IM Irina Krush and U.S. Senior Champ Joseph Bradford in the first round of Gibraltar. Photo Cathy Rogers
A star-studded American contingent including GMs Nakamura, Kaidanov and Ehlvest is in Gibraltar for the Gibtelecom Masters (Jan.23-Feb.1), fighting for a nearly $20,000 grand prize and $16,000+ in women's prizes.(Gibraltar is an English territory south of Spain.) Other Americans attending include U.S. Senior Champ Joseph Bradford and IMs Justin Sarkar and Dean Ippolito. Irina Krush leads the Americans in fireworks, with a first round victory over Vladimir Akopian (2700).
Akopian is the highest rated player Irina ever defeated- she's happy with the game, although she notes below two big improvements in the middlegame.
Instead of 23. Nd6, f4! was crushing because after fxe4 fxe5, White is dominating Black's territory. An even bigger smash is 25.Bd4! (instead of 25.Rxd5), when Rae8 fails to 26.Re3 Rf5 27.g4, winning the pinned knight. "I was low on time and made a few natural looking moves , and then had trouble finding a win," says Irina, "I soon realized I lost my edge but he made a mistake in the queen endgame."
The Americans were on the wrong end of an upset loss in the first round when Nakamura lost to the tactical Georgian IM Ketevan Arakhamia:
Hikaru avenged his loss with a fourth round win against English IM Joanna Houska.
This game was a tightrope, and Houska was probably winning but faltered with 43.Qb7. Qe3 was more prudent, protecting the tender f2 square.
Meanwhile, Jaan Ehvlest made winning against 1.d4 look easy with this victory over another Georgian star, Nana Dzagnidze:
After her thrilling start, Irina ran into some troubles against compatriot Gregory Kaidanov.
She got the worst of a Semi-Slav, and missed a brutal in-between move.
You may have noticed that all of these games involve women players! Former world champions and Grandmasters Zhu Chen and Antoaneta Stefanova are also in Gibraltar. The secret is conditions for top women players in addition to a 4000 pound first women's prize. (almost 8000 U.S. dollars!)
In Oklahoma, tournament director Frank Berry is following suit by offering conditions for top women players along with a $ 4500 women's prize fund in his Oklahoma North American Fide Open.
Photo Gallery from Irina Krush
English IM Joanna Houska
GMs Gregory Kaidanov and Zhu Chen played to a draw in round 4.
View from the playing hall
GM Hikaru Nakamura
American IM Dean Ippolito and Indian WGM Tania Sachdev
Irina's full report on Gibraltar will appear on Chess Life Online after the tournament. Also look for a Chess Life Magazine article on Gibraltar by GM Ian Rogers, with photography by Cathy Rogers.