John Saunders reports: Round four in the Gibraltar Masters started with three leaders, Michael Adams, Laurent Fressinet and Jan Gustafsson, but after draws at the top this number increased to ten by the end of the round. The highlight of the round was off the board, when legendary ex-world champion Boris Spassky came to join GM Stuart Conquest in the commentary room.
We’ll come to the action presently. Around 1½ hours into the round, Boris Spassky strolled into the commentary room to watch the play with GM Stuart Conquest and his audience (both physical and virtual, of course). Stuart invited him to sit beside him and chat "for a few minutes". This turned into nearly three hours! Within a few minutes we had the camera on Boris and it didn't leave him for the full duration of his stay in the commentary room.
Impromptu performance: Boris Spassky on the live video stream
And the really, really good news for all lovers of chess is that they can enjoy every minute of this video, thanks to some great new facilities provided by Gibtelecom. It has been stored for posterity and can be watched online on the tournament website, where we have a link and instruction on how to find the whole of Boris’s commentary.
The top board game between Laurent Fressinet and Michael Adams soon came down to a fairly sterile opposite-bishop endgame and a draw was agreed after 31 moves. The other player with a 100% score, Jan Gustafsson of Germany, played Black against Paco Vallejo Pons, the leading Spanish player in the field. Paco played the unusual 6 Nc3 in a Ruy Lopez but the game failed to spark and a draw was agreed on move 30 (the minimum number under the tournament’s 30-monve rule).
That left the rest of the field to fight to join the three leaders on 3½/4. Etienne Bacrot versus Antoaneta Stefanova was a complex struggle, with the Frenchman first grabbing a substantial middlegame advantage but then letting it slip around the time control. The Bulgarian women’s ex-world champion seemed to be easing her way to a draw but then made a blunder that cost her the game.
Etienne Bacrot vs Antoaneta Stefanova
(in the background, Pia Cramling vs Sergei Movsesian)
Two other leading women contenders were embroiled in tough struggles. Daniel Fridman, fresh from defeating his own wife (have to be careful with my vocabulary here – ‘beating his own wife’ would have absolutely terrible connotations in English and might leave me open to a charge of defamation), won against a second female adversary, Women’s World Champion Alexandra Kosteniuk. Eventually Daniel launched a lethal pawn attack on the queenside to win the game.
Alexandra Kosteniuk and Daniel Fridman
1 Nf3 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 g3 d5 4 b3 c5 5 Bg2 Nc6 6 0–0 Be7 7 e3 b6 8 Bb2 0–0 9 Nc3 Bb7 10 cxd5 exd5 11 d4 Qd7 12 Ne5 Qe6 13 Nb5 Rfc8 14 f4 Bf8
Quite an adventurous plan for White. Black must react quickly.
15...a6 16 g5 axb5
Maybe Black could play 16...Ne4 here.
17 gxf6 Qxf6
The play opens up to White's advantage after this. Perhaps 17...gxf6 needs to be played.
18 Bxd5 Nd8 19 Bxb7 Nxb7 20 Qf3 Rc7 21 dxc5 bxc5 22 Rf2 Qf5?!
22...Rd8 is an alternative. After the text White goes onto the offensive.
23 e4 Qc8 24 Ng4 Ra6
White would like to play 24...f5 to neutralise the two white pawns but then 25 Nh6+!? gxh6 26 Rg2+ looks very strong.
25 Rg2 Rcc6 26 Kh1 c4 27 bxc4 bxc4
If 27...Rxc4 28 Ne3 Rcc6 29 Bxg7! Bxg7 30 Nf5 and White has a big attack.
White is now threatening 29 Nh6+! Rxh6 30 Rxg7+!, etc.
28...Qe6 29 f5 Qd6
29...Qxe4 30 Re1 opens up yet another line against the black king and there is no good defence.
30 e5 Qd3
Exchanging queens is often a good way to neutralise an attack but this one proves to be equally effective without the queens.
This move separates the two black rooks from the kingside and prepares the final assault.
31...Qxc3 32 Nh6+!
A deadly intermezzo move.
32...Kh8 33 Nxf7+ Kg8 34 Nh6+ Kh8 35 Bxc3
There is nothing more to be done to defend Black's position.
35...Rc7 36 Re1 Ra3 37 f6! 1–0
37…Rxc3 38 Nf7+ Kg8 39 e7 Bxe7 40 Nh6+ soon mates.
Of the female contenders, the most successful was also the highest rated, Humpy Koneru of India. She generally outplayed GM Michael Hoffman in a complex struggle. This means she will be the one female player amongst the ten players who lead going into round ten. John Saunders