Spanish Championship: Tough to get ahead

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
11/22/2019 – After six rounds, five players share the lead at the Spanish Championship in Marbella, with top seed Paco Vallejo and former world number two Alexei Shirov included in the group that collected five points so far. José Cuenca, Miguel Santos Ruiz (pictured) and Pedro Ginés Esteo (b. 2004) are also co-leading. In the race for the women's trophy, four players are currently on top with 4 out of 6. | Photo: Spanish Chess Federation

ChessBase 17 - Mega package - Edition 2024 ChessBase 17 - Mega package - Edition 2024

It is the program of choice for anyone who loves the game and wants to know more about it. Start your personal success story with ChessBase and enjoy the game even more.


Five leaders

This year's national championship in Spain features a nice mix of strong experienced players and young ambitious rising stars. This fact becomes apparent just by looking at the leading pack after six rounds. Top seed Paco Vallejo and former world number two Alexei Shirov are joined by former Andalusian champion Jose Cuenca and two younger talents, Miguel Santos Ruiz and Pedro Ginés. A large 18-player group stands half a point behind, led by heavy-hitters David Antón and Iván Salgado.

When we last reported after round three, Shirov was the one player that managed to maintain a perfect score on the fourth day of action. On top board, he defeated Jaime Santos with the black pieces. Shirov unsurprisingly went for the initiative on the kingside, showing astounding tactical alertness against his younger opponent:


The Soviet-born grandmaster spent over twenty minutes analysing the aftereffects of 18...h3. Of course, Black cannot capture the bishop with 19.gxf4 due to 19...♞xf4, with the queen joining a decisive attack on the open g-file. Santos responded with 19.♖fe1, and Shirov once again ploughed ahead with 19...e3. The tactical sequence continued 20.h5 xc3 21.xe8 xb1 22.xb1

The evaluation of the engines gave Black an edge, but over the board having the initiative tends to be a much larger benefit. A couple of moves later, Santos cracked under pressure:


Instead of going for a miserable endgame with 25.♖e1 or 25.♕b3 forcing the queen trade, Santos completely gave up the game with 25.xb7. Shirov found 25...f3, and resignation came after 26.a2+ h8, as White would need to give up material to prevent mate.

After reaching a perfect 4 out of 4, the author of the Fire on Board series drew direct rivals for the title David Antón and José Cuenca in rounds five and six.

Alexei Shirov

Alexei Shirov has returned to represent Spain | Photo: FEDA

The youngest player in the leading pack is International Master Pedro Ginés. The boy from Zaragoza won the U-14 World Championship last year in Halkidiki and is currently closing on the 2500 rating mark. In round six, when draws were the rule among those fighting for first places, he won the only decisive game from the top ten boards. He beat Ángel Espinosa with Black, after outplaying his opponent from a highly tactical middlegame:


The black queen is trapped for all practical purposes — the best way to give it up would be with 27...♛xc3 28.♕f2 ♝xa1 29.♗xe3 ♝xe3. Instead, Ginés played 27...xa1 directly, a mistake according to the engines. But this was not a computer match, so after 28.xb3 cxb3 White was obliged to find 29.f5, the only move that maintained his advantage. Espinosa went for 29.e3 instead, when Ginés' 29...b2 completely turns the tables in Black's favour.

The tactical skirmish continued, with White putting all his hopes on his connected passers on the d and e-files. Espinosa did manage to promote to a queen, but by then Ginés had a lethal mating attack on tap:


White has just played 44.d8♕, getting a second queen, but Black had prepared for this by advancing his pawn to f6 in the previous move. The game ended in mate after 44...h5 45.2xd4 g4+ 46.h4 g5#. Just the kind of game that would make Shirov proud.

Santos v Shirov and Espinosa v Ginés


Jose Cuenca

Co-leader José Cuenca from Granada | Photo: FEDA

In round seven, Vallejo will be playing White against Cuenca on top board. Shirov v Santos Ruiz and Ginés v Marc Narciso will be the other encounters featuring the leaders. The chasing pack will be looking forward to those games finishing drawn, as they will try to climb up the standings table on the final three days of action.

Among the women, the top scorers have so far — Mónica Calzetta, Cecilia Guillo, María Adela Perera and Inmaculada Hernando — have collected 4 points. .

Standings after Round 6 (top 15)


...142 players

All available 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.


Rules for reader comments


Not registered yet? Register