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6 February 2014

 

Round 10 Report

 

Ivan Cheparinov, 27, from Bulgaria, won the 2014 Tradewise Gibraltar Masters, held at the Caleta Hotel, after a play-off with former tournament winners Nikita Vitiugov (Russia) and Vassily Ivanchuk (Ukraine). All three finished on 8/10. With the title, Ivan picked up a cheque for £20,000. Mariya Muzychuk, 21, from Ukraine, received the £15,000 cheque for being the best female competitor on tie-break (best rating performance) from Zhao Xue (China) and Nataliya Zhukova (Ukraine).

 

THE WINNER

 

 

 

Although highly rated at 2672 and ranked 75th in the world, Cheparinov's result was something of a surprise in the context of a tournament which had such awesome strength in depth and in which he ranked 17th. But it should be borne in mind that he has been rated in excess of 2700: a highly talented player in his own right who put his own playing career to one side for several years whilst working closely with Veselin Topalov. Much of this period was spent in Spain and, like Topalov, Ivan is a fluent Spanish speaker. He now works with Spanish GM Ivan Salgado López, who is resident in Sofia and who finished with a creditable 7/10 in the tournament.

 

WOMEN'S PRIZE

 

 

 

Zhao Xue (China) had led the chase for the £15,000 women's prize after her breathtaking streak of five wins between rounds five and nine but it was brought to an end in the last round when she had Black against Nikita Vitiugov. This loss left her on 7 points and she was caught on that score by Mariya Muzychuk (avove), who finished with a draw against Simen Agdestein, and Nataliya Zhukova, who did well to defeat US GM Alex Lenderman in the last round and finishing with a burst of 3/3. The tournament rule for this prestigious prize specifies that the £15,000 goes to the player with the best tournament performance rating. Mariya's was 2654 – incidentally, more than enough to qualify for a GM norm – while Zhao Xue's was 2561 and Nataliya's 2553, so the honour and money went to Mariya. It was a fitting reward for a consistently excellent result, having played six grandmasters and beaten two of them.

 

TIE-BREAK

 

The three-way tie-break between Cheparinov, Ivanchuk and Vitiugov started with a lottery to decide which player would 'sit out' the first phase and await the result of a two-game rapid match between the other two. Ivan Cheparinov was fortunate enough to win that lottery but there was a degree of justice in this because he had had by far the longest and toughest of the round ten games played by the three players, consequently having less time to recuperate before the tie-break started. Tie-breaks are always controversial and I’ve no doubt that every smart aleck in cyberspace thinks he can dream up a better one. I’m not minded either to criticise or defend this particular method, simply commenting that (a) there was minimal time to stage a longer one (e.g. a round-robin) and (b) the Swiss system itself is manifestly flawed as a method for deciding a tournament winner anyway but we have learnt to embrace its peculiarities.

 

 

Round 10 playoffs

Thur 6 Feb

 

     

 

The first tie-break match in fact went to four games, with two blitz games needed to separate Vitugov and Ivanchuk after their first two games were inconclusive, with the Russian winning both the blitz encounters as Ivanchuk’s energy and clock handling finally gave way to the much younger Russian.

 

The first blitz game soon exploded into complications – not always a good idea in a blitz game.

 

Gibraltar Masters 2014, Tie-Break 1 (3rd game, Blitz)

N.Vitiugov (2737) - V.Ivanchuk (2739)

1.d4 d5 2.c4 dxc4 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.e3 e6 5.Bxc4 c5 6.0‑0 Nc6 7.Qe2 a6 8.Rd1 b5 In the context of blitz, 8...Qc7 might have been more prudent if Black wanted to avoid mega-complications. 9.Bb3 9.dxc5 Qc7 10.Bd3 and 11.a4 should give White a slight edge. 9...c4 10.Bc2 Nb4 The commentators thought White had slipped up here, allowing Black to exchange the light-squared bishop for a knight. 11.e4 Bb7 11...Nxc2 12.Qxc2 Bb7 13.d5 exd5 14.Nc3 Bc5 15.Bg5 d4 has been seen before. 12.d5

 

 

Now 12.Nc3 has been played before but Vitiugov’s move is definitely better. 12...Nxc2 Exiting the book: curiously, this position was reached as far back as 1934, in the game Hoenlinger-Kolnhofer at the Trebitsch Memorial tournament, Vienna. It continued with the much safer 12...Qc8 and then 13.Bg5 Nxc2 14.Qxc2 h6 15.Bh4 g5 16.Bg3 Bg7 17.a4 exd5 18.exd5 0‑0 and eventually ended in a draw, though Black is on the brink of being a pawn up here. 13.dxe6! Nxa1 14.Rxd8+ Rxd8 15.exf7+ Kxf7

 

 

Hereabouts, analysis engines cease to be a useful guide to what’s happening as they add up the material (queen for two rooks and a minor piece) and reckon Black is a good deal better. Humans can see that the knight on a1 is never getting out alive and that White has a couple of other positional plus points. The commentators were in no doubt that White was in the box seat here. 16.Ng5+ Kg8 17.e5 Ne4 18.Ne6 Re8 19.Nxf8 Kxf8 20.f3 Nc5 21.Be3 Nd3 22.Bd4 Rd8 23.Bb6 Rd5? 23...Rd7 puts up a sterner defence. For example, if 24.e6 Re7 25.f4 Black can perhaps stir things up with 25...Nc2! when 26.Qxc2? Rxe6 27.Bf2 Kf7 gets Black right back in the game. 24.f4 Kf7 24...Nxf4!? is better than it looks: 25.Qf3 Ke8 26.Nc3 Rf8! 27.Nxd5 Bxd5 28.Qd1 Rf5 with chances for both sides. 25.Nc3 h5? 26.e6+! After this, White has everything under control. 26...Ke7 27.Nxd5+ Bxd5 28.f5 Kd6 29.Bd4 Rg8 30.Qxh5 Nc2 31.Bb6 Kc6 32.Qf7 Rc8 33.Qd7+ Kxb6 34.Qxc8 Nd4 35.h3 Nxf5 36.e7 Nxe7 37.Qd8+ Kc6 38.Qxe7 Nxb2 39.Qxg7 Na4 40.h4 c3 41.h5 c2 42.Qg6+ 1‑0

 

In the second blitz game Ivanchuk briefly managed to get a promising game but Vitiugov defended resourcefully and prevented any invasions of his position. By the time Ivanchuk overstepped the time limit his position was probably worse.

 

In the final tie-break match between Cheparinov and Vitiugov (who are incidentally both 27 and separated in age by only a little over two months), the Russian, dubbed 'the iceman' last year by commentator Simon Williams for his coolness under pressure, and noticeably dominant in the 2013 play-offs, seemed strangely hesitant and used significantly more time than his Bulgarian opponent. Perhaps the previous tense eliminator with Ivanchuk had sapped some of his strength but he could make no impression on Cheparinov in the first game.  Vitiugov had won the toss for colours and chosen to play Black in the first game. Cheparinov won a pawn and then found a clever way to exchange into a winning king and pawn endgame.

 

Gibraltar Masters 2014, Tie-Break 2 (1st game, Rapidplay)

I.Cheparinov (2672) - N.Vitiugov (2737)

 

 

24...Rxe1?! A critical point. Black was about a minute down on time here and after the rook exchange White was able to harass him with his queen down the a-file. It might have been better to keep a pair of rooks on with 24...Be6, etc. 25.Qxe1 Be6 26.Qa1! Qd8 26...Qb8 27.b6!? is tricky. 27.Qa7! Keeping up the pressure and causing Black to use up more and more time. 27...b6 28.Na4 Nd7 29.Qb7 h5 30.Be2 h4 31.Qc6 Qb8 32.Bg4! More good practical chess, setting Black tough decisions. 32...Bxg4 If he had had more time to check his calculations, Black would have done better to play 32...Qe8! when 33.Nxb6 Bxg4 34.hxg4 Qe1+ 35.Kh2 Qxf2! sets up a perpetual check. 33.hxg4 Qa7 34.Nc3 Nf6? Black could still have rescued the game with 34...Qa1+ 35.Kh2 Nf8! 36.Nxd5 Qxd4 37.Ne7+ Kh7 38.Qd5 Qxd5 39.Nxd5 Ne6, etc. 35.Qc8+ Kh7 36.g5 Ne4 37.Nxe4 dxe4 38.Qf5+ Kg8 39.Qxe4 Qd7 40.Qe5 h3 Making the finish a bit easier for White, though it’s fairly grim whatever he does. 41.gxh3 Qxh3

 

 

White now has a neat way to convert to a winning king and pawn endgame. 42.Qb8+! Kh7 43.Qh2 Qxh2+ 44.Kxh2 Kg6 45.f4! f6 45...Kf5 46.d5 wins. 46.gxf6 Kxf6 47.Kg3 Ke6 48.Kf3 Kd5 49.Ke3 Kc4 50.Ke4 Kxb5 51.Kd5 Ka4 52.Ke6! The only winning move but perhaps also the most natural. 52...b5 53.d5 b4 54.d6 b3 55.d7 b2 56.d8Q b1Q 57.Qa8+ Kb3 58.Qb7+ 1‑0

 

The return game saw Vitiugov take the initiative with White but once again he fell behind on the clock and couldn't seem to make up his mind whether to attack or defend, for example when he suddenly retreated his knight to its original square to defend an as yet non-existent attack on his king. Later the following position came about.

 

Gibraltar Masters 2014, Tie-Break 2 (2nd game, Rapidplay)

N.Vitiugov (2737) - I.Cheparinov (2672)

 

 

36.Re4?! Another tentative move. 36.Ne2!? seems more purposeful. If 36...Nh4 37.Bxh4 Rxh4 38.Nd4, Black is obliged to play 38...Bxd4 39.Rxd4 when the black king is significantly less secure and there is a threat of Rbb4 and Rxf4 in the air. 36...Nh4! 37.Bxh4 Rxh4 38.Ne2 Qb6! Preventing Nd4 and also threatening to invade on f2. 39.Rf1 b4!? 40.Nc1 Black’s last move was speculative and with more time to think of a reply, White might have found 40.Qd2 a5 41.g4! when White has quite a lot of play against Black’s kingside. Instead, in a situation where he had to go for broke to tie the match, White again moves his knight to the back rank. 40...Rh6 41.Qc4 Rhg6 42.Re2 Qb5!? Another gamble from Black but it pays off. 43.Qxb5 axb5 44.Nd3 b3 45.Rb1 b2 46.Nxe5 46.Nxb2 Bxb2 47.Rbxb2 Rxd5 48.Rb4 Re5!? looks hard to win for White even if he goes a pawn up. 46...Rxe5

 

 

47.Rxe5? This was probably White’s last chance to go for the win: 47.Rd2!? Rgg5 48.Rbxb2 Rxd5 49.h4! Rgf5 50.Rxd5 Rxd5 51.Rb4 might still win for White with a bit of luck. 47...dxe5 48.Rxb2 Rb6 49.g4 fxg3+ 50.Kxg3 b4 51.Kg4 Kf6 52.h4 b3 53.h5 Rb4+ 54.Kg3 Kg5 55.Kf2 Kxh5 56.Ke3 Kg6 57.d6 Kf6 ½‑½

 

ROUND TEN

 

In round ten proper, which started at 11am to leave time for tie-breaks, the overnight leader Vassily Ivanchuk drew with Maxime Vachier-Lagrave of France. It was fairly brief but quite eventful, with the Frenchman giving up two minor pieces to attack the white king. However, it only proved to be enough to force perpetual check.

 

 

 

That meant that Ivanchuk was ‘leader in the clubhouse’ with 8/10 at an early stage in proceedings, but with the possibility of as many as three players joining him on that score if they were able to win.

 

Dreev versus Al-Sayed, one of the three games in question, ended in a draw, thus ending the two players’ hopes of finishing in the big money. The Russian pushed fairly hard for a win but the Qatari GM found a way to neutralise his attack.

 

Zhao Xue’s remarkable streak stopped short of a Fischeresque 6-0 when she confronted last year’s winner determined to retain this Gibraltar Masters title. She was doing well until she exchanged a couple of minor pieces, when Vitiugov’s rooks and queen suddenly took over the board.

 

Gibraltar Masters 2014, Round 10

N.Vitiugov (2737) - Zhao Xue (2567)

 

 

Black seems to be doing fine here but she now makes the fateful decision to exchange minor pieces. 19...Nxf3+ 19...Rfd8 20.b6 Bb8 looks resilient for Black. 20.Bxf3 Bc5? Offering the bishop exchange is now a serious positional error as White can grab the open b-file and put pressure on the residual pawn on a6. 20...Rfd8 21.bxa6 bxa6 22.Qd3! Finely judged. The queen looks vulnerable to a skewer via Bf5 here, but Black never gets the chance to play it. The positive aspect of the queen being on d3 is to put pressure on the a-pawn and, in some variations, on h7. 22...Bxb4 22...Qa7 23.Bxc5 Rxc5 24.Rb6 is no better. 23.Rxb4 Rc6 24.Rb6! Slightly better than 24.Rfb1 Rfc8, when Black gets the chance to consolidate a little. 24...Ra8 25.Rfb1 Rac8 25...Kh8 26.Rxc6 Qxc6 27.Rb6 Qc1+ 28.Kg2 Qc8 29.h4, dodging the sneaky back rank mate threat and preparing to take the d5-pawn. Black can’t defend against all the threats. 26.h4 Rc3 26...Rxb6 27.axb6 Qb7 28.e4! wins a pawn. 27.Qxa6 Bg4 28.Bg2 With 26 minutes left on his clock, this seems excessively cautious: 28.Rd6! Qf5 (the would-cheapo 28...Bxf3 doesn’t work: 29.Rxd7 Rc1+ 30.Kh2! and Black has nothing.) 29.Bxd5+ Kf8 30.Rd1 wins comfortably. That said, the text is good enough. 28...d4 29.Rb8 Qe8 30.Qd6 Now Black had only three minutes left and was playing on out of inertia. 30...h5 31.a6 Qa4 32.Bb7 Kh7 33.Bxc8 Bxc8 34.Qd5 Kg6 35.R8b5 Bg4 36.Rb7 Qe8 37.a7 Bf5 38.Rxg7+! 1‑0 38...Kxg7 39.Rb7+ Kg6 40.a8Q Qxa8 41.Qf7+ leads to mate, as would the immediate 38.a8Q.

 

Gata Kamsky, playing Black, might have been the name we expected to see in the frame for the tie-breaks, but it was his Bulgarian opponent who ultimately held his nerve best.

 

 

 

Gibraltar Masters 2014, Round 10

I.Cheparinov (2672) - G.Kamsky (2709)

 

 

In this position Black had about three minutes (and increments) left to the time control and White about six minutes. 30...f4 After this, White is able to mobilise a rook against Black’s kingside and win a pawn. But alternatives are not without problems, e.g. 30...d5 31.Ne5 Nxe5 32.Rxe5 Qd4 33.Qg5+ Kf7 34.R5e2 and Black is doing little more than marking time while White formulates a plan. 31.Re5 Qf8 32.Rg5 d6 33.Qxh4 e5 34.Qg4 Qc8 35.Qf3 Kh6 Perhaps it was time for desperate measures such as 35...Rxc4!? 36.bxc4 Qxc4 37.h4 Kf7, etc. 36.Rh5+ 36.h4 looks very strong: capturing the pawn allows mate in one. 36...Kg7 37.Rd1 Qe8 38.Qe4 Nf8 39.Rg5+ Ng6 40.Nxa5 Rc5 41.Nc4 Qc6 42.Qxc6 Simplifying but in this instance perhaps keeping the queens on with 42.Qd3 arguably leads to a more straightforward win. 42...Rxc6 43.h4 Kf7 44.g3 Ke6 45.Re1 Kf7 46.Rd1 Ke6 47.a5 Ra6 48.h5 Ne7 49.gxf4 Rxf4 50.Kg2 Rf6 51.Rh1 Nf5 52.Ne3 Nxe3+ After 52...Rxa5, White can simplify with 53.Rxf5 Rxf5 54.Nxf5 Kxf5 55.h6 Ra8 56.h7 Rh8 57.Kf3 d5 58.Rh5+ Kg6 59.Kg4, leading to a won king and pawn endgame. 53.fxe3 Rh6 54.Ra1 Kf6 55.Rg6+ Rxg6+ 56.hxg6 d5 56...Kxg6 57.e4 Kf6 58.Kf3 Ke6 59.Ke3 d5 60.exd5+ Kxd5 61.Ra2 soon leads to zugzwang. 57.Kf3 Kxg6 58.e4 d4 59.Kg4 Kf6 60.Kh5 Ra7 61.a6 Rh7+ 62.Kg4 Rg7+ 63.Kf3 Ra7 64.Ra5 Ke6 65.Ke2 Kd6 66.Kd3 Kc7 67.Kc4 Kb6 68.Kxb4 1‑0

 

Amongst the games between the players on 6½ the following stood out. Nigel Short usually excels in Gibraltar but, as he openly admitted, his chess has been affected by his involvement in the highly acrimonious 2014 FIDE presidential election. As a result he had a nasty accident at the hands of Kevin Spraggett in round four and much the same happened in round ten, when he lost a game to an opponent playing the Short variation of the Caro-Kann against him. Just Nigel’s luck that the game was perhaps the most publishable of the round...

 

Gibraltar Masters 2014, Round 10

B.Adhiban (2590) - N.Short (2683)

1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.e5 Bf5 4.Nf3 e6 5.Be2 This and the preceding 4.Nf3 constitute the relative restrained Short variation. Back in the late 1970s and 1980s, there was a more violent plan with an early Nc3 and g4 which was used to scare Caro-Kann players but at some point it was shorn of its terrors, at which point Nigel’s eponymous variation came into being. 5...Nd7 6.0‑0 a6 7.Nbd2 c5 8.c4 8.c3 and 8.dxc5 are more popular here. 8...Ne7 9.dxc5 Nxc5 10.Nb3 Nc6 If the text is deemed bad, 10...Nd7 suggests itself but then 11.Nbd4 Be4 12.Be3 dxc4 13.Bxc4 Bd5 14.Bb3 also appears to leave White with an edge. 11.Be3 Seemingly a new move, and quite potent. 11...Nxb3 12.Qxb3 d4 One wonders whether Black can get away with something like 12...dxc4!? 13.Qxb7 Na5 14.Qb6 Qxb6 15.Bxb6 Nc6 16.Bxc4 Bg4 ... hmm, it looks a bit risky, with the black king still a couple of moves from castling. And a pawn down, of course. 13.Rfd1 Clearly 13.Qxb7?? Na5 winning material, would be a bad idea but the obvious text move gives White a very attractive game. In fact, 13.Rad1!? might be even better than the text since the later desperado bishop move in the game line could then be answered with the positionally superior Rxf2. 13...Bc5

 

 

14.Nxd4! Nxd4 15.Bxd4 Bxd4 16.Qa4+! Kf8 16...Qd7 17.Qxd7+ Kxd7 18.Rxd4+ Kc7, acquiescing to being a pawn down with no compensation, would probably only turn a quick loss into a long one. 17.Qb4+ Kg8 17...Ke8 18.c5 would leave the black king more exposed after White regains the piece. 18.c5 Bxf2+ 19.Kxf2 Qc7 20.Qb6! Qe7 20...Qxb6 21.cxb6 Be4 22.Rac1 g6 23.Rc7 Kg7 24.Rdd7 Rhf8 25.Bf3 Bxf3 26.Kxf3 and the black b-pawn will soon drop away and White’s b6-pawn become a killer passed pawn. 21.Bf3 h5 22.Bxb7 Rb8 23.c6 Kh7 24.c7 Rxb7 25.Qxb7 Qc5+ 26.Kf1 h4 26...Qc4+ keeps the game going, e.g. 27.Kg1 Be4 28.Qb6 Qc2 29.Qf2 Qxc7 30.Rac1 Qxe5 31.Qxf7 Qg5 32.Qf2 Rf8 33.Qg3, etc, but White is likely to win with his extra exchange. 27.Rd8 Kg6 28.c8Q 1‑0

 

GIRLS ON TOP

 

One remarkable feature of the tournament was the achievement of GM norms solely by female competitors – Mariya Muzychuk (Ukraine), Lela Javakishvili (Georgia) and Tan Zhongyi (China). This is quite appropriate for a tournament that prides itself on promoting and supporting women’s chess (not to mention one in which the women beat the men in the Battle of the Sexes rapidplay). Women also chalked up a number of the IM norms: Natalia Pogonina (Russia), Qi Guo (China) plus male players Pedro Martínez Reyes (Venezuela), Johan Salomon (Norway) and Bogdan-Daniel Deac (Romania).

 

 

 

The best game prize, worth £1,000, was shared by Michael Adams and Alexandr Fier; you’ll recall that the game appeared in the round three report and was compared by me to the England vs Brazil football match 1970. If I managed to do anything to make these two gentlemen slightly wealthier, then I am only too pleased to have been of service.

 

EPILOGUE

 

Well, that’s about it from me, dear reader. It was a great privilege to be assigned the task of describing such an amazing tournament for you all. I’d like to thank Brian Callaghan and Stuart Conquest, Tradewise and all the other sponsors for putting it on, and my work colleagues behind the scenes for being cheerful and supportive, the players for being tolerant of me pointing my camera lens at them; but my profoundest thanks are due to the reader for tolerating my attempts at humour/annotation/wisdom, and resisting the temptation to send hate mail.

 

But seriously... thanks for reading and here’s to next year and another fabulous Tradewise Gibraltar Chess Festival.

 

 

Photos © John Saunders and Sophie Triay

 


 

Annotated games from the above report | Download in PGN |

 

 


 

John Saunders

Press Reporter, Tradewise Gibraltar Chess Congress - Twitter @GibraltarChess

Official website: www.gibraltarchesscongress.com

Personal Twitter Account @johnchess

 

 

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