Gibraltar Chess Festival: 3 Leaders After Round 8
After a remarkable game, GM Kiriil Alekseenko didn't even need his queen to join the leaders. Photo: John Saunders.

Gibraltar Chess Festival: 3 Leaders After Round 8

| 13 | Chess Event Coverage

There's been a slinky effect at the 2019 Gibraltar Chess Festival, with seemingly alternating rounds of a sole leader, followed by the leading score group bunching up again.

After GM Vladislav Artemiev stretched the slinky by beating GM Hikaru Nakamura in round seven, now after round eight the contraction has happened again. His draw allowed him to be joined by GM David Navara and the upstart GM Kiriil Alekseenko, who both won today. The leading trio is on 6.5/8 with two rounds to go on the Rock.

Kiriil Alekseenko Arkadij Naiditsch
Kiriil Alekseenko (left) had to beat Arkadij Naiditsch twice today. Photo: John Saunders.

In the race for the first place women's prize of a healthy £15,000, GMs Mariya Muzychuk and Ju Wenjun are both on 5.5/8 and lead the group of some 70 ladies.

GM Levon Aronian tried to flip-flop with the leader Artemiev, but even a new cat t-shirt couldn't do the trick as they drew on board one, keeping the Armenian returning champion a half-point back. One board further down, GM Le Quang Liem played nearly as lifeless of a Grunfeld as they come with GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and they also drew when the Frenchman equalized his pawn deficit.

With the stagnation at the top, Navara took the opportunity to break his streak of three half-points in a row (two draws and a bye) to beat the over-performing GM Nils Grandelius. Navara explained that he repeated a game that he played last year in the Polish League. The Czech number-one said he really tried to press today as White since there is a chance he could get a double-black finish.

David Navara Tania Sachdev
Tania Sachdev interviews the always matter-of-fact David Navara after the game. Photo: David Llada.

"It worked better than I expected," Navara said. Grandelius offered a pawn to try to play against the backward White d-pawn, but that didn't get him full compensation. "It became winning for me as Black's knight is very poorly placed."

Navara said he was aware of the Swede's inclination to fall into time trouble, but that didn't play a part today.

"I hoped I could exploit this but in fact he did not play that slowly today," Navara said. 

Perhaps the game of the round came from baby-faced 21-year-old Alekseenko. His wasn't a clean win, however. In fact, GM Arkadij Naiditsch may have felt he'd lost twice.

First Alekseenko piled up on the h-file in a seemingly insurmountable attack. Then in time pressure he essentially hung his queen, but the pressure on the flank was so intense that he won without her anyway! It wasn't planned that way, but sometimes you have to make do with what you've got!

One board lower, former champion GM Nikita Vitiugov (the only Russian who has won in the event's history) drew GM Ivan Saric. "The endgame I played [was] not too precise," the 2013 winner said.

The event's most illustrious champion tried to make back lost ground. Four-time winner GM Hikaru Nakamura, who is having an uncharacteristically up-and-down tournament here, tore up GM Rasmus Svane's Caro-Kann. The relatively quick win served the American well, as for the second time this fortnight, he had to rest before playing a very late PRO Chess League match.

Nakamura is one of the 13 players lurking a half-point back. Unless one of the leading score-group members can pull off two wins down the stretch, then it seems likely that another blitz tiebreak could be contested. The members of last year's supergroup of playoff contestants are all in that chase group (Vachier-Lagrave, Aronian, Nakamura), except for Richard Rapport, who is not playing in 2019.

Hikaru Nakamura Rasmus Svane
Even two draws and a loss don't have Nakamura out of things just yet. Photo: John Saunders.

GM David Howell is another one of the those with 6.0 points. He's trying to become the third Englishman to win on home soil (Mickey Adams once, Nigel Short thrice). But in round eight he explained that he had to face his worse nemesis—a top Indian junior. Howell said he'd rather face a 2700 than a teenage GM. Today he faced the youngest of them all, GM D Gukesh.

Although Gukesh didn't triumph today, he did make his commentary debut in Gibraltar. In a nice treat, he analyzed live with Howell on the live show (skip to 4:25:56).

Watch Gibraltar Chess Festival, round 8 with GM Simon Williams and IM Jovanka Houska from GibChess on

Alejandro Ramirez
Did Fabiano Caruana sneak into Gibraltar to play a few moves? Photo: John Saunders.
Alejandro Ramirez
No, actually that was Caruana's second Alejandro Ramirez, who drew Ivan Cheparnov in round eight and then served on the evening's "panel discussion" but continued to keep quiet about the world championship leaked video! Photo: John Saunders.

2019 Gibraltar Chess Festival Masters Section | Standings After Round Eight

Rk. SNo Name FED Rtg Pts.
1 6 GM Navara David 2738 6,5
1 11 GM Artemiev Vladislav 2709 6,5
1 28 GM Alekseenko Kirill 2637 6,5
4 55 GM Lalith Babu M R 2547 6,0
4 2 GM Aronian Levon 2767 6,0
4 8 GM Vitiugov Nikita 2720 6,0
4 9 GM Le Quang Liem 2714 6,0
4 17 GM Saric Ivan 2690 6,0
4 1 GM Vachier-Lagrave Maxime 2780 6,0
4 4 GM Yu Yangyi 2764 6,0
4 5 GM Nakamura Hikaru 2749 6,0
4 14 GM Matlakov Maxim 2700 6,0
4 19 GM Howell David W L 2685 6,0
4 49 GM Karthikeyan Murali 2570 6,0
4 27 GM Anton Guijarro David 2642 6,0
16 20 GM Grandelius Nils 2682 5,5
16 62 GM Muzychuk Mariya 2540 5,5
16 3 GM So Wesley 2765 5,5
16 7 GM Naiditsch Arkadij 2734 5,5
16 40 GM Svane Rasmus 2594 5,5
16 26 GM Edouard Romain 2643 5,5
16 13 GM Adams Michael 2701 5,5
16 41 GM Vaibhav Suri 2590 5,5
16 48 GM Ju Wenjun 2575 5,5
16 37 GM Deac Bogdan-Daniel 2603 5,5
16 36 GM Lagarde Maxime 2604 5,5
16 18 GM Adhiban B. 2689 5,5
16 16 GM Jones Gawain C B 2691 5,5
16 21 GM Eljanov Pavel 2680 5,5
16 99 IM Abel Dennes 2458 5,5
16 83 GM Chandra Akshat 2492 5,5
16 63 GM Puranik Abhimanyu 2536 5,5
16 23 GM Melkumyan Hrant 2660 5,5
16 42 GM Antipov Mikhail Al. 2589 5,5
16 105 IM Sadhwani Raunak 2451 5,5
16 45 GM Santos Latasa Jaime 2581 5,5
16 33 GM Moussard Jules 2605 5,5
16 32 GM Tari Aryan 2625 5,5

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FM Mike Klein

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Mike Klein began playing chess at the age of four in Charlotte, NC. In 1986, he lost to Josh Waitzkin at the National Championship featured in the movie "Searching for Bobby Fischer." A year later, Mike became the youngest member of the very first All-America Chess Team, and was on the team a total of eight times. In 1988, he won the K-3 National Championship, and eventually became North Carolina's youngest-ever master. In 1996, he won clear first for under-2250 players in the top section of the World Open. Mike has taught chess full-time for a dozen years in New York City and Charlotte, with his students and teams winning many national championships. He now works at as a Senior Journalist and at as the Chief Chess Officer. In 2012, 2015, and 2018, he was awarded Chess Journalist of the Year by the Chess Journalists of America. He has also previously won other awards from the CJA such as Best Tournament Report, and also several writing awards for mainstream newspapers. His chess writing and personal travels have now brought him to more than 85 countries.

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