The 2014 Magistral Ciudad de León rapid tournament, held for the 27th time, ended in a sensational win for 15-year-old Wei Yi. The Chinese top talent defeated Spanish number one Paco Vallejo in the final on Sunday after eliminating the other Spanish participant, Ivan Salgado, in the semi-final. Vallejo had beaten Hou Yifan on Friday.
Just two points shy of a 2700 rating, Francisco Vallejo Pons was the clear favorite in this year's Magistral Ciudad de León, the annual tournament in the northwest of Spain. However, at the same time it was clear it wouldn't be easy: from China there was the Women's World Champion, Hou Yifan, and the youngest GM in the world, 15-year-old Wei Yi. The fourth participant was the reigning Spanish Champion, Ivan Salgado Lopez.
“I have reached some kind of mental and spiritual balance at tournaments. Losses don't affect me much anymore; I'm able to feel good after a game whatever the result was,” said Vallejo at the inaugural press conference. Years ago he read a book on taoism, and it seems to serve him well.
Hou Yifan also isn't fully occupied with chess anymore. She is in the second year of her studies International Relations at the University of Beijing and is enjoying it very much, as she mentioned at the press conference. And although he is spending eight hours a day on chess, her five years younger compatriot, Wei Yi, mentioned other hobbies too: football, tennis and reading history books.
The players at the opening press conference
The youngest of the two Spaniards, 23-year-old Ivan Salgado, is pretty serious about his chess. He's currently living in Sofia, where he works on chess with Ivan Cheparinov. “I spend four to five hours a day on chess, and sometimes more.” His role model is Rafael Nadal. “He made me realize that it's not important to win or lose, but to know that you have done everything you could to win.”
In the first semi-final on Friday Paco Vallejo defeated Hou Yifan 2.5-1.5. The Spanish GM drew the first using the Berlin Ending and then won with the white pieces in an Accelarated Dragon. Soon after the queens were traded, the Chinese was punished for leaving her rook on a5.
Vallejo seemed to be deciding the match in game three, but from a worse position Hou Yifan managed to reach an equal ending and then she refuted one careless knight move (32...Nd3) nicely.
Vallejo recovered quite well in the ten minutes until the next game and played a wonderful last one, sacrificing a knight and maintaining the initiative:
Hou Yifan was in good spirits afterward. She said she enjoyed Spain very much, and commented about the chess: “My white games were OK, but I played horribly as Black. This way it's impossible to win the match against such a strong player.”
Hou Yifan also gave a simul in León...
...over 25 boards
Wei Yi eliminated Salgado on Saturday with the same figures: 2.5-1.5. The young Chinese GM always makes a very calm impression, and one journalist asked him if he was ever nervous. “Yes, during the first game I felt nervous. After that I was fine.” He one that first game, and drew the rest.
Wei Yi-Salgado 2.5-1.5
The games in progress in the León Auditorium
Wei Yi - almost always very calm
The final, on Sunday, was another hard-fought battle that saw many draws - the first give games in fact. Wei Yi's win in the last game, which decided the tournament, was a nice one that started with 1.b3:
Afterward Wei Yi admitted that he had been lucky. “My opponent had several very good positions but to my fortune he couldn't convert them. Twice I was very close to losing.” Salgado said about the winner: “He has demonstrated that he is a very versatile player, despite his age. He understands both quiet positions and tactical ones very well.”
L-R Salgado, Vallejo, Wei, Hou
And so after Peter Leko, Sergey Karjakin and Magnus Carlsen, the city of Leko has seen another chess prodigy. We'll surely hear more from him!
Thanks to Leontxo Garcia | Games via TWIC