Sun-Herald Chess Column for March 12

Two milleniums ago, the town of Casula was one of the most important mining towns in the Roman Empire. The reserves of galena in Casula, latterly Linares in Spain, expired in the 1980s, leaving the area notable only for its olive groves, Land Rover factory and the 'Cuidad de Linares' chess tournament. The car factory in Linares fell on hard times in the 1990s, but the chess tournament has gone from strength to strength and is now regarded as the 'Wimbledon of Chess'.

The 2000 event, featuring five of the world's top six plus the official World Champion, was an exceptionally hard-fought tournament; the high proportion of draws - more than 2/3 - indicative mostly of the incredible defensive abilities of the elite players. The two week tournament quickly developed into a race between world number one Garry Kasparov and his compatriot, 24-year-old Vladimir Kramnik. These two were tied for the lead throughout a tense second half of the tournament, with both missing chances to wrap up the tournament in their mutual eighth round encounter, which ended in a draw. The tournament's big disappointment has been Viswanathan Anand, although the Indian had to consider himself unlucky in the following game, his opponent confessing at the post-mortem that the entire game "until the last move" had been prepared for January's Leko-Khalifman match.

Linares 2000
White: V.Anand
Black: P.Leko
Opening: Grunfeld Defence

#1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 d5 4.cxd5 Nxd5 5.e4 Nxc3 6.bxc3 Bg7 7.Nf3 c5 8.Rb1 0-0 9.Be2 cxd4 10.cxd4 Qa5+ 11.Bd2 Qxa2 12.0-0 Nd7#

This came as an unpleasant surprise to Anand, who had expected Leko's habitual 12...Bg4.

#13.Re1 Nb6 14.Ra1 Qb2 15.h3 f5!? 16.Rb1 Qa2 17.Qc1 Kh8! 18.Ra1 Qg8!#

A fine retreat - perhaps playing FischerRandom (back-rank shuffle) chess with the game's inventor in Budapest has had its benefits for Leko.

#19.Ba5!? fxe4 20.Bxb6 exf3 21.Bxf3 Bxh3 22.Rxa7 (Diagram) Bxg2!#

"I couldn't resist playing this move," said Leko, "My computer recommended it so strongly!"


23.Bxg2?! Rxa7 24.Bxa7 Qa2! is too risky. The text move leads to a forced draw.

#23...Qb3 24.Qd1 Qxb6 25.Rxb7 Qf6 26.Rexe7 Ra1! 27.Rxg7 Rxd1 28.Rxh7+ Kg8 29.Bd5+ Rf7 30.Rbxf7 Qg5+ 31.Kh3 Qxd5 32.Rhg7+ 1/2#

Since Black cannot avoid perpetual check, the players agreed to a draw here.