by Manuel Weeks
Antoaneta Stefanova is having the tournament of her life so far. She has defeated three world-class grandmasters in a row to take the outright lead. Many people expected her to be solid and wait for “Big Al “ Beliavsky to make the aggressive play but she reacted aggressively herself and was never worse during the game, in itself an achievement against the former Soviet Union Champion.
The Chinese “Armada” has begun its move with Bu Xiangzhi grinding down Polish GM Bartosz Sosko after Bu seemed worse for most of the game. On move 35 you would not think Black will be able to do anything but the Chinese GM managed to weaken the white kingside pawn structure and in the time scramble he kept making progress till he brought the point home. An instructive game which he then proceeded to show in his master class that evening.
The two most dramatic events of the round came later, firstly when young Australian IM Zong-Yuan Zhao defeated US GM Hikaru Nakamura after the American played too riskily to win in a position that was only slightly worse for him. Can you spot the pretty mate that Zhao missed on move 55?
Zong-Yuan Zhao vs Nakamura
White to play and mate in three.
For the young Australian this was an important result as he is trying to achieve his final GM norm in Gibraltar before going back to university in Sydney. There is doubt there will be an almighty celebration at the Caleta hotel if Zhao achieves the coveted norm and fulfils the dream of every young chessplayer, to become a grandmaster!
The second was the record breaking seven hour game between Wang Hao and German grandmaster Leonid Kritz. The Chinese player shower tremendous fighting spirit as he sacrificed his final pawns when the draw by no pawn move or capture in 50 moves was looming. Having no pawns left he created the magic mating net with his remaining rook and bishop. Move 127…h5 seems to be the culprit. A heartbreaking loss for the German who could not recover the next day.
Greek GM Hristos Banikas managed to defend the honor of the Dragon variation against GM Ni Hua, even managing to sacrifice a piece for 3 pawns which would please players of this legendary Sicilian variation. These results would have Stefanova coming equal first into the Sunday round where Bu Xiangzhi would be the first male to claim the outright lead of the Gibtelcom Masters event by defeating US GM Varuzhan Akobian in a technical game where he laid siege to blacks isolated queen pawn on move 14 and ended up winning it on 44! It is hard to see the fatal error for blck, maybe there is something to these rumors of weak IQP’s!
Likable Swedish grandmaster Lars Karlsson missed a pretty win against Ni Hua, if he had found 36 hxg5 with the beautiful idea of 36…,Qc5, 37.Qh2,Rh8 for example.... (diagram left)
Ni Hua vs Lars Karlsson
...then here White can win beautifully with 38.Qxh8+!,Kxh8 39. Rd8+,Kg7 40.Rg8 mate!
Now Berg must face top seed Ni Hua’s countryman Wang Yue tomorrow with black.
Top European representative Moldovian Victor Bologan defeated English GM Mark Hebden in a enthralling battle that began with white sacrificing an exchange after... (diagram right)
26.Rxc6, then after Nxc6. 27.h5 the English GM was unable to parry the many threats, well worth playing through the whole game!
This has meant the outright lead to Bu Xiangzhi, formely known as the young man who became the world’s youngest grandmaster at 13 years. He is closely followed by a diverse pack of five players consisting of Victor Bologan, Wang Hao, former winner Bulgarian Kiril Georgiev, Ukrainian Zahar Efimenko and former women’s world champion Antoeneta Stefanova.
For 5 nights, various grandmasters have been showing their skils and thoughts at a “Masterclass”. The appreciative audience has been treated to Grandmasters Alexander Beliavsky, Ian Rogers, Bartosz Sosko, Hikaru Nakamura and now has Moldovain grandmaster showing how he developed into a world class player to look forward to.
Mention must be made of Australian grandmaster Ian Rogers performing a blindfold simultaneous exhibition where he played four players without sight of the board, these blindfold games require lasting concentration for nummerous hours as one forgetful moment can mean a loss of the position in ones own memory.
The media has also started speculating as to the winner of the prestigious and lucrative best game prize. Every year there is a heated debate as to who deserves the 100 pound prize. Many beautiful games are being downloaded and appreciated around the world.