Chess alive by the Dead Sea

by Yochanan Afek
7/10/2018 – The "Gideon Japhet Cup" ended in Jerusalem on Friday, July 6th. Grandmaster Ian Nepomniachtchi slipped into the lead in the double-round rapid tournament finishing ahead by a full point over four other protagonists with equally well-known names: Peter Svidler (Russia), Vassily Ivanchuk (Ukraine), Boris Gelfand (Israel) and Georg Meier (Germany) finished with 5 points each. The Ukrainian Anna Muzychuk came sixth with 4.0 / 10. In the parallel open Arkadij Naiditsch won with 6.0 / 7 in front of five players with 5½ points respectively. | Pictured: Gelfand and Ivanchuk relax after the tournament | Photo: Ritvo Photography

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Nepomniachtchi wins "Gideon Japhet Cup"

The fourth edition of the biennial tournament in memory of Gideon Japhet — a lawyer, Jerusalem man and an avid lover of chess and sports — was concluded on Friday at the Lerner Sports Centre of the Hebrew University on Mount Scopus in Jerusalem. The event was organized by the capital’s chess club Jeruchess in collaboration with the Association of Chess Professionals (ACP) under the auspices and the generous sponsorship of the Japhet family. 

The main innovation this year was its crown section: The Gideon Japhet Cup brought six world-class players together in a five-day double-round rapid competition. The battles were fierce and close, and as a result, the relatively low score of the winner, Russian Ian Nepomniachtchi — 6 points in 10 games, was sufficient for a clear first. After the fourth day, following his defeat to Svidler, with one more day to go, Nepo was sharing the lead with Meier on 4½ / 8. But then, on the last day, he won his mini match with the German 1½ : ½ to take over and win the event, a full point ahead of four runners-up: eight-time Russian champion and the No.1 rated Peter Svidler, Ukrainian Vassily Ivanchuk — former rapid and blitz world champion, Israel’s No. 1 Boris Gelfand and the Maccabiah champion Georg Maier on 5 points each. Last but not least was the world’s 2016 rapid female champion, Ukrainian Anna Muzychuk, who held her own, scoring 4 points by drawing four of her mini-matches and losing just one, on the fourth day, to Meier 0 : 2.

Nepo receives cup

Nepomniachtchi receives the winner's cup | Photo: Ritvo Photography

spacious playing hall

The spacious playing hall | Photo: Ritvo Photography

Gelfand and Ivanchuk

In more serious poses: Boris Gelfand was born almost exactly 50 years ago in the Belarusian capital Minsk and Israel is already his third state — like his opponent Vassily Ivanchuk (just a few months younger) Gelfand was originally a "Soviet citizen" | Photo: Ritvo Photography

Final crosstable

Rk.   Name Rtg FED 1 2 3 4 5 6 Pts.  TB1 
1 GM Nepomniachtchi Ian 2770 RUS *** ½ 0 ½ 1 1 ½ 1 ½ ½ ½ 6,0 29,00
2 GM Svidler Peter 2747 RUS ½ 1 *** ½ ½ 0 0 1 ½ ½ ½ 5,0 25,50
3 GM Ivanchuk Vassily 2682 UKR ½ 0 ½ ½ *** 1 1 0 ½ ½ ½ 5,0 24,50
  GM Gelfand Boris 2674 ISR 0 ½ 1 1 0 0 *** 1 ½ ½ ½ 5,0 24,50
5 GM Meier Georg 2662 GER 0 ½ 0 ½ 1 ½ 0 ½ *** 1 1 5,0 23,50
6 GM Muzychuk Anna 2597 UKR ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ 0 0 *** 4,0 21,00

All games


Ian Nepomniachtchi interview - winner of the Gideon Japhet Cup from Gilad Japhet on Vimeo

Open sections

More than 200 players took part in four open competitions aimed at all ages and levels. The main section accommodated 68 players from eight federations, including fourteen GMs, nine IMs and nine FMs. The number one ranked, Arkadij Naiditsch, representing Azerbaijan, stormed the scene with five consecutive wins (including over GMs Ushenina, Oratovsky and Boruchovsky) then coasted to victory with two draws, enough to win by a narrow margin.

Naiditsch receiving his prize

Arkady Naiditsch receives the winner's cup | Photo: Ritvo Photography

Five players shared the second pace on 5½ points each: The current Israeli champion Tamir Nabaty who just like the eventual winner emerged unbeaten and following some adventures managed to place himself second just like his starting rank; International Master Evgeny Zanan; Former Women's World Champion Mariya Muzychuk (Anna's sister) who beat her fellow countryman, Alexander Bagrationi in the last round, was also undefeated; Tal Baron, who started with a surprising defeat in the first round at the hands of Mark Glaser, came back with five victories (including against GMs Zilberman and Boruchovsky); and Nitzan Steinberg who won his last round game against the Russian Daniil Yuffa.

Two female players scored five points to share the 7th place: Former Woman's World Champion, Ukrainian GM Anna Ushenina and the Israeli No. 1, Juliya Shvayger. IM Nathan Birnboim, as well as GMs Boruchovsky, Yuffa and Bagrationi, had to settle with 4½ points each.

68-year-old Nathan Birnboim, three-time Israeli champion and the oldest player in the section started strong with 3½ points in the first four rounds, beating Bagartioni and Yuffa, and missing a victory on move 40 against Nabaty, just before the time control. On 4½ points were also GM Michael Oratovsky, Boris Kantsler, IM Salome Melia (Georgia) and FM Nimrod Veinberg.

The Open B section (43 participants) was dominated by Igor Golberg who led the field all the way through, scoring 6 points in 7 rounds undefeated ahead of four runners-up: Alex Landa, Roy Wagman, Igor Barenboim and Natan Levin with 5½ points each. Two more competitions offered a short five-round format. 

Final standings - Open section (top 15)

Rk. Snr   Name FED Elo Pts.  TB1 
1 1 GM Naiditsch Arkadij AZE 2697 6,0 33,5
2 2 GM Nabaty Tamir ISR 2692 5,5 30,5
3 10 IM Zanan Evgeny ISR 2497 5,5 30,0
4 7 GM Muzychuk Mariya UKR 2521 5,5 28,0
5 8 GM Steinberg Nitzan ISR 2521 5,5 25,5
6 6 GM Baron Tal ISR 2530 5,5 25,0
7 14 GM Ushenina Anna UKR 2447 5,0 27,0
8 17 IM Shvayger Yuliya ISR 2409 5,0 25,0
9 24 IM Birnboim Nathan ISR 2353 4,5 31,0
10 12 GM Oratovsky Michael ISR 2461 4,5 30,5
11 5 GM Bagrationi Alexander UKR 2539 4,5 30,0
12 3 GM Yuffa Daniil RUS 2577 4,5 29,5
13 4 GM Boruchovsky Avital ISR 2558 4,5 29,0
14 15 GM Kantsler Boris ISR 2422 4,5 27,5
15 19 IM Melia Salome GEO 2392 4,5 25,5

... 68 players

All available games - Open section


The entire event was directed by IA Alon Cohen, assisted by a team of arbiters that included Shaul Weinstein (who also in charge of the technology), Moshe Dermer, Yaron Linik, Doron Kogan and Nati Gallant.


The colourful prize giving concluded a successful chess festival leaving a taste for more. In the closing ceremony, Peter Svidler delivered touching words in the name of the players of the top tournament, addressing co-organizer Gilad Japhet:

“What can I say about this tournament? This is my second time playing in this event. I enjoyed my first experience playing here, and this time it was even better. The most important thing is that it's a very serious and very large event. There's a round robin which has been serious this year, with very strong opponents, and very well presented, but there is also a very nice family theme through the whole thing.

The movie most of us I expect have seen in the opening ceremony [The video about Gideon Japhet shown at the opening ceremony - Y.A.]  - I don't think there are many tournaments in the world which would run a video like this and if they did, it would feel completely out of place. And here it doesn't. It still gives me goose bumps, because those five minutes — I didn't know your father, but I knew my father, and it brought memories of my own family, and I started thinking about all that. This feeling is very very precious, and this for me is the most important thing about this tournament.

Once again, it is a fantastic chess tournament, there are no doubts about it, but the atmosphere created here is a rare thing in the world of chess and for this, I am very grateful to Gilad and to everybody who has done a splendid job organizing this. On behalf of the Cup players, thanks for having us, it has been a great pleasure. We will be happy to come again if we have a chance.” 

Gilad Japhet, the son of Gideon and the driving spirit behind the tournament said in the prize giving: 

“I hope you all enjoyed a special experience this week. We have been given the opportunity to break away from the routine and dive into something we love, surrounded by friends, challenging ourselves at the highest levels.

This tournament is held in memory of Gideon Japhet in order to perpetuate his legacy of love for chess, and to promote chess in Israel, especially among the younger generation which is our future.

On behalf of the Japhet family, I would like to thank all the chess players who participated in the tournament and the family members who accompanied them and supported them.

I would like to thank the world elite chess players who honoured us by participating in the Gideon Japhet Cup: Ian Nepomniachtchi, Peter Svidler, Boris Gelfand, Vassily Ivanchuk, Anna Muzychuk and Georg Meier. You have fought with honour and have gifted us with a most interesting tournament.

I hope my father would have been proud of this project and I look forward to meeting you all in this tournament in the coming years.”

Anna Muzychuck posted the following words on Facebook:

The winner, Jan Nepomnianchtchi tweeted: 

And Vassily Ivanchuk e-mailed the organizers:

Thanks a lot for excellent tournament! For me was a big pleasure to play in Jerusalem! Best regards from Lviv! -Vasil 

An audiovisual experience

The Ritvo family — Dorit, Gadi and their sons, all photographers, gave the worldwide chess community, with their endless devotion and professional virtuosity, an amazing visual experience, through the camera lenses. Their magnificent albums with hundreds of great photos from the tournament as well as its accompanying events may be seen and shared on Facebook.

A series of videos was also produced with commentator GM Emil Sutovsky interviewing the top players. Here he chats with the amiable Boris Gelfand:

Boris Gelfand interview - Gideon Japhet Cup from Gilad Japhet on Vimeo

Correction July 11: International Master Evgeny Zanan scored 5½ and tied for second in the open.


Yochanan was born (1952) and grew up in Tel-Aviv, and now lives in Amsterdam. He has been involved in nearly every aspect of chess, both as a professional and a volunteer, for the last 50 years, and remains an active player, composer, writer, organizer, trainer and commentator. He is an International Master and International Arbiter for chess as well as International Grandmaster for chess composition, and the author of Extreme Chess Tactics (Gambit 2017) and Practical Chess Beauty (Quality Chess 2018).


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Edwin Meijer Edwin Meijer 7/10/2018 03:20
That Gelfand, Ivanchuk photo is priceless
macauley macauley 7/10/2018 01:54
Thanks. Fixed. Four points, sixth place.
TMMM TMMM 7/10/2018 01:24
"The Ukrainian Anna Muzychuk came fourth with 4.0 / 10."