Anand beats Shirov 4.5-1.5 in León

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Anand beats Shirov 4.5-1.5 in LeónOn Sunday Viswanathan Anand defeated Alexei Shirov 4.5-1.5 in their match in León, Spain. On all three playing days the World Champion won one game and drew one to clinch his 8th title in León. Struggling to find his best form, Shirov was no match for an Anand in good shape.

General info

The 24th edition of the Magistral Ciudad de León took place in the León Auditorium, from Friday, June 3rd till Sunday, June 5th. This year the main event was a 6-game match between World Champion Vishy Anand and Alexei Shirov. Contrary to what we wrote before, the rate of play was 40 minutes per game plus 30 seconds increment after each move.

Report days 2 and 3

The second day (read our first report here) of the festival in León started at 12.00 with a lecture by GM Miguel Illescas about the famous Kasparov-Deep Blue match (the eight times Spanish Champion was part of the IBM team in 1997). Illescas revealed that he had given the following advice to the computer company: "You are scientists and do everything with that intention. But Kasparov, when he sits behind the board, is a murderer. Therefore, we have to program the machine to play against a murderer, that is, it sometimes needs to make a move that will not be the best, but bothers Kasparov the most." That strategy was successful, because the Russian lost 2.5-3.5 for lack of control over his nerves, amazed by the style of his inhuman opponent.

Leontxo Garcia and Miguel Illescas

Leontxo Garcia and Miguel Illescas during the lecture



Then, back in the Auditorio at 16.30, the second playing day began badly for Shirov. "I was lost before play started," the Latvian grandmaster said afterwards. "I could not find any satisfactory variation against the Caro-Kann during my morning preparation in the hotel. So I got to the stage in not a very good mood. Then I chose a very aggressive line, with the hope that, playing with White, at least I would achieve a draw. This was clearly not right."

In the Advance variation (1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.e5 Bf5) Shirov played 4.g4, but the game became a "textbook example" (Anand) of how to exploit this move, and the weakness of a king stuck in the centre. At move 17, in a hopeless middlegame position, Shirov resigned already.

The third game of the match was the most quiet thus far. Anand avoided the sharp Anti-Moscow Gambit this time and went for the proper Moscow line of the Semi-Slav. Many pieces were traded at an early stage and with a symmetrical pawn structure the ending was only marginally better for White. At move 23 Anand decided that a draw was OK.

The podium of the Auditorio

The podium of the Auditorio



Sunday saw the same scenario for the third time: one win for Anand, and one draw. Like on Saturday, the World Champion was victorious with the black pieces in a Caro-Kann. In his third attempt Shirov tried the move 4.h4, like he had done in his last tournament in Lublin about two weeks ago. Anand was well prepared and quickly gained a small advantage in an ending with two rooks and two knights for both sides.

Again, Shirov was punished for taking too many risks. Activating his king on the kingside was brilliantly punished by Anand. The World Champion successfully played a mating attack based on deep calculation, and forced Shirov to resign at move 41. It was of less importance that the computer engines pointed out that, for one moment, both players had missed an opportunity for the white king to escape the mating net.

Anand beats Shirov with a nice combination in game 5

Anand beats Shirov with a nice combination in game 5



Although he couldn't find his best form in León, Shirov could at least finish his match with a decent 6th game. In another Moscow Semi-Slav Anand had some slight pressure in the middlegame, but Shirov played accurately and managed to reach a drawn rook ending.

And so Vishy Anand won the tournament in León for the eighth time. In his press release, press officer Leontxo Garcia wrote that it's becoming more and more clear that the Indian is one of the best chess players of all time. And indeed, Anand's play was very convincing and it's not clear whether his chess is any weaker than, say, ten years ago.

Afterwards there was first a press conference of about half an hour with the two players, attended by about eighty chess fans. After this, at exactly eight o'clock, the two were interviewed live for local TV again. "This success shows that it is sometimes beneficial to have a few weeks off from training and tournaments, as I did after I became a father for the first time. I came to León hungry for chess and I am very satisfied with my play," Anand said.

Anand and Shirov at Saturday's press conference

Anand and Shirov at Saturday's press conference



Shirov was self-critical, but one must always be as a chess player: "I will need some days to draw clear conclusions, but obviously I need to change something in the preparation and choice of openings, because that's been my main problem, especially with the white pieces."

Afterwards Anand did a few more brief interviews and both players signed many autographs. Tomorrow the festival finishes with a simul by Shirov. The Latvian GM will play his following tournament game already next Thursday, in the Sigeman tournament in Malmö, where his main rivals will be Anish Giri and Wesley So. Anand won't be playing tournaments in the next few months.

Games 3-6



Game viewer by ChessTempo


Next year the 25th celebration edition of the tournament will be held. Despite the economical crisis in Spain, the organizers hope to create something special for this edition. Although this year's match was quite entertaining, tournament director Marcelino Sión is planning to try to return to the 4-player format. We can only hope that the sponsors, who have been loyal for so many years already, will make this possible.

The writer of this report is preparing a video about the tournament, and also did an interview with Vishy Anand on Sunday night, in which the World Champion speaks about becoming a father, about Kazan, and much more. Both will be published in the coming week, so stay tuned!

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