Santos Beats Shirov, Reaches Leon Masters Final
Jaime Santos Latasa. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Santos Beats Shirov, Reaches Leon Masters Final

| 11 | Chess Event Coverage

The Leon Chess Festival began on Friday with the first semifinal of the Masters tournament. GM Jaime Santos reached Sunday's final after beating GM Alexei Shirov 3.5-2.5.

The Leon Chess Festival is being held for the 33rd time this year, but for the first time online due to the coronavirus. The format of the main event, the Masters, wasn't changed otherwise: two semifinals on Friday and Saturday followed by a final on Sunday, with a rapid time control (20 minutes plus a 10-second increment).

How to watch?
The games of the Leon Masters can be found here as part of our live events platform. GMs Simon Williams and Daniel Naroditsky are providing daily commentary on with games starting at 8:30 a.m. Pacific / 17:30 Central Europe.

The live broadcast of day one.

With the games played on the live server, Friday's match saw Shirov, the legend from Latvia but playing for Spain, facing 24-year-old grandmaster Santos from San Sebastian. It was a great match with lots of dynamic chess from both sides.

Santos started the first game with the Exchange Slav (and would do so two more times), and Shirov brought some fire to the board with a remarkable exchange sacrifice. A highly tactical endgame followed that was sadly spoiled by a blunder at the end.

Shirov struck back immediately as he basically refuted Santos's odd sideline in a Ruy Lopez on the board. He ended up with an extra pawn in a rook endgame and converted it with an almost perfect technique.

Alexei Shirov. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Two draws followed when the players moved to a quicker time control: five minutes plus a three-second increment. The first blitz game also ended in a draw, which included one tactical moment, missed by both players, right after the opening. Shirov did notice it after playing his 16th move.

The sixth game saw a repeat of an Advance Caro-Kann from game four with Shirov doing well initially in the early middlegame. However, soon after the g-file was opened, it was Santos's turn to sac an exchange, but while doing so he missed a big chance.

Then, in an endgame that was slightly better for White, another exchange was sac'ed, but this time it was not correct. Shirov had misjudged the resulting opposite-colored bishop endgame and ended up losing it and the match.

Santos Shirov Leon Masters 2020
The moment Shirov took on b7.

Shirov said he was better in both Caro-Kann games, but he underestimated White's chances in all three Exchange Slavs. And he reflected more generally on playing online:

"I got the invitation for this tournament two months ago. I realized that I have to at least practice a little bit online. So I played some tournaments, and what I noticed is that online you play even more irregular than in normal chess because in normal tournaments somehow you tend to concentrate for every game. Online, you're obviously playing from home and you're in a relaxed mood, and sometimes it works well and sometimes it doesn't. I realized it's very difficult to control your state of mind."

Santos will now play the winner of the other semifinal between GM Leinier Dominguez and GM Parham Maghsoodloo, which starts on Saturday at 8:30 a.m. Pacific / 17:30 Central Europe with commentary at

Santos-Shirov | All games

The Masters tournament is part of a bigger festival that runs for a whole week. There is also an open blitz tournament (July 14-15) where the eight top finishers will qualify for a knockout final, a simultaneous exhibition with 25 boards by Dominguez on July 13, and a closed tournament (July 16-18 with four of the most promising upcoming stars of the chess world.

Find all info about these events here.

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