Leon rapid takes off today

| 0 | Chess Event Coverage
Leon rapid takes off todayVery few top tournaments have been played for 23 years in a row, like the City of Leon (Spain), where chess has strong social roots that not even the financial crisis has broken. Four stars: Levon Aronian (Armenia), Boris Gelfand (Israel), Leinier Dominguez (Cuba) and Paco Vallejo (Spain), will give a vibrant show, again at the Auditorium in Leon, Spain with live TV and internet coverage (June, 4-7).

By Leontxo Garcia

Garry Kasparov said in 1998: “Leon is a symbol of the chess avant-garde”. The central strand of this tournament has always been the innovation, in order to make it attractive to the general public: electronic boards, live internet broadcast with high quality commentators (seven times Spanish champion GM Miguel Illescas and IM Michael Rahal) and earphones for the public.

The two main novelties in 2009 were a big success, and therefore will be repeated in 2010: the excellent Auditorium will be the venue, and the Castilla and Leon TV has scheduled a special coverage, including live broadcasting of some games.

Such an elegant stage requires great actors, as the four already engaged for 2010. Levon Aronian, current Grand Prix champion, is one of the Big Five beyond any doubt due to a very universal style, pretty uncomfortable for his opponents, and comes from a country where chess is as popular as football.


Boris Gelfand, current World Cup champion, has demonstrated that, in top chess, being older than 40 doesn’t necessarily imply being on the decline, if you combine outstanding talent with huge homework.


Over the last two years, Leinier Dominguez has made clear he’s ready to stay at thetop of chess for a long time, thanks to his excellent preparation, professionalism and cold blood.


In 2009, Paco Vallejo went over the 2700 Elo points mark, and his bravery and creativity at the recent Linares tournament, where he was praised by all his opponents, indicate his ceiling is still far away.


The tournament rules, written by the renowned arbiter Joaquin Espejo, state the two strongest players (Aronian and Gelfand) can only meet in the final. Their respective opponents became known after the drawing of lots, which took place on Thursday, June 3rd at the Conde Luna hotel.

Press conference and drawing of lots

The semi-finals will be: Vallejo-Gelfand (Friday 16.30 CET)


and Dominguez-Aronian (Saturday, 16.30 CET).


Four games will be played in every match, with 20 minutes per player plus 10 additional seconds after each move. If necessary, blitz tie-breaks (five minute games) will decide.

The Leon organizers, whose director is Marcelino Sion, maintain that social and professional chess should function like communicating doors. Even more now, when the latest scientific studies indicate that the frequent practice of chess improves the delay of brain aging, and therefore could be very useful to prevent Alzheimer’s disease, apart from what we already know since almost a century ago: chess teaches how to think.

The parallel activities are consistent with that idea: a simul by Aronian, a lecture class by Illescas, another lecture on “Chess as a social tool” by journalist Leontxo Garcia, a chess cinema week and a 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.

The four participants in Leon this year


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