Spain’s Paco Vallejo’s (28th in the world ranking) victory over Norway’s Magnus Carlsen, current number one in the world ranking, has been the big surprise of the third day of the Grand Slam Chess Masters Final, whose first round is being held in Sao Paulo (Brazil). This is an historic event since for the first time for a born-and-bred Spaniard (it has only been done by the naturalized Shirov) has beaten a reigning number one player at the board. Vallejo moves into third thanks to this victory, upsetting the favourites on this day played earl this morning Spanish time (evening-night yesterday, Brazilian time).
The Norwegian, with black, emerged from the opening in a very comfortable position, and soon gained a clear advantage. Everything pointed to a third consecutive loss for the Spaniard but he found the key, defending himself with expert moves, and Carlsen was not able to extend his advantage. This led to an important moment—Vallejo, with very little time and in a worse position had one play (24 Dd5) to exchange queens, alleviate much of the pressure and play for a draw. “Why didn’t you do it?” was the question he was asked at the Meeting Point. “Besides the fact that I don’t like the resultant endgame without queens, I thought that if we got to where we each had two minutes, anything could happen, even a miracle”. And so it happened, in a whirlwind. Carlsen made one of those monumental errors that great champions only make about once a year. And this time, contrary to what happened on the two previous days, it was Vallejo who devoured him like a lion.
Paco Vallejo is at 29 currently the best Spaniard. Born in Minorca and residing in Palma, Majorca, he comes from a family of chess players. He was World Under 18 Champion at Oropesa del Mar (Castellón). He indeed beat Carlsen once when the Norwegian was a child, albeit one with talent, but the Sao Paulo victory is the second victory over him in the professional field. He last beat him in 2004. This is also the first victory by a Spaniard over a reigning number 1.
The match between Levon Aronian (world number 3) and Hiraku Nakamura (number 12) unfolded quickly with 11 moves in 6 minutes starting with a very positional and theoretical approach, with a classic configuration of pieces. Aronian hid his bishops to the back which gave his rooks free movement. The American of Japanese origin, Nakamura, showed off a theoretical novelty after a movement of white by the Armenian which later on exerted pressure to gain positions on the queen’s side. The Armenian Champion, world number 3, with his pieces well placed on the playing field, entrapped his opponent making him pressed for time and waiting for him to commit a fatal error which would condemn him to defeat but Nakamura held on and after 94 minutes and 44 moves the draw came. According to the expert Leontxo Garcia, present in Sao Paulo, the match was “A boring tennis match with both players at the back of the court never approaching the net. The result was the expected draw, with little fanfare”.
Ivanchuk and Anand (World Champion) were the stars of the longest match of the championship, lasting five hours. It was a great battle between the only members of the top ten who are over 40. Surprised by Ivanchuk’s (number 7) choice, the sharp Jänish-Schliemann variant of the Spanish Opening, Anand was not able to gain an advantage in the opening and was soon in a somewhat inferior position. From then on, the fight was a recital of precision by the Ukranian, but the Indian player showed off all the resources of a World Champion. On completion of the fifth hour of play, when both players had hardly a minute, Ivanchuck finally broke Anand’s resistance and gained an impeccable victory. The triumph gives him the lead on a crushing day for the World Champion and leader in the FIDE ranking. This is the second victory for the Ukrainian in the tournament.
Today is a rest day and afterwards, from October 6, the remaing five rounds will be played in Bilbao, from which will emerge Russian Vladimir Kramnik’s successor, overall Grand Slam Winner in 2010. Ivanchuk leads the fight for the title after his second victory in the tournament.
Official website: http://www.bilbaomastersfinal.com/en/
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