Gelfand wins 23rd Ciudad de Leon
Boris Gelfand Sunday won the 23rd Ciudad de Leon by beating Levon Aronian in the final. The Israeli grandmaster had knocked out Francisco Vallejo Pons in the first semi-final on Friday, and the Armenian had defeated Leinier Dominguez the next day.
Gelfand beat Aronian in the final on Sunday | Photo: Janis Nisii
The 23rd Ciudad de Leon took place June 4-7 in the auditorium of the city of Leon, Spain. Following the system used in recent years, on Friday one semi-final was played, on Saturday the second semi-final and on Sunday the final. Each match consisted of four rapid games with a time control of 20 minutes plus 10 seconds increment, and if necessary two blitz games (5 minutes plus 2 seconds increment) and one sudden-death game (4 minutes for White versus 5 minutes for Black).
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Friday: Gelfand-Vallejo 3.5-2.5
Although he had delighted the fans, Paco Vallejo left the auditorium with a bitter taste, losing to Boris Gelfand in the playoffs. It was a tiring and very even match, in which both touched the win in four games. But all ended in a draw, and the Israeli experience, 41 years old, weighed more than the Spanish momentum (27), in the blitz playoff fast.
"One could say that I played as I never did and lost as I always did. I had prepared thoroughly, and I've played pretty well, but without precision in some crucial moments," summarized Vallejo, who had a good chance of victory in the second game and the first in the tiebreaker, but only ended up losing.
Vallejo vs Gelfand: as close as five draws and just one decisive blitz game
Gelfand also missed chances and praised his opponent: "It was a very hard duel. In fact, Vallejo has talent and potential to be among the top ten in the world, and it lacks little to do. Basically, work every day and build up a little more experience. That has always been my method, I know of no other to be effective." The Israeli expressed his admiration "for the sheer beauty of the city," adding: "Leon has charm because of its different architectural styles. Yesterday I had a long walk, and it was very pleasant."
A fan asked if the rest on Saturday would give him an advantage over the winner of the match Aronian-Dominguez: "Well, sometimes you lose competitive tension when resting, and it is better to play every day."
Saturday: Aronian-Dominguez 2.5-1.5
It was like one of those grueling matches at Roland Garros, with both players stuck in the back of the court, afraid to go to the net. Levon Aronian was more accurate with the balls and hit in the fourth marathon assault (161 moves in an hour and a half) to beat Leinier Dominguez.
"I'm already used to suffer this way. In fact, I'm not unhappy with how I played this match. But, in such positions, it is very difficult not to make a mistake, sooner or later," summarized Dominguez.
Concentration on Saturday: Dominguez vs Aronian
In the first game Aronian was forced to make an exchange sacrifice in the opening. Many viewers thought it was a laboratory novelty, but he gave a surprising explanation: "It was a mistake. I was a little out of shape because my last tournament was in March, and I went wrong with 7...d6. So I was forced to that sacrifice to be not clearly worse. "
But his experience, creativity and persistence prevailed, despite the fierce resistance of the Cuban. As for the prospect of the final against Gelfand, the Armenian said: "Boris is my friend, but I'm sure we're both going to strive for public enjoyment."
Aronian also shared his interesting opinion on Chess960. "For me, I could implement it tomorrow. I would be delighted, because it would be a fascinating challenge to my creativity. Now, I understand that for many colleagues it would be unfair because they have a ready arsenal of theoretical developments developed for years, which would no longer be good for anything."
Sunday: Gelfand-Aronian 4-2
The final was another thrilling duel that confirmed Leon's status for once more providing chess spectacle. A year ago the auditorium saw the unforgettable final between Magnus Carlsen and Vassily Ivanchuk, who won the first sudden death after seven games in five hours. "I'll never again see a more exciting final," was then heard in the corridors. But only a year has passed, Gelfand and Aronian played six games in five hours, improving the value for money of the visitors even more.
A friendly handshake before the final
Aronian was very creative and aggressive with white in the opening game, forcing his opponent to get in the same mood to avoid being swept away. After another draw in game 2, the third was again very exciting: Aronian again played strongly and showed his universal style and ability to achieve virtuosity in all kinds of positions, and achieved a victory that seemed decisive.
But, as Gelfand himself later explained, it is sometimes better to have to force a win: "If you just need a draw, the psychological pressure can be greater than if you need to win." And indeed the Israeli handled the pressure better in that fourth game, and then also won the next two blitz games (five minutes plus two seconds increment).
Natalia Rodriguez Picallo, Sports councilor of the Municipality of Leon, makes the first move of the final between Levon Aronian and Boris Gelfand
Aronian surprised the fans with this reaction after his defeat: "If you lose against a friend, you've actually won, because it helps to make you happy. So I feel very good right now." Both players praised the organization. Gelfand: "This tournament is a model of how chess should be when it becomes a spectacle. Auditorium, assembly of the stage, commentators, and television webcast live presentations, press conferences... all is exemplary. And I stress that I would say exactly the same if I hadn't won the final. " Aronian: "I will return to Leon as soon as possible, for vacation, and would recommend my friends to do the same. I love this city. And, of course, the tournament is excellent."
A press conference in Leon, always a pleasure to attend
Report largely based on Leontxo Garcia's round reports
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