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.