Leinier Dominguez wins Leon Masters

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
7/13/2020 – The Leon Masters came to an end on Sunday, with Leinier Dominguez beating Jaime Santos in the final of the three-day knockout to win the event. Dominguez and Santos came from defeating Parham Maghsoodloo and Alexei Shirov in the semifinals. Dominguez won game 3 in the deciding matchup and drew the rest to get the title. | Photo: Justin Kellar

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Local hero reaches the final

Leon is a city located in the north-west of Spain. The largest municipality of the province that bears the same name, it has a strong historical and architectural heritage. The city has also hosted what has already become a traditional chess festival for 33 years in a row.

Year after year, the organizers proudly invite the best player from the region, Jaime Santos Latasa. The young Leonese is currently ranked number eight in Spain and has proven once and again that he has what it takes to face the international stars that are invited to participate. After losing in a couple of semifinals on tiebreaks — including the time he resigned in a completely winning position — he reached the final of this year’s edition, knocking out living legend Alexei Shirov in the semis.

Santos then had to face tournament favourite Leinier Dominguez, who played his usual brand of principled, precise play to get a convincing 2½:1½ win in the final.

Dominguez came from eliminating defending champion Parham Maghsoodloo. The Iranian almost upset the Cuban-born grandmaster, as he bounced back from a 0:2 start to take the match to Armageddon. However, Dominguez chose black and drew the sudden-death decider to move on to the final.

Jaime Santos

Jaime Santos | Photo: Official site

Santos 3½ : 2½ Shirov

The Spanish representatives traded wins with white at the outset of their semi and drew the next two 20-minute encounters to take the match to blitz tiebreakers. Santos played the Exchange Slav for a third time and only managed a draw with white in the first 5-minute game. Then, the youngster repeated the Caro-Kann he had used in game 4 and a sharp struggle ensued. Shirov was in the driver’s seat, until he incorrectly gave up an exchange:


White needed to keep his material advantage with 35.Ra2 here, but Shirov went for the forcing 35.Rxb7+ instead. The game continued 35...Kxb7 36.h4 Re5 37.Rxe5 Bxe5 38.Nxd5, when Shirov perhaps only calculated 38...Bxd5 and not the strong 38...Ka6

The knights were exchanged soon after and an opposite-coloured bishops endgame appeared on the board. Although this endgame tends to lead to draws, in this particular position Black’s active king on the queenside was quick enough to win the pawn race. Santos had moved on to the final.


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Dominguez* 3 : 3 Maghsoodloo 

*Drew with black in Armageddon to reach the final

Defending champion Maghsoodloo was probably the toughest pairing rating favourite Dominguez could get in the first round. However, once the match started, it seemed like the Cuban-born star was going to easily prevail over his young opponent — Dominguez got clean wins in games 1 and 2.

But the Iranian is known for his fierce fighting spirit. He had an inferior position in the third game, but created enough of a mess on the board to get his opponent to falter. He won again in game 4, equalizing the score.

In the blitz tiebreakers, Maghsoodloo won a third game in a row, but saw his momentum come to a halt when Dominguez won game 6 in style:


There is a mate-in-one threat (Bb5#), except that the bishop is pinned on the first rank. The solution? 37.a8Q removing the defender — 37...Rxa8 38.Bb5#.

Dominguez held a draw with black in the Armageddon decider, surviving a scare and qualifying to Sunday’s final.


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Dominguez 2½ : 1½ Santos

The final was the one match that did not go to tiebreaks. Games 1 and 2 were complex draws following sharp theoretical opening lines. Dominguez played the Nimzo-Indian Defence with black in game 3 and saw his opponent creating weaknesses around his king. Already in a superior position, the American played a good-looking and effective exchange sacrifice:


Black decisively gains control of the light squares with 27...Rxd5 28.exd5 Bxd5. Dominguez elegantly converted his advantage into the deciding win — 29.Qd1 Nf3+ 30.Bxf3 Rxe1+ 31.Bxe1 Bxf3 32.Qd3 g4:


Santos prevented Black from taking his queen to h6 immediately with 33.Qd2, but after 33...Qf5 there is no good way to avoid ...Qh5-...Qh1#.

A draw in game 4 gave Dominguez tournament victory.


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Carlos Colodro is a Hispanic Philologist from Bolivia. He works as a freelance translator and writer since 2012. A lot of his work is done in chess-related texts, as the game is one of his biggest interests, along with literature and music.


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