Linares 1: Leko takes early lead

by ChessBase
2/19/2004 – The action on the scoreboard was in Radjabov-Leko. The Hungarian refuted the teen's aggressive play and converted an endgame. Shirov-Kasparov was a fantastic duel that will give analysts headaches. Vallejo-Kramnik was a non-game draw. Hundreds at listened to live commentary from Mig Greengard and special guest Nigel Short. Full report and analysis.

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Linares 2004 Round 1

21st International Chess Tournament
Linares Feb. 19 – March 5, 2004

Round 1 (Thursday, February 19, 2004)
Francisco Vallejo
Kramnik, Vladimir
Alexei Shirov
Garry Kasparov
Teimour Radjabov
Peter Leko
Games – Report
Round 2 (Friday, February 20, 2004)
Kasparov, Garry
Teimour Radjabov
Vladimir Kramnik
Alexei Shirov
Veselin Topalov
Francisco Vallejo
Games – Report

How about we have a game between Alexei Shirov and Garry Kasparov to start off EVERY tournament? Shirov would have more chances to finally score his first win over the #1 and Kasparov would enjoy the Elo gains until that finally happened.

Along with Judit Polgar, Kasparov and Shirov are the most unrelentingly tactical players in the elite. Today in Linares they produced one of the most complicated games we've seen in quite a long time.

Kasparov paused for a moment before playing his trademark Najdorf Sicilian, perhaps to make Shirov sweat a bit thinking about their last Linares game. In 2002 Kasparov surprised the Spanish-Latvian (Splatvian?) with the Sveshnikov and won in devastating style.

This time they revisited a line they played up to move 17 in a rapid game four years ago. That's as far as they got in 2000; this time they continued on, following Polgar-Shirov, Linares 2001.

Shirov diverged with 21.Qe2 threatening to capture on b4, which Kasparov promptly ignored! There was great consternation among the Fritz-worshipping spectators when the evaluation of their computer god jumped to +2 for White after this pawn sacrifice.

Shirov took the pawn but immediately gave it back to get his king to relative safety. Kasparov kept the heat on and it took precise play from Shirov to hold the balance.

Diagram They key moment looks like move 31 when we expected 31...Qe3+ with good chances in the endgame.

Kasparov's 31...Ng4 allowed Shirov to make Black force a draw after 32.Rxh6 Nxh6 33.Qxb2 Qe3+ with a perpetual. Thanks to both players! Viva Linares!

Check out the online replay page for a huge number of lines we looked at during the live commentary at

Peter Leko duly punished Teimour Radjabov's risky pawn pushes. While it was cheering to see the teen (not Leko anymore) play aggressively with white, he got a little carried away. Sacrificing material against Leko is still one of the surest ways we know of to lose a chess game.

Leko can't build momentum after his black win because he has the bye tomorrow. Radjabov won't have much of a chance to recover; he has black against a very motivated Kasparov. Radjabov beat Kasparov with black here last year in a game heard round the world. Topalov gets into the action on Friday.

Paco Vallejo and Vladimir Kramnik drew in 18 moves with the excitement only two Berlin Defense players can bring to the board. Yawn.

The Spanish newspaper website providing the official coverage is amusingly jingoistic in their coverage of the local players so far. Shirov and Vallejo drawing with white against Kasparov and Kramnik is hailed in the report as the greatest triumph of the Madre Patria since Pizarro conquered the Inca with four horses and a slingshot. And they are right!

Perhaps the biggest news to come out of the first round was the reestablishment of formal diplomatic relations between Alexei Shirov and Garry Kasparov. They shook hands before their game for the first time in years.

There had already been bad blood after their aborted 1998 world championship match. Then Shirov intimated in an open letter that the close relationship between Kasparov and Kramnik made any result in their 2000 match suspect. Kasparov accused him of accusing him of cheating (umm, potentially cheating) and the handshake boycott had begun.

If you think this sounds childish you won't get much disagreement around here, or even from the players at this point! No word yet on the expression on Shirov's face when Kasparov came to the board second and stuck his hand out before sitting down, but he did get his hand up in time.


The first day of the super-tournament in Linares produced a lot of excitement on the server. Hundreds watched the games while Mig Greengard did live radio commentary from New York. It is quite an experience. The three games are carried on separate boards, while the commentator picks one or more of them and annotates them on his own analysis board, where he can move pieces, start analysis lines, draw colored arrows or mark squares while he is talking. During the broadcast GM Nigel Short joined in the discussion, by phone from Greece. For the following rounds we have other interesting VIP guests lined up to spice up the show.

Links to previous Linares reports


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