Big Tie For First In Gibraltar, Playoff Likely

Big Tie For First In Gibraltar, Playoff Likely

| 16 | Chess Event Coverage

The Tradewise Gibraltar Chess Festival will see an exciting — and probably long — final day. With eight(!) players tied for first place, a playoff is very likely.

Photo: Sophie Triay.

It reminds a bit of the situation at the 2003 U.S. Championship, where there was a ten-player tie for first place after the penultimate round. Many games ended in quick draws, but in the end Alex Shabalov won his game to finish clear first and clinch the title.

The comparison with the Masters tournament in Gibraltar is easily made: no less than eight players are tied for first place, with one round to go. (That round, by the way, starts four hours earlier than normal, so 11am CET, 5am New York, 2am Pacific.)

We left the tournament after round seven, when the surprising leader was the young Spanish GM David Antón Guijarro. He held his own with two draws, against Li Chao and Pentala Harikrishna, and is still among the leaders.

David Anton drew with Pentala Harikrishna today. | Photo John Saunders.

The two top seeds are in that group as well: Hikaru Nakamura and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave. The latter drew quickly with French team mate Etienne Bacrot on Wednesday, after grinding down Lazaro Bruzon the day before:

Nakamura dropped a few half points during the tournaments, and mentioned in the chat that he hasn't been a hundred percent fit during this event. Nonetheless he came back to scoring full points, just in time.

Nakamura still has excellent chances to retain his Gibraltar title. | Photo John Saunders.

In round eight his opening again looked drawish, but this time he found a way to take control. 

Annotations by GM Robert Hess

Nakamura's game on Wednesday was the one that attracted most attention at the start of the round. In a sharp Grünfeld his opponent Abhijeet Gupta played quickly, and sacrificed an exchange on c3. A bombshell! Was America's number one being outprepared?

Nakamura took 24 minutes to calculate his response (and trying to remember his notes?) and during that time he was regularly staring at the ceiling. Commentator GM Simon Williams joked that the American could be cheating.

But Nakamura finally took the rook, continued playing accurately and won convincingly. He then checked the game with a strong computer, and concluded that the sacrifice wasn't correct. Sometimes chess resembles poker, but even then usually the stronger player wins!

No less than twenty Indian players have traveled to Gibraltar this year. A rising star is  Vidit Santosh Gujrathi, but he couldn't put up much of a fight against Harikrishna. The latter is currently the world #14 in the live ratings.

Viswanathan Anand will want to forget this tournament as soon as possible. After his loss in round seven he was held to a draw once again by an IM. (Anand did win easily on Wednesday.)

It was Marc Esserman, known for writing the book Mayhem in the Morra. And why would he refrain from playing that gambit against the five-time world champion?

One could see it as the ultimate approval of the Morra Gambit that Anand decided to decline it, and transpose to the Alapin. But it's hard to create winning chances in that line, and Esserman scored an easy draw.

Esserman's Morra turned into an Alapin by Anand. | Photo John Saunders.

Nine of the ten rounds have been played, which means that we can already talk about norms.

Two IMs scored GM norms the moment their opponent in round nine appeared at the board: Aryan Tari (Norway) and Benjamin Gledura (Hungary). IM Moulthun Ly needed a draw against Arkadij Naiditsch to score his second GM norm, but instead beat his opponent.

WGM Tan Zhongyi needed a win against IM Kostya Kavutskiy to score a GM norm, and she did. With a draw our co-editor would have clinched his IM title (he has passed 2400 virtually) but he can still do that if he wins tomorrow.

WGM Aleksandra Goryachkina, WGM Natalija Pogonina, Dmitrij Kollars, FM Lars Oskar Hauge, Siva Mahadevan and Paulo Pinho have scored an IM norm over nine rounds.

Gibraltar Masters | Round 9 Standings (Top 20)

Rk. SNo Title Name FED Rtg Pts. TB1 rtg+/-
1 2 GM Vachier-Lagrave Maxime FRA 2785 7 2819 4,3
2 11 GM Bacrot Etienne FRA 2697 7 2808 11,1
3 25 GM Sethuraman S.P. IND 2639 7 2796 18,6
4 1 GM Nakamura Hikaru USA 2787 7 2783 0,4
5 4 GM Harikrishna P. IND 2755 7 2781 3,6
6 35 GM Maze Sebastien FRA 2591 7 2772 19,4
7 24 GM Anton Guijarro David ESP 2639 7 2751 13,7
8 5 GM Li Chao  CHN 2751 7 2723 -1,4
9 14 GM Ragger Markus AUT 2689 6,5 2749 8,4
10 7 GM Jakovenko Dmitry RUS 2732 6,5 2726 0,1
11 6 GM Yu Yangyi CHN 2747 6,5 2705 -2,5
12 26 GM Grandelius Nils SWE 2635 6,5 2693 8,7
13 28 GM Jones Gawain C B ENG 2625 6,5 2680 7,5
14 45 GM Lalith Babu M R IND 2553 6,5 2675 15,6
15 23 GM Vidit Santosh Gujrathi IND 2642 6,5 2669 4,5
16 34 GM Bachmann Axel PAR 2610 6,5 2630 3,4
17 22 GM Sutovsky Emil ISR 2647 6,5 2582 -5,4
18 33 GM Lenic Luka SLO 2611 6 2715 12
19 32 GM Gupta Abhijeet IND 2613 6 2702 11,8
20 57 IM Gledura Benjamin HUN 2515 6 2702 22,9

(Full standings here.)

Here's what the tournament regulations state about tiebreaks:

In the event of a tie for first place, there shall be a speed play-off. If there are four or fewer players tied for first place, there will be a speed knock-out play-off for the first prize of £20,000.

If three players tie for first place, the player with the highest performance rating will be seeded directly into the Final of the Play-Off; the other two players will contest the Semi-Final.

If more than four players tie for first place, the four players with the highest performance ratings shall qualify for the play-off to decide the first prize.

Don't miss's live broadcast of the final round and the playoff on with commentart by GM Simon Williams & IM Elisabeth Paehtz. The show starts 11am CET, 5am New York, 2am Pacific.

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.”

In October, Peter's first book The Chess Revolution will be published!

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