June 2-6: Anand vs Shirov in Leon

| 0 | Chess Event Coverage
June 2-6: Anand vs Shirov in LeonThis year the traditional chess festival in Leon (Spain) will take place June 2-6. Instead of a knock-out with four players, this time only two players have been invited: Viswanathan Anand and Alexei Shirov. The two will play six games with 60 minutes plus 10 seconds increment per move.

Anand-Shirov: Rapid Art

The World Champion and his most creative opponent will play a match on June 2-6.

By LEONTXO GARCIA (Press Officer)

The four-time world champion Vishy Anand amazes by his prodigious speed to see great moves in a fraction of a second. Alexei Shirov, nicknamed the Leonardo da Vinci of chess for the exceptional beauty of many of his games, is one of the fans favorites among the top players. The Indian, 41, and the Spanish, 38, will play (match format) the 24th Ciudad de Leon Masters on June 2-6. As both are geniuses, the rapid art is guaranteed.

Only five players born before 1973 are among the world’s top 25 list on January 1. It is no coincidence that Anand and Shirov are two of them: both deserve to be called “genius”, no matter how high you set the bar for that adjective. Anand, The Rapid of Madras, has been world champion by three different formats: knockout system (Teheran 2000, he beat Shirov in the final); round robin (Mexico City 2007) and matches (Bonn 2008, against Kramnik; and Sofia 2010, against Topalov). Since 2000, when he lost the final, Shirov (born in Latvia, Spanish since 1996) has remained among the most desired stars for the tournament organizers because it is always a favorite for the public. The collection of his best games annotated, Fire on board, is an essential book for all chess lovers.

Last year's final in Leon

Last year's final in Leon between Aronian and Gelfand

Therefore, both players fit nicely with the wishes of the organizers for the twenty-fourth edition. The rules, written by the prestigious arbiter Joaquin Espejo, indicate that Anand and Shirov will play six games (Friday to Sunday, two per day) with 60 minutes per side plus ten seconds increment after each move in the magnificent Leon Auditorium. GM Miguel Illescas (eight times Spanish champion) and IM Michael Rahal will make the live commentary, and the Castilla and Leon TV has scheduled a special coverage, including live broadcasting of some games.

The Leon organizers, whose director is Marcelino Sion, maintain that social and professional chess should function like communicating doors. The parallel activities are consistent with that idea: 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, everything will be sponsored by a balanced combination of public bodies and private companies: a clear sign of how solid this tournament is.
In recent years the format in Leon always included four players, who played a knock-out. Last year Boris Gelfand beat Levon Aronian in the final; the other players were Vallejo and Dominguez. In 2009 Carlsen defeated Ivanchuk in a nerve-racking final that was decided in the Armageddon game. The other two players were Morozevich and Wang Yue.

Leon 2009: Magnus Carlsen, Leontxo Garcia and Vassily Ivanchuk

Leon 2009: Magnus Carlsen, Leontxo Garcia and Vassily Ivanchuk

Usually decreasing the number of the participants is the easiest way for tournament organizers to save money. Taking into account the difficult economic times in Spain, this would be the most logical explanation for the switch from four to two players in Leon.

It's not a good period for chess. Also this week the end of the Mainz Chess Classic was announced, and next month we'll see the last edition of the Amber tournament. That, by the way, is not related to the economic crisis, but a personal decision by the Van Oosterom family.

What about the Linares tournament? We've received many emails already from people wondering why they don't hear anything about it. This has to do with the local elections - the main reason for the city not to organize it right now. The latest news is that the organizers are still hoping to do it, probably in the second half of 2011. They're negotiating as we speak, and are trying to find dates. We'll keep you posted.
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