Nakamura Wins Gibraltar Title For 2nd Time, Clinches £20,000 First Prize

Nakamura Wins Gibraltar Title For 2nd Time, Clinches £20,000 First Prize

| 30 | Chess Event Coverage

Drawing his final two games didn't stop GM Hikaru Nakamura from finishing clear first at the Gibraltar Masters. The American GM also won the tournament eight years ago.

Photo John Saunders 

Nakamura finished on 8.5/10 (and earned £20,000 or roughly $30,000), half a point more than GM David Howell. The English grandmaster, dubbed “Prince Charming” by the online commentators, earned £16,000 after escaping with a draw against GM Hou Yifan.

The women's world champion clinched no less than £20,750, which is the top women's prize combined with her shared third prize.

Round nine:

With two rounds to go Nakamura had built up a commanding lead. He was a full point ahead of a group of three: English GM David Howell, his compatriot and columnist GM Daniel Naroditsky, and GM Axel Bachmann of Paraguay.

In round nine, however, Nakamura's lead was cut in half. He was paired against Bachmann, which might sound like a good pairing, but if anyone had chances in this game it was Bachmann.

This meant that on board two, Howell and Naroditsky were basically playing for a chance to get to only half a point behind the leader, with one round to go. It didn't make much sense for either player to draw this game, and a fierce fight is what occurred on the board!

In one of the main lines of the English Opening, Howell played an exchange sacrifice known from correspondence games, but never played among over-the-board grandmasters.

With seven pawns against five for the trade, the Englishman certainly got enough.

Howell vs Naroditsky. | Photo Sophie Triay.

Objectively speaking it should have ended in a draw, but shortly before the time control Naroditsky got himself into trouble. Below is the game, and Howell explaining:

Two pre-tournament favorites dropped out of contention even more. GM Peter Svidler and GM Veselin Topalov drew their games with GM Baskaran Adhiban and GM Wei Yi, respectively.

WGM Rout Padmini of India scored her first general GM norm over nine rounds despite losing badly in that ninth round to a compatriot. She probably didn't mind about this disaster:

Harikrishna vs Padmini. | Photo Sophie Triay.

Another GM norm was scored by Dutch IM Stefan Kuipers, who needed a draw as Black against GM Viktor Bologan but got even more:

In this round, GM Emil Sutovsky played a rather nice game against GM Kevin Spragett. Below yet again the moves and comments from the winner:

Round 10

Anything was possible on the last day. Well into the round, which started four hours earlier than normal. The organizers weren't sure if a playoff was necessary again, as it had been in previous years.

Nakamura had the luxury of defending his half-point lead with the white pieces. His opponent, GM Pentala Harikrishna, came to the board well prepared though. In a Queen's Indian, the Indian brought a novelty and quickly reached a level ending.

A Queen's Indian in the making. | Photo Sophie Triay.

However, then he erred. “I was just about to offer a draw around move 25, when I suddenly got chances,” said Nakamura about Harikirshna's 25...Rc6. “Now I got to play on with no risk whatsoever.”

But that was the last mistake “Hari” would make. His rook ending technique proved more than enough to draw the game. “Credits to Harikrishna for finding the Kf6-f5 idea. It's just a draw,” said Nakamura.

A draw turned out to be enough. | Photo Sophie Triay.

While Nakamura was still trying to rewrite the endgame books, board two had already ended in a draw as well.

First Howell seemed to have the better chances, then Hou Yifan took over, but one inaccuracy by the women's world champion and suddenly there was no way to avoid a peaceful outcome.

Harikrishna observing the developments on board two. | Photo Sophie Triay.

Nakamura, who has played the tournament five times and won twice, was tired but certainly happy about his second victory. 

“Having played 10 games in a row is the real difference (...), it's certainly quite tiring but still I think any time you play well and you have a good result you're always ready to play more,” he said. 

In a week from now he'll be playing Zurich. His general plan? “I just wanna play well and improve my world ranking, maybe get my rating up to 2800. Other than that all I want is to do well in the Grand Prix.”

Both Howell and Nakamura were invited into the studio:

With her draw, GM Hou Yifan not only tied for third place, but also won the best women's prize.

A fine performance for Hou Yifan, who will be the women's number-one on the March 1 rating list. | Photo Sophie Triay.

The others who tied for third place were two former winners from St. Petersburg, GM Nikita Vitiugov and GM Peter Svidler, as well as GM Veselin Topalov, GM Wei Yi, GM Baskaran Adhiban, GM Pentala Harikrishna, GM Axel Bachmann, GM Maxim Matlakov and IM Dennis Wagner.

And so another edition of this wonderful open tournament comes to an end.

At the closing ceremony, English Chess Federation President Dominic Lawson rightly emphasized how special it is to have elite grandmasters sitting right next to amateurs.

For next year, yet another distinguished elite player will be making his first appearance at “The Rock.” Tournament founding father Brian Callaghan announced that none other than GM Vishy Anand has confirmed his participation for 2016. 

2015 Gibraltar Masters | Final Standings (Top 21)

Rk. SNo Title Name FED Rtg Pts. TB1
1 2 GM Nakamura Hikaru USA 2776 8,5 2919
2 15 GM Howell David W L ENG 2670 8 2818
3 13 GM Hou Yifan CHN 2673 7,5 2772
4 4 GM Vitiugov Nikita RUS 2735 7,5 2770
5 1 GM Topalov Veselin BUL 2800 7,5 2767
6 65 IM Wagner Dennis GER 2501 7,5 2759
7 12 GM Wei Yi CHN 2675 7,5 2754
8 21 GM Adhiban B. IND 2630 7,5 2750
9 7 GM Harikrishna P. IND 2723 7,5 2748
10 22 GM Bachmann Axel PAR 2629 7,5 2722
11 9 GM Matlakov Maxim RUS 2695 7,5 2667
12 3 GM Svidler Peter RUS 2739 7 2719
13 6 GM Yu Yangyi CHN 2724 7 2707
14 5 GM Jakovenko Dmitry RUS 2733 7 2700
15 26 GM Naroditsky Daniel USA 2622 7 2698
16 8 GM Rapport Richard HUN 2716 7 2677
17 36 GM Nabaty Tamir ISR 2579 7 2615
18 19 GM Sutovsky Emil ISR 2637 7 2605
19 41 GM Bok Benjamin NED 2572 7 2582
20 43 GM Sengupta Deep IND 2569 7 2574
21 39 GM Sandipan Chanda IND 2574 7 2526

(Full final standings here.)

Tournament winner Hikaru Nakamura with Tradewise's James Humphries. | Photo John Saunders.

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