Anand takes early lead against Shirov in León

| 0 | Chess Event Coverage
Anand takes early lead against Shirov in LeonAfter the first of three playing days, Viswanathan Anand leads 1.5-0.5 against Alexei Shirov. Their 6-game match of 'semi-rapid' games started on Friday in León, Spain. On Saturday games 3 and 4 will be played and on Sunday games 5 and 6 and a possible tie-break. Update: games now annotated.

General info

The 24th edition of the Magistral Ciudad de León takes place in the León Auditorium, from Friday, June 3rd till Sunday, June 5th. This year the main event is a 6-game match between World Champion Vishy Anand and Alexei Shirov. The rate of play is 40 minutes per game plus 30 seconds increment after each move; games start at 16.30 CET.

In a first press release, Spanish journalist and press officer Leontxo Garcia wrote:

It looks like Anand started last week journey from his hometown of Chennai (formerly Madras, in southeast India) with mixed feelings: some disappointment due to the separation for a few days of his baby, Akhil (this name has different meanings in Tamil, but Anand prefers “ruler” and “king”) and his wife, Aruna; and, on the other hand, hope for success for the eighth time in Leon. To increase his chances for a new victory, he has been working for a few days at his other home, in Collado Mediano (Madrid), together with his coach, the Danish grandmaster Peter Heine Nielsen.

Shirov will arrive in Leon on Wednesday with his wife, Olga, and his coach, Manuel Perez Candelario. As happens to most top players, his score with the World Champion is very unfavorable for him since Anand defeated him in the World Championship 2000 final in Tehran (Iran). But he has now have an appropriate opportunity to retaliate, as Shirov seems to be in very good shape after winning in Lublin (Poland) with plenty of creativity in his games.

Opening ceremony

The opening ceremony, with the drawing of lots, was held on Thursday at the Hotel Conde Luna, performed by the international arbiter Joaquin Espejo. There it was decided that Shirov would have White in the first game.

At the opening ceremony Shirov joked "Here is clear proof that chess can delay Alzheimer's," referring to his age (almost 39), Viswanathan Anand (41) and of the Indian's next challenger, Israeli Boris Gelfand (almost 43). The world champion made this analysis: "Everyone talks about the young talents in chess, and it is true that most of the world's best are getting younger. But we are still here, and we can still handle them. The ambition that we have, for example Gelfand and I, is as high as when we were young, and that explains our results. So our championship match in 2012 will be very interesting."

press conference

Anand and Shirov at the press conference on Thursday

Shirov then chose to point out some irony to explain the apparent contradiction of the facts: there are only seven players over 40 years among the hundred best in the world, but three of them are the champion, the challenger and the world's number four at the moment (Vassily Ivanchuk) and two other are in the top 25 - Shirov himself Britain's Michael Adams, who are approaching 40. "Lately you have found strong evidence that the common practice of chess delays the aging of the brain. And I think we reinforce that theory," he said, half seriously, half jokingly.

Anand acknowledged that chess is of little use when exercising the job of being a father of a baby, as he has done for the last few weeks: "It is he who dictates the rules, and you have to follow." It was suggested that he'd ask Shirov for advice, for his paternal experience, and Alexei took up the gauntlet: "Vishy has made great strides in his sport and is now completing the most important personal step. It gives so much joy and happiness to have a child that it will be very beneficial, even in sports."

Day 1

In all honesty, so far we borrowed heavily from Leontxo Garcia's press releases. The author of this report travelled to León on Friday and due to some delay, I arrived at the train station while the second game had just started. Naturally I decided to take a cab to the playing hall immediately... the hotel could wait!

The games are played in the excellent Auditorium, which is equipped with giant screens left and right of the stage. That spectators can see the moves and close-ups of the players, but also an analysis board and with handsets they can listen to the commentators: Miguel Illescas, eight times Spanish champion and international master Michael Rahal.

The first two games were of high quality, and high fighting spirit. In the first, a Caro-Kann Advance, Shirov had the initiative but Anand held the balance with a number of fine, tactical nuances.

The second game was a very sharp Anti-Moscow Gambit which went wrong for Shirov at an early stage - his king had to stay in the centre and he lost a few pawns. With a nice knight sacrifice the World Champion scored the full point.

Game 1

The first game between Shirov and Anand

Following the success of previous editions, Castilla y León television is providing extensive coverage, including live connections. On the first day, this meant that the players were briefly interviewed, first Anand and then Shirov, live on television. We do have one, not unimportant quote from Shirov from his interview: "My eleventh move of the second game was improvised on the board." Quite a stunning remark, since the position after 11.Rd1 is well-known and was even on the board in one of the Anand-Kramnik games in Bonn 2008.

Game viewer

Game viewer by ChessTempo

As usual, the organizers took care of several parallel activities: simuls by Shirov, a lecture by Illescas on the Kasparov-Deep Blue historic match, another lecture class for the local young talents by the IM Sergio Estremera, a chess cinema week and the traditional Young Talents tournament.

Despite the big economic crisis, (even worsened by the E. coli outbreak, which has a devastating effect on Spanish agriculture) everything is sponsored by a balanced combination of public bodies and private companies, which have been loyal to the tournament for many years.


The sponsors shown behind the players

And one can notice this long tradition in several other aspects as well. I visited the event in 2009 and again everyone is staying in the same hotel, and having dinner in the same, small but cosy basement part of the restaurant. Last but not least, the red wine still tastes very nice!

Before the start of the first game the new mascot of the tournament took place at the board: Inquietín, a creation of The Restless Investor, which was added this year to the usual sponsors of the City of León.

Before the start of the first game the new mascot of the tournament took place at the board: Inquietín, a creation of The Restless Investor, which was added this year to the usual sponsors of the City of León.


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