Gibtelecom Masters 2009


Round 1 Report

by John Saunders
Editor, British Chess Magazine and tournament webmaster


They're Off...


It’s great to be back in Gibraltar. This is my third visit, and second as webmaster. We’ve only reached day two of the tournament as I write this and already a lot has happened. Before the tournament organisers were able to provide top seed Peter Svidler with a new experience. It is well known that, unusually for a Russian, Peter is a huge fan of cricket. But, despite his vast knowledge of the game as an aficionado, he had not actually played the game before. So Manuel Weeks decided to take him to the local cricket ground in Gibraltar where he could try his hand at wielding a bat and bowling the ball. Irina Krush and Vugar Gashimov also decided to try out a new sport. You can see how they performed in videos and photos elsewhere on this website. Since I am a chess journalist and not a cricket one, I shall forbear from commenting on their abilities to play a straight bat or pitch the ball in line with the stumps.


Peter Svidler
Umpire: "What guard are you taking, Peter?"
Peter Svidler: "Give me f and g files, please."


We have also enjoyed a surprise visit from chess royalty – Boris Spassky. He’s not playing in the tournament but staying here for a few days to absorb the unique atmosphere of Gibraltar and socialise with friends. This is by way of a private visit but Boris was briefly presented at the opening ceremony and also made the ceremonial first move in round one. It’s great to have him with us and sent a tremendous buzz throughout the tournament.


Boris Spassky in Gibraltar
Special guest: Boris Spassky in Gibraltar


The Masters has an impressive line-up, even more so than in 2008 when we had a classic race to the finish between Hikaru Nakamura of USA and Bu Xiangzhi of China. Hikaru won in 2008 and he has returned to defend his title. The top seeds (both rated 2723) are Peter Svidler and Vugar Gashimov and there are plenty of other highly rated and talented players who will be challenging for the £15,000 first prize amongst the near 200 player field.


As always in Swiss tournaments, round one was mainly a matter of the higher rated players putting the lower rated people to the sword but the fun lies in instances where David slayed Goliath (or at least drew with him – that’s where my biblical analogy falls down as I don’t remember too many split decisions in Old Testament confrontations). The first such instance was on board one where untitled English amateur Gary Quillan confronted Azeri super-GM Vugar Gashimov. I say “untitled” of Gary but as a 2300+ rated player he could of course have the FM title any time he likes and even has a couple of IM norms to his credit. Anyway, Gary is a very useful player and some of us were not entirely surprised to see him pin back a 2700+ rated player on the ropes.


Gary Quillan had a good result - but it might have been even better.
Gary Quillan had a good result - but it might have been even better.


Gibtelecom Masters Gibraltar (Round 1), 27.01.2009
Quillan,G (2357) - Gashimov,V (2723)


Now Gary hit his GM opponent with a sledgehammer
24 Re6! hxg4
24...fxe6 is unthinkable because of 25 Qxg6+ etc, and 24...Bxe6 25 Rxe6 is also the end of the world.
25 Rxd6 exd6 26 hxg4 Bxb3 27 axb3 Rxc3


28 Re3?
Here Gary misses the boat. In the commentary room Stuart Conquest found a killing continuation: 28 g3! - for some reason this move is not easy to see without prompting but when someone shows it to you, the idea becomes blindingly obvious; Kg2, Rh1 and it’s curtains.
28...Nd5 29 Rxc3
Having played A, White should really play B and continue 29 Rh3 when Black is obliged to play 29...Rxh3 30 gxh3 when White has straightened out his kingside pawns and the position is significantly better than in the game.
29...Nxc3 30 Kf1 a5 31 f4 d5 32 f5 Rc6 33 Qf4
It’s still quite promising for White but Black defends resourcefully. Of course White would like to get in f6 and then checkmate on g7 but Black keeps him at bay.
33...Ne4 34 Qb8+ Kg7 35 Qxb7 Rc1+ 36 Ke2 Rc2+ 37 Ke3 Rc3+ 38 Ke2
White would like to continue with 38 Kf4 but then 38...g5+ 39 Ke5 Nf6! anchoring the d5 pawn and preventing most of White’s winning tries. We looked at this in the commentary room and couldn’t come up with anything very convincing.
38...Rc2+ 39 Ke3 Rc3+ 40 Ke2 Rc2+ ½–½
Draw agreed. Very much a fisherman’s tale for Gary - “the big one which got away”.


"Phew! That was close!" Vugar Gashimov thanks his lucky stars.
"Phew! That was close!" Vugar Gashimov thanks his lucky stars.


Gibtelecom Masters Gibraltar (Round 1), 27.01.2009
Vachier-Lagrave,M (2696) - Kharous,E (2400)



This was perhaps more typical of the ‘big guy versus little guy’ encounters. Maxime finds a neat way to break through.
21 Nf7! Kxf7
21...Bg7 22 Nxh8 Bxh8 23 exf6+ Kxf6 24 Re8 is worse.
22 e6+ Ke7 23 exd7+ Kxd7 24 Ne4! Rf8 25 Nc3 Kd6 26 Re2
White will win the d5 pawn with Red2.
26...Rd8 27 Ne4+ Ke6 28 Ng5+ followed by Nf7 wins.
27 hxg5 fxg5 28 Rh2 Bg7 29 Ne4+ Kc6 30 Nxg5 1–0


Maxime Vachier-Lagrave looks in great form
Maxime Vachier-Lagrave looks in great form



Gibtelecom Masters Gibraltar (Round 1), 27.01.2009
Welling,G (2371) - Sokolov,I (2657)



This was an entertaining all-Dutch encounter. White had done a pretty good job so far but now he misjudges a combination.
15 f5?! exf5 16 Bh6
Threatening to mate a super-GM in one must feel very good but unfortunately there is a sting in the tale.
16...g6 17 Bxf8 Nxc3 18 Bxe7?
White should play 18 Qe1 Nxe2+ 19 Qxe2 Qxf8 but then Black would have two pawns for the exchange and also the bishop pair so he would probably be somewhat better.
18...Nxe2+ 19 Kf2 Nxg3 20 Bxd8 Nxf1 21 Bf6
White had perhaps foreseen that the black knight would now be trapped but unfortunately his own knight on c2 is a liability.
21...Nxh2! 22 Nxh2 Rb2 23 Rc1 Nb4
Black wins back the piece after which he is going to be a lot of pawns up.
24 e6 d4 25 e7 Bd7 26 Kg1 Rxc2 27 Rxc2 Nxc2 28 Nf3 Nb4 29 Ne5 Ba4 30 g4 Nd5 0–1


There was another meritorious draw for an English player when Jovanka Houska drew with Vadim Milov. It was a pretty good advertisement for Jovanka’s book Play The Caro-Kann as she equalised easily out of a Caro-Kann opening and then was given a pawn as Vadim tried to mix things up. It might well have been winning for Jovanka at one stage but the Swiss super-GM managed to exchange off pawns on the queenside leaving a drawish three versus two on one side.





Two GMs were unfortunate enough to stop a bullet in the first round. One was Jon Speelman who was a pawn up and in the box seat for the first part of his game but then the position rather turned around when the following position was reached.


Gibtelecom Masters Gibraltar (Round 1), 27.01.2009
Speelman,J (2536) - Csonka,A (2289)



White is a pawn up but his kingside set-up is problematic.
33...g4 34 hxg4 hxg4 35 Nh2 Kg7!
A curious parallel with might (and should) have happened in Quillan-Gashimov. Black is threatening to play Rh8 and deliver mayhem down the h-file. It is very hard to know what White is supposed to do about it.
36 Qxa5
36 Qd6 followed by Qf4, to get the queen back to defend, may be better.
36...Rh8 37 Rd2
37 Qe1 Qh5 38 Qh1 is a grovellish alternative and is probably not much good in the long term, but the attempt to run away with the king doesn’t work.
37...Qh5 38 Kf1 Qh3+ 39 Ke1 Qxh2 40 Qxd5 Qg1+ 41 Ke2 Re8+ 42 Kd3 Qb1+ 43 Kc3 Qc1+ 0–1
A well-aimed sling-shot by the young Hungarian.


Pia Cramling was the other casualty. Hers was a tragedy. A long, manoeuvring game suddenly came to life when Pia sacrificed a piece to obtain a passed pawn. Her plan was about to be crowned with success when a calamity occurred...


Gibtelecom Masters Gibraltar (Round 1), 27.01.2009
Cramling,P (2548) - Fruebing,S (2307)

57 Rxd3?
The winning move is 57 Rc7! when 57...Rfg8 fails to (57...Ra8 58 Rbb7 d2 59 Rxd7+ Kf6 60 Ke2 Rxg2+ 61 Kd1 Ke5 62 Rb8 wins) 58 Rxd7+! Kxd7 59 Rb7+ and the pawn queens and gives mate next move.
57...Rfg8 58 Rd2?
Now White gets mated. Instead, 58 g4 hxg3+ 59 Kg2 Ra8 60 Ra3 saves half a point at least.
58...Rxg2+ 59 Ke1 Rg1+ 60 Ke2 Ne5! 0–1
White cannot prevent the g8 rook coming to g2, checkmate. Good calculation by Stefan Fruebing.


Pia CramlingStefan Fruebing
A bad day at the office for Pia is very good news for Stefan...


More fun tomorrow...
Caleta Hotel