Gibraltar Rd01: Top seeds have it easy

by Sagar Shah
1/25/2017 – The Gibraltar Chess Festival started with the top seeds playing against opponents with a rating difference of 450 Elo points. Being the start of the event, tiredness due to travelling, jet lag and other things it is quite possible that we would see many upsets. However, the top seeds were up to the task and the biggest casualty was tenth seed Boris Gelfand's draw against Robert Bellin. There were also a few other 2600+ players losing their games. We have an illustrated report rich with pictures, videos and chess analysis.

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Pictures by John Saunders

Tradewise Gibraltar Chess Festival 2017

The Tradewise Gibraltar Open is one of the strongest and best-organised events of its kind in the world. Anyone who knows the moves (and pays the entry fee) can take part, and perhaps face top participants like Fabiano Caruana, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave or Hikaru Nakamura. The tournament lasts from January 23 (opening) to February 4. The location is very balmy: ten hours of daylight, average day temperature 16° C, warm sea temperatures, beautiful scenery. Paradise!

Round one

The first round of a tournament like Gibraltar is quite exciting. Seeing the 2700+ players play against 2300+ opponents is some sort of a rarity. Of course the 400 Elo point difference ensures that the higher rated players win more than 90% of the encounters. However, the 2300+ guys are not bunnies. They have played chess at a good level and any mistake by the top grandmaster can prove fatal. In the top ten boards of the Gibraltar Masters there was only one casualty in the first round – 2012 World Championship Challenger Boris Gelfand drew his game against IM Robert Bellin.

Boris Gelfand with the black pieces had trouble to break Robert Bellin's London System. At the end of the day when the players agreed to a draw, if anyone was better, it was White.

[Event "Gibraltar Masters 2017"] [Site "Caleta ENG"] [Date "2017.01.24"] [Round "1.10"] [White "Bellin, Robert"] [Black "Gelfand, Boris"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "A45"] [WhiteElo "2353"] [BlackElo "2721"] [Annotator "Sagar,Shah"] [PlyCount "62"] [EventDate "2017.01.24"] 1. d4 Nf6 2. Bf4 {Whether you face Magnus Carlsen or some lower rated opponent, you have to be prepared against the London!} g6 3. e3 Bg7 4. Nf3 O-O 5. Be2 d6 6. O-O c5 7. c3 b6 8. h3 Bb7 9. Nbd2 Nbd7 {Both sides have finished their development and overall Boris should not be unhappy with his position. It is a complex middlegame where the superior player can outplay his opponent. Let's see what happens next.} 10. a4 a6 11. Bh2 Ra7 $5 {A very interesting plan of transferring the queen to a8.} 12. Qb3 Qa8 13. Rfd1 Ne4 14. Bf1 Bd5 $146 { This the first new move of the game. All this has been played before.} (14... Nxd2 15. Nxd2 Bc6 {With the idea of b5 could be a plausible idea.}) 15. Qa3 Rc7 16. Nxe4 Bxe4 17. Nd2 Bd5 18. Re1 f5 19. Rad1 Nf6 (19... c4 $5) 20. c4 Bf7 21. b4 a5 22. b5 Rd8 23. Be2 g5 24. Bf3 {White is slowly be steadily getting his pieces to better positions.} Ne4 25. Qd3 Bg6 26. g4 $5 e6 27. Bg2 {The bishop is now safe on g2 and hence the threat of d5 becomes real.} (27. d5 exd5 28. gxf5 Bxf5 29. cxd5 Nxd2 30. Qxf5 Rf7 $19) 27... Rcd7 $2 (27... Rcc8 $11 28. d5 Nc3 $1 $11 {And dxe6 is not going to attack anything.}) 28. Nxe4 (28. d5 $1 { would have put Black is some big trouble.} exd5 (28... Re7 29. Nxe4 fxe4 30. Bxe4 Bxe4 31. Qxe4 $16 {A pawn is a pawn.}) 29. gxf5 Bxf5 30. cxd5 $18) 28... fxe4 29. Qb3 (29. Qc2 $5 {With the idea of d5 is also very strong.}) 29... Bf6 30. d5 Re8 31. Qc2 exd5 {A draw was agreed at this point. However, White is surely better.} (31... exd5 32. Rxd5 {The d6 and e4, both the pawns are weak. Black has a long defensive task ahead and it was a good idea that Boris offered a draw and took home the half point.}) 1/2-1/2

While Boris Gelfand was in mild trouble, Nigel Short was utterly lost against Peter Lombaers

[Event "Gibraltar Masters 2017"] [Site "Caleta ENG"] [Date "2017.01.24"] [Round "1.16"] [White "Lombaers, Peter"] [Black "Short, Nigel D"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "E40"] [WhiteElo "2314"] [BlackElo "2675"] [Annotator "Sagar,Shah"] [PlyCount "133"] [EventDate "2017.01.24"] 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. e3 d5 5. cxd5 exd5 6. Bd3 c5 7. Nge2 Nc6 8. a3 cxd4 9. axb4 dxc3 10. b5 {Belarussian GM Aleksej Aleksandrov has played this system many times with the white pieces.} Ne5 11. bxc3 O-O 12. O-O Re8 13. Nf4 b6 14. Ra4 $5 {A very novel way to activate the rook.} Bb7 15. Bb2 Qc7 16. Qc2 $1 {The other rook is coming to a1 and overall White looks pretty well co-ordinated.} Nc4 17. Rfa1 Ne4 (17... Qb8 18. Nxd5 $16) 18. Rxa7 Rxa7 19. Rxa7 {White has won a pawn, Black has some compensation but not enough.} Qc8 20. Ra4 g6 21. Ba3 Qd7 22. Bxc4 dxc4 23. Rxc4 Ra8 24. Rd4 Qxb5 25. Bb4 $16 {Being a pawn down, Black has a long defensive task ahead.} Nc5 26. f3 Ba6 27. Rd1 Bb7 28. e4 Qc4 29. Qd2 $18 {White has strengthened his position even further.} Bc6 30. Qd4 Qb3 (30... Qxd4+ 31. cxd4 $18) 31. h4 h5 32. Qd6 Nb7 33. Qd3 Rd8 34. Nd5 Bxd5 35. exd5 Nd6 36. Bxd6 Rxd6 37. c4 Qb4 38. Qd4 {Peter has played this pretty well. Now all that he needs to do is activate his rook and combined with his d-pawn as well as threats on the black king, this should be easily won.} Kh7 39. Kh2 Rd7 40. d6 Qa4 41. Rb1 Rb7 42. Qd5 (42. Rxb6 Rxb6 43. Qxb6 Qxc4 {complicates the issue.}) 42... Ra7 43. Rxb6 $18 {[#] Two pawns up! What more can one ask for.} Qe8 44. Rb4 $4 {An extremely careless move by Lombaers.} (44. Qd4 $1 $18 {The queen guards everything and Nigel must stretch out his hand in resignation.}) 44... Qe1 $1 {A double attack!} 45. Qd4 Qxb4 46. Qxa7 Qxd6+ $11 {Now the weakness of white king is enough for Black to find a perpetual.} 47. g3 Qd2+ 48. Kh3 Kg7 49. Qa1+ Kg8 50. Qf1 Qc2 51. g4 hxg4+ 52. fxg4 Qc3+ 53. Kg2 Qc2+ 54. Kf3 f5 55. Qe2 fxg4+ 56. Kf2 Qc3 57. Qxg4 Qd2+ 58. Kf1 Qc1+ 59. Ke2 Qc2+ 60. Ke3 Qc3+ 61. Kf2 Qd2+ 62. Kg3 Qc3+ 63. Kg2 Qc2+ 64. Kh3 Qd3+ 65. Qg3 Qxc4 66. Qxg6+ Kh8 67. Qh6+ 1/2-1/2

That moment when you turn a +6.5 winning position to 0.00

Let's hope we get to see some entertaining chess from Nigel in the days to come

While Nigel managed to save himself, the highest rated player who slumped to a defeat was Abhijeet Gupta. And he didn't blunder anything. The Indian was soundly outplayed. A great game by Frank Buchenau.

[Event "Gibraltar Masters 2017"] [Site "Caleta ENG"] [Date "2017.01.24"] [Round "1.25"] [White "Gupta, Abhijeet"] [Black "Buchenau, Frank"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "E01"] [WhiteElo "2645"] [BlackElo "2274"] [Annotator "Sagar,Shah"] [PlyCount "142"] [EventDate "2017.01.24"] 1. d4 e6 2. c4 Nf6 3. g3 d5 4. Bg2 c5 5. cxd5 Nxd5 6. Nf3 cxd4 7. O-O Bc5 8. Nxd4 {I would already count this as a very favourable Catalan for White.} O-O 9. Nc3 (9. Nb3 Be7 10. e4 Nb4 11. Nc3 $14) 9... Nxc3 10. bxc3 Qc7 {White has taken on a positional weakness. In return he has excellent compensation in the form of the strong g2 bishop, pressure down the b-file and a well centralized knight. However, it is important that White play actively creating threats. Because if Black can consolidate, he would be more than fine.} 11. Rb1 $6 (11. Nb5 Qe7 $11) (11. Be3 $5 Na6 12. Qd3 Bd7 13. Rfb1 $14) 11... e5 12. Nb3 Be7 13. Qc2 Nc6 14. Be3 Be6 {Black can be happy with what he has achieved out of the opening.} 15. Nc5 Bxc5 16. Bxc5 Rfd8 17. Qa4 Bd5 18. Rfd1 Bxg2 19. Kxg2 b6 20. Bb4 h6 {Very solid and calm play by Buchenau.} 21. e4 $2 (21. Rxd8+ Rxd8 22. Rd1 $11) 21... Nxb4 $1 22. Qxb4 (22. cxb4 Qc4 $15) 22... Rac8 $15 {White is slightly worse now.} 23. Qb3 g6 24. Qa4 Kg7 {If you were not looking at the names, you could be mistaken that the black player is Anatoly Karpov. g6-Kg7 is a typical way to slowly but surely improve one's position.} 25. Kg1 h5 26. Rd5 Rxd5 27. exd5 Qxc3 28. Qxa7 Qd4 $1 {Rc2 is a big threat.} 29. a4 Rc2 (29... h4 $1 30. Qxb6 (30. Qa6 Rc4 $19) 30... Rc1+ $19) 30. Rf1 Ra2 31. Qd7 Rxa4 32. d6 Ra5 33. Qe7 Rd5 34. Rc1 Rxd6 {Black is two pawns up now. Abhijeet had hoped for a final attack on the last rank.} 35. Rc8 Qd1+ 36. Kg2 Qd5+ 37. f3 { The position was anyway lost, but this just hastens the end.} (37. Kg1 Rd7 $1 38. Qf8+ Kf6 $19) 37... Qa2+ 38. Kh3 Qe6+ 39. Qxe6 Rxe6 {Winning a position where you are two pawns up in the rook endgame is just a matter of technique.} 40. Rb8 Kf6 41. Kg2 Rc6 42. h4 Ke6 43. Rb7 f5 44. g4 hxg4 45. fxg4 fxg4 46. Kg3 Kf5 47. Rf7+ Rf6 48. Rd7 b5 49. Rb7 Rc6 50. Rf7+ Ke4 51. Rb7 Kd3 52. Rxb5 e4 53. Rd5+ Ke2 54. Rd4 e3 55. Kg2 Ke1 56. Rxg4 e2 57. Rd4 Rc1 58. Rd6 Rd1 59. Rxg6 Kd2 60. Re6 e1=Q 61. Rxe1 Rxe1 62. Kf3 Rh1 63. Kg4 Ke3 64. h5 Ke4 65. Kg5 Ke5 66. Kg6 Rg1+ 67. Kf7 Kf5 68. h6 Ra1 69. h7 Ra7+ 70. Kg8 Kg6 71. h8=N+ Kf6 0-1

Top seed Fabiano Caruana sacrificed an exchange and won a nice game with his central pawns against FM Rakesh Kumar Jena

One of the very nice things about Maxime Vachier-Lagrave's opening repertoire is that it is tailor-made for open events. Grunfeld against 1.d4 and Najdorf against 1.e4 are excellent weapons in a Swiss tournament. It is only a wonder how the Frenchman is able to hold these systems against the best in world. In the first round he scored a fine win against Jan Sodoma.

Topalov came to the game in a hurry, and finished off his opponent in just 16 moves!

[Event "Gibraltar Masters 2017"] [Site "Caleta ENG"] [Date "2017.01.24"] [Round "1.7"] [White "Topalov, Veselin"] [Black "Paehtz, Thomas"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "A40"] [WhiteElo "2739"] [BlackElo "2365"] [Annotator "Sagar,Shah"] [PlyCount "31"] [EventDate "2017.01.24"] 1. d4 e6 2. Nf3 f5 3. Bf4 Nf6 4. e3 b6 5. Be2 Bb7 6. O-O Be7 7. c4 Ne4 8. Nfd2 Nxd2 9. Nxd2 O-O 10. Bf3 d5 11. cxd5 exd5 12. Rc1 c6 13. Qa4 b5 14. Qb3 Nd7 15. Bxd5+ $1 {This is one of those hidden tactics which is geomtrically very pleasing!} cxd5 16. Rc7 $1 {The only way to defend the bishop on b7 is with Rb8 but after Rxb7, Rxb7 Qxd5, the rook is lost.} 1-0

"How can someone play such drawish chess?!!" Vassily is comforted by the Tournament director GM Stuart Conquest. In the first round Vassily played a long game and showed why no position in chess can be considered as drawn.

[Event "Gibraltar Masters 2017"] [Site "Caleta ENG"] [Date "2017.01.24"] [Round "1.4"] [White "Papp, Petra"] [Black "Ivanchuk, Vassily"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "C42"] [WhiteElo "2352"] [BlackElo "2752"] [Annotator "Sagar,Shah"] [PlyCount "178"] [EventDate "2017.01.24"] 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nf6 3. Nxe5 d6 4. Nf3 Nxe4 5. Nc3 Nxc3 6. dxc3 Be7 7. Be3 Nc6 8. Qd2 O-O 9. O-O-O Bf5 10. Nd4 Nxd4 11. cxd4 Re8 12. Bd3 Qd7 13. h3 d5 14. Bf4 c6 15. Rde1 Bf8 16. Bxf5 Qxf5 17. g4 Qd7 18. Rxe8 Rxe8 19. Re1 f6 20. f3 Kf7 21. Re3 g6 22. Rxe8 Qxe8 23. Kd1 Qd7 24. Bg3 Bd6 25. Qh2 Ke7 26. Kd2 (26. Bxd6+ Qxd6 27. Qxd6+ Kxd6 {What do you think about this endgame? According to me Petra should have gone for it because there is absolutely no way to breakthrough.} 28. Kd2 Ke6 29. Ke3 $11) 26... Bb4+ 27. c3 Ba5 28. Qe2+ Kf7 29. Kc2 Bd8 30. Qe3 Qe6 31. Qxe6+ Kxe6 {Of course the bishop endgame is also completely equal. Let's see how Chucky manages to trick his opponent.} 32. Kd3 b5 33. b3 Be7 34. Bb8 a6 35. Bf4 Bf8 36. Ke3 b4 37. cxb4 Bxb4 {The d4 pawn is now isolated, but the position is still equal.} 38. Kd3 Kd7 39. Bg3 Ba3 40. Kc3 Kc8 41. Bf4 a5 42. Bg3 Kb7 43. Bh4 f5 44. Bg5 Kb6 45. Bh6 Kb5 46. h4 a4 47. h5 gxh5 48. gxh5 Be7 49. Bf4 Bf6 50. Bd6 axb3 51. axb3 Kb6 52. Kd3 Bg5 53. Kc3 Kb7 54. Be5 Be7 55. Kd3 Kc8 56. Ke3 Kd7 57. Kf4 Ke6 58. Bc7 Bh4 59. Bb8 Bf2 60. Ba7 Kf6 61. Bb6 Be1 62. Bd8+ Ke6 63. Kg5 $2 {A bad move by Petra.} (63. Ke3 $1 { There is no good way for Black to breakthrough.}) 63... Bd2+ $1 64. Kh4 Be1+ 65. Kg5 Bd2+ 66. Kh4 Be3 67. Bb6 Kd7 $6 (67... Kf6 $1 {was the winning move.} 68. Bd8+ Kg7 69. Bb6 Kh6 $1 $19 {And now the bishop checks comes on f2 and the h5 pawn is lost.}) 68. Kg3 Kc8 69. Kg2 Kd7 70. Kh3 $2 (70. Kf1 $1 Ke6 71. Ke2 Bg1 72. Kd3 Kf6 73. Bd8+ Kg7 74. Bg5 $11) 70... Ke7 71. Kh4 Ke6 72. Kg3 Kf6 73. Bd8+ Kg7 {Ivanchuk hits the right plan.} 74. Kh4 Kh6 75. Bf6 Bf2+ 76. Kh3 Kxh5 $19 {The rest is easy.} 77. Kg2 Be3 78. Kg3 Bd2 79. Be7 Kg6 80. Kh4 Bc3 81. Bc5 Be1+ 82. Kh3 Kg5 83. Kg2 Kf4 84. Kf1 Bh4 85. Ke2 Kg3 86. Bd6+ Kg2 87. Be5 h5 88. Ke3 Bg3 89. Bf6 f4+ 0-1

The first prize in the women's section is £15,000. Hou Yifan is definitely the favourite to win this. However, she will have stiff competition from a lot of top female players.

The World Championship Challenger Ju Wenjun

Always a force to reckon with: the Muzychuk sisters

After her recent success at the London Chess Classic super rapid, we all know how strong Valentina Gunina actually is!

Fresh from an intensive training session with Jacob Aagaard, it will be interesting to see how Samuel Shankland fares at this event

It's always a pleasure to follow young talents like Awonder Liang

Results of Round One of top 10 boards


Name Pts. Result Pts. Name
Caruana Fabiano 0 1 - 0 0 Rakesh Kumar Jena
Sodoma Jan 0 0 - 1 0 Vachier-Lagrave Maxime
Nakamura Hikaru 0 1 - 0 0 Gulamali Kazim
Papp Petra 0 0 - 1 0 Ivanchuk Vassily
Adams Michael 0 1 - 0 0 Vuilleumier Alexandre
Bellon Lopez Juan Manuel 0 0 - 1 0 Svidler Peter
Topalov Veselin 0 1 - 0 0 Paehtz Thomas
Sahl Bjarke 0 0 - 1 0 Yu Yangyi
Vitiugov Nikita 0 1 - 0 0 Siva Mahadevan
Bellin Robert 0 ½ - ½ 0 Gelfand Boris

Full pairings of round one

Pairings for Round two


Name Pts. Result Pts. Name
Krysa Leandro 1   1 Caruana Fabiano
Vachier-Lagrave Maxime 1   1 Steinberg Nitzan
Santos Ruiz Miguel 1   1 Nakamura Hikaru
Ivanchuk Vassily 1   1 Kobo Ori
Debashis Das 1   1 Adams Michael
Svidler Peter 1   1 Salomon Johan
Riff Jean-Noel 1   1 Topalov Veselin
Yu Yangyi 1   1 Esserman Marc
Paehtz Elisabeth 1   1 Vitiugov Nikita
Ider Borya 1   1 Naiditsch Arkadij

Full pairings of round two

The games are being broadcast live on the official web site and on the chess server If you are not a member you can download a free Playchess client there and get immediate access. You can also use ChessBase 14 or any of our Fritz compatible chess programs.

Sagar is an International Master from India with two GM norms. He loves to cover chess tournaments, as that helps him understand and improve at the game he loves so much. He is the co-founder and CEO of ChessBase India, the biggest chess news portal in the country. His YouTube channel has over a million subscribers, and to date close to a billion views. ChessBase India is the sole distributor of ChessBase products in India and seven adjoining countries, where the software is available at a 60% discount. compared to International prices.


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