7th Gibtelecom Chess Festival kicks off!

1/28/2009 – It is a very popular event, played in many different groups. The Masters, an open Swiss, attracts numerous international stars – this year a record 199 players from 36 countries, including 35 grandmasters. They compete for £100,000 sterling of prize money, with £15,000 going to the eventual winner. But they also enjoy a late winter stay at the southern-most tip of the Iberic peninsula.

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7th Gibtelecom Chess Festival kicks off!

Report by Sean Hewitt with games annotated by Sunil Weeramantry

The opening ceremony of the 7th Gibtelecom Chess Festival was special for two reasons. Firstly, special guest was the tenth World Chess Champion Boris Spassky who was able to take a couple of days out to visit Gibraltar for the first time and enjoy the chess – this time as a spectator rather than as a player!

The second reason that the ceremony was special was the draw. Usually the top player draws for colour to see if he will be white or black in the first round. In Gibraltar, not only did the players draw for colour, but the top seeds also drew for opponents just as in football’s F.A. Cup! The players came up on stage and drew their opponents out of a hat – or rather, a very large brandy glass! Ladies first was the order of the day, and former world champion Antoaneta Stefanova was drawn against German FM Florian Armbrust and then Pia Cramling also drew a German FM, this time Stefan Fruebing. Then the men came up and drew out their opponents for the following afternoon.

Drawing lots like this certainly added some excitement to proceedings and it will be interesting to see if this idea is extended in future, or indeed catches on elsewhere.

Gibraltar

Gibraltar lies on the southern-most tip of Spain, at one of the narrowest entry points to the Mediterranian Sea. You can see Marocco with the naked eye. Here's a little about the history of Gibraltar, narrated by a native son – well, a citizen of the British Empire.

Nigel Short on Gibraltar

Gibraltar is a place which you either love or hate. I quite like it. It’s a rock, that is essentially what it is. It’s a British colony. We prised it out of the Spaniards after the treaty of Utrecht in 1704, I think during the war of the Spanish succession. It was a British naval base which was very important for controlling the entrance to the Mediterranean. From here you can see Africa, even with the naked eye, and so you could see any ships entering the Mediterranean. Historically it was just a garrison town, now the military presence has been wound down quite significantly, and financial services are extremely important.

The Spaniards did not play their cards very well on the subject of Gibraltar. There was a referendum here in 2002, and about 98% of the population voted to remain British. The population is a mixture, with Gibraltarians coming from many different countries. Most of the people are bilingual and speak English and Spanish. If you are in town you might see a group of people chatting away in Spanish, all holding their English newspapers.

When Franco was in power in Spain the peninsula was completely blockaded. If you wanted to travel from Gibraltar to Spain you had to take a ferry to Morocco and then go from Morocco to Spain. The border was sealed. The Gibraltarians were not particularly impressed by that, and they have long memories. Now it’s easy to cross the border, but there are still a lot of problems. For instance there are no direct flights from Spain. These sort of things irritate the people. I think that if the Spaniards were just to take a much more conciliatory approach Gibraltar would become Spanish in a matter of decades. It’s not as if there would be a huge change. Everyone speaks Spanish, the Pound is the official currency but the Euro is accepted everywhere. But there has been such a lot of ill will from Spain. They looked at this place, which is a historical anomaly, and instead of just accepting it as it is, they put pressure all through the years. The British were negotiating with the Spanish government about some kind of joint sovereignty, because you know we are not really great imperialists any more. We’ve been trying to wind down our activities in this area. But the Gibraltarians didn’t like it at all, they harbour a deep resentment. – See our Gibraltar report from 2004

Spassky on Gibraltar


Boris Spassky and International Arbiter Stewart Reuben in front of The Rock

Stewart writes: "On the first day it fell to me to accompany Boris on a tour of the Rock arranged by the Tourist Board. I was quite surprised to learn how knowledgeable he was about the history of Gibraltar. Most of us, had we lived through the siege of Leningrad during the Second World War, would have had other matters on our mind. I had been to most of the sights before, of course, but this was my first time in the siege tunnels.

Until recently that trip was rather arduous and long. Now I discovered there was a conducted tour lasting about 30 minutes virtually all on the flat. Boris quickly came to realise that the ancient chess aphorism, ‘The threat is stronger than its execution’, applied during the war. Germany never tried to take Gibraltar and thus was never able to take control of shipping in the area. The strategic importance of The Rock remains just as valid today."


Boris with a friend – the world famous Gibraltar monkeys (Barbary Macaques)

Scientists believe the Barbary Macaques were first introduced to Gibraltar from North Africa by the Moors (who occupied southern Iberia, including Spain and Portugal, between 711 and 1492), probably to be used as pets. On the other hand, it's possible that the original Gibraltar macaques were a remnant of populations that had spread throughout Southern Europe during the Pliocene, up to 5.5 million years ago.


Boris Spassky ceremonially makes the second (!) move at the start of the game between Florian Armbrust, 2321 and Antoaneta Stefanova, 2557 (Stefanova won in 26 moves)

The tournament

A record 199 players from 36 countries, including 35 grandmasters, have arrived at the Caleta Hotel in Gibraltar for the 7th Gibtelecom International Chess Fesitval, which runs from 27th January through 5th February. The strongest field ever assembled for an Open Swiss are competing for £100,000 sterling of prize money, with £15,000 going to the eventual winner.

The field is headed by Vugar Gashimov of Azerbaijan and Peter Svidler of Russia, both rated 2723 and amongst the worlds top 20 players. Vugar is another star player from Baku and is currently perfoming well in the FIDE Grand Prix, having had an excellent Olympiad. Peter is the reigning Russian champion (a title he has now claimed on five occasions) and looks sure to challenge this year in Gibraltar, as does former US Champion and current Gibraltar Champion Hikaru Nakamura (2699). Hikaru is a regular visitor to the event and proved a popular winner in 2008 with his trademark aggressive style of play. He is sure to have the Kibitzer’s on the edge of their seats again this year, especially after his fine play winning the Cap D'Agde Rapidplay.


The playing hall during Round 1: Gibtelecom Masters, 27 Jan 2009

Sure to have a big say in the final reckoning are ex French Champions Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (2696), ex Junior World Champion Pentala Harikrishna (2673) of India, Ivan Sokolov (2657) of The Netherlands and Ferenc Berkes (2651) of Hungary.
The Gibtelecom Chess Festival offers £19,000 of prizes exclusively for female players, and consequently the cream of women’s chess make this possibly the strongest Open tournament for women on the planet. The mouth watering line up includes Ex World Champion Antoaneta Stefanova (2557) BUL, Pia Cramling (2548) SWE, Nana Dzagnidze (2518) GEO, Ketevan Arakhamia-Grant (2500) SCO, Viktorija Cmilyte (2497) LTU, Zhu Chen 2496 of QAT, Anna Zatonskih (2462) USA, Irina Krush (2457) USA, Monika Socko (2449) POL, Tania Sachdev (2435) of IND, Jovanka Houska (2392) ENG and there can be no doubt that we will see ten days of great fighting chess on the rock!

Round one

On top board, first out of the hat Gary Quillan (2357) was of course playing Vugar Gashimov who outrated him by nearly 400 points.

Quillan,Gary (2357) - Gashimov,Vugar (2723) [A00]
Gibtelecom Masters Gibraltar (1.1), 27.01.2009
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 g6 3.c3 Bg7 4.d4 cxd4 5.cxd4 d5 6.exd5 Nf6 7.Nc3 0-0 8.Bc4 Nbd7 9.0-0 Nb6 10.Bb3 Nfxd5 11.Re1 Be6 12.Bg5 Re8 13.h3 Nc7 14.Bf4 Ncd5 15.Be5 Nxc3 16.bxc3 Bd5 17.Bxg7 Kxg7 18.Ne5 Rc8 19.Qd2 Rc7 20.Ng4 Qd6 21.Re5 Rec8 22.Rae1 h5 23.Qh6+ Kg8

Gary pondered a while and then played the crushing 24.Re6!! hxg4 25.Rxd6 exd6 26.hxg4 Bxb3 27.axb3 Rxc3

So, how does White win this position? Stuart Conquest, commenting on the game in Gibraltar, found the winning idea of 28.g3!! followed by Kg2, Rg1 and Black is lost as he is unable to defend the mating threat. Unfortunately, Gary was unable to find this move and instead played 28.Re3. Now the game continued 28...Nd5 29.Rxc3 Nxc3 30.Kf1 a5 31.f4 d5 32.f5 Rc6 33.Qf4 Ne4 34.Qb8+ Kg7 35.Qxb7 Rc1+ 36.Ke2 Rc2+ 37.Ke3 Rc3+ 38.Ke2 [Fritz prefers 38.Kf4 here but after g5+ 39.Ke5 Nf6 it's difficult to see how white can make progress] Rc2+ 39.Ke3 Rc3+ 40.Ke2 draw.

In the must-win world of the open Swiss, experienced players playing with the Black pieces would rather face an aggressive strategy than rely on grinding out a win against a passive opponent. American GM Hikaru Nakamura, the defending champion, had to face an attack from Polish FM Arkadiusz Leniart that appeared at first to be quite dangerous. Closer examination, however, revealed that White's lack of development seriously impaired his chances of success from the outset.


Arkadiusz Leniart v Hikaru Nakamura (background: Maxime Vachier-Lagrave v Ernest Kharous)

Leniart,Arkadiusz (2360) - Nakamura,Hikaru (2699) [A00]
Gibtelecom Masters Gibraltar (1.3), 27.01.2009
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.Bg5. One of a number of less common lines against the King's Indian. 4...c5 5.Nf3. 5.e3 is a good alternative. 5...cxd4 6.Nxd4 0-0 7.Qd2. It appears that White may be intending a direct assault on Black's castled position. 7...Nc6 8.Nf3 d6 9.Bh6. White's intentions are now clear. 9...Bxh6. Black calmly draws White's queen away from the center before launching a counter-attack. 10.Qxh6 Be6. Black could have set a trap with 11...Qb6 hoping for 12...Qxf2+ followed by 13...Ng4+, but White could have handled this easily with 12. Qd2. 11.Ng5 Ne5. A strong defensive move which permits Black to support the knight on f6 with either ....Neg4 or ....Ned7. 12.f3 Qb6 13.Nce4 Qb4+ 14.Kd1 Ned7 15.h4

The laws of chess which regulate order on the chessboard would be turned inside out if such naked aggression could succeed! 15...d5. This is not the most accurate plan. 15...Bxc4 wins more easily as the direct assault with 16.h5 Qxb2 17.Nxf6+ Nxf6 18.Rc1 Rac8 19.Nxh7 is refuted by 19...Bxa2. 16.Nd2 dxc4 17.h5 Qxb2 18.Rb1 Qxa2 19.Rc1 c3 20.Nde4 Bf5 21.hxg6 Bxg6. White's attack is already spent. White resigns. 0–1.

Dutch IM Gerard Welling shows more patience with the white pieces against his compatriot Ivan Sokolov in completing his development but he is still tempted to launch a premature attack.

Welling,Gerard (2371) - Sokolov,Ivan (2657) [A00]
Gibtelecom Masters Gibraltar (1.7), 27.01.2009
1.e4 c5 2.d3 Nc6 3.f4 d5 4.Be2 Nf6 5.e5 Nd7 6.c3 e6. The game which started as a Sicilian has taken on some characteristics of the French. 7.Nf3 Be7 8.0–0 b5. Black begins an immediate queen-side expansion as he is surrendering some space on the other flank. 9.Na3 b4 10.Nc2 bxc3 11.bxc3 Nb6 12.Qe1 Na4. Though not strictly an outpost, the knight is not vulnerable here. 13.Bd2 Rb8 14.Qg3 0–0

It is known that Welling has a predilection for direct assaults on the enemy king. Black decides to encourage this aggressive streak. 15.f5?! White obliges and offers a pawn to enable his dark-squared bishop to enter the fray. However, a more conventional move such as 15. Rab1 challenging Black's control of the open b-file is preferable. 15...exf5 16.Bh6 g6 17.Bxf8. Now, a simple recapture with ...Bxf8 would have provided Black with ample compensation for the exchange. Sokolov decides instead to introduce a powerful intermediate move. 17...Nxc3 18.Bxe7? The point of no return. Although definitely worse, White must be willing to admit his mistake and return his queen to e1. 18...Nxe2+ 19.Kf2 Nxg3 20.Bxd8 Nxf1 21.Bf6 Nxh2 22.Nxh2 Rb2. The extra piece will not last long. 23.Rc1 Nb4 24.e6 d4 25.e7 Bd7 26.Kg1 Rxc2 27.Rxc2 Nxc2 28.Nf3 Nb4 29.Ne5 Ba4 30.g4 Nd5. White sees that the queening square is being controlled and that his passed e-pawn is about to fall. Despite the presence of opposite color bishops, he therefore chooses to resign. 0–1.

Elsewhere, results went pretty well as one might have expected although there were a couple of shocks as FM Stefan Fruebing (GER) beat Pia Cramling with the black pieces and Hungarian FM Attila Istvan Csonka did the same to Jonathan Speelman whilst Jovanka Houska drew as black with Vadim Milov and Spanish GM's Josep Lopez Martinez (2540) and Gabriel Del Rio (2532) could only draw with lower rated opposition in Anthony Stebbings (ENG) and Benjamin Bok (NED) respectively.


Peter Svidler, 2723, vs Sander van Eijk, 2355,(Svidler won in 25 moves)


Tania Sachdev from India, rated 2435, won her game against Lasse Ostebo Lovik, 2184, in 39 moves

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