Gibraltar: Artemiev is the man to beat

by Macauley Peterson
1/31/2019 – Vladislav Artemiev beat David Navara on top board and is back in the sole lead with 7½/9. Maxim Vachier-Lagrave dispatched upstart Kirill Alekseenko and is a half point back along with Yu Yangyi and Karthikeyan Murali. Thirteen players have 6½ out of 9. The tournament will be decided on Thursday with Round 10 and a possible playoff. | Photo: John Saunders

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MVL and Yu and Karthikeyan give chase

Maxime Vachier-Lagrave took just 29 moves and less than 20 minutes on the clock to dispatch the co-leader after eight rounds Kirill Alekseenko in Round 9, putting him within striking distance of Vladislav Artemiev heading into the final round. Both players have the black pieces. It will be up to Yu Yangyi with White against Artemiev to try to put a stop to the Russian's impressive run. MVL faces the outsider Karthikeyan Murali who, at just 2570, was number 49 on the starting list and yet has a shot at the Gibraltar Masters title.

Name Pts. Result Pts. Name
Yu Yangyi 7   Artemiev Vladislav
Karthikeyan Murali 7   7 Vachier-Lagrave Maxime

One of these four will win the Gibraltar Masters

Karthikeyan's clutch win against Maxim Matlakov in Round 9 means that the group of thirteen GMs with 6½ are mathematically eliminated from contention for a possible playoff.

Yu vs Le

Yu won his ninth round game against Le to reach top board in Round 10 | Photo: John Saunders

Let's take a look at the dramatic developments of the past two rounds:

In Round 8, David Navara and Kirill Alekseenko won their games against Nils Grandelius and Arkadij Naiditsch to pull equal with Artemiev at the top of the table. 

The Czech ace Navara has been in good shape and has broken back into the top twenty in the world with his current performance in Gibraltar. Grandelius' loss was his first in the tournament. With the black pieces, Grandelius surprised his opponent with the Sicilian Defence — Navara expected 1...e5 and retaliated with 3.b5, which he decided upon only after a ten minute think. After 3...d7 Navara played the unusual move 4.a4, to give "Grandelius the opportunity to think". This tame surprise weapon has only entered grandmaster practice in the past 18 months.

In an interview with Tania Sachdev, David Navara reports in detail about the progress of the game.

Interview with Navara after Round 8: Gibchess YouTube

 

Here Navara won a pawn with 18.bxc5 bxc5 19.xe5 dxe5 20.xe5 xe5 21.xb7 and never relinquished the edge even though it took more than 30 moves before the result became official.

Kirill Alekseenko won against Arkadij Naiditsch after a back-and-forth tussle.

Alekseenko vs Naiditsch

Alekssenko vs Naiditsch | Photo: John Saunders

In the Ruy Lopez, White held the initiative and the following position emerged: 

 

Play the moves on the live diagram

White left the knight on f5 en prise and played 34.♖g3! Black answered 35...♚h8, when Alekseenko could have ended the game quickly, had he seized upon the idea of ♖h1 and ♔g1 followed by doubling rooks on the h-file. White instead started with 35.♖h3, giving Black an important tempo for 35...♜d8 36.♖h1 ♜xd3! and suddenly the game was somewhat unclear. After 37.♕xd3 if Naiditsch had found the precise 37...gxf5 38.gxf5 and only then ♞f4 White would have been forced to go for a perpetual check after 38.♔g1 ♝xf2+ 39.♔xf2 ♞xd3 40.♔e3 ♜f8.

The game continuation was similar, only White got to keep his f5-knight: 37...♞f4 38.♔g1? (here 38.♕c4 would have forced a favourable ending) 38...♝xf2! 39.♔xf2 ♞xd3 40.♔e3 (again threatening mate). 40...♜f8 41.♘e7! (another nice trick). Black is objectively better but has concrete problems to solve and Naiditsch didn't manage. After several tense moments he committed the decisive mistake in this position:

 

Black can hope to survive the rook ending after 46...♛xe7 47.♘xe7 ♚xe7, but his choice 46...♚d6 ended up in a mating net 47.♖hh7! c6 48.♘xf4 ♛b6+ 49.♔d3 and Black gave up.

Alekssenko's run came to an end in round nine, however when he came up against some tough preparation from Vachier-Lagrave, who was practically blitzing out his moves until the players reached the following position:

 

Black is in a tough spot but 26...♞c6 was a blunder, swiftly refuted by MVL: 27.♗h6! ♝f8 28.♘d7 f5 29.♕xf5 and Black would have to give up his rook on d7. 1-0

"This was all part of my preparation that I'd never managed to use."

Artemiev continued his impressive performance by scoring his sixth win in Gibraltar, against Navara.

 

Artemiev always starts his interviews with a polite "good evening"

Karthikeyan Murali, however, has a surprising chance for Gibraltar glory. He won a gruelling 68-move game against Russian GM Maxim Matlakov. Just 19 years old, Murali has nevertheless been a Grandmaster for nearly three years. He had a tough task to convert an endgame with a rook and two extra pawns for two pieces, but finally was able to cash in:

 

63.♖xd7+ ♝xd7+ 64.♔xb6 and Black's bishop is helpless to stop the pair of outside passers.

He'll take White against Vachier-Lagrave in Round 10.

Best women

Three players are tied on the top women’s score of 6 points going into the final round: Mariya Muzychuk, her sister Anna Muzychuk and Tan Zhongyi. Mariya has the best tie-break score. She played two draws against Adhiban and Jules Moussard.

Mariya Muzychuk | Photo: John Saunders

Results of Round 9 (top 20)

Name Pts. Result Pts. Name
Artemiev Vladislav 1 - 0 Navara David
Vachier-Lagrave Maxime 6 1 - 0 Alekseenko Kirill
Saric Ivan 6 ½ - ½ 6 Aronian Levon
Yu Yangyi 6 1 - 0 6 Le Quang Liem
Howell David W L 6 ½ - ½ 6 Nakamura Hikaru
Anton Guijarro David 6 ½ - ½ 6 Vitiugov Nikita
Karthikeyan Murali 6 1 - 0 6 Matlakov Maxim
Lalith Babu M R 6 ½ - ½ So Wesley
Naiditsch Arkadij ½ - ½ Deac Bogdan-Daniel
Adams Michael 1 - 0 Svane Rasmus
Vaibhav Suri 1 - 0 Jones Gawain C B
Adhiban B. ½ - ½ Antipov Mikhail Al.
Grandelius Nils 1 - 0 Ju Wenjun
Santos Latasa Jaime ½ - ½ Eljanov Pavel
Melkumyan Hrant 1 - 0 Sadhwani Raunak
Chandra Akshat ½ - ½ Edouard Romain
Abel Dennes ½ - ½ Tari Aryan
Moussard Jules ½ - ½ Muzychuk Mariya
Puranik Abhimanyu ½ - ½ Lagarde Maxime
Koneru Humpy 5 ½ - ½ 5 Ivanchuk Vassily

Standings after Round 9 (top 20)

Rk. Name Pts.  TB1 
1 Artemiev Vladislav 7,5 2905
2 Vachier-Lagrave Maxime 7,0 2778
3 Yu Yangyi 7,0 2770
4 Karthikeyan Murali 7,0 2696
5 Navara David 6,5 2813
6 Lalith Babu M R 6,5 2776
7 Grandelius Nils 6,5 2774
8 Aronian Levon 6,5 2761
9 Saric Ivan 6,5 2757
10 Vitiugov Nikita 6,5 2748
11 Vaibhav Suri 6,5 2725
12 Adams Michael 6,5 2714
13 Alekseenko Kirill 6,5 2707
14 Nakamura Hikaru 6,5 2705
15 Howell David W L 6,5 2650
  Melkumyan Hrant 6,5 2650
17 Anton Guijarro David 6,5 2643
18 Muzychuk Mariya 6,0 2733
19 Le Quang Liem 6,0 2718
20 So Wesley 6,0 2707

...250 Players

Top pairings from Round 10

Name Pts. Result Pts. Name
Yu Yangyi 7   Artemiev Vladislav
Karthikeyan Murali 7   7 Vachier-Lagrave Maxime
Aronian Levon   Howell David W L
Nakamura Hikaru   Grandelius Nils
Navara David   Melkumyan Hrant
Vitiugov Nikita   Vaibhav Suri
Alekseenko Kirill   Adams Michael
Lalith Babu M R   Saric Ivan
Naiditsch Arkadij 6   Anton Guijarro David
So Wesley 6   6 Deac Bogdan-Daniel

All games

 

Andre Schulz and John Saunders contributed reporting

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Macauley is Editor in Chief of ChessBase News in Hamburg, Germany, and producer of The Full English Breakfast chess podcast. He was an Associate Producer of the 2016 feature documentary, Magnus.
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macauley macauley 1/31/2019 03:12
@playd4 Thanks. Indeed "game" and "♝xd7". Fixed.
playd4 playd4 1/31/2019 02:58
Looking at the game score for Karthikeyan vs Matlakov, I see it was 63...Bxd7, and of course Black has no time to capture on a4 because White threatens h7.
playd4 playd4 1/31/2019 02:54
In the diagram and notation for the game Karthikeyan vs Matlakov, something is wrong.You write " 63.♖xd7+ ♝xd6 64.♔xb6 and Black's bishop is helpless to stop the pair of outside passers." but move 63 must be Bxd7 for Black, and on move 64 he could play Bxa4, and then I Black is winning.
playd4 playd4 1/31/2019 02:49
"He won a gruelling 68-move draw against Russian GM Maxim Matlakov." Should be "game", not "draw".
Legend1 Legend1 1/31/2019 11:58
Sad to see Ivanchuk about to fall of the 2700 list. Currently last on the list.
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