Young Guns Shine At Gibraltar Masters
Praggnanandhaa beat Topalov in round six. Photo: John Saunders/Gibraltar Chess Festival.

Young Guns Shine At Gibraltar Masters

| 19 | Chess Event Coverage

The Gibraltar Chess Festival's masters tournament is seven rounds underway, and some young participants are doing very well.

The 17-year-old Andrey Esipenko of Russia is in shared first place after seven rounds, and   the14-year-old Praggnanandhaa Rameshababu of India defeated Bulgaria's top GM Veselin Topalov in round six.

You can follow the tournament here as part of our live portal. Commentary is provided by GM David Howell and WIM Fiona Steil-Antoni. The rounds start at 15:00 CET, which is 9 a.m. Eastern and 6 a.m. Pacific.

Gibraltar is celebrating its festival for the 18th time at the Caleta Hotel along the Sir Herbert Miles Road and near Playa de los Catalanes in Gibraltar, the British overseas territory on the southern point of the Iberian Peninsula.

It is a year of uncertainty for Gibraltar. Many matters are still unclear around Brexit, and that's certainly the case on the Rock, where a 96 percent majority voted against, and their wish to stay in the Schengen zone is under discussion.

The political change is unlikely to affect the tournament, and the organizers will have a year to deal with the practical differences. The last round is on Thursday, a day before Gibraltar will cease to be part of the European Union.

Monkeys Gibraltar chess
The Barbary macaque monkeys in Gibraltar continue to be a popular attraction. Photo: Niki Riga/Gibraltar Chess Festival.

The Gibraltar masters will likely be the strongest open tournament of the year. One reason is that there will be no tournament in Isle of Man this year. It might return in 2021.

With a first prize of £30,000 ($39,040 or 35,448 euros) the masters tournament attracted seven players rated above 2700, including two players from the world's top-10: Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Shakhriyar Mamedyarov. The field also includes two participants of the upcoming Candidates' Tournament, who both qualified via the FIDE Grand Swiss: Wang Hao and Kirill Alekseenko. Other big names are Veselin Topalov, David Navara, Le Quang Liem, Vassily Ivanchuk and Michael Adams.

Shakhriyar Mamedyarov opening ceremony Gibraltar 2020
Shakhriyar Mamedyarov at the opening ceremony. Photo: Niki Riga/Gibraltar Chess Festival.

With 248 players in total, many of the world’s leading female players are also present again, such as Anna Muzychuk, Alexandra Kosteniuk, Lei Tingjie and Tan Zhongyi. They are playing for the top women’s prize of £20,000 ($26,027 or 23,630 euros). The unfortunate clash with the women's world championship prevented Ju Wenjun and Aleksandra Goryachkina from playing.

An even bigger name attended the start of the tournament. Anatoly Karpov gave the annual simultaneous exhibition the night before the opening ceremony. In just a few months, the 12th world champion will be playing his first tournament in a standard event in years at the Tepe Sigeman tournament in Malmo, Sweden.

The Karpov simul. Video: Gibraltar Chess Festival.

The Gibraltar masters is yet another strong open where three Indian prodigies are getting a chance to make more progress while crossing swords with strong GMs. They are GM Praggnanandhaa Rameshbabu, GM-elect Raunak Sadhwani (both age 14) and GM Gukesh Dommaraju, 13.

2020 Gibraltar Masters | Round 7 Standings (Top 20)

Rk. SNo Fed Title Name Rtg Pts. TB1
1 16 GM Esipenko Andrey 2654 6,0 2941
2 3 GM Wang Hao 2758 6,0 2933
3 13 GM Maghsoodloo Parham 2674 6,0 2846
4 22 GM Paravyan David 2629 6,0 2831
5 46 GM Yuffa Daniil 2566 5,5 2779
6 27 GM Kobalia Mikhail 2609 5,5 2737
7 47 GM Antipov Mikhail Al. 2562 5,0 2754
8 52 GM Ibarra Jerez Jose Carlos 2548 5,0 2752
9 56 GM Werle Jan 2545 5,0 2733
10 11 GM Cheparinov Ivan 2686 5,0 2726
11 4 GM Topalov Veselin 2738 5,0 2704
12 80 GM Gagare Shardul 2481 5,0 2701
13 32 GM Basso Pier Luigi 2600 5,0 2700
14 2 GM Vachier-Lagrave Maxime 2770 5,0 2698
15 45 GM Sanal Vahap 2569 5,0 2691
16 7 GM Alekseenko Kirill 2704 5,0 2686
17 1 GM Mamedyarov Shakhriyar 2770 5,0 2684
18 48 GM Aryan Chopra 2562 5,0 2679
19 51 GM Maze Sebastien 2550 5,0 2664
20 10 GM Adams Michael 2694 5,0 2654

(Full standings here.)

Praggnanandhaa started with a surprising loss to his compatriot WIM Nandhidhaa PV but then fully recovered by winning five games in a row. The last one was a fantastic win against the great Topalov, now the strongest player he has beaten in his short career.

Praggnanandhaa after his game. Video: Gibraltar Chess Festival.

A day later Pragg had a tough pairing and couldn't cope with the Chinese powerhouse Wang Hao, who is now in a tie for first place with three young GMs: the 17-year-old Esipenko, the 21-year-old David Paravyan (both Russia) and the 19-year-old Parham Maghsoodloo (Iran). These four players are on 6/7.

Paravyan won a nice game in round five:

David Paravyan Gibraltar 2020
David Paravyan. Photo: Niki Riga/Gibraltar Chess Festival.

In round six, Esipenko defeated Ivan Cheparinov, the Gibraltar masters winner of 2014 who had started this year with 4/4. It was an impressive game as out of the opening Black seemed to be without counterplay and slightly worse.

Cheparinov vs Esipenko Gibraltar 2020
Cheparinov vs. Esipenko. Photo: John Saunders/Gibraltar Chess Festival.

Monday's round seven was marked by the absence of Esipenko, who received a bye. It's remarkable that players in contention for the hefty first prize can get a free half-point, but the rule is supposed to make it easier for top players to decide to play in Gibraltar, which doesn't have rest days.

Three Russian players are trailing the group of four with 5.5 points: Daniil YuffaMikhail Kobalia and Mikhail Antipov. No fewer than 29 players are on 5/7, including Mamedyarov and Vachier-Lagrave. They have some catching up to do in the remaining three rounds. 

The festival always includes a number of evening master-classes, and Mamedyarov conducted the first:

The Mamedyarov masterclass. Video: Gibraltar Chess Festival.

The group on 5/7 also includes the two leading women contenders Bela Khotenashvili and Zhansaya AbdumalikThe latter defeated the Iranian GM Amin Tabatabaei in round two:

Zhansaya Abdumalik Gibraltar 2020
Zhansaya Abdumalik. Photo: John Saunders/Gibraltar Chess Festival.

Don't miss Khotenashvili's nasty trick that French GM Jules Moussard fell for in round six:

Bela Khotenashvili Gibraltar 2020
Bela Khotenashvili. Photo: John Saunders/Gibraltar Chess Festival.

Another traditional event, on the Saturday evening in the middle of the tournament, is the battle of the sexes. This year the gentlemen beat the ladies +2 =0 -1, but it will be remembered mostly for the way the men lost the first game:

The men’s team consisted of Mamedyarov, Alekseenko, Cheparinov, Michael Adams, Maghsoodloo and Alejandro Ramirez, in playing order. And indeed, the move 3...f5 was made by Cheparinov, who happens to be married to Antoaneta Stefanova, the team captain of the women's team (Muzychuk, Abdumalik, Elisabeth PaehtzValentina Gunina, Natalia Pogonina and Olga Girya, in move order).

Cheparinov was recognized as a "double agent" and promptly sacked from the team by its captain, Vachier-Lagrave. Here's a video with highlights:

The Battle of the sexes. Video: Gibraltar Chess Festival.

As always, the tournament is doing a splendid job with media, and the amount of videos being produced is very impressive. You can follow the event on these platforms:

Peter Doggers

Peter Doggers joined a chess club a month before turning 15 and still plays for it. He used to be an active tournament player and holds two IM norms.

Peter has a Master of Arts degree in Dutch Language & Literature. He briefly worked at New in Chess, then as a Dutch teacher and then in a project for improving safety and security in Amsterdam schools.

Between 2007 and 2013 Peter was running ChessVibes, a major source for chess news and videos acquired by in October 2013.

As our Director News & Events, Peter writes many of our news reports. In the summer of 2022, The Guardian’s Leonard Barden described him as “widely regarded as the world’s best chess journalist.”

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