This weekend: Magistral Ciudad de León

by Antonio Pereira
7/5/2019 – The 32nd edition of the "Magistral Ciudad de León" will take place this weekend, with the main event — a four-player knock-out tournament — starting today, July 5th. This year's participants are Vassily Ivanchuk, Parham Maghsoodloo, Nihal Sarin and Jaime Santos. Besides the GM event, an open tournament, a blitz event, a scholastic meeting and many other chess-related side activities kicked off on Thursday. | Photos: Archive

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A long-standing tradition

The first edition of the "Magistral Ciudad León" was played on 1988, with Chilean grandmaster Javier Campos becoming the champion. He could scarcely have imagined that the tournament would become a tradition that has kept going, uninterrupted, for 31 years. The list of winners now includes Alexei Shirov, Veselin Topalov, Garry Kasparov, Vishy Anand (nine-time winner), Vladimir Kramnik, Magnus Carlsen and Wesley So, just to name a few.

Back in 2008, first place went to Vassily Ivanchuk, who now returns to León as the rating favourite. He will be joined by three ambitious youngsters: current world junior champion Parham Maghsoodloo from Iran, 14-year-old Indian prodigy Nihal Sarin and local rising star Jaime Santos Latasa.

Two semi-final matches will take place on Friday and Saturday. The pairings were decided on Thursday, during the opening ceremony. Ivanchuk will have white against Sarin and Maghsoodloo takes white versus Santos.

The winners will then play the final on Sunday, July 7th. Each match will consist of four rapid games (20 minutes for the whole game, with 10-second increments from move one), which, in case of a draw, will be followed by blitz encounters (5 minutes + 3-second increments).

The playing hall will be set up on the "Auditorio Ciudad de León".

Live games

Watch live from 14:30 UT (16:30 CEST, 10:30 EDT).


Magistral Ciudad de León 2019

An official presentation took place on June 4th - organizer Marcelo Sión led the ceremony | Photo: Official site

Magistral Ciudad de León 2019

The presentation was held at the Conde Luna Palace | Photo: Official site 

More info about the participants

Vassily Ivanchuk has won it all but the World Championship — notably, he was the 2016 world blitz champion and the 2004 European champion. A fan favourite, he has also prevailed in a host of first-class events during his lengthy career. In 2008, he defeated Vishy Anand to win the tournament of León, while in 2009 and 2013 he fell victim to Magnus Carlsen and Anish Giri, respectively. 

Parham Maghsoodloo is the current world junior champion and the second highest-rated player from Iran. The 18-year-old stood out in 2018, when he showcased his talent and strict work ethic in a number of highly competitive tournaments. After chess was banned for many years in Iran, the country has shown it takes the royal game seriously, and their efforts have already produced great results, with Maghsoodloo and Alireza Firouzja spearheading the chess revolution.

Nihal Sarin is the third youngest player in history to reach a rating of 2600. He won the 2014 U-10 World Youth Championship, the 2013 U-10 World Youth Blitz Championship and both the 2014 Rapid and Blitz Asian Youth Championships. In the last two years, Nihal has participated in top-class open tournaments, increasing his rating from 2471 points (July, 2017) to 2610 (July, 2019).

Jaime Santos was born in León and is currently the seventh highest-rated Spanish player. In 2017 and 2018, he tied with Vishy Anand and Paco Vallejo in the rapid semi-finals, only to subsequently lose on tie-breaks both times (in fact, Vallejo got a huge lucky break in their match-up last year). He has reached his peak rating of 2594 precisely this month.

Side events

  • 4th International Open Tournament "Ciudad de León" — An eight-round Swiss rapid event that will be played on Saturday and Sunday. A time control of 15 minutes for the game with 10-second increments will be used. A total of 120 players have already registered their names to compete for prizes that exceed 3.000 Euros.
  • 1st Blitz Tournament "Ciudad de León" - This will be the first time a blitz event takes place in the midst of the festival. On Sunday afternoon, amateurs and masters alike will play a fast-paced tournament with a time control of 3' + 2".
  • A masterclass with former Spanish champion Sergio Estremera, sponsored by Banco Sabadell-Herrera, on Thursday.
  • Conference about chess and social inclusion by psychologist José Antonio Montero, also on Thursday, at the "Gordón Ordás del Albéitar" room.
  • A 25-player simultaneous exhibition by Indian prodigy Nihal Sarin on July 8th at the Department of Philosophy of the León University.
  • Simultaneous exhibition for school kids from León by IM Sergio Estremera on July 5th at the "Auditorio Ciudad de León".
  • Simultaneous exhibition for school kids from neighbouring provinces by GM José Cuenca Jiménez on July 7th at the "Auditorio Ciudad de León".


Antonio is a freelance writer and a philologist. He is mainly interested in the links between chess and culture, primarily literature. In chess games, he skews towards endgames and positional play.


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