Four players share the lead in Gibraltar

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
1/28/2020 – Chess players have taken over the Rock of Gibraltar once again and, as usual, the festival has proven why players and spectators alike have made it a fixture in their calendar. After seven rounds, four players share first place in the Masters — Wang Hao, Parham Maghsoodloo, Andrey Esipenko and David Paravyan (pictured) have all collected 6 points so far. Bela Khotenashvili and Zhansaya Abdmualik are the top scorers among the women. | Photo: John Saunders

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Pragg beats Topalov, and other stories

When we last reported after round four, Ivan Cheparinov was the sole leader on a perfect score, with twelve players chasing him a half point behind. Since then, Cheparinov drew a fighting game with his former boss Veselin Topalov and lost against Andrey Esipenko, granting the young Russian the lead after round six. Esipenko, after his remarkable win, decided to take a day off — in Gibraltar, the players can take up to two half-point byes in rounds 1-7, although taking two makes a player ineligible for a prize, so the youngster used his last chance to rest before the final three rounds. While the Russian rested, three players caught up with him by winning on Monday: Wang Hao, Parham Maghsoodloo and David Paravyan.

The last three days also saw a series of side events taking place after the serious chess confrontations were over. The men's team won the traditional Battle of the Sexes, albeit after losing an embarrassingly short game; Gibraltar’s Minister for Equality and Justice Samantha Sacramento visited the playing hall; and a Masterclass was given by Alexander Beliavsky, the 66-year-old grandmaster who defeated no fewer than nine undisputed world champions.

Andrey Esipenko

Andrey Esipenko grabbed the sole lead and took a day off | Photo: Niki Riga

Round 5: No quick draw on board one

Ivan Cheparinov currently represents Georgia, but he was born in Asenovgrad, Bulgaria, and for a number of years worked as Veselin Topalov's second. In round five, they faced each other on the top board, with Topalov having the white pieces. True to their styles, they had a full-fledged fight, in which the former world number one gave up two pawns in exchange for attacking chances:


White missed a couple of chances to put more pressure on his opponent a couple of moves earlier. At this point, the infiltration with 24.a8+ can be neutralized with precise play — there followed 24...b8 25.xd5 xd5 26.e1 g6 27.a2 d6 28.a7 c6 29.g3 c7, and Black is out of the woods. The game was drawn shortly after.

That same day, the four players who are now sharing the lead won their games — Wang Hao and Parham Maghsoodloo scored full points with Black, while Russians Andrey Esipenko and David Paravyan got victories with White.

You can review all the available games from round five on the replayer below (you can select any game from the bottom left list):


All games available at

Veselin Topalov, Ivan Cheparinov

Veselin Topalov could not break Ivan Cheparinov's defences | Photo: John Saunders

Round 6: Pragg stuns Topalov

Praggnanandhaa Rameshbabu was born 30 years and five months after Topalov. The Indian prodigy is the fourth youngest player to have ever received the grandmaster title, and once again proved his strength by taking down a first-rate opponent. The veteran put forth a French Defence, which followed theory until move 13. When 'Pragg' noticed his rival had played too passively, he unleashed 15.f5 and built up a strong attack. Already in a superior position, the Indian got to show a flashy move:


White spent four minutes before deciding on 23.f6+, and after 23...gxf6 24.ad1 Black's queen cannot escape without allowing White to get a mating attack. The 14-year-old kept his nerves until his opponent resigned nine moves later.

Meanwhile, Andrey Esipenko got the better of Cheparinov on board one, and Bela Khotenashvili grabbed the lead among the women — a strong female contingent is in Gibraltar, fighting for a hefty £20,000 first prize — after all but trapping Jules Moussard's rook:


Black's previous 36...d2 was a losing blunder. Khotenashvili quickly found 37.xg5 hxg5 38.d3, when the h-pawn is ready to win the day.


Rameshbabu Praggnanandhaa

Praggnanandhaa analysed the win with his rival | Photo: Niki Riga

Round 7: Wang Hao takes down the kid

Naturally, after beating the fourth seed of the event 'Pragg' was paired up against other monster, as he faced Grand Swiss champion Wang Hao with the black pieces. The Chinese grandmaster, who will play the Candidates in two months' time, gained a pawn and neutralized all the youngster's trickery to get a 51-move win. Much like in round five, Maghsoodloo and Paravyan also won, thus joining Wang and Esipenko in the lead.

Meanwhile, on board 14, David Navara — who suffered a loss against Daniil Yuffa in the fifth round — defeated six-time Icelandic chess champion Johann Hjartarson after the latter never managed to find shelter for his king. Navara ended the game with a nice-looking queen sacrifice:


The veteran resigned after 34...a7, as White cannot capture the 'free' queen without allowing mate on c1.


Alan Pichot, Parham Maghsoodloo

Parham Maghsoodloo defeated Argentine Alan Pichot with Black | Photo: John Saunders

Side events

For an eighth time, an entertaining event was organized in the midst of the festival — a match between teams of men and women played on a giant chess set while Stuart Conquest's commentary created a festive atmosphere for all involved. The men's team lost a very short first game, as John Saunders recounted in an official report:

The men’s team (consisting of Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, Kirill Alekseenko, Ivan Cheparinov, Mickey Adams, Parham Maghsoodloo and Alejandro Ramirez, in playing order) perpetrated the following idiocy, playing Black: 1.e4 e5 2.f3 c6 3.c4 f5 4.d3 fxe4 5.dxe4 f6 6.g5


6...e7 7.f7+ d8 8.e6+ 1-0

This was greeted by hoots of laughter from the audience and delighted squeals and celebrations from the women’s team (which, for the record, consisted of Anna Muzychuk, Zhansaya Abdumalik, Elisabeth Pähtz, Valentina Gunina, Nataliya Pogonina and Olga Girya, in move order). 

After such embarrassing loss, the men went on to win the match by scoring two wins in a row.

Gibraltar Chess Festival 2020

Zhansaya Abdumalik played the killer 8.♘e6 in game one | Photo: John Saunders

The second Masterclass of this year's edition — after Shakhriyar Mamedyarov discussed two of his wins over Loek van Wely — was given by Slovenian star Alexander Beliavsky, who spent almost two hours sharing games and anecdotes with Stuart Conquest:

Standings after Round 7 (top 25)

Rk. Name Pts.  TB1 
1 Esipenko Andrey 6,0 2941
2 Wang Hao 6,0 2933
3 Maghsoodloo Parham 6,0 2846
4 Paravyan David 6,0 2831
5 Yuffa Daniil 5,5 2779
6 Kobalia Mikhail 5,5 2737
7 Antipov Mikhail Al. 5,0 2754
8 Ibarra Jerez Jose Carlos 5,0 2752
9 Werle Jan 5,0 2733
10 Cheparinov Ivan 5,0 2726
11 Topalov Veselin 5,0 2704
12 Gagare Shardul 5,0 2701
13 Basso Pier Luigi 5,0 2700
14 Vachier-Lagrave Maxime 5,0 2698
15 Sanal Vahap 5,0 2691
16 Alekseenko Kirill 5,0 2686
17 Mamedyarov Shakhriyar 5,0 2684
18 Aryan Chopra 5,0 2679
19 Maze Sebastien 5,0 2664
20 Adams Michael 5,0 2654
21 Khotenashvili Bela 5,0 2651
22 Adhiban B. 5,0 2645
23 Jones Gawain C B 5,0 2643
24 Navara David 5,0 2641
25 Abdumalik Zhansaya 5,0 2636

...250 players


Carlos Colodro is a Hispanic Philologist from Bolivia. He works as a freelance translator and writer since 2012. A lot of his work is done in chess-related texts, as the game is one of his biggest interests, along with literature and music.


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