Reports | June 06, 2011 9:11

Anand beats Shirov 4.5-1.5 in León

Anand beats Shirov 4.5-1.5 in LeónOn Sunday Viswanathan Anand defeated Alexei Shirov 4.5-1.5 in their match in León, Spain. On all three playing days the World Champion won one game and drew one to clinch his 8th title in León. Struggling to find his best form, Shirov was no match for an Anand in good shape.

General info

The 24th edition of the Magistral Ciudad de León took place in the León Auditorium, from Friday, June 3rd till Sunday, June 5th. This year the main event was a 6-game match between World Champion Vishy Anand and Alexei Shirov. Contrary to what we wrote before, the rate of play was 40 minutes per game plus 30 seconds increment after each move.

Report days 2 and 3

The second day (read our first report here) of the festival in León started at 12.00 with a lecture by GM Miguel Illescas about the famous Kasparov-Deep Blue match (the eight times Spanish Champion was part of the IBM team in 1997). Illescas revealed that he had given the following advice to the computer company: "You are scientists and do everything with that intention. But Kasparov, when he sits behind the board, is a murderer. Therefore, we have to program the machine to play against a murderer, that is, it sometimes needs to make a move that will not be the best, but bothers Kasparov the most." That strategy was successful, because the Russian lost 2.5-3.5 for lack of control over his nerves, amazed by the style of his inhuman opponent.

Leontxo Garcia and Miguel Illescas

Leontxo Garcia and Miguel Illescas during the lecture

Then, back in the Auditorio at 16.30, the second playing day began badly for Shirov. "I was lost before play started," the Latvian grandmaster said afterwards. "I could not find any satisfactory variation against the Caro-Kann during my morning preparation in the hotel. So I got to the stage in not a very good mood. Then I chose a very aggressive line, with the hope that, playing with White, at least I would achieve a draw. This was clearly not right."

In the Advance variation (1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.e5 Bf5) Shirov played 4.g4, but the game became a "textbook example" (Anand) of how to exploit this move, and the weakness of a king stuck in the centre. At move 17, in a hopeless middlegame position, Shirov resigned already.

The third game of the match was the most quiet thus far. Anand avoided the sharp Anti-Moscow Gambit this time and went for the proper Moscow line of the Semi-Slav. Many pieces were traded at an early stage and with a symmetrical pawn structure the ending was only marginally better for White. At move 23 Anand decided that a draw was OK.

The podium of the Auditorio

The podium of the Auditorio

Sunday saw the same scenario for the third time: one win for Anand, and one draw. Like on Saturday, the World Champion was victorious with the black pieces in a Caro-Kann. In his third attempt Shirov tried the move 4.h4, like he had done in his last tournament in Lublin about two weeks ago. Anand was well prepared and quickly gained a small advantage in an ending with two rooks and two knights for both sides.

Again, Shirov was punished for taking too many risks. Activating his king on the kingside was brilliantly punished by Anand. The World Champion successfully played a mating attack based on deep calculation, and forced Shirov to resign at move 41. It was of less importance that the computer engines pointed out that, for one moment, both players had missed an opportunity for the white king to escape the mating net.

Anand beats Shirov with a nice combination in game 5

Anand beats Shirov with a nice combination in game 5

Although he couldn't find his best form in León, Shirov could at least finish his match with a decent 6th game. In another Moscow Semi-Slav Anand had some slight pressure in the middlegame, but Shirov played accurately and managed to reach a drawn rook ending.

And so Vishy Anand won the tournament in León for the eighth time. In his press release, press officer Leontxo Garcia wrote that it's becoming more and more clear that the Indian is one of the best chess players of all time. And indeed, Anand's play was very convincing and it's not clear whether his chess is any weaker than, say, ten years ago.

Afterwards there was first a press conference of about half an hour with the two players, attended by about eighty chess fans. After this, at exactly eight o'clock, the two were interviewed live for local TV again. "This success shows that it is sometimes beneficial to have a few weeks off from training and tournaments, as I did after I became a father for the first time. I came to León hungry for chess and I am very satisfied with my play," Anand said.

Anand and Shirov at Saturday's press conference

Anand and Shirov at Saturday's press conference

Shirov was self-critical, but one must always be as a chess player: "I will need some days to draw clear conclusions, but obviously I need to change something in the preparation and choice of openings, because that's been my main problem, especially with the white pieces."

Afterwards Anand did a few more brief interviews and both players signed many autographs. Tomorrow the festival finishes with a simul by Shirov. The Latvian GM will play his following tournament game already next Thursday, in the Sigeman tournament in Malmö, where his main rivals will be Anish Giri and Wesley So. Anand won't be playing tournaments in the next few months.

Games 3-6

Game viewer by ChessTempo

Next year the 25th celebration edition of the tournament will be held. Despite the economical crisis in Spain, the organizers hope to create something special for this edition. Although this year's match was quite entertaining, tournament director Marcelino Sión is planning to try to return to the 4-player format. We can only hope that the sponsors, who have been loyal for so many years already, will make this possible.

The writer of this report is preparing a video about the tournament, and also did an interview with Vishy Anand on Sunday night, in which the World Champion speaks about becoming a father, about Kazan, and much more. Both will be published in the coming week, so stay tuned!


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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.


Fireblade's picture

Excellent report Peter ! Can't wait for the interview. Was there any prize money for this match ?

Chess Fan's picture

Thanks for the excellent report, as always, Peter.

idli's picture

Leon match is another important event for our Tamilnadu World Chess Champion.. During last 60 years only four countries could boast of a World Champion...Soviet Union/Russia, USA, Bulgaria and India.. In spite of being a world champion for almost 5 years, his native country which takes pride in many big sporting events IPL, World Cup Cricket, and other events could not conduct a single big chess tournament involving Anand after he became world champion, . Even Bulgaria initiated top level tournament once Topalov won the championship.. Here is a country where chess was born and today has so many names in worlds richest list of 100 , could not organize even a super grandmaster chess tournament. All it could do was to question Anand's citizenship when a honarary doctorate was proposed to be conferred on him.. What is AICF doing?

KK's picture

Why do you expect AICF to do anything? In your own words, Anand is the "Tamilnadu World Chess Champion" so let TNCA do something. Very narrow-minded post indeed.

Wish's picture

Well said !!

Saji Soman's picture

The Powerful Secretary of AICF Mr. Sunder is from Tamil Nadu. Let him do something instead of putting all in his pocket. The billionare Mr. Srinvasan of BCCI india is also from Tamil Nadu. Let this people do something.

Saji Soman's picture

The billionare Srinivasan is also a president of Tamil Nadu Chess association.

You know that.

Chess Fan's picture

Well observed and said Idli.

I am glad that the Indian fans (a billion strong) are finally speaking up for Anand about whom they should be rightfully VERY PROUD OF. This means being outraged and defending against stupid politicians.

You also make a valid point. As the second-most powerful emerging economy in the world, with so much money to go around and being spent on Cricket, they India and Indians should find ways to spend a little bit of that in support of their one-in-a-billion-billion people's champion.

bhabatosh's picture

waiting for the report ......!

Jack's picture

Was it Anand's superior play or Shirov's poor preparation? Anyway it was nice for the veiwers to see some exciting chess and some results rather than boring draws.
Thanks Shirov for the bold and attacking play though you lost out in the process to the World Champion. Thanks Anand to show us once again how good you are and a warning for Gelfand to be better prepared than anytime before in his life.

gg's picture

"Some of us are even convinced, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that he is the “best chess player of all time!”"

There can't be many of you :-)

ebutaljib's picture

Anand is not the most dominant player of all time, neither did he win the most number of tournaments,... but he is the most versatile player of all time. He proved that many times in his still ongoing career. No matter the time control (classical, rapid or blitz), type of chess (classical, advanced, blindfold) or the system of competition (tournament, matches, KO) he has won it all! In that respect no other player comes even close to Anand.

gg's picture

Anand is versatile indeed, and this also puts Carlsen's performances in all formats in perspective. He won Amber rapid the last years, as well as the rapid minimatch against Anand last year, he is the last of the two to win Amber blindfold, and when he won the World Blitz Championship he scored 2-0 against Anand. In classical chess he has won many tournaments the last years and has usually been first on the rating list. So in all it's only in matches Anand has been clearly superior to the teenage Carlsen 2008-10, when Carlsen hasn't played any matches. Just the fact that Anand can be discussed as a candidate to the greatest ever title ahead of players like Kasparov and Lasker shows that Carlsen already has come a long way when he isn't too far behind a legendary player like Anand already as a teenager.

RealityCheck's picture

@ gg

''..Carlsen already has come a long way...''

He has indeed. He's also showing more vesatility than his x-coach, Kasparov.

But skipping out for a commercial break to avoid the candidates matches was a horrible call. ..cost him dearly. Lost time. Lost respect from peers and fans!

Sportsman. Character plus Results separate the men from the boys.

A long rough road ahead. We'll soon see if the ton of hype his media men have heaped upon us about him.... will weigh the poor feller down.

gg's picture

"skipping out for a commercial break to avoid the candidates matches was a horrible call. ..cost him dearly. Lost time. Lost respect from peers and fans!
Sportsman. Character plus Results separate the men from the boys.
A long rough road ahead. We’ll soon see if the ton of hype his media men have heaped upon us about him…. will weigh the poor feller down"

I guess Carlsen's dislike for the cycle changes and Kazan format quickly made him the least liked chess player in the world. But I see him as an honest person being unhappy with the way FIDE handled the cycle and not wanting anything to do with it. All the talk about tons of hype being heaped upon him by his media men sounds exaggerated, I think Carlsen is an underappreciated player if you look at his results the last years. 3000+ performance in one of the highest rated tournaments ever, 2800+ and #1 as a teenager, winner in Amber rapid/blindfold, first in the World Blitz after going 8-0 against the others in the top five, repeated wins in super tournaments like Nanjing, London and Wijk, etc. I don't even think he cares that much about chess compared to someone like Kasparov, I wouldn't be surprised if he quit playing much earlier than people expect.

Stanley Peters's picture

There might be more than you think!

Two-thirds of the world's population are resident in Asia, let alone the Asian immigrants around the world!

Sergio's picture

1.2 billion

gg's picture

Maybe some Indians think there is at least a shadow of a doubt that Anand should be ranked ahead of Kasparov. :-) Anand is a great player but was no problem for Kasparov most of the time (14-1 in wins or something like that the last dozen years they played each other). Anand reached the #1 spot for the first time in his 38th year (at that age Kasparov had already been #1 for 17 years), and has soon gone four years without winning a single tournament. It's just not enough to be the greatest ever but definitely top ten, maybe even top five is within reach.

Stanley Peters's picture

It is a question of context, and interpretation.

A few months ago, I had dinner with a few of my Asian friends - Indians, Sri Lankans, Bangladeshis, Chinese, Filipinos, Malaysians, Indonesians, and even Malays, all of them chess players. Mostly former chess players but some current ones as well.

An interesting topic of discussion was - "what if Kasparov was born in India and Anand in esrtwhile USSR?" and the overwhleming opinion was "Anand would have been the world champion by the early nineties, while Kasparov's reign would have been very short - if at all"!

Sadik's picture

Agree with you Stanley Peters. Anand is the greatest chess talent ever, as stated by people like Topalov himself. You know he is the first grand master from india. How many GMs might have been there leading to Kasparov in Russia?!, Actually Anand came out from nothing, and still he is getting stronger with age, it seems. You dont have to worry what age he became world number 1, but he is world number 1, people doesnt beat him often, and he was always on top3 for most of career. Regarding tournaments, just look at the rating lists on the years when Kasparov was on top. Kasparov was 2800s and others far and few most of them below 2700.His peers were not as strong as Anand's peers. Right now there are 3 and potentially many more above 2800. But still Anand remains on top. Everybody has access to srongest chess machine s and they are making use of it, and a person from older generation remains on top as ever. This is miraculous and unbelievable!! Kudos to Anand.

ipl's picture

I am from India.
Everybody knows Anand is a great player but please dont even compare him with Kasparov.

PircAlert's picture

Even if you are from India... It used to be that home country umpires would be officiating in test matches between two cricketing nations. I believe India was the first country to ask for neutral umpires when they have to play in India. That is the neutrality of Indian umpires!

So it does not matter where you are from, the merit of your argument is what matters.

RealityCheck's picture

I still think folks tend to exaggerate the length of Kasparov's reign and over estimate his rating.

RealityCheck's picture


...but our numbers are growing every day. Let's not forget, Anands' legacy isn't complete. He is still playing, still making history.

sumitbalan's picture

Anand is Anand ,Always Ahead !!! ( A A A A)

AK's picture

Shirov really disappointed this time. He was playing some very risky and dubious lines and got crushed by Anand. Such tactics might work against 2600 rated players, but not against the Champ. I hope he picks himself up.

Anand was well-prepared in Caro-Kann and used perfectly mistakes made by Shirov. He didn't really push that hard with white in the last two games and it's amazing to think that Anand could have scored more if needed.

Csaba's picture

Looks like Shirov could use some mainline Caro-Kann knowledge :)

Thomas's picture

Shirov has problems against Anand, not against the Caro-Kann in general. His overall score with white (from, all formats) is +36=25-15 - that's a bit misleading as it includes relatively weak opponents. But since 2007, he beat 2700ers Morozevich, Topalov, Kamsky, Eljanov and Jobava (some wins were crushing). His all-time losses were against Anand (6*), Karpov still going strong (4*), Ivanchuk, Kramnik, Grischuk plus - OK - Nisipeanu and Vallejo who are nominally weaker but always dangerous.

RealityCheck's picture

"press officer Leontxo Garcia wrote that it’s becoming more and more clear that the Indian is one of the best chess players of all time."

For many of us this has been clear for quite some time. Some of us are even convinced, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that he is the "best chess player of all time!"

Glad to see Mr. Garcia becoming more and more aware of GM Anand's rightful place in chess history.

Arne Moll's picture

Ironically, Anand is probably the first to admit he never absolutely dominated the chess scene the way Fischer, Karpov and Kasparov did in their days. Isn't it enough to say that he's currently the best player in the world? Perhaps one day he can prove he is in the same league as the guys mentioned above - e.g., by beating Carlsen in a match.

RealityCheck's picture

@Arne Moll

"Ironically, Anand is probably the first to admit he never absolutely dominated the chess scene the way Fischer, Karpov and Kasparov did in their days"

Anand is a humble man. Not prone to boasting. In a league of his own.

The naked truth. F-K-K would not have >>absolutely dominated<< the chess scene of their day had they faced the same level of competition Anand faces day after day.

jussu's picture

Your last remark may well be true, but a "naked truth" requres some evidence - being merely your guess is not quite enough.

gg's picture

The level of opposition Kasparov faced was hardly weak if Anand and Karpov are supposed to be the strongest players ever except for Kasparov.

RealityCheck's picture

"The level of opposition Kasparov faced was hardly weak if Anand and Karpov are supposed to be the strongest players ever except for Kasparov."

No, it wasnt weak. It was very strong. But, when compared to the army of super talents Anand has been up against: Gelfand, Ivanchuk, Kamsky, Kramnik, Ponomariov, Topalov, Grischuk, Aronian, Carlsen, just to name a few, Kasparov had it easy.

PircAlert's picture

Evidence for "naked truth" about level of competition.

There are several others but let me just state one example.

The fact that Kasparov quit from chess at or around when he was 40 years of age. Smyslov was 63 when Kasparov played him for the challengership. Either Smyslov was so strong and greater than Kasparov, that he was playing in candidates final at 60+ age. But no one says that. Or it is that the weak competition allowed him to stay at top for long. Then no wonder Kasparov dominated such weak field!

PircAlert's picture

How Kasparov dominated?

Kasparov thoroughly lost to Kramnik without winning a single game. Kasparov - Karpov matches were always a toss up with neither one dominated the other. We can't take the results of Kasparov - Anand seriously since it wasn't conducted under neutral supervision. Kasparov ducked Anand afterwards in 1998, 1999 and after 2000 when Kramnik asked Kasparov to play Anand for challengership. Around 2007 again Anand asked Kasparov for a match. In all these occasions, Kasparov only let his propaganda team do his work with his ratings and tournament results which everyone knows is manipulatable. Only if Anand had access to computers like he had later on and like he has now without having to rely too much on seconds, Anand - Kasparov would have been very one sided in Anand's favor. Knowing this, either Kasparov avoided Anand or Kasparov's sponsors were preventing a clash to avoid brand name damage! It is damaged anyway now from overwhelming success Anand is producing!

Do we need to go into Anand lightning skills, his rapid records, his childhood beating GM's in classical games within 15 minutes on more than one occasion, his simul floor, blindfold, fischer random skills, move accuracy, chess skills as admired by his seconds, opponents, his end game skills etc? Kasparov is no way comparable to Anand. Carlsen has played blitz with Kasparov, defintely he can tell, if you don't believe me.

Arne Moll's picture

Yes, and the landing on the moon never took place.

Septimus's picture

Although Shirov lost, in my book he is still a great player. I am totally biased in favor of sharp play. Anything else is just boring. Good to see some kick ass chess after the snooze-fest at Kazan.

Too bad Peter does not have a twin. P1 would have covered this and P2 would have covered the Polish federation 's Kings Gambit tournament. I don't know if there is anybody better than Anand (right now) in terms of preparing for a specific opponent.

ed's picture

Scary the ease with which Anand dispatched a player of Shirov's caliber. Watch out Gelfand!

Marvel's picture

I think it has to do more with Shirov's style of play. Otherwise the score would have been more closer.

Septimus's picture

I forgot to add:

Thank you Peter! I give you a hard time, all the time but I'm just having a bit of fun (at your expense of course). Thanks again. :)

john's picture

Anand does well against unbalanced players anyway, and he is stronger than Shirov to start with. Anand dispatched Kramnik and Topalov by playing on their weaknesses, but I will be very interested to see his match strategy against Gelfand because Gelfand is a very well rounded solid player.

Fireblade's picture

'but I will be very interested to see his match strategy against Gelfand because Gelfand is a very well rounded solid player.'

One cannot get any more well rounded solid player as Kramnik, or so was the myth. Every player will have weaknesses as we are all human. Its up to their opponent to probe and find out what the weaknesses are. In the Anand-Gelfand match one will have to find out who will be successful in doing that.

AK's picture

Karpov and Kasparov are two obvious players, who were stronger than Vishy. But after that it's not so obvious.
Lasker was very dominant, but then again he played very rarely at times. It's hard to compare with modern times.
Alekhin is my favorite player of all time. But other than Capa he did not have any elite competition and they didn't even play in the same tournaments after Buenos Aires.

Botvinnik also played very rarely when he was the champ and he wasn't that great during those years. Smyslov had a great stretch in the 50s, but I can't see how Anand's results are worse in the 00s. Spassky had a great run from the mid-60s until his match against Fischer. But Anand has been a real force for a quite longer time. Fischer probably has the highest peak of them all, but it's only 4-5 years at best.

Anand has been a top3 player since 1995. That's 16 years and counting. Very impressive.

We can add that current era is the most competitive since the 50s and 60s. Then we had older generation in Botvinnik, Keres and Reshevsky and young guns in Smyslov, Tal, Petrosian, Spassky, Bronstein, Geller.

In the 90s-80s we had older Karpov, Kasparov in his prime, young guns in Kramnik, Anand, Ivanchuk, Topalov, Leko, Kamsky, Shirov, Gelfand. Later Carlsen, Karjakin, Aronian. That's probably even stiffer competition than in the 50s-60s. In both cases counting only those who were close to championship level.

AK's picture

Meant 90s -00s. And forgot to add Bobby to the 50-60s class.

Krishnan's picture

I agree with you that Kasparov is a stronger player than Anand. But I am fairly certain that Anand is a stronger player than Karpov. There's no doubt in my mind. It would be interesting to see statistics on their play to validate.

AK's picture

There are two sides with Karpov.

On the one side he did totally dominate when there was an obvious lack of talent. You had old squad like Kortchnoi, Tal, Spassky and even Smyslov. They were no match to the young champion. Karpov did win pretty much every tournament.

But Karpov played a lot of games against Kasparov. That's the toughest competition you can get and Karpov lost only a few games more than he won. So they were very evenly matched.

In the end Karpov was a clear #1 from 1974 until around 1984/85. Then #2 until around 1995. That's roughly 20 years as top2 in the world. And if not Kasparov (the strongest of all time) he would have been #1 all those years. Even Anand can't touch that yet. If Anand wins 2-3 matches, then you could starting to make a case that Vishy is #2 after Garry.

KKK's picture

"Well rounded and solid player" - any player fits that description better than Kramnik?

Jenson fan's picture

Kramnik isn't well rounded he is too focused on positional play. This means he very often gets superior positions however his lack of energy, and slightly less than optimal calculation and below perfect attacking skill means he often doesn't finish off his opponent. Anand can defend better than anyone ever has and is probably second most precise attacker behind Kasparov.

oz8's picture

I agree that he is best defender but "precise attcker" ?? no way . The way carlsen attackes relentlessly and breaks his opponents is well know


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