Gashimov leads in Gibraltar after 7 rounds

| 0 | Chess Event Coverage
Caleta Hotel, GibraltarIn the first round he escaped with a draw against a much weaker opponent, but after seven games Vugar Gashimov is leading the 7th Gibtelecom Chess Festival with six points. Seven follow with 5.5 points, including Peter Svidler and Alexander Beliavsky.

The 7th 2009 Gibtelecom Chess Festival takes place January 27th to February 5th in the luxurious Caleta Hotel in Gibraltar, with a record 199 players from 36 countries, including 35 grandmasters, The strongest field ever assembled for a 10-round Open Swiss are competing for £100,000 (€ 111,170) sterling of prize money, with £15,000 (€ 16,700) going to the eventual winner.

This year's line-up is tremendous, again, with a tie for top rated player: both Azeri star Vugar Gashimov and super-grandmaster and many-times Russian champion Peter Svidler are rated 2723. One of their major rivals is the 2008 winner Hikaru Nakamura returning to defend his title.

Other stars in contention for the first prize are 18-year-old French super-star Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, plus Michael Roiz, Pentala Harikrishna, Boris Avrukh and Ivan Sokolov.

Leading the challenge for the generous women's awards (first prize is £6,000; app. € 6,700) are world championship semi-finalist Pia Cramling, Antoaneta Stefanova, Viktorija Cmilyte, Nana Dzagnidze, former world champion Zhu Chen, Irina Krush, Ketevan Arakhamia and Anna Zatonskih.

Caleta Hotel, Gibraltar

Former World Champion Boris Spassky, special guest in Gibraltar this year, always happy to pose with someone for a photo

Round 1 First rounds in big Swisses are always full of excitement.


Quillan versus Gashimov: almost 1-0

Elsewhere, results went pretty well as one might have expected although there were a couple of shocks as FM Stefan Fruebing (GER) beat Pia Cramling with the black pieces and Hungarian FM Attila Istvan Csonka did the same to Jonathan Speelman whilst Jovanka Houska drew as black with Vadim Milov and Spanish GM's Josep Lopez Martinez (2540) and Gabriel Del Rio (2532) could only draw with lower rated opposition in Anthony Stebbings (ENG) and Benjamin Bok (NED) respectively.

Round 2 The accelerated pairings used at Gibraltar meant that, even though 200 players were playing, there were a number of GM v GM clashes in Round 2. Several of these games from the most prestigious open swiss in the world showed why you should always study your endgames as several games were decided by endgame technique (both good and bad).


Berczes-Svidler, a nice rook ending by the Russian

Round 3 How many children in the world can claim that both their father and mother are full grandmasters? Well, we don't know the exact answer - maybe somebody out there can help us? - but we do know that two of them are in the photograph below...


Sitting at the board in the picture is little Anna Cramling-Bellon, daughter of GM Juan Manuel Bellon and GM Pia Cramling (who is also in the photo). Anna made her international competition debut on 29 January here in Gibraltar. On the right, having some fun with Pia Cramling is Weronica Socko, daughter of GM Bartosz Socko and GM Monika Socko. All four parents hold the full GM title. How many other children can boast two GM parents? Other than Weronica's siblings that is. We can think of maybe one more double GM husband and wife with children but haven't thought about it too deeply yet. Maybe there are more - can you think of any?

In Round 3 of the Masters event chess was hard fought and exciting. Surya Ganguly (2614) defended well on top board to hold a draw with the black pieces against Peter Svidler (2723) whilst there was something of a shock on board 2.

GM Bartosz Socko defeated GM Antoaneta Stefanova and joined Kotronias in the lead.

Round 4 On 30 January 1649, King Charles I of England was beheaded for treason. 360 years later to the day in Gibraltar there was no treason that we know of, but several players attempted to execute the opposing monarch!

Charles I

Charles I

Elsewhere Greek GM Vasilios Kotronias (2603) had another excellent win, defeating Indian Pentala Harikrishna (2673) in 53 moves with Black. Kotronias secured an early edge, and gently applied the pressure until it became unbearable. An impressive victory which gives him the sole lead of the tournament on 4/4 after the other two players on maximum points GM Dzagnidze and GM Socko drew with each other.


Kotronias, often wearing football shirts, scored a nice win over Harikrishna

Round 5 There were no players left on maximum points after Vassilios Kotronias drew with Michael Roiz. But this was no "Grandmaster" draw as peace only broke out after 76 moves. Slovenian GM Alexander Beliavsky joined Kotronias in the lead on 4¬?/5 by defeating Nana Dzagnidze by proving that his bishop was better than her knight in the endgame. There were no fewer than 12 players just half a point behind the leaders. Joining Roiz on 4/5 are Bartosz Socko and Vugar Gashimov (draw in 30) and Vitali Golod and Boris Avrukh (draw in 77).

Round 6 In the sixth round the top two boards both saw decisive results and, coincidentally, both featured instructive rook and pawn endgames. On board 1, former World Junior Champion, Slovenian GM Alexander Beliavsky (2646) demonstrated his technical prowess against the co-leader, Greek GM Vasilios Kotronias (2603) to take the full point and move into clear first.

Round 7 White won in all the important games round seven: Gashimov-Beliavsky 1-0, Harikrishna-Avrukh 1-0, Svidler-Stefanova 1-0, Milov-Del Rio 1-0 and Kotronias-Sokolov 1-0. After this round Gashimov is leading with six points. Seven follow with 5.5 including Svidler, Nakamura and Beliavsky.


Gashimov grabs the lead after a fine, positional game against Beliavsky


Svidler scoring an easy win against Stefanova


Thanks to Sean Hewitt for providing excellent daily reports and Sunil Weeramantry for game annotations.

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