Person of day - 21 AUGUST 2023
FRANCISCO VALLEJO PONS
In the 20thcentury, Spain barely had any chess traditions or strong players, but the situation rapidly changed with the arrival of senior Luis Rentero, a millionaire. After 1981, the tournament in Linares began to gather all the world’s strongest chess players and the country experienced a chess boom. Following Miguel Illescas, Spain saw an entire generation of chess players rise to the fore; it was also helped by the immigration of strong players like Vishy Anand, Veselin Topalov, Alexei Shirov, Valery Salov and Oleg Korneev. However, Spain awaited the birth of a new hero, which took place on 21stAugust 1981 on the island of Menorca.
Francisco Vallejo was instantly noticed as a gifted child. At the 1992 world U10 championship, which journalists dubbed “the battle of wunderkinds”, he split 3rdplace with Etienne Bacrot, losing by a half-point to Luke McShane and Alexander Grischuk. The fight of that outstanding 1982-1983 generation continued two years later, when Vallejo split 3rdplace with Ruslan Ponomariov, behind Levon Aronian and Bacrot.
In 1999, “Pako”, as his native fans like to call him, performed a dramatic surge and became a grandmaster and a year later, he finally won the world juniors’ championships, even though his remarkable competitors were playing in tournaments of another level.
In 2000, Vallejo played for Spain’s Olympic team for the first team. He played at the second board, behind Shirov. All in all, Francisco has played in eight Tournaments of Nations and in 2008, he showed second best individual result with 9 points out of 11. At European team championships, Shirov and Vallejo’s team regularly came in the top 10; the team’s best result was sixth place in 2009.
At the strongest Spanish championship in history in 2002, he lost in the final to Alexei Shirov. In 2000, the young Spaniard won a well-attended Capablanca Memorial and became a member of the chess elite.
He played in multiple FIDE knockout world championships and World Cups. At the peak of his career in 2009, his rating reached 2711. Vallejo has defeated Vishy Anand, Fabiano Caruana, Vladimir Kramnik, Veselin Topalov, Alexei Shirov, Alexander Morozevich, Peter Leko, Evgeny Bareev, Peter Svidler and Boris Gelfand, while his score against world champion Magnus Carlsen is 2:4 (and he has beaten him in a blindfold game once).
After a disappointing defeat to Sergey Karjakin in 2012, Vallejo rashly finished his career. However, after pressure from fans, one of the leaders of Spanish chess once again took to the board to delight his followers with new sporting and creative triumphs.