The “bubble” of the Salamanca Chess Magistral (now in its third edition) starts with all the members of the Salamanca Magistral (players, members of the organization, journalists, photographers, arbiters and companions… without NOVELTY: all of them passed the antigen tests satisfactorily.
Note that the five-time champion of Spain, the canary Sabrina Vega is 5 months pregnant and faces a real competitive test. It is very commendable her participation in this elite event in the current circumstances and she is fighting with all her strength. It is true that chess is not a physical sport and she can achieve it, but the competitive spirit comes out with all its strength in a chess match of these voltages.
No less than Vesselin Topalov, resident in Salamanca for more than 20 years, Alexei Shirov, runner-up of the world in the best era of Kasparov and Anand, the winner of the previous edition, the Venezuelan Iturrizaga, and David Anton, the great promise-reality of Spanish chess. And among the women, the grandmasters Elisabeth Paethz, Almira Skripchenko and the 17-year-old Bulgarian Salimova.
Yesterday began the third edition of the Magistral in a pioneering experience in Spanish chess, which is that the participants are housed in the Fonseca, a historic building dating from 1519 (more than five centuries) and that the place of play is on the same floor: the beautiful Hall of Paintings. And modern chess also has its history thanks to the Salamanca-born Luis Ramirez de Lucena, who wrote the oldest surviving printed chess treatise: Repetición de amores y arte de ajedrez, published in Salamanca in 1497.
And expectations were fulfilled because the first interesting games of the Magistral de Salamanca were already seen. In the first round (always starting at 4 pm), Shirov-Iturrizaga, Vega-Anton for the Spanish interests, and Skripchenko-Salimova for the interests of the girls.
Latvian-born Spaniard Alexei Shirov beat last year’s winner in brilliant style in a violent game with opposite castling. Sabrina fought well and was better, but in time trouble could not find a way to exploit the advantage. And the young Salimova gave a surprise by pulling off a trick against the French Skripchenko. Topalov, for his part, won an elegant endgame against Paehtz after a sequence started with Dxb5, but made a mistake and allowed some breathing space to the German GM.
Around 6 pm the second round would start, with another highlight: Anton-Shirov. And the game Paethz-Iturrizaga was interesting to know the aspirations of the German. Well, the first game ended in a draw after some small tactical skirmishes. And the German Paethz, who had great compensation for the black squares for a single pawn less and even some advantage (absolute blockade and the weakness of dark squares and the black king) forgot about his king in the Venezuelan’s time trouble. Vesselin Topalov, playing at home, again took advantage of White to beat Almira Skripchenko, who proves to be untrained. He was really very comfortable in the opening and took good advantage of the numerous black weaknesses. For her part, Salimova is surprising everyone and has achieved a great victory against Sabrina Vega from the Canary Islands, thanks to her good theoretical preparation.
In summary, very interesting games on this first day, with seven games decided and only one draw. The two Bulgarians are in the lead, followed by Shirov and Anton. More combativeness, impossible.