LATEST... Dates for the 8th Gibtelecom Chess Festival - Tuesday 26 January 2010 to Thursday 4 February 2010. Put this in your diary now! DOWNLOAD THE 2010 BROCHURE. And the new 2010 Gibtelecom festival website is taking shape - click here.
The 7th edition of Gibraltar's Gibtelecom Chess Festival took place from Tuesday 27 January to Thursday 5 February 2009 at the Caleta Hotel, one of Gibraltar's best hotels.
PHOTOGRAPHS: if you wish to use photos from this event, please feel free to download them from this album and even more photos here. VIDEOS: don't miss the fantastic videos we have of every round of the tournament. PRESS REPORTS: Sean Hewitt and FM Sunil Weeramantry's press reports can be found by clicking on 'Masters' in the left-hand menu.
Peter Svidler beat Vadim Milov 2-0 in the tie-break for first place and the £15,000 winner's cheque after they finished tied on 8/10. Nana Dzagnidze drew with Golod to secure the £6,000 women's prize. Leading scores: 1-2 P Svidler (RUS, won play-off), V Milov (SUI) 8/10, 3-6 V Gashimov (AZE), H Nakamura (USA), E Berg (SWE), V Akobian (USA) 7½, 7-11 P Harikrishna (IND), N Dzagnidze (GEO), I Sokolov (NED), A Stefanova (BUL), P Cramling (SWE) 7, etc.
Peter Svidler makes the winner's speech
Peter Svidler gave an excellent speech at the gala prizegiving which followed the end of the tournament on Thursday 5 February. He revealed the secret behind his appearance in Gibraltar (other tournament organisers who want to book him, please take note): "I only came for the cricket!... I was promised net sessions - and I got net sessions... and that was excellent... that was excellent, ladies and gentlemen!". Initially he thought his dalliance with the traditional summer game might have affected his play: "after three days enjoying myself, I thought it would all end in tears - but surprisingly it didn't." He paid warm tribute to the tournament as a "home or family event" - and expressed the hope that he would be back soon. The next day he went up the rock to meet the peninsula's most famous residents. You can see and hear all of this for yourselves by click on the following video (made by Zeljka Malobabic of Monroi.com)
Video of the last round and prizegiving
Peter Svidler (left) beat Vadim Milov 2-0 in a rapidplay tie-break for
first prize. The time limit was 10 minutes + 10 seconds per move.
Gashimov, Milov, Svidler, Nakamura and Harikrishna have 7/9
The leading group has grown to five after the two round eight leaders Gashimov and Milov drew their game. There were two wins with Black: Peter Svidler beat Alexander Belyavsky and last year's winner Hikaru Nakamura beat Bartosz Socko to join the players on 7/9 and Pentala Harikrishna beat Josep Lopez Martinez to make it five players on that score. There were two other sensational results as Nana Dzagnidze beat Ferenc Berkes to improve her chances of taking the £6,000 women's prize, while 2187-rated Oleg Kozlov of Russia swept to victory against Vassilios Kotronias of Greece to secure a GM norm.
The Gibtelecom Masters is unusal in that it insists on having a sole victor. Not easy when five people go into the final round on the same score. Here's how it works... players who still have a chance of coming first play their games five hours early tomorrow (at 10:00 GMT+1 precisely). At the end of those games, whoever is left standing (to a maximum of four) go into a rapidplay-off which takes place at the same time as the remainder of the other Masters tournament games takes place (at 15:00 GMT+1 precisely). There are a maximum of four players in the play-off: if five or more tie for first then the top four are decided by tournament performance rating. Complicated? Very! But hopefully it should produce a single tournament victor at some point on Thursday afternoon.
More fun tomorrow...
Joint Leaders after Round 8: Vugar Gashimov (left) and Vadim Milov (right)
We now have joint leaders on the final run-in at the Gibtelecom Masters. Vugar Gashimov managed to hold Peter Svidler at bay though the St Petersburg grandmaster tortured him with his well-placed rook and bishop for many hours. This allowed Vadim Milov to catch up with the young Azeri by beating Vassilios Kotronias in some style. The Greek grandmaster took a pawn on move 19 but it soon became apparent that his position had become fatally compromised and he lasted only another ten moves.
Still in the mix: Hikaru Nakamura
The other significant high board result was Hikaru Nakamura's win against Vitali Golod. Despite his two earlier defeats it seems that the 2008 winner has still not abandoned hope of retaining his crown. He is now in a seven-player group just half a point behind the leaders.
Leading contenders for the women's first prize: Nana Dzagnidze and Antoaneta Stefanova
There are a staggering 20 players in the third score group of 5½/9. Amongst them are the two leading contenders for the women's prize. Former women's world champion Antoaneta Stefanova beat Monika Socko of Poland to catch up with Nana Dzagnidze who drew with Mikhail Gurevich. Also amongst the 20 on 5½ are two sub-2200 players: the highly talented Lasse Lovik of Norway, who beat Irina Krush, and the absurdly low rated Russian Oleg Kozlov who is rated a mere 14 points higher than your humble scribe but is in reality about 14 times better than me as a player.
Tuesday 3 February 2009: Sunrise over Gibraltar
Let me start by addressing a few words to the chessplayers of freezing cold, snow-bound Britain: look at the photo above of sunrise over Gibraltar this morning. No snow... well, OK, I know snow doesn't settle on water but, take it from me, there is no snow and you can go outside in a short-sleeved shirt. Think about it and then make a note in your diary to play in Gibraltar in 2010. You know it makes sense.
Round 7 Top Board: Vugar Gashimov beats Alexander Belyavsky
Advertising break over... Big Al Belyavsky's place in the sun is now occupied by joint top seed Vugar Gashimov who downed him in a tough 48-move Ruy Lopez. The young Azeri managed to secure a passed a-pawn and eventually this brought him victory.
This afternoon's round eight game should be a bit special as our two top-rated players Peter Svidler and Vugar Gashimov clash. 2723 plays 2723 - that's an awful lot of rating points meeting head to head - the most ever in a Gibraltar game. Yesterday Peter beat Antoaneta Stefanova in double-quick time. At the end Peter had more time on his clock than he started with so I guess it came straight from his database preparation.
Round 7: Antoaneta Stefanova doesn't know it yet but
she's about to be run down by the 'Svidler Express'
Last year it was 'Great Bu's Up' at Gibraltar (which tickled ChessBase head honcho Frederic Friedel enough to dub me the 'world's worst punster' - finest compliment I've ever been paid) but this year it is more a case of 'Big Al's Up' (though, despite racking my brains, I can't find a Blackadder sketch to fit the bill this time - or even an anagram of 'Gibraltar', dammit). 55-year-old Alexander 'Big Al' Belyavsky is easily the oldest of the leading contenders in the Gibtelecom Masters (good grief, the man is almost as old as I am) but he unseated the early leader Vassilios Kotronias in yesterday's sixth round.
Beware: Big Al Belyavsky knows his endgame studies
The way Belyavsky reached his objective involved knowledge of a famous endgame study. The game reached the following position:
Belyavsky - Kotronias, Round 6
White to Play
At first sight this looks crazy as it allows Black to exchange into a favourable king and pawn endgame. But it is not so.
Black would dearly like to play 41...Rd4+ but he realises that he can’t. White wouldn’t reply with the awful 42 Kb5?? Rxa4 43 Kxa4 e3 44 b7 e2 45 b8Q e1Q leaving him a pawn down in a queen endgame, but the amazing 42 Kc5!!. This move and the following sequence is analogous to the Saavedra study (except that White is not obliged to underpromote at the end of it). If 42...Rxa4 43 b7! Ra5+ 44 Kc4! Ra4+ 45 Kc3! Ra3+ 46 Kb2! and White will promote his queen*. The actual game proceeded:
42 Kc5 Rc8+ 43 Kd6 Rd8+ 44 Kc7 Rd2 45 Rxe4 Rxg2 46 Rb4 Rc2+ 47 Kd6 Rd2+ 48 Kxe5 Re2+ 49 Kd6 Rd2+ 50 Kc6 Rc2+ 51 Kb5 Rc8 52 b7 Rb8 53 Kc6 1–0
* I'm since told that the resultant queen versus rook endgame might still not be winnable. Maybe Big Al was bluffing!?
Leader Vassilios Kotronias drew a long game with Michael Roiz of Israel in the fifth round and this allowed him to be caught in the lead by veteran grandmaster Alexander Belyavsky. 'Big Al', as the former world junior champion is familiarly known, managed to beat Nana Dzagnidze in an extraordinary game. The ex-Soviet GM seemed to have much the worse of things in the early stages and he then forced a liquidation into a minor piece endgame where he was a pawn down. That flies in the face of what the textbooks tell you to do, of course, but Belyavsky had seen a little further into the position and soon levelled the material. Later he won a pawn to go ahead on material and eventually his well-honed, old-school technique triumphed. His reward is to have White against Vassilios Kotronias in this afternoon's clash of the leaders.
Arnaud Hauchard beat Hikaru Nakamura in Round Five
The major sensation at the top end of the tournament was 2008 Gibtelecom Masters winner Hikaru Nakamura's loss to Arnaud Hauchard of France. Having lost a game already, Hikaru pressed hard for a win. He disdained a draw but then overreached.
After four rounds, we have a sole leader - 44-year-old Greek grandmaster Vassilios Kotronias, who has had the perfect start with four straight wins. Vassilios likes Gibraltar - he was joint winner of our first tournament in 2003 - and he started with a brisk win against Marcelo Ripari. In round two he had an amazing game against Spanish Juan Manuel Bellon Lopez (check out FM Sunil Weeramantry's analysis of this game in the Round 2 Press Release). Next up was a confrontation with last year's winner Hikaru Nakamura: the US super-GM allowed his queen to be snared and that made it 3/3 for Vassilios. In round four he played another young super-GM, Pentala Harikrishna. The Indian player seemed to go wrong in the opening and Vassilios grabbed the initiative. Soon he was a pawn ahead and his technique took over. A very impressive start. Vassilios and I arrived in Gibraltar on the same plane from London and we shared a taxi to the venue. I told him about Peter Svidler playing cricket on the day before the tournament and he quipped: "I hope it takes his mind off the chess!". It's pretty clear that Vassilios himself is very focused on those 64 squares...
Nana Dzagnidze (Georgia)
Amongst the eight players on 3½/4 is Nana Dzagnidze of Georgia. Nana, team gold medallist in the 2008 Dresden Women's Olympiad, has made a confident start. She started with wins against two British amateur players and was then paired to play black against French super-GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave. This was a very tough pairing but Nana snatched the initiative at an early stage and then sacrificed the exchange for a pawn and a lot of scope for her bishops. Eventually the young Frenchman had to give up a piece for the passed pawn but he could not hold Nana back in the final phase of the game. A great scalp for Nana and she followed this with a draw against Bartosz Socko.
How many children in the world can claim that both their father and mother are full grandmasters? Well, we don't know the exact answer - maybe somebody out there can help us? - but we do know that two of them are in the photograph below...
Left to right: Anna Cramling-Bellon, Pia Cramling, Weronica Socko
Sitting at the board in the picture is little Anna Cramling-Bellon, daughter of GM Juan Manuel Bellon and GM Pia Cramling (who is also in the photo). Anna made her international competition debut on 29 January here in Gibraltar. On the right, having some fun with Pia Cramling is Weronica Socko, daughter of GM Bartosz Socko and GM Monika Socko. All four parents hold the full GM title. How many other children can boast two GM parents? Other than Weronica's siblings that is. We can think of maybe one more double GM husband and wife with children but haven't thought about it too deeply yet. Maybe there are more - can you think of any?
SPASSKY IN GIBRALTAR ... we had a very special guest on day 1 of the Gibtelecom festival - former world chess champion Boris Spassky. Read a report by Stewart Reuben (photos by Zeljka Malobabic).
Boris Spassky in Gibraltar
NOT JUST CHESS... when is the last time you saw Russia versus USA... at cricket?! Click here for some photos of Peter Svidler and Irina Krush as you may not have been them before and check out the video of Peter Svidler and Irina Krush playing cricket, courtesy of Zeljka Malobabic of Monroi
John Saunders reports: THE ACTION STARTS TOMORROW... the line-up for the 2009 Gibtelecom Festival is tremendous. It is likely to be the biggest and best yet. We have a tie for top rated player... both Azeri star Vugar Gashimov and Super-grandmaster and many-times Russian champion Peter Svidler are rated 2723. Vugar is one of the leading FIDE Grand Prix contenders at the moment, while Peter has just become Russian champion for a record fifth time! Peter tied for first with two others and then won a play-off tournament. Vugar is not so well known... yet. He is galloping up the rating list and shades Peter by virtue of having played one more game in the last rating period. So we have the world's no.19 and no.20 players in our best ever line-up. The two of them have a bit to prove as they have exchanged decisive results in the Grand Prix. Vugar won in Baku (his town) but Peter got his revenge in Sochi. Who will win in Gibraltar?
Peter Svidler's Russian Championshi[ play-off success is very interesting in itself as another of Peter's major rivals will be the 2008 winner Hikaru Nakamura returning to defend his title. Remember, Hikaru won in Gibraltar in 2008 after a tremendous tie-break tussle with Bu Xiangzhi of China, and he has since gone on to win what is probably the most prestigious rapidplay event of 2008, the Cap D'Agde Knock-Out in France, where he beat Karpov in the semi-final and Ivanchuk in the final. So forgive me for hoping that the 2009 Gibtelecom Masters will finish in a tie between Peter and Hikaru as that would give us the ultimate face-off between the rapidplay kings of Russia and the USA! Our main sponsors, Gibtelecom, will be bringing some massive computing power to bear on that as it could command an even bigger internet audience than the one which watched Hikaru play Bu in 2008.
But of course I am getting ahead of myself and there are plenty of other stars in contention for the £15,000 first prize... 18-year-old French super-star Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, plus Michael Roiz, Pentala Harikrishna, Boris Avrukh and Ivan Sokolov. Leading the challenge for the generous women's awards (first prize is £6,000) are world championship semi-finalist Pia Cramling, Antoaneta Stefanova, Viktorija Cmilyte, Nana Dzagnidze, former world champion Zhu Chen, Irina Krush, Ketevan Arakhamia and Anna Zatonskih. It's going to be a fantastic tournament...
Click here for a list of contact details relating to the 2009 Gibtelecom Chess Festival.