Vishy Anand Wins 10th Leon Masters Title


Indian chess legend Viswanathan Anand has won his 10th Leon Masters title after defeating GM Jaime Santos 3-1 in the final match. The 54-year-old Anand took over to win the last two games after a shaky start and has now won the event in northwest Spain in 1996, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2011, 2016, and 2024. 

2024 Leon Masters Final Bracket


Viswanathan Anand 3-1 Jaime Santos

Anand revealed after the match was over that he’d played a very risky gambit—deserting his wife on her 50th birthday to play chess instead. In the end it worked out as well as he could possibly have hoped.



From the scoreline alone it looks as though Anand was in full control, but he admitted afterward that for the second match in a row he’d got off to a very tough start. Local hero Santos was pushing for almost the whole of the 50-move first game, with Anand saying he felt terrible (“fatal” was the Spanish word he used in the post-game interview) and had the sensation at times that his defense wouldn’t hold. It did, however, with no very clear missed chance for his opponent. 

There was no passive defense for Anand in the second game, as a poisoned-pawn variation of the French became the definition of double-edged after 16.f5, threatening to follow up with f6.


After 16…Rc8 17.Nd1!? White was taking risks, and in fact a few moves later Anand realized he’d blundered with 22.c3?!. He was relieved, therefore, that soon after Santos, who didn’t particularly like his position, took a draw by repetition. Anand later noted his opponent had been “almost a clean pawn up.” 

The third game is the critical clash of the whole match, with the first turning point coming when Santos unleashed 15.Bxe5!?, an idea Anand admitted he’d simply overlooked. White takes advantage of the fact that the queen and rook on d7 and f7 can be forked by a knight on e5. 

It led to a fascinating position where White soon had no minor pieces, but all eight pawns were left intact. The strategic contest could have gone either way, but it was Anand who outplayed his young opponent to take the lead in the match.

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

Chess.com Game of the Day Dejan Bojkov

That left Santos needing to hit back on demand with the black pieces in the final rapid game. Doing that against Anand is one of the toughest challenges in chess, but the Spanish 27-year-old had bounced back against GM Arjun Erigaisi a day earlier, and once again he managed to make things interesting.

Just as his opponent was thinking everything was under control, Santos began pushing pawns, first 19…h5, next 20…f5, and then 25…e5!? It sparked a battle where Anand had to be on the top of his game to avoid getting into trouble.    

It was a vintage final couple of games by Anand, who wrapped up his 10th title in Leon.

It is fitting that the 54-year-old did it on the same day 10-year-old Faustino Oro had become the youngest international master in chess history. Anand reminded us that older chess players can still perform at the very highest level. The Indian star noted he hadn’t been in time to defeat Oro at the board, but he could at least say he’d given the kid his autograph! 

Let’s hope we see Anand back to defend his title in 2025.   

The 2024 Leon Masters was a four-player knockout that took place in Leon, Spain, during June 28-30, featuring GMs Viswanathan Anand, Veselin Topalov, Arjun Erigaisi, and Jaime Santos. Each match consisted of four 20+10 rapid games. If the scores were tied, the players competed in 3+2 blitz games. 


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