Anand wins first semifinal of León Rapid

5/30/2008 – The XXI Magistral Ciudad de León rapid chess match started today, with four players competing: Vishy Anand, Vassily Ivanchuk, Alexei Shirov and Francisco Vallejo. The first semifinal over four games between Anand and Vallejo ended in a 2-2 tie, so that blitz tie-break games were required. Anand won the first and accepted a draw offer in the second in a totally won position. Illustrated report.

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XXI Magistral Ciudad de León

This rapid chess event is taking place in the Edificio de la Junta de Castilla y León, in the Spanish town of León. There are four players, who play two semi-final matches of four games each, on Friday and Saturday, May 30 and 31. The winners play the final on Sunday, June 1st 2008. Rate of play is 20 minutes for the entire game plus ten seconds increment for each move. In case of a draw there is a tiebreak with blitz games of five minutes. Games can be followed, with live commentary by GMs Miguel Illescas and Michael Rahal on the official tournament site, and on Playchess.com.

Participants

  1. Vishy Anand – India, reigning World Champion, highest ranked player in the world. Anand has won this tournament no less than seven times.

  2. Vassily Ivanchuk – Ukraine, one of the great originals of the chess world, who ranked number two in the world in the October 2007 rankings.

  3. Alexei Shirov – Spain, recently returned to the top ten in the world, Spain's strongest player for over a decade. Known as the “Leonardo da Vinci” of the chessboard thanks to his creative style.

  4. Francisco Vallejo Pons – Spain, Spanish Champion 2006 and the best native Spanish player in history. "Paco" won won the Pamplona tournament at the beginning of this year.

Semifinal one (Friday, May 30, 2008)

The first semifinal started with a draw in 56 moves. In game two Anand took the full point when Vallejo dropped a piece on move 38. In the third game the young Spanish master faced a Caro-Kann and nailed Anand with an advanced g-pawn. The fourth game was an 18-move draw. With the score tied tiebreak blitz games were required.

In the first blitz game the World Champion outplayed his opponent with the black pieces and forced his resignation after 58 moves. In the second Anand faced a classical Caro-Kann. He concentrated on a kingside attack, while Vallejo searched for mating threats after taking the a2-pawn with his queen. But Anand had worked it all out and in the final position, which was actually a forced mate for him, he pragmatically accepted the draw offer of his opponent to proceed to the final.


Press conference before the start of the event, with Francisco Vallejo, Press Chief GM Zenón Franco Ocampos, Vassily Ivanchuk, Vishy Anand and Alexei Shirov


The handshake at the start of game one between Francisco Vallejo and Vishy Anand


The inaugural move is made by Miguel Ignacio González, General Director of Sports of the Junta de Castilla y León


The winner of the first semifinal: World Champion Vishy Anand

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