxa7 Qxb4 and a draw is a likely result. But the most shocking move to white is 24...Be7! with the idea 25.Rxe7 Be6, trapping the rook. White can try 25.Bc4 when black has to be careful not to walk into a mating net, for example after 25...Qc6 26.Nh5+ Kh6 27.Bxf7 Qxc3 28.Re2 Bxb4 29.R8e6+! Bxe6 30.Rxe6+ Kg5 31.f4+ Kh4 32.Kh2 and white wins.) 25.Rdd8 Bb6

26.Rg8+ Kf6 27.Nh5+! (Stronger than 27.Rde8, which threatens 28.Nh5 mate, but black can play 27...Be6 28.Rxa8 Qxc3 and suddenly white has to think about defense.) 27...Ke5 28.Rd3! Qh6?! (Opening the other front with 28...a5 leads after 29.b5 Qc5 30. Rd2 to an unclear position where black is almost forced to give up the rook on a8 after 30...Qxc3 31.Re8+ Be6 32.Re2+ Kd6 33.Rxa8. But now everything goes white's way.) 29.Be2 Qc1+ 30.Rd1 Qxc331.Bf3 Be6 (White was threatening 32.Re8+ Be6 33.Rd5 mate.) 32.Rxa8 Qxb4?! (It was better to hit the f-pawn with either 32...Qc2 or 32...Qb2.)

33.Re8! (With a neat threat 34.Rd5 mate.) 33...Bd4 34.Rd8 Bb6 35.a3! (A subtle deflection of the queen.) 35...Qa5 (After 35...Qxa3 comes 36.Re1+; and after 35...Qc3 36.R8d3 Qa5 37.R3d2 it transposes into the actual game.) 36.R8d2 f4 37.Bg4! (Keeping the king humble by taking away the square f5.) 37...Bc4 38.Re1+ (Shirov would have been more aestethically pleased with 38.g3!, for example 38...Bxf2+ 39.Kxf2 fxg3+ 40.Kg2 and black has no good defense to 41.Re1+.) 38...Be3 39.Rdd1 (Black hoped for 39.fxe3 f3!, closing the e-file.) 39...Bb3 40.Rb1 Bc2 41.Rb4! (Black loses the bishop and the game is over.) 41...f5 42.Bf3 Be4 43.fxe3 Bxf3 44.gxf3 Qxa3 45.Nxf4! b6 (On 45...Qxb4 46.Nd3+ wins.) 46.Rd4 Black resigned.