Peaceful start in Linares

| 0 | Chess Event Coverage
Three draws in first round LinaresThe Linares tournament started peacefully today, with draws on all three boards. Topalov surprised Vallejo with a Breyer against the Spaniard's Ruy Lopez and easily equalized. Grischuk needed a lot of time on the clock, but was also doing fine with Black against Aronian in a 4.f3 Nimzo ending. Gelfand had some advantage against Gashimov's Benoni but just before the first time control a drawn ending was reached.

The 27th Torneo Internacional de Ajedrez “Ciudad de Linares" takes place February 12-25 in Linares, Andalucia, Spain. As a result of the financial crisis, the event went back to the (nowadays almost universal) formula of six players, double round-robin.

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; rest days are on the 17th and the 22nd. The rate of play is 2 hours for 40 moves, then 1 hour for 20, then 20 minutes for the rest of the game, wit 30 seconds increment starting from move 61. The Sofia rules for offering a draw apply in Linares for the first time.

Linares 2010 | Pairings and results

Round 1 report by Rick Goetzee

The famous Linares tournament is on its way again. It is true that the event has lost some of its aura and some say that Corus has taken over as the Wimbledon of chess, but it is still one of the greatest tournaments around. And not only because of its history. It's quite remarkable how the organisers have kept the event alive through great adversity and without corporate sponsorship. In the last year they had to deal with the economic recession and voices in the local government challenging the decision to invest in a chess tournament. Also the plan to host the first half of the tournament in Dubai fell through. Despite all this, the Linares organizers have secured this famous event for another year.

The field once consisted of 14 players, but since 2006 (after Kasparov retired) there have been eight players, competing in a double round robin. This year, because of financial constraints, it went down to six. While this is a pity it puts it on par with the Grand Slam tournaments in Sofia and Nanjing. Only Corus still has 14 players in their A-group.

One of the consequences of a relatively small field is that the tournament is very strong. In Wijk aan Zee there were a few players (predominantly the local ones) who acted as the rabbits in the field, as GM Joel Benjamin referred to them on ICC's Chess.FM. In Linares the only local player is Vallejo Pons but with a rating of 2705 he can hardly be called a rabbit.


Although he has always been a top player, it's been already 13 years since Boris Gelfand has last played in Linares. In the polls before the start of the tournament Aronian was the favourite, undoubtedly because Topalov will have the upcoming world championship match in the back of his mind.

The opening ceremony on Friday was short but entertaining with flamenco dancers and Spanish traditional music. The first round started on Saturday at 4pm which is quite late compared to other tournaments. It must have to do with the great Spanish tradition of 'la siesta'.

All games were drawn in the first round. Vallejo-Topalov lasted 41 moves after a Ruy Lopez opening, Breyer variation. This solid system isn't something Topalov regularly plays, and Vallejo was probably not well prepared for it. The Spaniard chose an old system but got nothing, and after many exchanges Topalov couldn't play for a win either.


Aronian-Grischuk was a Nimzo-Indian with 4.f3, the system popularized by Fritz Sämisch. White's move 8.Qd2 led the game into a position that was popular in the 50s (!) and Grischuk used a lot of time in the opening, but he was able to solve all his problems. In fact if anyone was better it was Black, who could have tried 19...N7e5 if he'd had more time. After 26 moves the players shook hands. Aronian only used 40 minutes for the whole game.


The most interesting game of the day was Gelfand-Gashimov. The Azerbaijan GM went for his favourite Benoni, an opening we don't see very often in the elite tournaments. According to GM Benjamin this is a sign of the new philosophy of modern top players. Chess is becoming more of a sport than a science. A fight over the board is preferred over home preparation.

Well, in any case Gelfand was, as so often, very well prepared. The World Cup winner went for the 7.Bf4 line, and knew all ins and outs of Gashimov's pawn sacrifice on move 9. Gashimov always seemed to have compensation, but was it enough? White's bishops looked very strong. Eventually Black won his pawn back and the game ended after 54 moves with a repetition of moves in a knight and bishop ending.


Photos © María José Sánchez Rivera

The pairings for the 2nd round on Sunday are Topalov-Gashimov, Grischuk-Gelfand and Vallejo-Aronian.

Games round 1 with brief annotations

Game viewer by ChessTempo


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