Tradewise Gibraltar: Keeping up with Nakamura

by Macauley Peterson
1/30/2018 – English GM David Howell, is the first player to pull even with defending champ Hikaru Nakamura. After nicking the American for a draw in round six, he followed up with a win over Ivan Saric (pictured). We check in with that game and other notable results from the recent rounds. Games annotated by John Saunders. | Photo: John Saunders

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Early upsets even out after seven rounds

Last week in Gibraltar the Masters tournament of the Tradewise Gibraltar Chess Festival began with 276 players, including a slew of familiar names. The list of world-class players is long, led by 2017 "player of the year" Levon Aronian, Sinquefield Cup winner Maxim Vachier-Lagrave and four-time Gibraltar champion Hikaru Nakamura. No fewer than twelve players have an Elo rating of 2700 or more. Gibraltar is truly the best open in the world and it seems to be getting better every year.

Nakamura was the sole leader in the Masters most of the way, through six out of ten rounds. He started with five straight wins and made his first draw in round six against David Howell. The previous round he fended off Jan-Krzysztof Duda, his first opponent among the top ten seeds. The other heavy-hitters including Aronian, Vachier-Lagrave, and David Navara had all dropped points in the first few days.

Caleta hotel from above

From high above on the Rock of Gibraltar the spacious Caleta Hotel appears as though in miniature | Photo: Sophie Triay

After the third round were still seven players at 100% with 3 points, including one of the favourites for the woman's prize, IM Nino Batsiashivili. But the next day the top group thinned dramatically. Nakamura got by Swedish number one Nils Grandeliaus to a full counter. Duda and Benjamin Gledura split the points, as did Mikhail Antipov and Howell. Batsiashivili's fine run came to an end, as she lost to Vachier-Lagrave.

Then it was the top Frenchman's turn to fade a bit, giving up draws in rounds five and six to Gledura and Abhijeet Gupta, before recovering with a win over Sandipan Chanda. 'MVL' kept the upper hand on board three in a variation of the Gurgenidze defense in the Modern, which is apparently experiencing a certain renaissance.


Vachier-Lagrave took on c5 and retained an advantage in the endgame, to pull within a half point of first heading into round eight. After the game he described the punishing winds which buffeted the eastern side of Gibraltar on Monday morning.


Vachier-Lagrave: "I would have hoped to have been more lethal with black" Tradewise Gibraltar Chess Festival on YouTube

Aronian vs Short

Aronian has been watching the leaders from a distance, but is now back in it | Photo: Sophie Triay

Aronian recovered from a slow start, and is also just a half point behind Nakamura after he beat former Gibraltar winner Nigel Short. Aronian played an English opening and both players deployed oft-seen weapons from their opening arsenals.


The English Opening Vol. 1

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Relaxed is the way

David Howell said after his round seven win that he came into the tournament with "no expectations" and will be taking a break from chess after this tournament. He's managed to keep pace with Nakamura better than his peers, and was the first player to take a half point off the American, with whom he's had a bit of bad blood over the years. 

Howell talks about his recent history with Nakamura | Tradewise Gibraltar Chess Festival on YouTube

He followed up a draw with the touranment leader on Sunday, with his fifth win on Monday against Croatian GM Ivan Saric.


"From the source"

A newcomer who's been a standout so far is Lance Henderson De La Fuente, a name that fits well with its English-Spanish mix to the tournament in Gibraltar.

Lance Hendersson

Lance Henderson | Photo: Sophie Triay

Henderson De La Fuente is a 14-year-old Spaniard. He has played in the European Youth Championships, various Open tournaments including being a regular at Gibraltar since 2015. His current rating is 2429, is nothing to sneeze at, but wins over grandmasters Niclas Huschenbeth and Gabor Papp plus draws with Pavel Tregubov and Richard Rapport, already make this year one to remember, despite his seventh round loss to Daniil Dubov.

Ju Wenjun and Kateryna Lagno, with 5 points, are the best woman in the field after seven rounds. A number of women are in the 4½ point group in hot pursuit: Pia Cramling, Nino Batsiashvili, Anna Muzychuk, and Lei Tingjie. The fight for the first special prize for the best woman in the field in the amount of 15,000 pounds is far from decided.

Vassily Ivanchuk one player among the top seeds who has underperformed — he had just 4 points and was way back in fortieth place following his sixth round defeat by Chanda Sanidpan. The Indian tried something that looks dubious, but was proved right after a series of mistakes by Ivanchuk.


Vassily Ivanchuk

Ivanchuk bounced right back with a win over Anna Muzychuk yesterday and remains in contention | Photo: Sophie Triay

Top results of Round 7

Name Pts. Result Pts. Name
Nakamura Hikaru ½ - ½ 5 Antipov Mikhail Al.
Howell David W L 5 1 - 0 5 Saric Ivan
Vachier-Lagrave Maxime 1 - 0 5 Sandipan Chanda
Aronian Levon 1 - 0 Short Nigel D
Navara David ½ - ½ Gupta Abhijeet
Harikrishna P. 0 - 1 Oparin Grigoriy
Grandelius Nils ½ - ½ Vitiugov Nikita
Duda Jan-Krzysztof ½ - ½ Esipenko Andrey
Vocaturo Daniele ½ - ½ Adams Michael
Rapport Richard 1 - 0 Huzman Alexander
Moussard Jules 1 - 0 Cheparinov Ivan
Gelfand Boris ½ - ½ Deac Bogdan-Daniel
Henderson De La Fuente Lance 0 - 1 Dubov Daniil
Pichot Alan 4 ½ - ½ 4 Le Quang Liem
Ivanchuk Vassily 4 1 - 0 4 Muzychuk Mariya

Standings after Round 7 (top 25)

Rk. Name Pts.  TB1 
1 Nakamura Hikaru 6,0 2891
2 Howell David W L 6,0 2876
3 Antipov Mikhail Al. 5,5 2814
4 Vachier-Lagrave Maxime 5,5 2758
5 Moussard Jules 5,5 2748
6 Wang Hao 5,5 2737
7 Aronian Levon 5,5 2730
8 Rapport Richard 5,5 2722
9 Oparin Grigoriy 5,5 2715
10 Dubov Daniil 5,5 2654
11 Gledura Benjamin 5,0 2782
12 Duda Jan-Krzysztof 5,0 2713
13 Grandelius Nils 5,0 2699
14 Gupta Abhijeet 5,0 2684
15 Adams Michael 5,0 2670
16 Sutovsky Emil 5,0 2660
17 Navara David 5,0 2658
  Vitiugov Nikita 5,0 2658
19 Ivanchuk Vassily 5,0 2654
  Esipenko Andrey 5,0 2654
21 Gelfand Boris 5,0 2651
22 Saric Ivan 5,0 2648
23 Vocaturo Daniele 5,0 2641
24 Sethuraman S.P. 5,0 2638
25 Deac Bogdan-Daniel 5,0 2618

...276 players

All games (rounds 1-7)


André Schulz contributed to this report


Macauley served as the Editor in Chief of ChessBase News from July 2017 to March 2020. He is the producer of The Full English Breakfast chess podcast, and was an Associate Producer of the 2016 feature documentary, Magnus.


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