Svidler beats Milov 2-0 in playoff to win in Gibraltar

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The playoff between Svidler and MilovPeter Svidler has won the Masters section of the 7th Gibtelecom Chess Festival by beating Vadim Milov 2-0 in the playoff. The two had finished on 8/10, ahead of Gashimov, Nakamura, Berg and Akobian who scored 7.5 points. Final report with lots of annotated games, and a video of Svidler showing a different talent.

The 7th 2009 Gibtelecom Chess Festival took place January 27-February 5 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 competed £100,000 (€ 111,170) of prize money.

In our previous report we covered the first seven rounds of the tournament. Vugar Gashimov was leading the pack with 6 points followed by Svidler, Harikrishna, Milov, Beliavsky, Ganguly, Kotronias and Lopez Martinez who were all on 5.5/7.

Round 8 The top board in the Gibtelecom Masters saw the two top seeds Peter Svidler and Vugar Gashimov slug it out. As both players are rated 2723 this was the strongest game ever played in Gibraltar. Svidler sacrificed his queen for a rook, bishop and pawn but could find no way to win what looked like a good position and the players had to agree a draw after 66 moves.


Not your everyday-clash in a Swiss event: 2700s Svidler and Gashimov

Board 2 saw Indian team mates Surya Ganguly (2614) and Pentala Harikrishna (2673) face off against each other. Black equalised early on and easily held the position to draw in 42 moves.


India versus India: Surya Ganguly against Pentala Harikrishna

On board 3 the highest rated player from Switzerland, GM Vadim Milov (2669) took full advantage of the board 1 result by defeating the early leader, GM Vasilios Kotronias (2603). Milov has posted many tournament victories in his career, the most memorable being the 2005 Corsica Masters where he eliminated current World Champion, GM Viswanathan Anand.

A familiar face that was creeping up the leader board was defending champion, GM Hikaru Nakamura (2699) of the USA. His exciting eighth round win against Israeli GM Vitali Golod (2575) propelled Nakamura into a seven-way tie for third place - just half a point behind the joint leaders.


Hikaru Nakamura played a beautiful game against Vitaly Golod

Amongst those fighting for the £6,000 first prize available for the leading female player were Antoaneta Stefanova (2557) and Monika Socko (2449) who played each other in this round. Stefanova, who won, tied with Nana Dzagnidze as the highest ranked female player. In the event of a tie after 10 rounds, the tie break is Tournament Performance Rating (TPR).

Round 9 Huge pile up in Gibraltar! No, this is not a reference to the UK weather causing havoc but the fact that with one round to go we had 5 players in the joint lead on 7/9 and amazingly we could have had eight players tied for first place at the end of 10 rounds - if results went the right way (or wrong way, depending on your perspective!). However, there can be no joint winners in Gibraltar. In the event of a tie the players would indulge in a rapid play playoff for the £15,000 first prize (which turned out to be necessary indeed). However, the play off is limited to four players so, if there are more than 4 players tied for first only the four with the highest Tournament Performance Rating will play off.

The possibility of a pile up was helped enormously by the joint leaders Vugar Gashimov and Vadim Milov drawing on board 1. Milov was sweating for a considerable period of time and must have been surprised and relieved when his opponent, in the following position played 40 Nd5 and offered a draw.

So, the scene was set for others to take advantage and Peter Svidler did not waste the opportunity afforded to him. Buoyed by England's recovery from 94-4 to finish 236-5 in the first test in Jamaica (Peter is a huge cricket fan, supporting England for those who wonder why he would care about such things. And yes, he asks for an update on the score even when playing!!) Svidler (2723) was Black against previous tournament leader Alexander Beliavsky (2646).


A fine Gr?ºnfeld by Svidler against veteran Beliavsky

Another player seizing his opportunity is Hikaru Nakamura (2699). After losing two of his first five games, Hikaru won three on the trot before being paired black against Poland's Bartosz Socko (2631). Could he emulate last year's feat of five consecutive wins before winning the tournament in a play off?

Cricket intermezzo As is well known, Peter Svidler is a big cricket fan - but, as the tournament organizers wondered, has he ever played cricket? The answer was 'no' until he came to the 2009 Gibtelecom Festival and tried his hand as batsman and bowler at the local cricket ground. Irina Krush and Vugar Gashimov came too. Also present was tournament director Manuel Weeks - who is an Australian and thus is of course a brilliant cricketer (or at least that is what he told others)... anyway, check it out for yourself.


If we compare this to another famous cricket player, it's clear who wins in this competition...


Round 10 Of the four players on 7/9, only Svidler and Milov won their games, and so they qualified for the playoff. Nakamura probably missed one or two chances against Gashimov but had to allow a perpetual check. In a tactical slugfest, probably influenced by timetrouble, Svidler was the coolest of the two in his game against Harikrishna, while Milov crushed Avrukh in a King's Indian. With a solid draw against Golod it was Nana Dzagnidze who secured the £6,000 women's prize.

top boards

Top boards of the last round in Gibraltar


A key game in the final round: Boris Avrukh versus Vadim Milov


Winner of the special women's prize: Nana Dzagnidze


Playoff So just like last year, when Nakamura and Bu Xiangzhi met for two rapid games, a playoff was needed this year to decide upon the winner. In this final, Svidler proved to be the strongest over two games, and he secured the cheque of £15,000 (€ 16,700).


The playoff between Svidler and Milov

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

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