Linares starts in three days

| 0 | Chess Event Coverage
Ciudad de LinaresThe second Grand Slam tournament of the year will officially be opened on Friday, February 12th. The first round of the Torneo Internacional de Ajedrez "Ciudad de Linares" starts 16:00 CET on Saturday the 13th. Topalov, Aronian, Gelfand, Gashimov, Grischuk and Vallejo play. Who do you think will win?

The 27th Linares tournament takes place February 12th-25th in Linares, Spain. As a result of the financial crisis, the event goes back to the (nowadays almost universal) formula of six players, double round-robin. Also in 2000 and 2001 there were only six players. In the years 2002-2005 the tournament had 7 players, and in 2006-2009 there were 8.

This year Veselin Topalov (2805), Levon Aronian (2781), Boris Gelfand (2761), Vugar Gashimov (2759), Alexander Grischuk (2736) and Francisco Vallejo Pons (2705) play. The rounds start at 16:00 CET. The opening is on Friday the 12th, the closing on Friday the 26th, and rest days are on the 17th and the 22nd. ChessVibes will bring on-the-spot coverage with on-site reports during the first half, and coverage by yours truly during the final week.

TopalovVeselin Topalov will be back behind the chess board after almost four months of absence. For the Bulgarian it will be the first tournament since Nanjing 2009, where he finished second on 5.5/10, 2.5 points behind sensational winner Magnus Carlsen. After that Topalov only played four games at the European Team Championship in Novi Sad, end October, where he scored 2.5/4. The big question will be whether the now world's number 2 will be able to fight for first and at the same time save his biggest opening novelties for the upcoming match against Anand. His regular second Ivan Cheparinov is currently playing at the Aeroflot Open in Moscow, but Topalov is taking Leinier Dominguez, a strong theoretician himself, to Linares.

AronianLast year Levon Aronian scored 6.5/14, which meant a shared 5th place in the standings with Radjabov and Wang Yue. However, he continued strongly by retaining his title at the Amber tournament and then winning his second FIDE Grand Prix in Nalchik, and with it the GP Series. Aronian's last event was the World Team Championship in Bursa last month, where he scored 6/9. Before that, at the Tal Memorial, he scored 5/9.

GelfandBoris Gelfand is the only player older than 40 in Linares, but the Israeli grandmaster has proven many times already that experience can still beat youth. As the top seed, he won the FIDE World Cup in December in Khanty-Mansiysk, beating Ruslan Ponomariov in the final. This earned Gelfand a spot in the Linares tournament in fact, because already before the World Cup the organizers decided to invite the winner.

GashimovFor Vugar Gashimov Linares will be the first super-GM tournament, although he has clearly shown already to be a world-class grandmaster, especially in the FIDE Grand Prix Series. As a result, Gashimov is currently the world's number 7 player and the highest rated player in Azerbaijan (although in the live list Mamedyarov has surpassed him again).

GrischukAlexander Grischuk is defending his title in Linares. Last year he won the event on tiebreak, finishing first together with Vassily Ivanchuk on 8/14. (The Ukrainian’s SB was higher and he left the tournament undefeated, but Grischuk was declared winner due to having more wins.) Grischuk played well at the World Team Championship, where he scored 4.5/7 (and defeated Gashimov in a wild game). Before that he won the Superfinal of the Russian Championship with 6.5/9.

VallejoLocal hero Francisco "Paco" Vallejo, another second of Topalov, didn't have to travel too much. His last tournament was in Gibraltar, where he finished on an undefeated 7.5/10 and eventually lost to Adams in the play-off final. In the Bundesliga he scored two draws and three wins for Baden-Baden this season, but it remains to be seen how he will do against top 10 players.

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