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Friday, January 25, 2013

Tradewise Chess Fest in Gibraltar: Top Seeds Stumble

Chess blog for latest chess news and chess trivia (c) Alexandra Kosteniuk, 2012

Hi everyone,
The Tradewise Gibraltar Chess Festival 2013 has begun. Here is the official report by John Saunders about how some excellent chess has already been played in the first two rounds humbling some top seeds: Early rounds of big opens rarely produce major surprises, as the top half of the draw tends to murder the bottom half in cold blood. But this year’s Gibraltar Masters produced a couple of shocks in the first round as the two highest rated competitors, former Gibraltar winner Vassily Ivanchuk and world championship runner-up Gata Kamsky, were held to surprise draws by amateur players in the first round as the players got down to business at the Caleta Hotel.

In the second round there was a bigger shock as three times Gibraltar winner Nigel Short succumbed to 40-year-old Spanish IM Ismael Teran Alvarez (photo), who is ranked only 72nd in the Masters line-up. Five of the other top seeds, Michael Adams (England), Radoslaw Wojtaszek (Poland), Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (France) and Le Quang Liem (Vietnam), are amongst the 45 players still on a 100% score.

Nigel Short holds the record for the most Gibraltar Masters titles (three) and he had only previously lost two games in the 53 games he has played in his six visits to the tournament, so his defeat came as a big surprise. Nigel refused to make any excuses and admitted he couldn’t explain his poor play in this game.

Vassily Ivanchuk, 43, is through to the last eight of the World Chess Championship qualifier to be held in London in March but in round one he couldn’t make any impression on Hristos Zygouris, an untitled 38-year-old amateur player ranked 90th in Greece. Ivanchuk allowed an early exchange of queens but found he could not make progress against solid play from his opponent, agreeing a draw on move 31. Chucky may have been fractionally worse when the point was split but the Caleta Hotel bar was echoing with the opinion that a certain young man currently playing in the Netherlands would not have agreed a draw before move 231.

Similarly, 38-year-old grandmaster and former world championship runner-up Gata Kamsky from the USA was held to a draw by 23-year-old Andreas Aerni, who is not even rated within the top 100 players in Switzerland. Aerni took a different path to a draw against his distinguished opponent, mixing things up in the opening and then sacrificing a piece to force a draw by perpetual check. The American arrived at the board rather late (fortunately FIDE’s absurd ‘zero tolerance’ rule is not enforced in Gibraltar) and seemed a little out of sorts, but it took some enterprising play by the Swiss player to achieve the draw.

There were a few other surprise results in round one further down the field, with Swedish grandmaster Pia Cramling losing to Portuguese player Paulo Pinho, and grandmasters Zhao Xue of China and Sebastien Maze of France conceding draws to Johannes Kvisla of Norway and David Jameson of Wales respectively. Apart from the five games mentioned, the leading players took a heavy toll of the amateur competitors. (Continue reading some game analysis at the official website.) 
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