Gibraltar: Eight-Way Tie For First at Half-Time
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Besides the strongest tournament in history there is another very interesting event under way: the Gibraltar Chess Festival. The 12th edition has reached the fifth round, and eight players are sharing first place at the moment: Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, Pentala Harikrishna, Vassily Ivanchuk, Maxim Rodshtein, Nikita Vitiugov, Francisco Vallejo Pons, Li Chao and Richard Rapport.
Photos © Sophie Triay & John Saunders
With a record number of participants the 12th Tradewise Gibraltar Chess Festival started on Monday morning with the first amauteur tournament. This year the festival has attracted participants from countries such as Venezuela, Mongolia and China.
There are close to 70 grandmasters from 60 nations. The Masters has 252 players this year with around 370 playing in all three tournaments. It may not be the biggest open in the world, but it's certainly one of the strongest, with no less than ten 2700 playing in the Masters.
On of the players is 11-year-old Anna Cramling Bellon, the daughter of GMs Pia Cramling and Juan Manuel Bellon Lopez. Anna first came to the tournament with her parents, whilst still in her carry cot. She has been coming every year since then.
As a baby she slept right through the tournaments, always next to one of her parents, who have participated every year in the Gibraltar Masters in its 12 year history!
The family lived in Fuengirola, Malaga, but last year moved to Stockholm, Sweden, where Ana who has ambitions of becoming a Grand Master in the future, now has her own coach.
On Monday the first move was carried out by two of the youngest members of staff at Gibtelecom, Rachel Holgado and Craig Lima. The young chess player is Irene Nicolas Zapata from Spain, who recently won the silver medal in the under 16 category at the World Youth Championships.
On the same day many players we're flying in to be in time for Monday night's opening ceremony. The pairings for the first round were drawn by Gibraltar’s Sport, Culture and Heritage Minister Steven Linares, who once again pledged the Gibraltar Government’s commitment to the tournament.
“It is a great pleasure to be part of the biggest tournament and event annually in Gibraltar,” he said. “As it continues to grow the Government will continue to support it as it does others. But this tournament takes the biscuit. It is the biggest tournament the Government has ever been involved with.”
With commentary on the official website by GMs Irina Krush and Simon Williams (produced by yours truly together with Lennart Ootes), the Masters tournament took off on Tuesday at 3pm.
Also for the Masters there was a ceremonial first move, performed by James Humpreys, Chairman of Tradewise Gibraltar Insurance Ltd.
“Tradewise is becoming synonymous with chess as much as it is to insurance and this is important for Gibraltar. In chess we have Tata Steel, and I hoping that over the years Tradewise will be exactly the same as that company in its association with the festival,” said Mr Humpreys.
On this board, top seeded player Michael Adams faced FM Emilio Miguel Sanchez Jerez from Murcia. Mr Sanchez took his chance for eternal fame and played the Evans Gambit, but a player of Adams's caliber knows who to deal with that.
On one of the most interesting games played so far was the following. Both kings don't casle, and both queens get close. However, White always had more pieces into play - Black's rook and bishop on the queenside were mere spectators.
Gata Kamsky won a nice attacking game, where his knights played a key role:
In this round 14-year-old Sebastian Mihajlov (2185) beat GM Krikor Mekhitarian (2566) of Brazil:
Commentary round 1
Top seed Michael Adams continued with a win in round 2, already facing a grandmaster.
Glenn Flear was close to a draw against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, but with little time on the clock in went wrong:
Vallejo Pons, who entered the tournament at the last minute, made clear that endings with opposite-colored bishops are not always a dead draw, especially in over the board play!
Commentary round 2
The third round saw a fantastic encounter on board one between Alexandr Fier of Brazil and Mickey Adams of England. It was a draw, but what a draw!
14-year-old Wei Yi, the youngest grandmaster in the world, was playing a nice attaciking game against IM Thomas Henrichs but suddenly lost track.
Here's one more fine game from the third round:
Commentary round 3
After four rounds three players were sitting on a perfect score: Maxim Rodshtein of Israel, Li Chao of China and Sandro Mareco of Argentina. The latter defeated David Navara on Friday:
Commentary round 4
After several draws on the top boards on Saturday, there is now an eight-way tie for first place with five more rounds to go.
Commentary round 5
Gibraltar Masters 2014 | Round 5 Standings (top 50)
|6||8||GM||Vallejo Pons Francisco||ESP||2707||4,5||2849|
|7||14||GM||Li Chao B||CHN||2680||4,5||2835|
|24||23||GM||Ganguly Surya Shekhar||IND||2619||4||2583|
|26||35||GM||Mekhitarian Krikor Sevag||BRA||2566||4||2429|
|39||28||GM||Salgado Lopez Ivan||ESP||2597||3,5||2568|
|40||37||GM||Salem A.R. Saleh||UAE||2564||3,5||2567|
|41||40||GM||Anton Guijarro David||ESP||2557||3,5||2543|
|42||27||GM||Van Kampen Robin||NED||2602||3,5||2542|
The Tradewise Gibraltar Chess Festival isn't called a 'festival' for nothing. Every year there is a large number of side events so that participants can enjoy themselves also in the evenings.
the Rock. The dinner was hosted by Gibraltar’s Minister for Tourism, Commercial Affairs, Public Transport and the Port, Neil Costa. The location was a beautiful and unique setting in the Cathedral Chamber of St Michael’s Cave located within the Upper Rock Nature Reserve.
On Wednesday evening the first of four Masterclasses was held in the Caleta Hotel, which is also the playing venue and the place where many players stay. In the Masterclass, IM Elisabeth Paehtz and GM Nigel Short went through some of there games:
On Tursday night the traditional blitz team event was held in the hotel and as always it was amazingly strong, with some of the strongest grandmasters participating. A local team from the new chess company Cisha, headed by GM Jan Gustafsson, also participated.
After six rounds the Chinese team with Li Chao, Wei Yi, Tan Zhongyi and Guo Qi tied for first place with the team with Daniil Dubov (Russia), Richard Rapport (Hungary), Natalia Zhukova (Ukraine) and Jovana Vojinovic (Serbia). A total of 27 teams participated.
On Friday there was another Masterclass, this time by GM Vassily Ivanchuk. He went through all five games of this 1991 Candidates’ Match with Leonid Yudasin, and then answered several questions. Mr Ivanchuk turned out to be quite an expert also on other board games!
On Saturday evening the second Battle of the Sexes was held in the dining room of the Caleta, which was transformed into a boxing ring with a giant chess set inside!