Announcement | February 16, 2011 20:53

June 2-6: Anand vs Shirov in Leon

June 2-6: Anand vs Shirov in LeonThis year the traditional chess festival in Leon (Spain) will take place June 2-6. Instead of a knock-out with four players, this time only two players have been invited: Viswanathan Anand and Alexei Shirov. The two will play six games with 60 minutes plus 10 seconds increment per move.


Anand-Shirov: Rapid Art

The World Champion and his most creative opponent will play a match on June 2-6.

By LEONTXO GARCIA (Press Officer)

The four-time world champion Vishy Anand amazes by his prodigious speed to see great moves in a fraction of a second. Alexei Shirov, nicknamed the Leonardo da Vinci of chess for the exceptional beauty of many of his games, is one of the fans favorites among the top players. The Indian, 41, and the Spanish, 38, will play (match format) the 24th Ciudad de Leon Masters on June 2-6. As both are geniuses, the rapid art is guaranteed.

Only five players born before 1973 are among the world’s top 25 list on January 1. It is no coincidence that Anand and Shirov are two of them: both deserve to be called “genius”, no matter how high you set the bar for that adjective. Anand, The Rapid of Madras, has been world champion by three different formats: knockout system (Teheran 2000, he beat Shirov in the final); round robin (Mexico City 2007) and matches (Bonn 2008, against Kramnik; and Sofia 2010, against Topalov). Since 2000, when he lost the final, Shirov (born in Latvia, Spanish since 1996) has remained among the most desired stars for the tournament organizers because it is always a favorite for the public. The collection of his best games annotated, Fire on board, is an essential book for all chess lovers.

Last year's final in Leon

Last year's final in Leon between Aronian and Gelfand

Therefore, both players fit nicely with the wishes of the organizers for the twenty-fourth edition. The rules, written by the prestigious arbiter Joaquin Espejo, indicate that Anand and Shirov will play six games (Friday to Sunday, two per day) with 60 minutes per side plus ten seconds increment after each move in the magnificent Leon Auditorium. GM Miguel Illescas (eight times Spanish champion) and IM Michael Rahal will make the live commentary, and the Castilla and Leon TV has scheduled a special coverage, including live broadcasting of some games.

The Leon organizers, whose director is Marcelino Sion, maintain that social and professional chess should function like communicating doors. The parallel activities are consistent with that idea: simuls by Shirov, a lecture by Illescas on the Kasparov-Deep Blue historic match, another lecture class for the local young talents by the IM Sergio Estremera, a chess cinema week and the traditional Young Talents tournament. Despite the big economic crisis, everything will be sponsored by a balanced combination of public bodies and private companies: a clear sign of how solid this tournament is.

In recent years the format in Leon always included four players, who played a knock-out. Last year Boris Gelfand beat Levon Aronian in the final; the other players were Vallejo and Dominguez. In 2009 Carlsen defeated Ivanchuk in a nerve-racking final that was decided in the Armageddon game. The other two players were Morozevich and Wang Yue.

Leon 2009: Magnus Carlsen, Leontxo Garcia and Vassily Ivanchuk

Leon 2009: Magnus Carlsen, Leontxo Garcia and Vassily Ivanchuk

Usually decreasing the number of the participants is the easiest way for tournament organizers to save money. Taking into account the difficult economic times in Spain, this would be the most logical explanation for the switch from four to two players in Leon.

It's not a good period for chess. Also this week the end of the Mainz Chess Classic was announced, and next month we'll see the last edition of the Amber tournament. That, by the way, is not related to the economic crisis, but a personal decision by the Van Oosterom family.

What about the Linares tournament? We've received many emails already from people wondering why they don't hear anything about it. This has to do with the local elections - the main reason for the city not to organize it right now. The latest news is that the organizers are still hoping to do it, probably in the second half of 2011. They're negotiating as we speak, and are trying to find dates. We'll keep you posted.

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Peter Doggers's picture
Author: Peter Doggers

Founder and editor-in-chief of, Peter is responsible for most of the chess news and tournament reports. Often visiting top events, he also provides photos and videos for the site. He's a 1.e4 player himself, likes Thai food and the Stones.

Comments's picture

I think you wanted to say Nigel Short. Shirov is a gem of a player. Please see his games and then decide. Naka is here just since 2 years.

In 12 match game betwene Naka and Shirov. who will will is an easy answer.

Ajit's picture

Its a strange world! Billions of dollars are thrown into fray here in the US for some sports which no one really cares outside US, may be Canada to some extent like ice hockey. By all means this is no disrespect to any other game like ice hockey or any other sport, but its sad to figure out why sponsors are not willing to spend just a 'few' (as compared to 'mega' in sponsoring other sports) for Chess which definitely has a huge fan following base throughout all the continents. FIDE also needs to aggressively do something about this.

jussu's picture

Now ice hockey was a notariously bad example, it is immensely popular also in Russia, Finland, Sweden, and Czech, and many people keep their eye on NHL pretty much everywhere in Europe. However, I am persistently unable to remember whether Superbowl has something to do with baseball or Am. football :)

Ajit's picture

sorry, it didnt come out the way I wanted it to be...the point I was trying to make was the disparity between the money that is given to some sports as compared to other when the other sport equally deserves the same. Agreed that it does not attract the TV ratings, but still, the gap should be a little closer than how it is right now.
Example, Indian GM world champion Anand is unable to find sponsorship in his country for a world championship match (~ $2 Millions) where the sport cricket's sponsor gives $5million to one player to play for 30 days in a team sport.

Coco Loco's picture

This Anand-Shirov match is a great idea! It seems like a good opportunity for Shirov to get over any Anand complex he might have (I believe his recent record against Anand is dismal.)

john's picture

"Anand, The Rapid of Madras" that's a new nickname then ;-) lol

srk's picture

Anand - Shirov 4 -2

dp's picture


Ajit's picture

Somehow, the economics does not work very well for the beautiful artistic and creative game of chess :)
Barnes and Nobles lists the books on chess in the section of chequers, kids puzzles, other board games etc. and not in the section of sports. So, "chess" is not a sport but apparently it is merely a "game" for some time pass!

Mauricio Valdés's picture

Is that right? 60 minutes + 10 sec per move? That time control is unheard of!!!
will this time control affect ratings?
2 games per day seems too much under those time settings.

Reality check's picture

Do you know of any other pass time / major sport that constantly subjects its players to time control changes?

Why can't the organisers just stick with the 2hr/40 Classic, 15m Rapid, and 5m Blitz?

Its no surprise the public is confused loses interest in chess competitions. They have no clear way of evaluating the better players overall performance. Always comparing apples and oranges.

Chess Fan's picture

Very good point. I have thought this many many times, but you have articulated this very well and actually got down to commenting on this.

Chess Fan

Alan's picture

Racing changes the distances and courses. Tennis changes the surface. Different playing speeds add interest to the game, not subtract.

vimapa's picture

I'm sorry, but Shirov has nothing to do against Anand, Nakamura would play better

ozan's picture

Shirov is on top from 90s! won against Kramnik, had the chance to play against Kasparov. in his career, he has great, exiting wins, and even loses those collects fans'...
so waiting for something entertaining, not interested in with strenght comparision.
but Naka is around just for 2 years in top level of chess. yes, really a good player, but still he has much to prove than Shirov to play in this organization against Anand.
also winning against Shirov is not important that much. so one can come out and say that Carlsen won against Naka at London and right after that at Tata, so why would bother with Naka etc...
all in all, enjoy the event, and do not waste time with empty offers, discussions is what I say.

John O's picture

Agreed, but Naka would play much better than Shirov as he proved by winning Linares where Shirov was bad.

Thomas's picture

Can we stop this "noone else deserves an invitation if Nakamura isn't there"? Yes, Nakamura won Tata where Shirov had a bad result - but knowing Shirov and his form swings he may do much better next time (as he did in the past, e.g. Corus 2010).

Actually the organizers may have chosen these players because both have Spanish connections: Anand is living in Spain, Shirov - I think - moved back to Riga but still plays under the Spanish flag. Both speak fluently Spanish, which might matter if they go for Bilbao-style media coverage and press conferences for a local audience.

pomonado's picture

Nakamura plays better than Shirov? hahaha For position understanding, I'll go with Shirov over Naka no matter what their respective live ratings say.

Chess Fan's picture

I can see the objectivity in your statement, but thankfully, there are still human elements in chess.

I would never count out the great Super GM from Riga even with his recent dismal record against Anand. Though I predict 4-2 for Anand if he plays seriously, I only can, as a hopeless chess romantic, hope for "fire on the board". It could be close, with Anand obviously winning.

If you want a real unpredictability in a match against Anand (or any great GM for the matter), let us thrown in the incomparable genius Chucky after allowing him to reasonable rest and not burning himself out. I think rest would be a chess lover's treat.


Chess Fan

Raj's picture

More publicity is required for chess to draw more spectators and advertisers who bring in revenue to fund tournaments. Innovation is necesary and web sites such as chess vibes are a must for the internet follower.

sundararajan ganesan's picture

l am looking eagerly towards this!!!!
what abut a four player tmt., with anand, shirov, carlsen, nakamura!!

hazeinharlem's picture

i agree but

would be a stronger tournament I feel, carlsen next time.. love his games too

noyb's picture

Tough times indeed for organized OTB tournaments, but how about going to e-tournaments? Players can play from the comfort of their own homes and fans can still enjoy watching the games online. Wave of the future!

RuralRob's picture

"Players, guided by Rybka or Houdini, can play from the comfort of their own homes..."

There, fixed it for you.

Neptus's picture

Agree except if they are not allowed to go the toilet.

hazeinharlem's picture

ivanchuk needs more coverage.. man may be the next World champ.. I think he has the best chances to amongst all super gms to beat Vishy.. Vishy will crush shirov, and whoever makes it in the candidate matches. ivanchuk and vishy would be the match of the century in my honest opinion

Jo's picture

A little over the top, though I like your enthusiasm - as a gambling man though I'd happily back Ivanchuck against anyone in the world in a match format with 7+ games at even odds

zapakchamp's picture

Who cares about Shirov.

Anand vs Naka will be explosive and entertaining.

Zeblakob's picture

I care about Shirov, so please do not speak on my behalf :)

RealityCheck's picture

Many people care about Shirov. He has a family to feed. People depend on him to bring home fortune and fame.

zapakchess's picture

you took it in a different sense.

Xavi's picture

The press release is in terrible English. This is by no means meant to be a criticism Leontxo Garcia's English abilities (in the sense that he is no more obligated to express himself in correct English that an English speaker in correct Spanish), but rather of the fact that he or the organizers haven't hired a competent translator. 'This is Espain', as we say here in Spain.

ebutaljib's picture

Isn't this a competition in advanced chess?

RealityCheck's picture

Anand, The Rapid of Madras, has been world champion by three different formats: knockout system (Teheran 2000, he beat Shirov in the final); round robin (Mexico City 2007) and matches (Bonn 2008, against Kramnik; and Sofia 2010, against Topalov)

If I was the organiser I'd include the fourth format: Rapid World Champion (Mainz 1997-1998, 2000-2008) where he beat the likes of Kasparov, Kramnik, Shirov, Ponomariov, Morozevich, Radjabov, Polgar, Grischuk, Carlsen, Topalov ((Sofia) just yo name a few.

RealityCheck's picture

,,Anand, The Rapid of Madras, has been world champion by three different formats: knockout system (Teheran 2000, he beat Shirov in the final); round robin (Mexico City 2007) and matches (Bonn 2008, against Kramnik; and Sofia 2010, against Topalov),,

If I was the organiser I'd include the fourth format: Rapid World Champion (Mainz 1997-1998, 2000-2008) where he beat the likes of Kasparov, Kramnik, Shirov, Ponomariov, Morozevich, Radjabov, Polgar, Grischuk, Carlsen, Topalov ((Sofia 2004) just to name a few.

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