Gibraltar: Crowded at the top as Maghsoodloo escapes

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
1/30/2020 – No runaway leader has emerged at this year's Gibraltar Masters as five players are tied on 7 points atop the standings with a large sixteen-player chasing pack on 6½ before the final round. The highlight of Wednesday's action was Andrey Esipenko failing to convert a clearly superior position in his game against Parham Maghsoodloo. In the meantime, a loss by Zhansaya Abdumalik left Tan Zhongyi as the top scorer among the women. | 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.


A bloody round

After a quiet eighth day of play, the participants went into the penultimate round with all guns blazing. Boards one and two finished drawn, but only after hard-fought struggles. For quite a while, in fact, it seemed like 17-year-old Andrey Esipenko would go into the final round as sole leader. His rival, Parham Maghsoodloo, gave up his queen in the middlegame and quickly found himself defending an inferior yet dynamic position, which he strikingly turned into a half point after his rival erred on move 50.

The big winner of the day was not Esipenko but Mustafa Yilmaz, who took down Ivan Cheparinov with White from a position that sharpened in a hurry during the early middlegame. Praggnanandhaa and Mikhail Kobalia split the point in a well-fought game, while Daniil Yuffa and Kirill Alekseenko were the only ones to sign a strategic quick draw from those still with chances to fight for the title.

From board six to board twenty it was all decisive results, with only two out of fifteen games finishing drawn. Remarkably, out of the thirteen decisive games, no fewer than ten favoured the player marshalling the white pieces. Most of these wins were achieved by the rating favourites, with Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, Veselin Topalov, David Navara, Le Quang Liem and Michael Adams, among others, getting full points to join the chasing pack.

In the contest to get the £20,000 women's first prize, Tan Zhongyi is the only player going into round ten with 6 points to her name. Zhansaya Abdumalik, Nino Batsiashvili, Lei Tingjie and Lela Javakhishvili are a half point behind and will be rooting for French champion Maxime Lagarde to take down Tan on the final day of action. 

Round ten starts four hours earlier than usual, at 10:00 UTC (11:00 CET, 5:00 EST).

Tan Zhongyi

Former women's world champion Tan Zhongyi | Photo: John Saunders

The fight for the title

So, who can still fight for the enticing £30,000 first prize? For starters, let us call to mind the tournament regulations regarding the winners. In Gibraltar, the top prize is not shared, and in case of a tie for first place a play-off takes place to decide the winner. The rest of the prizes are shared between players with the same score. As the rules state:

If there are two or four players tied for first place, there will be a speed knock-out play-off for the first prize. [...] If three players tie for first place, the player with the highest performance rating will be seeded directly into the final of the play-off; the other two players will contest the semi-final.

If more than four players tie for first place, the four players with the highest performance ratings shall qualify for the play-off.

While last year Vladislav Artemiev secured tournament victory with a remarkable 8½/10 score, this edition sees five players tied on 7 points and sixteen chasers on 6½, a situation markedly similar to the one seen in 2018. Back then, the co-leaders drew and three players got last round wins to join them on 7½. Rating performances decided who qualified to the deciding knockout, which was won by Levon Aronian.

Will we see a repeat from two years ago or will one of the co-leaders clinch a key victory to take home the coveted money prize? These are the key pairings of round ten:

Name Pts. Result Pts. Name
Esipenko Andrey 7   7 Wang Hao
Paravyan David 7   7 Yilmaz Mustafa
Vachier-Lagrave Maxime   7 Maghsoodloo Parham
Deac Bogdan-Daniel   Topalov Veselin
Navara David   Kadric Denis
Kobalia Mikhail   Le Quang Liem
Adams Michael   Karthikeyan Murali
Werle Jan   Jones Gawain C B
Praggnanandhaa R   Saric Ivan
Yuffa Daniil   Adhiban B.
Cheparinov Ivan 6   Aryan Chopra

Daniil Yuffa

Daniil Yuffa has a good tiebreak score going into the last round | Photo: Niki Riga

Round 9 highlights

As mentioned above, there were plenty of exciting games in the penultimate round, so looking through the games at your leisure is highly advisable. Just to give you a glimpse though, check out how Parham Maghsoodloo 'ignored' his queen was threatened in the following position:


The Iranian star played 19.exd6 here, allowing a queen capture with check, which Esipenko quickly executed — 19...xe2+. The Russian then went on to demonstrate his rival's daring manoeuvre was not sound, getting a winning endgame with queen versus rook and bishop in an open position. However, Maghsoodloo never stopped looking for defensive resources, and his persistence was rewarded when White faltered on move 50:


It turns out Esipenko's 50...xa4 is a blunder, as after 51.c8 (threatening mate) ...g5 52.b6 White's passer on the queenside gives enough counterplay to save the day. The centralizing 50...♛e5+ was the correct way forward, planning, among other possibilities, to place the queen on e4, limiting the mobility of the reduced white army. 


Andrey Esipenko

17-year-old Andrey Esipenko | Photo: Niki Riga

In the meantime, Mustafa Yilmaz held his nerves to out-calculate Ivan Cheparinov. A two-time Turkish champion, Yilmaz is the lowest-rated co-leader and will have the black pieces against David Paravyan on Thursday. Cheparinov was actually in the driver's seat, until he played a natural-looking move that gave away his advantage:


Black calculated that the forcing 20...d5 was good for him, when the computer thinks that keeping the tension with 20...♜f5 was the way to go. After the text, the game continued 21.xd5 xc6 22.d2 xc2 23.xc2 and the position is dynamically balanced. It was before the time control that Cheparinov lost the thread, a circumstance that was duly taken advantage of by his rival.


Mustafa Yilmaz

Mustafa Yilmaz is the second highest-rated player from Turkey | Photo: Niki Riga

Other highlights of the day include Michael Adams getting what can only be described as a lucky win over Mikhail Antipov, Le Quang Liem showing a model victory from the white side of a Sicilian against Jaime Santos, and David Navara getting a remarkable attacking victory over Alan Pichot, one that was described by the Czech ace as perhaps "the nicest game he has played in Gibraltar so far". Pichot was a piece up, but his king was in trouble — the Argentine left his monarch in harm's way on move 27, perhaps missing Navara's fine continuation:


White should have taken his king to e1 on the previous move, as Black now has 27...f5, opening up the diagonal for his queen. There followed 28.gxf6 h5+ 29.xe4 and the king chase began. When Pichot resigned, the white monarch was on e7, completely lacking defenders.

Post-game interview with David Navara

All available games from Round 9


Games from all rounds available at

Standings after Round 9 (top 25)

Rk. Name Pts.  TB1 
1 Esipenko Andrey 7,0 2819
2 Wang Hao 7,0 2813
3 Maghsoodloo Parham 7,0 2794
4 Paravyan David 7,0 2783
5 Yilmaz Mustafa 7,0 2714
6 Werle Jan 6,5 2758
7 Yuffa Daniil 6,5 2739
8 Vachier-Lagrave Maxime 6,5 2720
  Topalov Veselin 6,5 2720
10 Aryan Chopra 6,5 2712
11 Kobalia Mikhail 6,5 2687
12 Navara David 6,5 2676
13 Adams Michael 6,5 2675
14 Le Quang Liem 6,5 2674
15 Karthikeyan Murali 6,5 2669
16 Jones Gawain C B 6,5 2666
  Adhiban B. 6,5 2666
18 Saric Ivan 6,5 2655
19 Kadric Denis 6,5 2635
20 Praggnanandhaa R 6,5 2630
21 Deac Bogdan-Daniel 6,5 2616
22 Cheparinov Ivan 6,0 2695
23 Peralta Fernando 6,0 2681
24 Alekseenko Kirill 6,0 2666
25 Moussard Jules 6,0 2632

...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.


Rules for reader comments


Not registered yet? Register