Reversals of fortune in Jerusalem

by Yochanan Afek
7/5/2018 – Fierce chess battles at the Gideon Japhet Memorial rapid cup have led to the first place being up for grabs going into the last two rounds on Friday. Not only are Ian Nepomniachtchi and Georg Meier currently ahead by half a point, they face each other in the final two games! In the ACP Open group, Arkadij Naiditsch conceded his first draw but has 5½ out of 6 with one round to play, and is poised to win the tournament. | Photo: Ritvo Photography

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Nepomniachtchi and Meier hold slim lead

The fourth edition of the Gideon Japhet Memorial tournament, taking place at the Sports Centre of the Hebrew University on Mount Scopus, Jerusalem is heading into its final day. This lively event is organized by Jeruchess, the chess club of Jerusalem, in cooperation with the Association of Chess Professionals and under the auspices and sponsorship of the Japhet family.

The highlight of the events and the most significant innovation this year is the Gideon Japhet Cup — a rapid tournament with six world-class players competing in a double-round all-play-all contest.

After eight rounds the field is very tight. Russian Ian Nepomniachtchi has lead the whole way, and was tied after six rounds with Israel’s No.1 Boris Gelfand on 4 points.

Gelfand scored a mini-upset on the third day by beating Svidler 2 : 0.

Gelfand and Svidler

Svidler already looks upset, but he bounced back | Photo: Ritvo Photography

But Gelfand was shut out himself today by Vassily Ivanchuk who picks up some much-needed momentum going into the last two games on Friday. Speaking of momentum:


Black is threatening to play b4, but Gelfand's 25.Qb2 didn't succeed in preventing it. 25...b4! 26.cxb4 c3 27.Bxd6 cxb2 28.Bxc7 Rdxc7 and there was no adequate defence to the imminent threat of ...Rc1.

Svidler took his mini-match with Nepomniachtchi 1½ : ½ and is half a point back.


20...g5 already looks like desperation in view of White's invasion: 21.Rb7 Kg7 22.Bb5 and Black is losing a piece. The saving try 22...Nc5 fails to 23.Nxf7.

That allowed Meier to catch up by winning both his games today over Anna Muzychuk.

Standings after Round 8


All games


Opens and side-events

In addition to the crown group, more than 200 players are taking part in four open tournaments aimed at players of all levels and ages from amateur to grandmaster. The chess festival takes into consideration soccer fans among the participants who can peek away from their moves to the live (though muted!) broadcasts from the World Cup.

The total prize-fund for the Gideon Japhet Cup is USD $60,000 and the additional prize fund for the four other tournaments is 60,000 NIS (Israeli new shekel) or about USD $16,500. The main category (Open A) includes 68 chess players from eight federations, fourteen of whom are grandmasters and nine International Masters. The highest rated participants are the winner of the third Japhet tournament Arkadij Naiditsch (Azerbaijan), the current Israeli champion Tamir Nabaty as well as the leading female players, former world champions Anna Ushenina and Maria Muzychuk.

The top open has provided plenty of upsets and fascinating battles despite, or perhaps owing to, the many mistakes. Following the sixth round, Naiditsch is leading the field with 5½ / 6. He was undefeated before today but was held to a draw by Israeli IM Evgeny Zanan. His nearest rival Tamir Nabaty won today to pull within half a point but he will have black against Naiditsch in the final round, for whom a draw is enough.

Nabaty must be fairly exhausted after today's game. On move 68, GM Ori Kobo sacrificed his knight for Nabaty's last pawn gambling that Nabaty couldn't mate with two knights.


Think you could win it? Go ahead and try!

But Nabaty was up to the task and delivered checkmate on move 103.


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Naiditsch and his wife

Arkadij Naiditsch and his wife, Israel’s No.1 female player Yuliya Shvayger | Photo: Ritvo Photography

On the day prior to the opening of the Gideon Japhet Cup, the top guest players were treated to a guided walking tour of the Old City, from Zion Gate to the Western Wall including the Via Dolorosa and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.  

walking tour

On a tour of the Old City | Photo: Ritvo Photography             

Ze’ev Elkin [pictured with his son and an arbiter], Minister of Jerusalem Affairs and Minister of Environmental Protection and a keen chess enthusiast, attended the opening ceremony and mingled with the participants.

Minister Elkin and son with arbiter

Gilad Japhet, the driving spirit behind the organization, paid tribute to his father Gideon, a Jerusalem man and a great enthusiast of chess and sports, in whose memory the competition is dedicated for the fourth time:

"Dad was a special person, and chess was one of his greatest passions. He played chess daily — in competitions and with relatives, friends and neighbours and against the computer. He was also a lover of sports and engaged in every possible field of sports.

Dad represented more than anyone else I know the phrase 'A healthy mind in a healthy body'. He was young at heart, full of joie de vivre and a sense of humour. He saw in chess more than just a game or a sport. He pushed us all — his children and grandchildren — to study chess and to improve our achievements. He regularly participated in chess competitions and quite a few of his chess acquaintances became personal friends over the years, far beyond the game. We, his loved ones, his family and his friends, hope that through this competition we will promote chess in Jerusalem and in Israel. There's only one thing missing here today, that he is not here with us."

Women champions

World Champions at the opening ceremony: (L to R) Anne Ushenina, Maria and Anne Muzychuk, all from Ukraine. On the podium behind is Gilad Japhet, his sisters and mother, IA Alon Cohen, tournament director and Dr. Philip Zisman, chairman of the Jerusalem club. | Photo: Ritvo Photography

On Tuesday morning, as part of the tournament event, GM Alex Khuzman played a simultaneous exhibition against 16 enthusiasts. He beat 15 of them and was defeated only by the chief director of the competition, IA Alon Cohen.

Huzman simul

GM Alex Khuzman vs. Gilad Japhet

Watch Round 9 and 10 live


Games are live from 10:00 and 11:15 AM CEST

Macauley Peterson contributed reporting to this story


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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