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So Beats Anand In Final, Clinches Leon

So Beats Anand In Final, Clinches Leon

In a tournament where Wesley So committed one of the most bizarre blunders of recent years, he ended up winning the Leon tournament by beating Viswanathan Anand in the final.

So brought his sunglasses to Leon to beat Anand in the final. | Photo: Official Facebook page.

Friday, Saturday and Sunday saw the 30th edition of the Torneo Magistral de Ajedrez Ciudad de León. It's good to see that this annual, small Spanish tournament in the city of León, about 300km northwest of Madrid, just keeps on going.

As always, the setup in Leon was two semifinals and a final, with four games at 20 minutes plus a 10-second increment, and if necessary two blitz games with five minutes and a three-second increment followed by an Armageddon game.

In the first semifinal, Wesley So faced Jan-Krzysztof Duda of Poland. Their first game saw a truly bizarre blunder, in the same, rare category as Vladimir Kramnik's famous mate in one vs Deep Fritz, back in 2006.


At the press conference So explained that he expected his opponent to take on d2 first, and only then on f3. Somehow he played according to his expectations instead of reality!

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Alfonso Lahuerta Izquierdo, the Director-General of Sports of the Castilla y León region, performed the first move. | Photo: Official Facebook page.

A tough blow for So, who came to Leon straight from Leuven together with his foster parent Lotis Key. But, after drawing game two, So avoided an upset by winning games three and also game four.

Duda had some winning chances in a variation that was played a few times by a young Bobby Fischer, but perhaps the Polish GM tempted Caissa by deviating from the American legend's play... 

The next day it was time for Vishy Anand to enter the arena, in this case Leon's 1,200-seat auditorium. The Indian chess legend is still very popular in Spain, where he has lived for many years until he moved back to Chennai some years ago.

Anand was trying to win his 10th(!) title, so you could say that he's to Leon what Kramnik is to Dortmund. The first hurdle, local IM Jaime Santos Latasa, wasn't too big, you would guess. But Anand's opponent once again proved to be a talented player, and held his opponent to 2-2 in the rapid games.

Santos, who is from Leon, first held the draw as Black, showing energetic play in a Breyer Ruy Lopez. He then was blunt enough to take the lead in the match, with excellent endgame play:

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Excellent play by local hero Jaime Santos. | Photo: Official Facebook page.

Anand struck back immediately with the white pieces. His 1.Nf3 and 2.e3 might have been inspired by Kramnik, and perhaps was an attempt to avoid the main theoretical waters. With a move transposition the players reached a Caro-Kann where White isn't supposed to have much, but Anand nicely outplayed his opponent this time.

After another draw, Anand then won both blitz games to reach the final, where he faced So, on Sunday. This match also went to the blitz, since all rapid games ended in draws. Game two saw a miraculous escape by the five-time world champion, just unbelievable.

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Anand vs So in the final. | Photo: Official Facebook page.

So won the tournament by winning the first blitz game, and drawing the second. After a long period of chess for him, where he played Norway Chess, Paris, Leuven and Leon, the American number one finally returns home for a bit of rest, until the Sinqufield Cup. Anand will be there too.

A nice video presentation of the final, by the organizers.

As always, besides the main event there were lots of chess activities during the whole week in Leon, such as an open tournament, simuls and lectures. It's really a nice chess week to visit, if you happen to be in Spain during this tournament next year.

Only one negative remark can be made really, and this is about the online coverage. Earlier this week Chess.com criticised Agon for their disappointing website and video coverage of the FIDE Grand Prix tournaments. To be fair, it must be noted that the user experience for watching the Leon tournament on their website wasn't great either.

The commentary (Spanish only) saw very bad lighting and a strange placement of other elements in the video. More importantly, the game viewer on the official website wasn't functioning properly.

Why is this author so picky on these things? Well, because he's been around for a while, following chess events online since the late 1990s. This stuff was disappointing back then, but to see the same amateurish online coverage of our beloved sport two decades later is hard to grasp.

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