The Draw Makes a Comeback in Linares
By GM Ian Rogers   
March 3, 2008
GM Ian Rogers disguised as a knight. Photo Cathy Rogers
On Sunday the world’s elite players took a break after the tenth round of the Morelia/Linares tournament, but the public of Linares turned out in force on Sunday to watch a game of chess.
The denizens of Linares came out to watch a unique living chess exhibition held around the corner from the Teatro Cervantes, the venue of the 25th Ciudad de Linares tournament.
It was a cloudless midday in Linares as the street party got underway, speakers blaring out music. The crowd, which built up quickly and soon numbered around 500, were clearly enjoying themselves.
Some chess celebrities also made an appearance, at moments when the play list seemed weirdly appropriate. Viswanathan Anand arrived to the tune of ‘Six in Da Morning’ – his precise waking time every day since arriving in Linares from Mexico – while Topalov’s manager Silvio Danailov was first noticed while the Kelis lyrics ‘Might fool me once – I won’t let you fool me twice’ were ringing in our ears.
From the eighth floor of an apartment block to the rows of chairs around the board, almost every vantage point was taken to watch the contest.
Thanks to the inspired commentary by legendary Spanish media personality Leontxo Garcia, the game became something much more than the traditional costumed actors exchanging moves on a giant board.
The audience were shown how the history of world civilization could be condensed into a single chess game; Smyslov’s win over Reshevsky from the USSR v USA radio match of 1945.
This, we were told, was one of the great games in chess history, though just how great could not have been imagined even for those familiar with the game.
The introduction of sponsors and officials over, some mood music began and world history began to unfold before our eyes. Four cavepersons emerged, rapidly learning to make spears on a giant chessboard, although Smyslov’s spears were soon more than matched by Reshevsky’s four homo-sapiens bearing bows and arrows. In what seemed like centuries, but was actually only a minute or two, the Greeks arrived and with them came the invention of the Olympic Games – a weapon that apparently trumped the arrows and spears.
The Romans soon displaced the Greeks, who became the first to line up along traditional chess lines on the first two ranks of the giant board.

Photo Cathy Rogers

The Romans’ opponents were a motley bunch, perhaps representing the diverse forces, which caused the decline of the Roman Empire. The pawns headgear certainly indicated a multicultural force – toffs in top hats, Vikings and even roundheads lined up on the seventh rank.
And so the game began, with the respective royal couples walking to the centre of the board and bowing to each other. This part of the game was watched intently by Topalov’s aides Danailov and Ivan Cheparinov, no doubt taking notes on new ways to start a game while avoiding a handshake.
Through the power of chess, we learnt about the invention of tennis – in monasteries, apparently - basketball and gymnastics. Two pawns demonstrated Andalusian hand dancing, while two other pawns went on strike and refused repeated requests to move forward until physically pushed by their monarch. Group huddles by the pieces were frequent, perhaps symbolising the rise of American football, or possibly the advent of free love in the 60s.
The crowd loved it – applauding every time a piece was captured.

Linares 2008

White V. Smyslov, as channelled by Luis Rentero, founder of the Linares tournament
Black: S.Reshevsky, via a local junior player
Opening: Ruy Lopez


1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0-0

Here the e4 pawn, an innocent seven year old, began throwing a ball to the White king and catching the return. Even without the Jaws theme tune, you could tell something bad was about to happen to her...
5...Nxe4 6.d4 b5 7.Bb3 d5 8.dxe5 Be6 9.c3 Bc5 10.Nbd2 0-0 11.Bc2 f5 12.Nb3 Bb6 13.Nbd4 Nxd4 14.Nxd4 Bxd4 15.cxd4 f4 16.f3 Ng3
17.hxg3 fxg3 18.Qd3 Bf5 19.Qxf5 Rxf5 20.Bxf5 Qh4 21.Bh3 Qxd4+ 22.Kh1 Qxe5 23.Bd2 Qxb2 24.Bf4 c5 25.Be6+ Kh8 26.Bxd5 Rd8 27.Rad1 c4 28.Bxg3
By now half the pieces had been relegated to the sidelines, to sit quietly with the cavemen. The next part of the game must have confused the onlookers – nothing gets taken until the end.
c3 29.Be5 b4 30.Bb3 Rd2 31.f4
Here the f pawn decided to have a fencing contest with his own king – go figure.
31...h5 32.Rb1
This rook seemed very happy to be moving at last; up until now he had done nothing except act as a basketball hoop while two White bishops dressed as Rip van Winkles were showing off their basketball prowess.
32...Rf2 33.Rfe1 Qd2 34.Rbd1 Qb2 35.Rd8+ Kh7 36.Bg8+ Kg6 37.Rd6+ Kf5 38.Be6+ Kg6 39.Bd5+ Kh7 40.Be4+ Kg8 41.Bg6
In real life Reshevsky resigned here, but the live game continued...
41...Kf8 42.Rd8+ Ke7 43.Bf6++!! Kxf6 44.Rd6 mate!

Total entertainment, don’t you agree, though this view was apparently not shared by Anand who absented himself after the first 15 minutes of the exhibition.
Perhaps he thought – “How can I compete with this?”
The previous day Anand had disappointed the weekend crowd at the Teatro Cervantes by taking a short draw against his main rival Magnus Carlsen. Perhaps from a professional’s view point it is wise to bail out if you achieve nothing with White out of the opening, but chess fans in Linares and worldwide were hoping for more.
In Anand’s defence, jet lag is a debilitating condition for a chessplayer, causing you to play slowly while believing that you are doing well – think Ivanchuk. Anand admitted to almost falling asleep in the fourth hour of his win over Shirov, the first game of the Linares half, though he fairly quickly regained alertness.
Anand’s lack of ambition continued the following day, although it was hardly his fault that Radjabov headed for a drawish endgame with White and then offered to split the point.
Yes, the drawing disease, for which Linares has been famous, finally caught up with the players in rounds 10 and 11.
In round 10, Shirov and Leko, both coming off heavy defeats, played the sort of risk-free chess that has given the Marshall Gambit a boring reputation of late – the round two Anand-Aronian game excepted, of course. The next round Leko tried to improve on Anand’s play in Anand-Carlsen and achieved the smallest of advantages in an opposite bishops endgame. Another dull draw was expected until Carlsen, playing very quickly, missed a tactical method of forcing a draw (30...Bd2 31.b5 e3! 32.fxe3 Be1) and then lost patience and unnecessarily sacrificed a pawn with 32...d5? (instead of calmly manoeuvring his bishop to b6).

Leko showed uncertain technique before converting his advantage into a win; a boring win but Leko’s first since round one.


Photo Cathy Rogers

At least the round 10 battle between Radjabov and Aronian featured a sharp opening, but the battle ended abruptly due to mutual cowardice and most of the exciting variations were reserved for the post-game analysis. Great post-mortem, shame about the game.
1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Nf3 e6 5.Bg5 h6 6.Bh4 dxc4 7.e4 g5 8.Bg3 b5 9.Ne5 h5 10.h4 g4 11.Be2 Bb7 12.0-0 Nbd7 13.Qc2 Nxe5 14.Bxe5 Bg7 15.Rad1 0-0 16.Qc1

16.f3 and 16.Bg3, as played by Aronian in a key 2007 World Championship defeat against Anand, are the two main alternatives.
Headed later for f8. 16...Ne8 was Aronian's fall-back option.
17.g3 f6 18.Bf4 a6 19.Rfe1
The pawn break 19.f3, a constant theme, would here be met by 19...f5 when Radjabov did not see a way to free his e2 bishop, e.g. 20.Qe3 Qf6 and Aronian felt that he could complete his development in peace.
19...Rf7 20.Qc2
Radjabov also spent some time on the immediate 20.a4. Black would then have replied 20...Rd7 (Aronian also considered 20...Qf8, looking for a later ...Bh6, but after 21.Be3 f5 22.exf5 Rxf5 23.Ne4 he was not satisfied with Black's position.) and when Radjabov realised that the break 21.d5 could be met by 21...cxd5 22.exd5 Bxd5, he was pleased that he had preferred 20.Qc2.
20...Rd7 21.b3 cxb3 22.Qxb3 Nf8 23.Be3 Qe7 24.a4
The players spent a long time after the game trying to make 24.f3 work.
Radjabov expected the super-sharp response 24...c5!?, since after 24...gxf3 25.Bxf3 c5 (Aronian showed Radjabov that Black has no time for 25...Qf7 in view of 26.Ne2! c5 27.dxc5 f5 28.Nf4) 26.dxc5 f5, Radjabov was ready to strike with 27.Nd5!! Qf7 28.Nb6 when the players could see nothing for Black.
"I was intending to answer 24.f3 with 24...Rc8 25.fxg4 hxg4 26.Bxg4 c5 27.dxc5 Rdc7," explained Aronian, only to have Radjabov once again destroy Black's position through 28.Nd5!! exd5 29.exd5 Rxc5 30.d6+!.
So eventually Aronian was forced to admit that Radjabov was right and once he started analysing 24.f3 c5; 25.dxc5 f5! 26.exf5 gxf3 27.Bf1 Be5 Aronian began to enjoy himself - ...Qg7 is coming - and Radjabov started to doubt the f3 plan.
24...Qf7 25.d5
Essentially an attempt to force a draw by liquidating all the queenside pawns - without f3, White has no other way to break through. 25...exd5 26.exd5 f5 27.Bf1 Ng6 28.Bg2 Ne7
Radjabov was nervous about 28...f4 but after Aronian showed him 29.Bxf4! Nxf4 30.gxf4 Kh8 31.Ne4 Qxf4 32.Qc2, threatening 31.Ng5, he agreed that White was fine.
29.axb5 axb5 30.Bd4 Bxd4 31.Rxd4 Rc8
Here Aronian offered a draw, which Radjabov did not need too long to accept.
Aronian feared that Radjabov could build up the pressure with 31...Rc8 32.Re5!? not fearing 32...c5 33.Rf4 b4 34.Ne4 Bxd5 in view of 35.Rxd5! Rxd5 (35...Nxd5? 36.Ng5; 35...Qxd5? 36.Nf6+) 36.Ng5. However Aronian had missed that after 36...c4 37.Qxb4 Black has 37...Rd1+ (instead of 37...Qf6 38.Bxd5+ Nxd5 39.Qb7! "which looked extremely strong to me," said Aronian.) 38.Kh2 Qf6 39.Rxc4 Rxc4 40.Qxc4+ Kg7 when only Black can win. "Probably I had something like this, but I was too scared," admitted Aronian. "It looked very dangerous, especially in time trouble."
In fact Radjabov was planning to unpin his queen with 32.Qb2 or 32.Qb1, when a draw is indeed the most likely result.
Draw Agreed

Over the past two rounds, only Topalov has kept the fans entertained. The round 10 Ivanchuk-Topalov game kept going beyond the first time control, though Ivanchuk’s extra pawn, which should have been close to decisive, turned into a pawn deficit after he missed a big Topalov trick. Nonetheless, a pawn either way proved insufficient to avoid the fourth draw of the day.


After the rest day Topalov showed off some of his Grunfeld preparation against Shirov, winning a game that would have been exciting were it not for the fact that Topalov had seen most of it at home on his analysis board.


Just as in Wijk aan Zee 2007, where the players had discussed the same exchange sacrifice made famous by Bronstein, Shirov fell into time trouble and then to defeat without much of a fight. After Topalov’s 20th move novelty, Shirov avoided a queen exchange on move 21 and then blundered badly on move 26, despite long thought on that move. Two moves later Shirov, down to 11 minutes on the clock to reach move 40, missed the only chance, 28...Rf8, and allowed a final combination.

Topalov’s win brings his score with White against Shirov to 8.5 points from their last nine games, although it must be admitted that many of these were rapid or blindfold games.

Ivanchuk’s round 11 game looked to be headed for excitement when the Ukrainian took a boring variation of the Queen’s Gambit Declined and turned it into a type of Benko Gambit. However Aronian returned his material gains as fast as possible and his king in the centre had no time to feel uncomfortable since the players agreed to a draw on move 22.


So with four rounds to play, Anand leads the field by a point over Carlsen, Topalov and Aronian. Anand has already played most of his rivals – although White against Topalov awaits in the final round. However if past form is any guide, Anand, with White in two of the three final rounds will cruise to victory

This may be a pity for the Linares public, whose appetite for more high level chess will have been whetted by the living chess game. Now that they know that the secret to civilization lies in a game of chess, do they have an excuse to be anywhere other than the Teatro Cervantes at 4pm over the coming days, hoping and dreaming that the sort of excitement seen throughout the Morelia half of the tournament will also be seen on days other than rest days in Linares.


Standings after 11 rounds
1. V.Anand-7
2-4. M.Carlsen, L. Aronian and V.Topalov-6
5-6.T.Radjabov and V.Ivanchuk-5
7-8. P.Leko and A.Shirov - 4.5

Be sure to check out other CLO articles on Morelia-Linares, including predictions by major American chess personalities, a Linares blog by GM Ian Rogers and Macauley Peterson's recap at the half.