Gibraltar Chess Tournament Has Become a Major Draw

Caruana and Korchnoi Fabiano Caruana and Viktor Korchnoi at the start of their second round game.

Game Replays

It is not quite as prestigious as the Tata Steel tournament going on in the Netherlands, but the Tradewise Gibraltar Chess Festival, which was renamed this year as Tradewise Insurance replaced Gibtelecom as the main sponsor, has become a major tournament in its own right and now attracts a world-class field.

Undoubtedly, the competitors are partly drawn by Gibraltar and its famous Barbary Macaques, which make the tournament locale a bit unusual.

This year’s event, which began Tuesday, includes Vassily Ivanchuk of Ukraine, No. 9 in the world; Michael Adams of England, No. 23; Fabiano Caruana of Italy, No. 25; Francisco Vallejo Pons of Spain, No. No. 40; Viktor Bologan of Moldova, No. 44; Krishnan Sasikiran of India, No. 45; and Alexander Onischuk of the United States, No. 46. In all, there are 53 grandmasters.

In addition to the regular prize fund (first place is 17,500 euros, or about $24,000 at the current exchange rate), there are special prizes for the top women (10,000 euros for first, or almost $14,000). That has attracted a stellar group of women players, including the Russian Kosintseva sisters, Tatiana and Nadezhda, who are ranked Nos. 4 and 5, respectively, among women; Nana Dzagnidze of the Republic of Georgia, No. 6; Antoaneta Stefanova of Bulgaria, a former women’s world champion, No. 7; and Viktoria Cmilyte of Lithuania, No. 9.

Viktoria Cmilyte Viktoria Cmilyte

Hou Yifan of China, who won the women’s world championship in December was also supposed to play, but a press release by the organizers before the tournament started said that she was unable to attend because of a critical family illness.

In an open tournament, there are bound to be upsets and Gibraltar has been no exception. After three rounds, the unexpected leaders, each with perfect scores of three wins, are Nigel Short of England, ranked No. 11 at the start, Nadezhda Kosintseva, who was ranked No. 33 at the beginning, Deep Sengupta of India, No. 42, and Cmilyte, No. 43.

The women in the tournament have delivered many of the upsets. Cmilyte beat Kiril Georgiev of Bulgaria, ranked No. 72 in the world, in Round 2, and Emanuel Berg of Sweden, No. 141, in Round 3. Nadezhda Kosintseva beat Chanda Sandipan of India, No. 105, in Round 3. Zhu Chen of Qatar, another former women’s world champion (who is orginally from China), beat Romain Edouard of France, No. 122, in Round 2. And Irina Krush of the United States beat Liviu-Dieter Nisipeanu of Romania, No. 59, in Round 3.

Several of the top-ranked players, including Ivanchuk, Adams and Vallejo Pons have each yielded a draw, while Caruana, Bologan and Onischuk each lost in Round 2. Bologan lost to Sangupta, Onischuk to Richard Rapport, a 14-year-old grandmaster who earned the title when he was 13, and, perhaps most amazing of all, Caruana lost to Viktor Korchnoi of Switzerland, the former challenger for the world championship, who is almost 80. Caruana had swept their four previous games. Of course, the tournament is long enough that the pre-tournament favorites could work their back into contention for first place.

Familiar Names and One Unknown Among Leaders at Gibraltar Chess Tournament

Game Replays

With a draw in Round 7 against Victor Mikhalevski of Israel, Vassily Ivanchuk of Ukraine held on to the lead of the Tradewise Gibraltar Chess Festival.

Ivanchuk has 6 points, followed by Mikhalevski, Nigel Short of England, Daniel Fridman of Germany, Michael Roiz of Israel, Geetha Narayanan Gopal of India, and Salome Meila of the Republic of Georgia, who each have 5.5. points.

A group of 21 players are another half point back in a tie for eighth. Almost of them are grandmasters or international masters, and many of them — Michael Adams of England, Fabiano Caruana of Italy, Alexander Onischuk of the United States, Viktor Bologan of Moldova, to name just a few — are among the best in the world.

There is one anomaly in the group: Paul Szuper of the United States. Measured by his international rating of 2,174, he is not a master. According to his United States rating of 2,208, he is just above the level of a master.

(Ratings are used to measure the relative ability of players. The higher the rating, the better the player. Masters are above 2,200, International masters usually rank from about 2,400 to 2,500 and grandmasters from 2,500 on up. The highest rated players in the world are just over 2,800.)

Szuper has put together a rather remarkable string of results, though he started by losing to someone with a rating 2,164. He then beat two lower-rated players before drawing with Inna Gaponenko, a Ukrainian international master rated 2,466. In Round 5, he beat Natalia Pogonina of Russia, a women’s grandmaster, who is rated 2,472, and then beat Damien Lemos, an Argentinian grandmaster rated 2,553, in Round 6. In Round 7, he drew with Vyacheslav Ikonnikov, a Russian grandmaster who is 2,580.

A lower-ranked player is bound to beat or draw with an elite player occasionally, but putting together a streak like Szuper’s almost defies the odds. He will be hard-pressed to continue to do it as he plays Viktor Erdos, a Hungarian grandmaster rated 2,593, on Tuesday.

Many of the women players who started out so well in the tournament have not been able to maintain the same pace. Tuesday, Nadezhda Kosintseva of Russia and Nana Dzagnidze of the Republic of Georgia both lost to strong grandmasters. They are now among a large group of players with 4.5 points.

More results and the pairings for Round 8 are on the tournament’s Web site. The tournament is 10 rounds and runs through Thursday.