Anand Wins Leon, Beats Wei Yi In Final

Anand Wins Leon, Beats Wei Yi In Final

| 13 | Chess Event Coverage

On Sunday Vishy Anand defeated Wei Yi in the final to clinch the title at the Masters Tournament in León. The Chinese GM had won the previous two editions.

This year the tournament was overshadowed by the action in Paris, but not only in the French capital some high-level speed chess was played. We're talking about the annual Torneo Magistral de Ajedrez Ciudad de León, held Friday-Sunday in the city in the north-west of Spain.

Already in its 29th year, the format was the same as in recent editions: four players, two semi-finals on Friday and Saturday and a final on Sunday — all played over four games.

The time control was 20 minutes plus 10 seconds increment. An eventual tiebreak would consist of two games of 5 minutes plus 3 seconds increment, followed by an Armageddon game with 6 minutes for White and 5 for Black, who had draw odds.

This year the players were GM Vishy Anand of India, GM Wei Yi of China (who won in 2014 and 2015!), and GM David Anton of Spain & IM Jaime Santos Latasa (both Spain).

Santos was the real local hero in this tournament; he's actually from León. It was the first time in 18 years that a player from the city took part in the tournament, after Marcelino Sión previously (who is now one of the organizers). 

Turning 20 next month, Santos was Spanish Champion U10, U12, U14 and U16. He tied for third place at the 2014 European U18 Championship.

Semi-final 1: Anand-Anton 2.5-1.5

The first semi-final, on Friday afternoon, was played between Anand and Anton. After a balanced draw in a 3.Bb5+ Sicilian, the five-time world champion was the first to open the score in game two.

The 29th Leon tournament started with a draw between Anton and Anand. | Photo Leon Masters.

Anton played the Dutch creatively, combining the Leningrad with the Stonewall variation. But Anand didn't stay behind on the creativity front and came up with an amazing rook capture with which he sacrificed an exchange. The way it went, Anand ended up with an extra pawn and converted it nicely.

Another draw would bring the Indian GM into the final, but Anton had other plans. The 20-year-old Spaniard couldn't create a huge upset but at least he was able to leave the tournament with one victory against a chess legend.

It was a 5.Bf4 Queen's Gambit Declined where Anand equalized with standard play (trading the bishops on c7 followed by the ...e5 break is exactly what you want) but then he suddenly got his rook trapped.

A slip of the finger from Anand in game three. | Photo Leon Masters.

But in the fourth game Anand looked fully concentrated again. He outplayed his 26 years younger opponent in a Queen's Indian this time and perhaps could have finished the game earlier, but then we wouldn't have seen the final finesse.


The press conference with GM Miguel Illescas and his
wife IM Olga Alexandrova. | Photo Leon Masters.

Semi-final 2: Wei Yi-Santos 2.5-1.5

A strong Chinese grandmaster against a young Spanish IM? You might have expected a walk-over, but in fact Santos held is own pretty well. He managed to draw three of the four games, of which the first was the most interesting.

The Leonese grandmaster managed to surprise his Chinese opponent in an old line of the Nimzo-Indian; it was first played in the 1960s. Recently Peter Leko had it in several games (he drew four times with it).

Wei Yi needed a lot of time but was under quite some pressure. Eventually he solved all problems and even won a pawn, but couldn't win it with the remaining time he had.

The decisive game in this mini-match was the second; a Sicilian Scheveningen that started as a 6.g3 Najdorf. Black's knight maneuver to g6 made this typical middlegame slightly different, and in fact it didn't really solve the opening problems. Eventually Wei won a pawn, and this time he had enough time to convert.

Final: Anand-Wei Yi 2.5-1.5

And so the organizers and spectators got the final they had anticipated and hoped for: Vishy Anand vs Wei Yi. This one also saw just one decisive game; Anand won the first in a Giuoco Piano where apparently there's still something new under the sun — the position after White's 11th move looks completely normal but Nf1-g3 there turns out to be the novelty. Anand kept an advantage and won a good game, although it looks like he missed a fairly easy win at some point.

Anand took an early lead in the final. | Photo Leon Masters.

Anand then held the second game to a draw fairly comfortably. The third was more interesting and just like in his match with Santos, Wei wasn't afraid to enter the exact same variation. On move 11 Anand sacrificed a pawn (it's hard to imagine he blundered it?) and got good play for it. And some point he missed that Wei could reach a promising ending, but Anand defended well to hold it.

The last game wasn't too bad either; also here Anand was enough in control to draw without problems.

“I always feel at home here,” said Anand at the closing ceremony. No wonder; the Indian GM won the tournament a record nine times (1996, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2011, 2016). He will now travel to Leuven, Belgium to join the Grand Chess Tour.

More from PeterDoggers
Aleksandar Matanovic (1930-2023)

Aleksandar Matanovic (1930-2023)

Row Over Freak Storm Mars Dutch Women's Championship; Roebers (17) Wins 1st Title

Row Over Freak Storm Mars Dutch Women's Championship; Roebers (17) Wins 1st Title