Artemiev Wins Clear 1st At Gibraltar Chess Festival
GM Vladislav Artemiev, winner of the 2019 Gibraltar Chess Festival. Photo: John Saunders.

Artemiev Wins Clear 1st At Gibraltar Chess Festival

| 45 | Chess Event Coverage

After a stunning and unexpected final round in which all of the top three boards saw the underdogs prevail, 20-year-old Russian and newlywed GM Vladislav Artemiev won his game and the title of 2019 Gibraltar Chess Festival champion.

His complicated win as Black against GM Yu Yangyi kept his leader's margin intact over surprising GM Murali Karthikeyan (8.0/10), who defeated GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave in the final round for clear second. Karthikeyan might have felt that such a vigorous run in the event's second half would get him at least a playoff, but no. Artemiev's title was the first since 2015 that didn't need any extra chess.

Karthikeyan Vachier-Lagrave

In a day full of the unexpected, GM Murali Karthikeyan defeated top-seeded GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave. Photo: John Saunders.

Karthikeyan and Artemiev both will leave the Rock with a little more notoriety. The Indian GM, still not yet back over 2600 (although closing in fast), ended with a perfect 5.0/5 in the second half of the tournament. That streak included wins over 2700s in rounds eight, nine and 10.

After the retirement of GM Vladimir Kramnik mid-tournament, Artemiev might be installing himself as the new "Big Vlad." While he's too new for a catchy moniker to have firmly stuck, his 27-point rating gain vaulted him 16 spots in the rankings. So you can just call him a "top-20 world player." He's also one of the most modest.

Artemiev won £25,000 for his win–not a bad haul and quite useful since he just got married three months ago. Maybe he can now take a taxi to the tournament next year.

For this year, he stayed in Spain, crossing the border on foot each day and walking around 45 minutes to reach the host Caleta Hotel. This might be the largest event ever won by a player who was staying in another country while competing!

Board three also featured something quite unexpected. That GM Levon Aronian went down as White to GM David Howell was a small surprise, but the way in which it happened was so unexpected that one colleague couldn't believe what he was seeing.

Here's the clip of the tournament, where commentator GM Simon Williams said, "Lev has just gone completely caveman." GM Hikaru Nakamura didn't need any colorful words to describe his own thinking:

Gibraltar also dubs itself the "Home of Women's Chess" and offers a £15,000 first prize to back up the claim. Three women were tied headed into the final day but GM Tan Zhongyi's win was good enough to overtake the sisters Muzychuk for 7.0/10 and the top prize. She is the seventh different winner in the last seven years and the fourth Chinese woman in that same span to win.

Lastly, the final round saw the "Shankland ending" appear again, although this time there was no premature resignation. Still, the world champion had some fun with it.

Here's Artemiev going for the win with the Caro-Kann (it was a great day for the opening, as Howell also employed it in his big win). At one point Yu could have repeated, but he needed to win to get into a playoff. Artemiev took full advantage.

"He has aggressive style usually," Artemiev said about his thinking going into his first-ever game against Yu. Artemiev said playing the Caro was meant to be a solid choice. He also said that due to university studies, he hasn't been able to focus on chess much. "Before this tournament I didn't have good preparation."

Here's an extended interview with the champion:

And here's his lengthy post-game analysis, which was a masterclass by itself! Skip to 5:37:56 to see the champion's take on his game.

Watch Gibraltar Chess Festival, final round with GM Simon Williams and IM Jovanka Houska from GibChess on

Their game finished after Karthikeyan had already finished off Vachier-Lagrave. Karthikeyan is a two-time champion of India and from the same famous chess school as many of the young teenage Indian GMs. GM R. B. Ramesh is turning out quite a factory of young talent!

Murali Karthikeyan
GM Murali Karthikeyan, from 49th seed to very nearly winning the tournament! Photo: John Saunders.

But with all the talk of really young grandmasters, Karthikeyan reminded that he, too, is a teenager and 19 years old is not quite over the hill. [Correction: Karthikeyan informed that he turned 20 just before the tournament began.]

After the game Kathikeyan had every right to think he would at least get into a playoff. After a perfect second half of the tournament and three straight super-GM scalps, he was unlucky not to, but that's how well Artemiev played. Here's the second place finisher's thoughts on the final game and the tournament:

One board lower down, Aronian self-destructed against Howell. In a brief chat after the game, Howell said Aronian missed a queen retreat to the back row, thus nullifying any effectiveness of the Armenian's piece offering.

Neither player had a chance at first going into the final day, but this one cost the defending champion a chunk of money.

Howell explained that the exotic idea with an early ...f6 came from his preparation for the British Knockout Championship December. And who did he study back then? The games of Aronian!

He said he knew the ...f6 idea was risky, but he said he needed a win to end with serious prize money, which he will now apply to his pricey London rent.

"I knew I was playing with fire but neither one of us wanted a draw," Howell said.

GM David Navara, himself an early leader of the event, found out the hard way that studying the games of the other concurrent event could be useful. After Shankland's resignation in a drawn position at Tata Steel, this time Navara allowed the same fortress idea, prompting GM Magnus Carlsen to poke some fun as the game was about to finish:

Melkumyan Aronian
The Armenian diaspora congregates at the closing ceremony. Maybe GM Hrant Melkumyan (center) was letting GM Levon Aronian (right) know about his Shankland finish. Photo: David Llada.

In the battle for first prize among the ladies, pre-round co-leader GM Mariya Muzychuk could barely hang on for a draw after GM Rinat Jumabayev threw everything at her.

With this draw and with sister Anna going down, that left the door wide open for former world champion GM Tan Zhongyi. She took full advantage by winning with Black.

Tan Zhongyi
The Chinese ladies usually do very well in Gibraltar and this year was no exception. First-place winner GM Tan Zhongyi is on the right. Photo: David Llada.

The complete final standings are here.

2019 Gibraltar Chess Festival Masters Section | Final Standings

Rk. SNo Name FED Rtg Pts. rtg+/-
1 11 GM Artemiev Vladislav 2709 8,5 27,4
2 49 GM Karthikeyan Murali 2570 8,0 23,6
3 8 GM Vitiugov Nikita 2720 7,5 6,4
3 19 GM Howell David W L 2685 7,5 4,0
3 27 GM Anton Guijarro David 2642 7,5 7,6
6 6 GM Navara David 2738 7,0 7,0
6 20 GM Grandelius Nils 2682 7,0 12,6
6 55 GM Lalith Babu M R 2547 7,0 29,8
6 9 GM Le Quang Liem 2714 7,0 4,6
6 17 GM Saric Ivan 2690 7,0 6,8
6 3 GM So Wesley 2765 7,0 -2,6
6 4 GM Yu Yangyi 2764 7,0 -3,0
6 1 GM Vachier-Lagrave Maxime 2780 7,0 -4,5
6 13 GM Adams Michael 2701 7,0 1,4
6 28 GM Alekseenko Kirill 2637 7,0 9,8
6 5 GM Nakamura Hikaru 2749 7,0 -3,4
6 26 GM Edouard Romain 2643 7,0 6,2
6 12 GM Mamedov Rauf 2703 7,0 -1,5
6 21 GM Eljanov Pavel 2680 7,0 0,0
6 23 GM Melkumyan Hrant 2660 7,0 0,7
6 14 GM Matlakov Maxim 2700 7,0 -4,1
6 74 GM Tan Zhongyi 2502 7,0 11,1
23 62 GM Muzychuk Mariya 2540 6,5 21,8
23 2 GM Aronian Levon 2767 6,5 -5,5
23 41 GM Vaibhav Suri 2590 6,5 13,5
23 36 GM Lagarde Maxime 2604 6,5 6,9
23 80 IM Gukesh D 2497 6,5 21,2
23 18 GM Adhiban B. 2689 6,5 -5,8
23 35 GM Jumabayev Rinat 2604 6,5 4,7
23 15 GM Cheparinov Ivan 2691 6,5 -6,5
23 83 GM Chandra Akshat 2492 6,5 20,0
23 16 GM Jones Gawain C B 2691 6,5 -7,1
23 42 GM Antipov Mikhail Al. 2589 6,5 4,8
23 65 GM Sadzikowski Daniel 2534 6,5 12,0
23 47 GM Yuffa Daniil 2578 6,5 3,5
23 113 GM Solozhenkin Evgeniy 2427 6,5 23,4
23 33 GM Moussard Jules 2605 6,5 -2,3
23 32 GM Tari Aryan 2625 6,5 -5,6
23 34 GM Donchenko Alexander 2604 6,5 -5,1
23 117 IM Bjerre Jonas Buhl 2422 6,5 14,7

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