Gibraltar: All fun and games and now a sole leader

by Macauley Peterson
1/29/2019 – After seven rounds at the Gibraltar Chess Festival, we finally have a sole leader in Russian GM Vladislav Artemiev, who took down Hikaru Nakamura on Monday. | Pictured: David Navara looks a bit desperate searching for a move during the annual "Battle of the Sexes" — which the women won — but in the tournament, he's in second place. | Photo: Gibraltar Chess Festival / Niki Riga

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Sun over Gibraltar

The Gibraltar Chess Festival has entered its final week and while the action on the board is deadly serious there is plenty to take the players' minds off chess outside of the tournament hall. Between the Masterclasses and the socialising, there is, of course, the town and the rock itself — ever present, and always a marvel. Even the weather has apparently been great this year.

beach scene

"As if you needed another reason to visit..." | Photo: Niki Riga

Battle of the Sexes

A perennial highlight, the popular "Battle of the Sexes" was played for the seventh time over the weekend. This consultation game pits men against women in a blitz match played on a giant chess board. This year the women won 2-1. Here's the 3-minute highlight version:

Not your grandfather's chess tournament!

The games were saved for posterity too:


The women

Dina Belenkaya's turn | Photo: Niki Riga

After six rounds, eight players were equal with five points. David Navara, who took a half point "bye" was not paired and held on to his lead, tied with Vladislav Artemiev and six others. Levon Aronian and Hikaru Nakamura were among two of the top favourites who recovered from early draws to reach the five-point group. 

Aronian has made his leap forward after defeating FIDE Vice President GM Nigel Short. With Black, the Ruy Lopez expert recalled his youth, surprising Short with the Sicilian Najdorf variation and, in Short's words, "totally outplayed" him.


Play the moves on the live diagram

Aronian's 24...Qb6 Black targeted the white queenside position. Short tried to hold it together with 25.b4 a5 26.Qd1 axb4 27.axb4 Rf6 28.Ne2 Rcf8 29.Rf3 but after Rxf3 30.gxf3 Qf2 — the black queen's penetration spells doom. 

"Somehow I think Nigel was a bit tired after the Battle of the Sexes."

Short and Aronian

Short against Aronian | Foto: John Saunders

Hikaru Nakamura also played a powerful game against Eduardo Iturrizaga. The US Grandmaster sacrificed an exchange on a1 and then attacked his underdeveloped opponent. 


With 26.Qf6 White made his threats painfully clear. The game was finished a few moves later.

The Art of the Positional Exchange Sacrifice

The positional exchange sacrifice is one of the most powerful and fascinating strategic weapons in chess. On this DVD Sergey Tiviakov explains why the positional exchange sacrifice is such a strong weapon and how to use it.

Nils Grandelius is number 20 on the starting list and the Swedish star has been working his way up the standings. He scored a big win in the sixth round over fellow favourite Wesley So.

In a wild game with castling on opposing wings, this position was on the board after 25 moves:


Black continued with 25...Bc5 26.Rxa1 Bxd4 27.Bxd4 Rxc4 and Grandelius emerged from the complications with an extra pawn and better position.

A wild game | Photo: John Saunders

While not connected to the frontrunners, German IM Dennes Abel scored a nice win over Daniele Vocaturo in the sixth round:


With 31.b5! White grabbed the advantage here. Black can not take on b5 because of 32.Rc7. The Italian fought for a long time but in vain. After following up with a draw against Anna Muzychuk, Abel is sporting a performance rating close to 2600 through seven rounds.

Mariya Muzychuk is the top performing woman at the moment. She defeated Hrant Melkumyan on Sunday before taking a half point by of her own in Round 7.

Muyzchuk against Melkumyan | Foto: John Saunders

"I won today but it wasn't easy at all."

Results of Round 6 (top 10)

Name Pts. Result Pts. Name
Artemiev Vladislav ½ - ½ 4 Vachier-Lagrave Maxime
Short Nigel D 4 0 - 1 4 Aronian Levon
So Wesley 4 0 - 1 4 Grandelius Nils
Nakamura Hikaru 4 1 - 0 4 Iturrizaga Bonelli Eduardo
Le Quang Liem 4 1 - 0 4 Khademalsharieh Sarasadat
Edouard Romain 4 ½ - ½ 4 Adams Michael
Antipov Mikhail Al. 4 0 - 1 4 Saric Ivan
Adhiban B. 4 1 - 0 4 Henderson De La Fuente Lance
Yu Yangyi 1 - 0 Vaibhav Suri
Santos Latasa Jaime 1 - 0 Ivanchuk Vassily

Artemiev's ascent

Facing Hikaru Nakamura in Round 7, Artemiev played a double-fianchetto line of the English that led to a closed manoeuvring middlegame until Nakamura opened things up on move 21: 


You can play through the moves on the live diagram

21...Nxe4 (the alternative was 21...Bd4+ 22.Kh2 Ne8 which is dynamic but balanced) and after the forced line 22.Nxe4 Bxb2 23.Neg5 Bxf3 24.Rxf3 Bd4+ 25.Kh1 White lands his knight on e6: 25...Rce8 26.Nxe6 Qc6 27.f5!


Nakamura's position is getting desperate. He tried to grab the a-pawn: 27...Qxa4 but 28.fxg6 Rxf3 29.gxh7+ was the very strong reply. Amazingly after 29...Kh8 White should really recapture on f3 with the queen as Artemiev's 30.Bxf3 allows the amazing defensive stab 30...Nd3!! 31.Qxd3 Rxe6 and Black fights on. Unfortunately for the American he missed this resource and played 30...Nc6 and had to resign after 31.Nxc5, a vicious discovered-attack.

Artemiev speaks to Tania Sachdev after his important win

Results of Round 7 (top 10)

Name Pts. Result Pts. Name
Artemiev Vladislav 5 1 - 0 5 Nakamura Hikaru
Saric Ivan 5 ½ - ½ 5 Navara David
Grandelius Nils 5 ½ - ½ 5 Le Quang Liem
Adhiban B. 5 0 - 1 Yu Yangyi
Vachier-Lagrave Maxime 1 - 0 Tari Aryan
Naiditsch Arkadij 1 - 0 Santos Latasa Jaime
Jumabayev Rinat 0 - 1 Vitiugov Nikita
Deac Bogdan-Daniel ½ - ½ Mamedov Rauf
Adams Michael ½ - ½ Lalith Babu M R
Papp Gabor 0 - 1 Matlakov Maxim

Standings after Round 7 (top 25)

Rk. Name Pts.  TB1 
1 Artemiev Vladislav 6,0 2907
2 Navara David 5,5 2867
3 Grandelius Nils 5,5 2824
4 Naiditsch Arkadij 5,5 2820
5 Aronian Levon 5,5 2797
6 Vitiugov Nikita 5,5 2791
7 Saric Ivan 5,5 2777
8 Svane Rasmus 5,5 2773
9 Le Quang Liem 5,5 2771
10 Vachier-Lagrave Maxime 5,5 2754
11 Yu Yangyi 5,5 2736
12 Alekseenko Kirill 5,5 2709
13 Matlakov Maxim 5,5 2667
14 Muzychuk Mariya 5,0 2766
15 Lalith Babu M R 5,0 2743
16 So Wesley 5,0 2742
17 Adams Michael 5,0 2692
18 Mamedov Rauf 5,0 2685
19 Cuenca Jimenez Jose Fernando 5,0 2682
20 Eljanov Pavel 5,0 2681
21 Adhiban B. 5,0 2678
22 Nakamura Hikaru 5,0 2669
23 Deac Bogdan-Daniel 5,0 2659
24 Gukesh D 5,0 2650
25 Lagarde Maxime 5,0 2647

All games


Andre Schulz contributed reporting


Macauley served as the Editor in Chief of ChessBase News from July 2017 to March 2020. He is the producer of The Full English Breakfast chess podcast, and was an Associate Producer of the 2016 feature documentary, Magnus.


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