Leon Masters Day 1: Anand Beats Topalov As He Hunts 10th Title


15th World Chess Champion Viswanathan Anand defeated one of his great rivals GM Veselin Topalov 2.5-1.5 on Friday to reach the Final of the 2024 Leon Masters. He’ll face the winner of Saturday’s Semifinal between GM Arjun Erigaisi and local hero GM Jaime Santos in Sunday’s Final as he aims to make it 10 titles in the Spanish city.   

The second Semifinal starts Saturday, June 29, at 10:30 a.m. ET / 16:30 CEST / 8 p.m. IST.


This event is the 37th edition of the Leon Masters, a tournament that has been won by World Champions Garry Kasparov, Vladimir Kramnik, and Magnus Carlsen. The player who has most made Leon his home, however, is Anand, who has played the event 15 times and won on no less than nine occasions.   

Leon Masters Winners






















# Year FED Player # Year FED Player
1 1988 Javier Campos 19 2006 Viswanathan Anand
2 1989 Jozsef Pinter 20 2007 Viswanathan Anand
3 1990 Julio Granda 21 2008 Vasyl Ivanchuk
4 1991

Yevgeniy Vladimirov 22 2009 Magnus Carlsen
5 1992 Boris Gulko 23 2010 Boris Gelfand
6 1993 Leonid Yudasin 24 2011 Viswanathan Anand
7 1994 Alexander Beliavsky 25 2012 Francisco Vallejo
8 1995 Alexei Shirov 26 2013 Anish Giri
9 1996 Viswanathan Anand 27 2014 Wei Yi
10 1997 Veselin Topalov 28 2015 Wei Yi
11 1998

Garry Kasparov 29 2016 Viswanathan Anand
12 1999 Viswanathan Anand 30 2017 Wesley So
13 2000 Viswanathan Anand 31 2018 Wesley So
14 2001 Viswanathan Anand 32 2019 Parham Maghsoodloo
15 2002

Vladimir Kramnik 33 2020 (online) Leinier Dominguez
16 2003 Ruslan Ponomariov 34 2021 (online) Boris Gelfand
17 2004 Alexei Shirov 35 2022 Boris Gelfand
18 2005 Viswanathan Anand 36 2023 Jaime Santos

54-year-old Anand said it would be “magnificent” to round off his career in Leon with a 10th win, while in the Semifinal he was paired to meet the player he won a World Championship match against in Sofia in 2010, 49-year-old Topalov.

The Final will be a battle of the generations after the Semifinal pairings of Arjun vs. Santos and Anand vs. Topalov. Photo: Leon Masters.

The Bulgarian also has happy memories of Leon, and not just winning the title in 1997. He said after the drawing of lots that he made his debut in elite chess 31 years ago in Leon, when he played in the 1993 tournament and got to face former World Champion Anatoly Karpov—in fact, they shared third place on 5.5/9, with GM Leonid Yudasin scoring 7/9.   

The other Semifinal is between two young players, 27-year-old local star and defending champion, Santos, and 20-year-old Arjun, who has stormed up to world number-four by playing everywhere, both accepting invitations and playing relatively minor opens. 

 Anand 2.5-1.5 Topalov


The format is four rapid games where each player has 20 minutes for all moves, plus a 10-second increment each move. Only if the score is tied 2-2 will a playoff take place with 3+2 blitz games.

The match opened with two wild draws, with Anand later commenting on the live broadcast: “The truth is it was very difficult. I didn’t start the match very well, but I survived!”

I didn’t start the match very well, but I survived! 

—Viswanathan Anand

The first clash was a very sharp Vienna Game (1.e4 e5 2.Nc3) where Topalov built up a dominant position where his bishop on c6 completely dominated Anand’s rooks on a7 and e7. After 28…Re6? White was winning, but not after the Bulgarian’s 29.Bd7?. He was half-expecting his opponent to resign, but it turned out Black was suddenly completely OK! 

The second game began with a slow maneuvering Ruy Lopez but suddenly burst into life when Topalov got to sacrifice an exchange. Soon afterward he got a chance to launch a decisive attack on Anand’s king but missed one crucial trick.

Topalov quipped that he’d made a mouse-slip when he later blundered a pawn.

Topalov noted, “In sport you have to take your chances,” and it was Anand who seized his chance in game three. 

An innocuous-looking middlegame position suddenly saw Anand able to launch a kingside attack, and although 37…Nf4+?! isn’t one of the computer-approved kills it did ultimately prove enough to give Anand victory. 


That’s our Game of the Day, which GM Dejan Bojkov analyzes below:

Chess.com Game of the Day Dejan Bojkov

The final game was, therefore, a must-win for Topalov, who played the French Defense, but Anand soon traded into an endgame where only he could be better and went on to make a draw from a position of strength. 

Anand and Topalov, still fighting at the board. Photo: Leon Masters.

Anand-Arjun could be a fascinating clash of the Indian generations in the Final on Sunday, but first Santos will try to stop Arjun in Saturday’s Semifinal. 

The 2024 Leon Masters is a four-player knockout taking place in Leon, Spain, from June 28-30, featuring GMs Viswanathan Anand, Veselin Topalov, Arjun Erigaisi, and Jaime Santos. Each match consists of four 20+10 rapid games. If the scores are tied, the players compete in 3+2 blitz games. 


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