Blomqvist Upsets Li Chao In Gibraltar

Blomqvist Upsets Li Chao In Gibraltar

One of the most exciting aspects of an open tournament is the upsets. Everyone loves an underdog story, and opens are filled with them!

While most of the favorites continued smoothly in round two at the Tradewise Gibraltar Chess Festival, a few times the gazelle ran down the lion.

Unquestionably, the upset of the round was on board four between GM Erik Blomqvist and GM Li Chao.

Li's king soon felt none-too-happy on to be e7 in a Richter-Rauzer Sicilian, and Blomqvist's eventual offer of a bishop to break through on the dark squares was devastating.

GM Li Chao couldn't have anticipated the struggles awaiting him. | Photo John Saunders.

Round two had a high number of female players pairing off against the top seeds, with generally good results.

GM Natalia Zhukova confidently attained a draw on board three against GM Pentala Harikrishna, who had an incredible 2015 and is currently at a peak rating of 2755.

On board 11, WGM Natalija Pogonina achieved another of the round's best upsets as she toppled GM Arkadij Naiditsch.

Pogonina was better for most of the game, and she was eventually able to control Naiditsch's mounting kingside pressure when her advanced c-pawn and the exposed black king were able to carry the day for her.

Pogonina's concentration paid off. | Photo John Saunders.

Despite these nice upsets, the rating favorites generally delivered in round two. The remainder of the top 15 seeds, including grandmasters Hikaru Nakamura, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, and Viswanathan Anand all won -- some convincingly and some less so.

The most appealing of these victories was probably Vachier-Lagrave's. It may not have been smooth throughout, but Vachier-Lagrave eventually found a nice sequence amid the complications.

GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave successfully sharpened the play against GM Valentina Gunina. | Photo John Saunders.

A puzzle finish occurred between IM Eylon Nakar and GM Dmitry Jakovenko on board five as Nakar tried to hold by putting everything on the light squares.

GM Markus Ragger initiated one of the funniest sequences you will see in a chess game as 27.Rxa6! began a sequence of desperados that ended with a surprising blunder by IM Justin Tan.

On the more technical side, GM Nigel Short's endgame win against IM Luca Shytaj was a tremendous achievement.

Short is one of the few players to have reached the world championship who very regularly plays in open tournaments. His elite technique and practice squeezing lower-rated players came through in this case.

Short's victory was an unfortunate turn for commentator IM Elizabeth Paehtz, who is married to Shytaj. Commenting with GM Simon "The Ginger GM" Williams, she hoped that the saying "all rook endgames are drawn" would hold true in this case, but it wasn't quite to be.

Short's win rounded off a tremendous day for English players as GM Michael Adams won in Tata Steel, and his countrymen, grandmasters Gawain Jones and David Howell, also won in Gibraltar.

Let's close this report with a couple of nice finishes. The first is GM Radek Wojtaszek against GM James Tarjan, who resumed chess two years ago after ceasing play for 30 years!

Our final finish is from the miniature between IM Marc Esserman and GM Eduardo Iturrizaga. It will make a nice addition to the next tactics puzzle book published.

Tradewise Gibraltar Chess Festival | Round 2 Leaders and Top Seeds

World Ranking Name Rating Score
6 Nakamura, Hikaru 2787 2.0/2
7 Vachier-Lagrave, Maxime 2785 2.0/2
22 Jakovenko, Dmitry 2732 2.0/2
27 Wojtaszek, Radoslaw 2727 2.0/2
31 Rapport, Richard 2721 2.0/2
42 Fressinet, Laurent 2700 2.0/2
43 Ni Hua 2697 2.0/2
44 Bacrot, Etienne 2697 2.0/2
52 Howell, David W L 2685 2.0/2
55 Short, Nigel D 2684 2.0/2
8 Anand, Viswanathan 2784 1.5/2
18 Yu Yangyi 2747 1.5/2
14 Harikrishna, Pentala 2755 1.5/2
77 Kamsky, Gata 2665 1.5/2
16 Li Chao B 2751 1.0/2
45 Naiditsch, Arkadij 2696 1.0/2

The 2016 Tradewise Gibraltar Chess Festival is a 10-round open tournament taking place from January 26 through February 4. Round three continues Thursday at 3 p.m. CET/6 a.m. PST, with live coverage provided by Chess.com featuring GM Simon Williams and IM Elisabeth Paehtz, which can be viewed live on Chess TV.

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