It was a match full of contrasts: the 26th Ciudad de Leon, between Vassily Ivanchuk and Anish Giri. In this experience versus rising star battle, chess was played at three different time controls. Adding to the confusion, Ivanchuk scored the most points, but Giri won the match! Spanish journalist and commentator Leontxo García reports.
Creativity and good management against the financial crisis was the motto for the Ciudad de Leon organizers. Its 26th edition was a clash of generations, a very attractive match: Vassily Ivanchuk (44 years old) and Anish Giri (18). The format was a new one: “Total Chess”, with two "slow" games (45 minutes + 15 seconds increment) on Friday, June 7th, four rapid (20 minutes + 10 seconds) on Saturday and ten blitz (5 minutes + 3 seconds increment) on Sunday.
Chess is really important in Leon. After 25 consecutive years of success, the risk of cancellation was there, because of the terrible financial crisis in Spain. However, almost all the sponsors (public institutions and private companies) and even a new one (Sabadell-Herrero Bank) have expressed their unconditional support to the tournament, and to the social applications of chess as well.
The main arbiter was Joaquin Espejo while International Masters Sergio Estremera and Joan Mellado provided live commentary. Before the match Marcelino Sion, the Tournament Director, said: “Ivanchuk is the favourite for the slow games, but Giri probably has an edge in blitz. However, as Ivanchuk is a genius, you never know.”
Day 1: Giri-Ivanchuk 1.5-0.5
Even a genius sometimes makes a mistake. This is what happened to Ivanchuk, in the second regular game against the Giri, after drawing the first. Since each of the three days of the tournament was played at a different time control, the Ukrainian was defeated in the "slow games", but he could still recover in the four rapid games on Saturday or else in the ten blitz games on Sunday.
Just 24 hours after Ivanchuk had expressed the advise "never play led by emotions, but by the actual position of the pieces on the board", during a lecture to young talents in León, the great Ukrainian offered a perfect example of the consequences when that advice is not followed. His anger was so great that, after congratulating his opponent, he ran off the Auditorium, without attending the mandatory press conference.
"I understand well what happened to Ivanchuk," said Giri. "The advice he gave on Thursday to the young talents was a good advice, but it's very hard to follow. I felt that Vassily's desire to win was too big, and that reduced the quality of his play considerably."
The first game had a little history: it was very equal from start to finish, it finished in a very technical draw, and neiter side committed errors. By contrast, the second was very complicated since Giri, with black, introduced a new idea. In a difficult position, Ivanchuk at some point could go for a massive exchange of pieces that would lead to another draw, but the Ukrainian chose to follow a complicated alternative and then committed a blunder that left him in a hopeless position.
Games day 1:
Day 2: Giri-Ivanchuk 3.5-0.5
"After an unhappy love affair, the solution is to change women. But there is only one chess, and right now I'm not interested in it, so that my problem has no solution," said Ivanchuk to reporters and fans, and he received a huge applause.
It's not the first time that Ivanchuk questions what has been his profession and the great love of his life since childhood. Many have suggested that he should rest more between tournaments, especially now, at age 44, when he is one of the few members of the elite above 40. But he needs to play one tournament after another, and arrived in Leon very tired, immediately after finishing the tough Grand Prix in Thessaloniki, Greece.
On Saturday Giri completely dominated his opponent in the rapid games (20 minutes plus ten seconds increment after each move) because Ivanchuk, in his inordinate desire to win, three times forced positions beyond reason.
Giri explained: "Vassily played well at times, but then he always wanted to find something in a position when there wasn't anything."
Games day 2:
Day 3: Giri-Ivanchuk 2.5-7.5
Less than 24 hours after hinting that he was retiring from chess, Vassily Ivanchuk delighted the audience in the Leon Auditorium and online spectators with a big win in the blitz games. The Ukrainian defeated Anish Giri 7.5-2.5 but the 18 year old Dutchman won the match overall for his victories in the classical and rapid sections.
Ivanchuk was very concentrated, even between the games. He came to the Auditorium accompanied by his coach Viktor Moskalenko, wearing a baseball cap, unshaven. His remark at Saturday's press conference about "changing women" still echoed among the spectators.
But Giri found out right away that this was another Ivanchuk, perhaps because the speed of the game would not let him wallow in his depression. The great Ukrainian won the first game dramatically, drew the second without much trouble and then also won the next two. The Dutchman did not throw in the towel: after drawing the fifth he won the sixth, but after his defeat in the seventh and eighth the duel was decided quickly.
In the subsequent press conference, Ivanchuk was energetic. He recognized that he saw life in a different color and apologized for his depressing statements the other day. Asked about the key to his transfiguration, the Ukrainian gave another wonderful quote: "Today at noon I took a beer that was just delicious, and that relaxed me a lot. Since I was four points down after the first two days, I planned to win the blitz match with five points difference , and I've achieved."
After enjoying a typical local lunch, Giri didn't hesitate to express how good he feels in Leon: "Here I won the Spanish Team Championship with my team Sestao in 2012, and now I won my first Ciudad de Leon. If I can ever choose where to play the final of the World Championship, I propose that it will be Leon!"
The young Dutchman, the world number one under 20, just finished his high school education and will focus on chess for the coming two years.
"I want to know what it's like to be a true professional. But I don't rule out that at some point I will combine my chess career with university. I would like to study psychology. In any case, my next goal is to become World Champion, but I'm afraid there are other very young candidates, like Carlsen and Caruana, who want the same as me, and are stronger now."
Games day 3:
As always, the festival included many parallel activities connected to the tournament. Besides chess films, a young talents tournament, a lecture by Ivanchuk and a simul by Giri, the main novelty this year was a debate on the social applications of chess.
Tournament website, games via TWIC, photos thanks to the organizers, report by Leontxo García