Gibraltar: The outsiders challenge

by André Schulz
1/25/2019 – The Iranian IM Sarasadat Khademalsharieh is the player of the hour at the Gibraltar Chess Festival. She defeated GM Alexander Donchenko in Round 3 and was one of the five leaders with a perfect score. The dream start for Nigerian expert Kolade Onabogun, who beat two GMs, came to an end in Round 3, as he lost to Maxime Vachier-Lagrave. We take a brief look at these two outsiders. | Photo: John Saunders

ChessBase 17 - Mega package - Edition 2024 ChessBase 17 - Mega package - Edition 2024

It is the program of choice for anyone who loves the game and wants to know more about it. Start your personal success story with ChessBase and enjoy the game even more.


Open stories

In our story on the start of the Gibraltar Chess Festival, we hadn't yet seen the games of Kolade Onabogun, who has caused quite a stir. He is 40 years old, from Nigeria, and although he has a FIDE rating of 2189, he has rarely participated in tournaments — the most recent was in February 2016, where he scored 5½ points in nine games against players of similar rating. In the summer of 2015, he played in a pair of open tournaments — the 43rd Annual World Open in Arlington, Virginia and the 3rd DC International — earning himself a 2299 US Chess Federation rating in the process.

Kolade Onabogun is probably better than his Elo rating indicates, but his sensational start in Gibraltar even hints at Grandmaster level. In the first two rounds, he was able to defeat two GMs. He was lucky against Valentin Dragnev, but grabbed the chance when it presented itself. Against Sipke Ernst Kolade Onabegun showed a thoroughly convincing performance:


Click on the second game to switch

As a reward, Onabegun earned the opportunity to play against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave in Thursday's third round.

Onabegun vs Vachier-Lagrave

Vachier-Lagrave gegen Onabogun| Foto: David Llada

Far from being blown out against the French superstar, the Nigerian amateur kept the game quite close until well into the endgame, when Vachier-Lagrave finally capitalised on an inaccuracy.


White has worked his rook into the Black camp, and now saw a way to exchange rooks into a winning bishop-ending. 37.Re7! Rxe7 38.Bxe7 f5 39.Bd8 winning a pawn.

After this loss, he told IM Tania Sachdev that he expected 1.e4 from Maxime (which he plays most often by far). 

"I've gotten a lot of attention from home" | Gibchess on YouTube

Sarasadat Khademalsharieh Masterclass

The Iranian star was the lowest rated player to reach 3/3 in Gibraltar, beating two GMs along the way. In the second round against Alexander Donchenko, she was never worse.

Sarasadat Khademalsharieh

Sarasadat Khademalsharieh vs Alexander Donchenko | Photo: John Saunders

In the Benoni Defence, the German grandmaster was under pressure and struggled in vain to contain White's e4-e5 pawn break:


Play the moves on the live diagram!

While e5 is coming, this attempt to contain White's advance fails tactically. The rook was needed on c8 to defend its cousin on c5. After 30.e5 dxe5 31.fxe5 Qxe5 32.Bxf6 Bxf6 33.Qf2, the double-attack combined with threats to f7 are deadly. Although the 21-year-old Iranian did not find the quickest way to finish the game, she is now one of the five players still at 100% after three rounds.

"This is more than I expected...It's a dream" she told IM Sachdev:

"Chess is a sport that we all play together; the age doesn't matter, the gender doesn't matter" | Gibchess on YouTube

Today, Khademalsharieh faced super-GM Levon Aronian in Round 4 and held him to a draw.


In the evening, hosted the Gibraltar Festival's next Masterclass, a regular special feature which is always well-attended by players. Watch! The show starts at 3:15:

Translation from German and additional reporting: Macauley Peterson


André Schulz started working for ChessBase in 1991 and is an editor of ChessBase News.


Rules for reader comments


Not registered yet? Register