Back in León: Gelfand to look for third straight victory in 4-player knockout

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
7/5/2023 – The 36th edition of the “Magistral Ciudad de León” will take place on July 6-10. Once again, a 4-player knockout will be the main attraction in the city located in the northwest of the Iberian Peninsula. Boris Gelfand will attempt to defend his title against Francisco Vallejo, Nikita Vitiugov and local star Jaime Santos. Gelfand defeated Vishy Anand in the final of last year’s edition.

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Gelfand, Vallejo, Vitiugov and Santos

The Ciudad de León Masters tournament, a traditional event in the yearly international circuit, celebrates its thirty-sixth edition in 2023. A 4-player knockout will once again be the event’s format. This system intends to avoid the agreement of fightless draws.

After the editions of 2020 and 2021 took place online due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the festival once again took place as an in-person event last year. Returning to the usual format allowed the organizers to put forth multiple activities for children, amateurs and chess enthusiasts. Those attending the festival will be able to participate in conferences, street activities and simultaneous exhibitions.

Four strong grandmasters will participate in the festival’s main event. Three matches will take place, one per day, from Friday to Sunday. The semifinals will be played on Friday and Saturday, and the two winners will face each other on Sunday. Boris Gelfand, winner of the two previous editions, will be joined by Francisco Vallejo (winner of the Masters in 2012), debutant NIkita Vitiugov and local star Jaime Santos.

Each match will consist of four rapid games (20 minutes for the game plus 10-second increments from move one). In case of a draw, two blitz games will follow (5 minutes + 3-second increments); if the tie remains, the match winner will be decided in Armageddon (White gets 6 minutes, Black gets 5 minutes and draw odds).

Viswanathan Anand, Boris Gelfand

Vishy Anand and Boris Gelfand were the finalists in 2022

Gelfand beats Anand to win the 2022 edition

Press release by the organizers

In one of the most exciting finals in recent years, Israeli GM Boris Gelfand won the blitz tiebreak against big favourite Viswanathan Anand to grab the Leon Masters title.

The match was very entertaining and included a number of tough strategic battles. Anand took the lead by winning the first game with the black pieces and everything seemed to be in his favour, but Gelfand counterattacked in the second game, also with the black pieces, thus equalizing the match and silencing the voices that considered him already defeated.

In the third game, the player from Minsk overwhelmed the player from Chennai in a typical Catalan in which he sacrificed a pawn early on in exchange for the initiative. The tables had turned, and a draw was enough for Gelfand to win the tournament. However, playing with Black against Anand has never been easy, and the Indian again levelled the score.

Everything was to be decided in the blitz tiebreak at the devilish pace of 5 minutes for the game with 3 seconds increment after each move. In the blitz, Gelfand proved to be stronger. Despite not obtaining good positions in the openings, the Israeli managed, by playing energetically, to create difficult-to-solve problems for his opponent.

Gelfand won both games and was crowned winner of the 2022 Leon Masters after a truly unforgettable final match.

All games


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.