Leon Masters Day 2: Santos Shocks Arjun To Set Up Final With Anand


GM Jaime Santos came from behind to beat GM Arjun Erigaisi 2.5-1.5 in a thrilling second Semifinal of the 2024 Leon Masters. The Spanish grandmaster will now attempt to defend the title he won in 2023 as he takes on the legendary GM Viswanathan Anand in Sunday’s Final. 

The Final starts Sunday, June 30, at 10:30 a.m. ET / 16:30 CEST / 8 p.m. IST.

2024 Leon Masters Bracket

Santos reached the Final by the same scoreline as Anand, but three of the four games were decisive in his Semifinal against Arjun.

Jaime Santos 2.5-1.5 Arjun Erigaisi


The tone was set for the match in a fiercely-fought first game, where Santos was better but Arjun defended well to hold a draw. The clearest moment where Santos might have got an advantage was, in fact, far from clear, since although he could win Arjun’s queen for a rook and knight, the chances for Black to hold would be high. 

Santos showed he can live with the world’s best in rapid chess. Photo: Leon Masters.

The second game felt like the rising star taking over, as Arjun’s opening strategy paid off, and one probing move was enough to send Black’s house of cards crashing down. It was a crushing win.

That left Arjun with a chance to clinch a spot in the Final with a game to spare, and he made his intentions clear when he rejected a chance to make a draw by repetition with the black pieces. About his decision to play on, he said: “In hindsight, maybe I should just have taken a draw, but I thought I have a good position and I didn’t think I would be worse.”

He also had a 10-minute edge on the clock, but that counted for nothing when 38…f6? turned a complicated struggle into a dead-lost position for Black.

Never play f6?

Black is relying on the f4-bishop being undefended, but Santos went for 39.exf6! anyway and won just as crushing a game as his opponent had in the previous encounter.

That meant the scores were level, while the final game would be a microcosm of the match, with the advantage swinging from side to side. 20.Rxe7+! was a fine blow by Arjun.

Santos noted he’d seen it in advance, but after 20…Nxe7 21.Qf6 had originally thought that he could castle, overlooking that 21…0-0 22.Be5! (he assumed only 22.Bh6?) would be checkmate next move.

Arjun would later comment:

“I think it was a very close match. I got a lot of good positions, but at the critical moments I was fumbling, and Jaime took full advantage of it, so credit to him, he found good resources.”

I got a lot of good positions, but at the critical moments I was fumbling.

—Arjun Ergaisi 

That was the case in the final game, as Arjun misplayed his advantage, got into trouble, almost got out of trouble, but then became tempted to play for a win and ultimately found himself in a lost endgame. Santos didn’t give any chances as he smoothly converted his advantage to win the match.

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

Chess.com Game of the Day Dejan Bojkov

Santos now goes to Sunday’s Final against Anand, which he feels will be a 50:50 battle. 

Santos is through to the Final, while Arjun’s tournament is over. Photo: Leon Masters.

The event is over for Arjun, who talked afterward about his perceived lack of invitations to top events:

“I think there are not too many classical tournaments for the rest of the year, but I have some invitational tournaments for the next year planned. For this year I think my next classical tournament is the Olympiad, and before that I’m playing in the World Rapid and Blitz in Astana.” 

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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