Topalov beats Gelfand, wins Linares outright

| 0 | Chess Event Coverage
Complicated tiebreak rules made all kinds of scenarios possible, but in the end it couldn't be more clear. By beating Boris Gelfand in a tense game, Veselin Topalov won the 2010 Linares tournament outright as Alexander Grischuk drew with Francisco Vallejo. After 9 draws, Aronian won his last game against Gashimov. Full report.

The 27th Torneo Internacional de Ajedrez “Ciudad de Linares” took place February 12-25 in Linares, Andalucia, Spain. It was a six-player, double round-robin, with Veselin Topalov (2805), Levon Aronian (2781), Boris Gelfand (2761), Vugar Gashimov (2759), Alexander Grischuk (2736) and Francisco Vallejo Pons (2705). The rate of play was 2 hours for 40 moves, then 1 hour for 20, then 20 minutes for the rest of the game, with 30 seconds increment starting from move 61. The Sofia rules for offering a draw applied in Linares for the first time.

Round 10

Three weeks before he turns 35, Veselin Topalov won his first Linares tournament ever. (In 2005 the Bulgarian defeated Garry Kasparov in what turned out to be The Boss' last tournament game. The two finished shared first but Kasparov had the better tiebreak.) He defeated Boris Gelfand in 62 moves, after the 2009 World Cup winner erred in a drawn rook ending. If the two had split the point, Alexander Grischuk would have retained the title he won in Linares last year. The Russian had escaped with a draw against Vallejo earlier, and would have won on tiebreak. The two would have finished with the same individual result, the same number of victories and the same sum of points against players who scored 50% or more (only Aronian did so, and both players drew twice with him). It would have been tiebreak number 4 that brought the decision: "Remove the points scored against the player/group of players at the bottom of the standings." This would have been both Gashimov and Vallejo finishing on 4/10, so from Grischuk's total 2.5 points would be deducted, and from Topalov's total 3 points. Nobody expected Gelfand to lose the rook ending, which picture changed completely.

Alexander Grischuk, seemingly safe of another victory, live on the Chess.FM show, talking to Mig Greengard and Alex Yermolinsky.

Gelfand shouldn't have lost that ending, but one could also say that Grischuk shouldn't have drawn that middlegame. At my question whether he had escaped gainst Vallejo, Grischuk immediately answered with a firm "Yes." He thought that, at least for the moment, Vallejo had "refuted the variation". "I didn't play in the most precize manner and was very close to losing. But then he made a few mistakes, and I am very surprised I managed to draw so easily, from the position I got."

The Topalov-Gelfand game also left some questions unanswered. It was especially strange why Topalov, after he had trapped one of Gelfand's rooks, gave back his exchange so quickly. "I just thought it was winning, simply," he told me. "It looked easier to me to win the rook ending a pawn up and the king far away from its pawns, it looked to me winning, but the mistakes I made proved it was not true."

Aronian had broken his personal record of eight consecutive draws in one tournament by adding a ninth yesterday, but today he decided it was enough. In fact it was good old Aronian back again, the one we know from e.g. the 2008-2009 FIDE Grand Prix Series. In yet another Benoni, he outplayed Gashimov with very powerful manoeuvres. Armenia's number one won't be a 100% satisfied, but at least he leaves Linares in style.

Gelfand, Gashimov and Vallejo all ended on 4/9. Although he was last seeded, especially the Spaniard has been very unlucky and should have scored more than that.

Topalov narrowed the gap with Carlsen on the rating list to just one point. His play in Linares was at times highly creative, and at times just sloppy, but never without his trademark fighting spirit. His match against Anand starts in two months from now.

The closing ceremony is tomorrow at 12.30 CET in Teatro Cervantes. I'll film a bit more, and add the footage to my interview with Veselin Topalov. I'll post that tomorrow afternoon.

Games round 10

Game viewer by ChessTempo

Update: This morning I chatted with Vugar Gashimov at breakfast and we talked about the Benoni. In his opinion (which should more or less be taken for granted as he's by far the strongest player who plays the opening regularly) nobody really understands the opening, since computers give White a plus everywhere. He thought Black was clearly better if he had immediately played Nf6 instead of Kh8 in the opening, something even Anish Giri had missed, apparently. Food for thought...

Linares 2010 | Pairings and results

Linares 2010 | Round 10 (Final) Standings

Topalov interviewed by Leontxo Garcia


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