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Ian Rogers Blogs From Linares Print E-mail
By GM Ian Rogers   
February 28, 2008
Anand and Shirov in round 8 of Linares-Morelia. Photo Cathy Rogers

“Linares – nobody goes to Linares!” said the man behind the desk at Tourist Information in Madrid Airport.
“But there’s a big chess tournament there.”
“Of course – a famous tournament! Many famous chess players live in Linares – I read about it in the newspapers.”
“Well, Ljubojevic lives there.”
The tourist man looked confused.
“And the World Champion Anand lives in Madrid.”
Happy again, Mr Tourist Information handed over a map of Spain and indicated the road down to Linares, which continued to more famous tourist towns like Cordoba and Granada.
Such was my introduction to the 25th Ciudad de Linares tournament, which completed its first half in Morelia, Mexico, last Saturday and returned to its traditional home on Thursday.
300 kilometres later on highway A4, due south, after passing 200 kilometres of olive groves, or stumps of trees that once bore olives, the mountains gave way to abandoned mines, then small cattle farms, whereupon the town that no tourist wants to visit appeared over the horizon. Linares, Linares!
Not much had changed since my last visit in 2005. The narrow streets, while hardly Spain’s finest, still hold a certain charm, the Plaza del Toros looks majestic (until you realise its purpose that it is not used for cricket matches), and the Hotel Anibal - where the players in the ‘Wimbledon of Chess’ have resided since the tournament’s first edition in 1979 - remains as reliable as ever. The Anibal is flanked by a Chinese restaurant whose popularity among the elite Grandmasters remains a mystery and a much better local diner 10 doors up the hill in the opposite direction which has rarely, if ever, enjoyed 2700 custom. Maybe Grandmasters don’t like walking up hills.

This theory received partial confirmation when at 3.30 on Thursday, Grandmasters such as Anand, Aronian and Ivanchuk lined up to catch the bus to the new tournament venue, the Teatro Cervantes. The bus trip through the aforementioned narrow streets took almost 15 minutes for a journey which would have taken about seven minutes on foot, though it must be admitted that a number of the bus passengers determined that the following day they would risk exhausting themselves with the walk rather than waste time on the bus.
The tournament’s move to the Teatro Cervantes, a nineteenth century theatre in the centre of Linares which between 1982 and 2002 enjoyed the benefits of a four million Euro renovation, is a positive change after 22 years in the basement theatre at the Hotel Anibal.

The Anibal venue was famous for attracting a miniscule number of spectators to watch the elite of the chess world in action. Britney Spears could have visited the Anibal Theatre, with her children in tow, with no danger of being found by the paparazzi  - except for chess photographers who would have left Britney alone while  concentrating their lenses on the chess celebrities on stage. Even if the paparazzi had found their way to Linares, and then discovered the side entrance to the Anibal Theatre, the multitude of curtains and the friendly but firm veteran Linares security guard would have been enough to ensure her privacy.
(At least this turnout was better than the Kamsky-Shirov 2007 Cup final in December in Khanty Mansiysk, an event which was watched by the proverbial two men and a Siberian husky, and sometimes the dog had better things to do.)

In 2008, the tournament is played at the most famous theater in the city, and naturally the number of spectators has grown.
Even with 100 spectators, the theatre looks rather sparsely populated, but at least the players no longer feel as if they are performing only for an unseen audience in cyberspace.

Certainly the spectators were not lacking in entertainment in round 8, with players keen to sacrifice material. The youngsters Radjabov and Carlsen both gave away a knight within the first 15 moves but neither player seemed to have terrific compensation against Leko and Ivanchuk respectively.

Carlsen, in fact, considered his position to be simply lost until …g5 “got me back into the game.”


 Then the game developed into two races, run simultaneously; one between rival pawns and one between Ivanchuk and his clock. Ivanchuk lost both, although Carlsen admitted that had Ivanchuk played 31.g6 instead 31.Rh8 (and not used 20 of his last 29 second playing it) then Carlsen was unsure whether he had anything better than chasing White’s bishop along the long diagonal and making a draw – a result which he would have been far from displeased with.

Leko made his defensive task easier by staying well ahead on the clock but could not exploit any of the varieties of material advantage he possessed at various stages. Nearing the time control Leko had no objective reason to play for a win but “I thought with your time [trouble] I was very motivated; normally I would think I must be careful in such a position.” However when Radjabov offered a draw with only one move to make before the time control and nine seconds on the clock, Leko saw no reason to be foolhardy and accepted.


Opening: Queen’s Indian Defence

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 b6 4.g3 Ba6 5.Qc2 Bb7 6.Bg2 c5 7.d5

One of the trendier modern pawn sacrifices. Expect it to remain the height of fashion for another six months until someone finds the antidote that commonsense indicates must be available.
7...exd5 8.cxd5 Nxd5 9.0-0 Be7 10.Qe4
An attempted improvement on 10.Rd1 with which Aronian gained nothing against Leko a few weeks earlier in Wijk aan Zee. Leko took it in his stride – “It’s not new.”
Played immediately and clearly not an idea that Radjabov had taken seriously, since the Azeri's next few moves came at a snail's pace. 11.Nh4 g6
Again played instantly, not afraid of 12.Bh6 when Black will simply reply 12...Qc8 or 12...Qc7 and ignore White's kingside demonstrations. 12.Qe5 f6 13.Qe4 Qc8 14.Rd1 Nac7 15.Nxg6!
Without this move White would have little to show for his pawn - now he has at least some fun.
15...hxg6 16.Qxg6+ Kd8 17.a3!
The point behind Radjabov's play - the knight on d5 is threatened by 18.e4 and Black must destabilise his position slightly to secure an escape square.
17...b5! 18.e4 Nb6 19.Nc3 d6

Radjabov was expecting 19...Ne6!? with the idea 20.Nxb5 Qc6 but Leko barely considered that plan - "For me 19...d6 and 19...Nc4 were the only two moves - I don't believe in 19...Ne6."
Leko eventually dismissed 19...Nc4 because of 20.Qg7 Re8 21.Bh3 "and I am stuck."
20.Bf4 Qe6 21.Bxd6 Bxd6 22.Qg7!
"I missed this move," admitted Leko, who was planning to answer 22.e5 with the sensational 22...Kc8!! after which he was expecting 23.Bxb7+ Kxb7 24.Qe4+ Kc8 25.Rxd6 Qxe5 "when I am at least slightly better."
Radjabov also tried to make 22.Rxd6+ Qxd6 23.e5 Qxe5 24.Bxb7 Ne6 25.Rd1+ Ke7 work but eventually concluded "It's a mess, no?"
22...Re8 23.e5! Qxe5 24.Bxb7 Ne6! 25.Qg4
The players briefly looked at 25.Qg6 "but 25.Qg4 looked 20 times more to the point for me," said Radjabov.
25...Nd4! 26.Bxa8 Nxa8 27.Re1
"The only move I was afraid of," said Leko, who was rather surprised when Radjabov replied "After I played 27.Re1 I thought it was a mistake!"
In fact Radjabov's instinct was not wrong, though he could also have caused some problems for Leko with 27.a4!? after which Leko's intended 27...Nc7 28.axb5 f5 29.Qg6 fails to keep the White rooks from activating.
27...Qxe1+ 28.Rxe1 Rxe1+ 29.Kg2 Nc7 30.Ne4 Ne8?!
"30...Be7 is just a draw," said Leko, who was 20 minutes ahead of Radjabov on the clock and, irrationally, hoping to exploit his opponent's time trouble. (By now Leko had seen what Ivanchuk had done to his wonderful position in time trouble.)
31.Qg6 Be7 32.Nc3 Re5 33.h4! a5 34.Qd3 Nd6 35.Qh7 Ne8 36.f4 Re6 37.h5 f5 38.h6 Rd6 39.a4
Accompanied by a draw offer - rather a panicky reaction with the time control by now so close. With more than a minute left Radjabov might have found 39.Qh8! which is far from easy for Black to handle but even after the text move White is slightly better so Leko had little hesitation in accepting the offer.
Draw Agreed

Shirov took a little longer to give away material - two pawns - against Anand, whereupon he promptly exchanged into an endgame and tried to prove that active pieces can compensate for anything.


“It must have been very close to a draw,” admitted Anand after he had outlasted Shirov and won a difficult rook endgame. “I didn’t see the point of his …Qh4 …[yet] with my rook [stuck] on h4 it is difficult to believe that White has an easy win … [Luckily] his king on h8 gave me some tactical tricks.

Aronian gambited his d-pawn but Topalov refused because then he would have no weaknesses to attack. The Bulgarian then proceeded to lay siege to the d pawn but one weak d pawn turned out to be stronger than no d pawn and no weaker than Black’s backward c pawn.
Nearing the time control, a tricky combination gave Aronian freedom for the first time in the game. He was an exchange down but with the initiative – exactly the sort of position which he had ground out to a win against Topalov in Wijk aan Zee. Aronian pushed Topalov into time trouble and eventually exacted revenge for his first round loss to Topalov.



Standings after eight rounds
1. V.Anand-5.5
2-3.L.Aronian and M.Carlsen-4.5
4-5. V.Topalov and A.Shirov-4
6. T.Radjabov-3.5
7-8. Peter Leko and Vassily Ivanchuk- 3

Look for more from GM Ian Rogers from Linares and if you haven't already, be sure to
read Macauley Peterson's recap at the half.