No changes at the top in Gibraltar

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
1/29/2020 – The same four players that stood atop the standings table after seven rounds remain as co-leaders after only two decisive results were seen on the top sixteen boards at the eighth round of the Gibraltar Masters. The chasing pack has grown, however, with Ivan Cheparinov, Mustafa Yilmaz and Praggnanandhaa joining Daniil Yuffa and Mikhail Kobalia in the group a half point behind the leaders. The strongest among the women so far are Zhansaya Abdumalik and Tan Zhongyi. | Photo: Niki Riga

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Mamedyarov withdraws

The first result of the day was a win for young Rameshbabu Praggnanandhaa, who was awarded a point after finding out his opponent, top seed Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, could not show up for medical reasons. Since the Azerbaijani was not included in the pairings for round nine, it is very unlikely for him to return on the last day of action. We hope the ever-cheerful 'Shakh' recovers soon.

The only player other than 'Pragg' to get a full point on the top ten boards was Ivan Cheparinov, who took down Swiss grandmaster Noël Studer with the black pieces; to find the next decisive result we have to go all the way down to board 17, where Mustafa Yilmaz got the better of Bela Khotenashvili. Yilmaz was on 5 out of 7 before this round — like Cheparinov and 'Pragg' — which means he joined the chasing group a half point behind the four co-leaders. 

The abundance of draws does not mean there was no fighting at the top boards, save for some exceptions — notably the quick draws on boards one and two. Parham Maghsoodloo and Wang Hao repeated a drawing line seen twice during last year's second semester, while compatriots Andrey Esipenko and David Paravyan kept the pawn structures symmetrical before calling it a day after 30 moves.

Gregory Kaidanov, Veselin Topalov

Gregory Kaidanov trying to explain something to Veselin Topalov | Photo: Niki Riga

On his way to Tuesday's victory, Cheparinov ventured into a variation that might have got him in trouble, when he knew all too well that going for a repetition was objectively the best way to continue:


As he explained afterwards to Tania Sachdev (see video below), at this point the best move for Black is 20...♛h4, allowing a repetition after 21.♗f2 ♛h6. However, the former sole leader wanted to take his chances in this game, so after calculating for over twenty minutes Cheparinov went for 20...cxe4, entering complications.

Studer simplified into a position in which he could have tortured his opponent with a dangerous passer on the e-file, but instead blundered the game away on move 31:


White's best (and only) move here is 31.g4, when after 31...♛f6 the computer suggests 32.♗g5 (Cheparinov's idea of 32.♗f2 is also good) and White is in the driver's seat. Instead, Studer opted for 31.c6, allowing 31...xe6 32.xc7 d4, and the best White can get is a losing endgame with rook and bishop against queen. The Swiss grandmaster tried to defend his worse position for a while, but his opponent showed good technique and secured the victory seven moves later.


Post-game interview with Ivan Cheparinov

Meanwhile, in the race to get the first prize among the women, Zhansaya Abdumalik remains ahead after securing a comfortable draw with White against Narayanan. The 20-year-old from Kazakhstan has collected 5½ points and has a better tiebreak score than Tan Zhongyi, who reached the same score after outplaying 2616-rated Maksim Chigaev from the white side of a King's Indian Defence. Chigaev faltered on move 49, allowing his opponent to infiltrate decisively:


A double-edged struggle had taken place throughout the whole game, but now White is completely winning after 53.xg6+ — there is no way to stop the attack. Tan finished off her opponent in style: 53...xg6 54.xf5+ h6 55.f6+ h7 56.e7+ h7 57.f1, etcetera. The rook joined the onslaught and Black resigned three moves later.

Tan was not the only female player to win an attacking game on Tuesday, however, as Anna Muzychuk is now on 5 out of 8 after getting a clean 27-move victory over Paolo Ladron de Guevara. The Ukrainian showed her win to Tania Sachdev afterwards.


Click or tap an entry in the list to switch games

Zhansaya Abdumalik

Zhansaya Abdumalik will face Khartikeyan in round nine | Photo: John Saunders

As it tends to happen in these huge opens, some strong players have a bad time against lower-rated opposition. Vassily Ivanchuk, for example, lost his second game of the event, this time against German IM Valentin Buckels. His defeat, however, probably was not as painful as the one suffered by  2271-rated WGM Iozefina Werle. Werle came from having a great performance, drawing strong IMs and beating Olga Girya in the previous round. Furthermore, she had GM Denis Kadric (2585) up against the ropes, until she failed to find the killer blow:


White had missed some chances to finish off her opponent earlier, but here she got another great opportunity to put the game away. Werle could have all but forced Kadric's resignation with 36.♖1e6+ ♚g5 37.h4+ ♚xh4 38.♖e4+, winning the knight. Instead, she went for an immediate 36.h4, when Black can release the tension with 36...d1+ 37.xd1 xe7. Sadly for Werle, things went for bad to worse, as she ended up losing the knight endgame that eventually ensued.

Such is competitive chess: you win some, you lose some. The action at the Caleta Hotel continues Wednesday, with Wang Hao v Paravyan and Maghsoodloo v Esipenko on top boards. Will we get a sole leader before the final round? 

Tal Baron, Jovanka Houska

Tal Baron going over a game with Jovanka Houska | Photo: John Saunders

All games from Round 8


All games available at

Standings after Round 8 (top 25)

Rk. Name Pts.  TB1 
1 Esipenko Andrey 6,5 2862
2 Wang Hao 6,5 2861
3 Maghsoodloo Parham 6,5 2815
4 Paravyan David 6,5 2789
5 Cheparinov Ivan 6,0 2758
6 Yuffa Daniil 6,0 2749
7 Kobalia Mikhail 6,0 2709
8 Yilmaz Mustafa 6,0 2663
9 Praggnanandhaa R 6,0 2630
10 Antipov Mikhail Al. 5,5 2744
11 Ibarra Jerez Jose Carlos 5,5 2734
12 Werle Jan 5,5 2714
13 Basso Pier Luigi 5,5 2702
14 Vachier-Lagrave Maxime 5,5 2689
  Topalov Veselin 5,5 2689
16 Sanal Vahap 5,5 2688
17 Alekseenko Kirill 5,5 2679
18 Aryan Chopra 5,5 2674
19 Durarbayli Vasif 5,5 2673
20 Maze Sebastien 5,5 2671
21 Karthikeyan Murali 5,5 2648
22 Adams Michael 5,5 2644
23 Navara David 5,5 2640
24 Le Quang Liem 5,5 2639
25 Adhiban B. 5,5 2635

...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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