Home Page arrow Chess Life Magazine arrow 2014 arrow February arrow Irina on Gibraltar: Surprise Winner, Too Late for Americans
Irina on Gibraltar: Surprise Winner, Too Late for Americans Print E-mail
By GM Irina Krush   
February 11, 2014
GM Cheparinov
GM Ivan Cheparinov from Sofia, Bulgaria (perhaps best known as Topalov's longtime second) is the 2014 Tradewise Gibraltar Chess Champion. Surprised? Can't blame you! Cheparinov seemed to come out of nowhere; after round 7, he was a full point behind the leader Vasily Ivanchuk, but a spurt of three wins allowed him to ascend to the winning group on 8/10. 

Gibraltar was such a tight tournament that it only had a clear leader for two rounds, after rounds eight (Vasily at 7/8) and nine (Vasily at 7.5/9). Ivanchuk was of course in a good position going into the final round, half a point ahead of everyone and with the White pieces. But his last round opponent wasn't exactly a gift: French GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, who was playing confident chess in Gibraltar and whose rating is actually higher these days (2745 versus Ivanchuk's 2739). So there was a good chance that Ivanchuk would not get a full point from this pairing, opening up the way for several other players to catch him at eight points. And that's exactly what happened.
Probably there was a feeling on the Rock that this was would be an exciting day at the Caleta Hotel and a large group of new spectators arrived at the hotel prior to the start of the last round. 

Irina on her way to work

I could count at least ten monkeys greeting the arriving players at the front of the hotel. I've seen a lot of monkeys in my many visits to Gibraltar, but it always gives me a thrill!

GMs Stuart Conquest and Irina Krush

Ivanchuk and Vachier played a super sharp game that had the spectators on the edge of their seats. Vachier sacrificed a piece on move eleven!

GM Vassily Ivanchuk- GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave
2014 Tradewise Gibraltar Chess Festival

1. Nf3 Nf6 2. c4 c5 3. g3 g6 4. Bg2 Bg7 5. O-O O-O 6. d4 cxd4 7. Nxd4 Nc6 8.

Nc3 Qa5 9. Nb3 Qh5 10. h3 d6 11. g4 Bxg4 


12. hxg4 Nxg4 13. Bf4 Be5 14. Qd2 g5 15. Bxe5 Ncxe5 16. Rfc1 f5 17. Nd4 Qh2+ 18. Kf1 Nxf2 19. Kxf2 Ng4+ 20. Kf1


20...f4 21. Qd3 Qh4 22. Nd1 Ne3+ 23. Nxe3 fxe3+ 24. Kg1 Qf2+ 25. Kh1 Qh4+ 26. Kg1 Qf2+ 27. Kh1 Qh4+ 1/2-1/2

Their board was completely surrounded in the playing hall. From our non-computer -assisted perspective in the commentary room, it looked like Ivanchuk was in danger at some point, but he steered the game to perpetual check. A good fight that probably did not leave either player completely happy- Ivanchuk gave up his chance to win the tournament outright, and Maxime was kept a half point out of the winners circle. 

Last year's winner, dubbed the “Ice Man” by my co-commentator GM Simon Williams, won quite easily against GM Zhao Xue of China and became the first person to catch Ivanchuk. I was going to say that Cheparinov outplayed our U.S. Champ Gata Kamsky, but maybe it's more accurate to say Gata outplayed himself.

GM Ivan Cheparinov- GM Gata Kamsky

2014 Tradewise Gibraltar Chess Festival
1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 e6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 a6 5. Nc3 b5 6. Bd3 Bb7 7. O-O Nc6 8.Nxc6 Bxc6 9. Re1 Bc5 10. a4 b4 11. Nd5 Ne7 12. Be3 Bxe3 13. Nxe3 a5 14. Qh5 Ng6 15. b3 O-O 16. e5 Qe7 17. Ng4 Qc5 18. Qh3 f5 19. exf6 gxf6 20. Qg3 Kg7 21. Rad1 Rf7 22. Be4 Rc8 23. Bxc6 Rxc6 24. Ne3 h5 25. Qf3 h4 26. Rd2


26... d5! would have been a strong move, not letting the knight get a good outpost on c4. The Nc4 was definitely a big problem for Black later, making it hard to get any counterplay.
27. Nc4 Kh6
27... d5 [better late than never] 28. Ne5 Nxe5 29. Rxe5 Qc3 Black is fine.
28. h3 Kg7 29. Rde2 Rf6 30. Qh5 f4??

31. Re5!

Black's position falls apart after this move.
31... Nxe5 32. Rxe5 +-
32. Rg5 d6 33. Qxh4 e5 34. Qg4 Qc8 35. Qf3 Kh6 36.Rh5+ Kg7 37. Rd1 Qe8 38. Qe4 Nf8 39. Rg5+ Ng6 40. Nxa5 Rc5 41. Nc4 Qc6 42. Qxc6 Rxc6 43. h4 Kf7 44. g3 Ke6 45. Re1 Kf7 46. Rd1 Ke6 47. a5 Ra6 48. h5 Ne7 49. gxf4 Rxf4 50. Kg2 Rf6 51. Rh1 Nf5 52. Ne3 Nxe3+ 53. fxe3 Rh6 54. Ra1 Kf6 55.Rg6+ Rxg6+ 56. hxg6 d5 57. Kf3 Kxg6 58. e4 d4 59. Kg4 Kf6 60. Kh5 Ra7 61. a6 Rh7+ 62. Kg4 Rg7+ 63. Kf3 Ra7 64. Ra5 Ke6 65. Ke2 Kd6 66. Kd3 Kc7 67. Kc4 Kb6 68. Kxb4


We liked his position around move twenty-five, but a few inaccurate moves and one blunder led to its destruction. He defended tenaciously, but the result was not really in doubt, unless Cheparinov wanted to live through the embarrassment of not being able to win two pawns up.

Russian GM Dreev could have caught the leaders too, with a win over dark horse Al Sayed (2476) from Qatar, but Al Sayed confirmed his good form and held Dreev to a draw with Black. 

Ivanchuk, Vitiugov, and Cheparinov would have to play a tiebreak to determine the clear winner of 20,000£ (almost $33,000).  Second and third place prize money would be shared (14,000£ and 12,000£). The tiebreak system had one lottery ticket to award- and it went to Cheparinov. Cheparinov could watch Ivanchuk and Vitiugov duke it out in the semis, and he'd play the winner for the title. It doesn't sound quite fair, does it? Much more sensible would be a round robin between the three. But anyway, that's the system we had, so Ivanchuk and Vitiugov were first to bat at 10 min plus 10 second increment per move.

Cheparinov meanwhile had been relaxing in the bar, talking to friends, and only occasionally looking at the match on the big TV monitors in the lobby. He definitely came across as relaxed as he sat down to play. Fate had set it so that out of these three players, Cheparinov would feel he had the least to lose. First of all, his appearance in the top three was already a huge and somewhat unexpected success. He'd had the toughest job in the morning: beating Kamsky, and he'd accomplished it. 

No matter what, he was going home with a great paycheck. Going into the playoff, Ivanchuk couldn't have been too happy. He'd been leading the tournament all along, had the highest performance rating, and yet the job was still not done. In my opinion, psychologically he was in the most difficult position, because there must have been some feeling that based on his performance in the ten classical games, he was already the winner of this tournament. This sense that the job is done coupled with the fact that the job is actually not done at all may be what led to his nervous play in the playoff. 

Vitiugov handled the match against Ivanchuk very well. It was difficult for Ivanchuk to get an inch of ground from him. However, the emotional toll it took to defeat a player of Ivanchuk's caliber can't be underestimated. I've found that it's very difficult to continue as if nothing has happened immediately after you make a significant accomplishment. You gear yourself for a fight, give it everything, but once it's done, the body/soul complex demands some time off. To do this two consecutive times is a huge huge challenge, so I am not surprised Vitiugov came up a bit short here. 

Cheparinov started with a win in the first rapid game where he'd had Vitiugov on the defensive the whole way. In the second game, where he needed just a draw for the title, he played in his usual style, going for the King's Indian, saccing a pawn for the initiative at some point. Vitiugov defended well, as we've seen him do before, and it felt like he was turning the tide, but when the time situation forced moves to come very quickly, it turned out he'd let Cheparinov get into a defensible rook endgame down a pawn. 

Overall, a convincing victory for Cheparinov! He played quickly and aggressively, and with the light touch of someone unburdened.

As for our two Americans, it would have been better if the tournament had ended after nine rounds rather than ten. As we saw, Gata lost a crucial game in the final round to eventual winner Cheparinov. Instead of fighting for 20,000£, he was left in a big group who each got several hundred euros. But we already know that chess is a brutal game.

He did play some great chess, including this very nice demonstration in the difference in class between a 2450 and a 2700+ player.

IM Simon David Pardo - GM Gata Kamsky

2014 Tradewise Gibraltar Chess Festival

1. d4 f5 2. Bg5 g6 3. Nc3 Bg7 4. e4 fxe4 5. Nxe4 d5 6. Nc3 Nh6 7. Nf3 Nf7 8.Be3 Nc6 9. Qd2 Bf5 10. Be2 Qd7 11. O-O-O O-O-O 12. Kb1 Kb8 13. a3 h6 14. h3 g5 15. g4



I really liked this move and mentioned it to Gata when he joined us in the commentary room the next day. Watch to see what the bishop will be doing on that closed diagonal.
16. Rhe1 Rhf8 17. Nh2 Nd6 18.f3 Bg8 19. Nb5 a6 20. Nxd6 Qxd6 21. Nf1 e5 22. dxe5 Qxe5 23. c3 d4 24. cxd4 Qd5

Gata made it look easy in this game. 0-1

GMs Kamsky and Dreev

Gata was involved in a curious game in round nine. He was paired with White against Ivanchuk, who had half a point more than him. After 1.d4 Nf6 2.Bf4 c5 3.e3 Qb6 4.Nc3 Qxb2 5.Nb5 Nd5, Gata sank into thought. 


It was clear that he was out of his preparation. Down a pawn and a lot of time on move five he decided to force a repetition. Of course this looks strange to the lay observer, especially as there is a 'no draw before move 30' rule in Gibraltar (which however does allow threefold repetitions), but in reality it was just a case of very unfortunate preparation. It is difficult to play on and risk everything on a position where you are down material and see nothing tangible.

To Gata's credit, he immediately appeared in the commentary room, feeling an obligation to explain this game to the fans. You can watch this, and Ivanchuk's appearance in the commentary room afterwards, at http://www.gibraltarchesscongress.com/videos_rds610.htm (part 2 of round 9, starting around 48 min). Don't miss the moment where I ask Gata to locate the guest commentator in the room. 

If you look at the standings list, Alex Lenderman had the highest performance rating of anyone on six points (2605). He still wound up winning rating points despite losing to Natalia Zhukova (2449) in the last game with White. This was a real pity, spoiling an otherwise excellent tournament. On the positive side, Alex did get the experience of playing some very strong players: Adams, Kamsky, Li Chao, Cheparinov, Tomashevsky.

GMs Krush and Lenderman

Just as there were three men at 8/10, there were three ladies at 7/10: Mariya Muzychuk, Zhao Xue and Natalia Zhukova. Mariya Muzychuk (the younger sister of Anna Muzychuk, one of the highest rated women in the world) deservedly took the first prize of 15,000£ based on her higher performance rating (2654) which could have been even higher had she beaten Simen Agdestein in the final round (she offered a draw in a winning position, seeing that she would guarantee herself first place). Natalia's win over Alex was the difference between 7,500£ and practically nothing (if she had lost). In open tournaments almost everything rests on the final game.

Tan Zhongyi and Mariya Muzychuk won the top two prizes for Best Relative Rating achievement in the 2450-2549 category
There were several grandmaster norms achieved in the tournament, all  by women! Mariya Muzychuk, Lela Javakhishvili (who lost her last game to Li Chao and finished on 6.5) and Tan Zhongyi took home norm certificates. Of course, it is always disappointing to lose in the final round and miss out on the big prize money, as in the case of Javakhishvili, but as a consolation she got a GM norm, about 2,300£ from the ladies prizes, and another 2000£ for best relative rating performance in the rating band 2350-2449. Altogether a very decent payout! 

By the way, the ladies bested the men in the second annual exhibition match, Battle of the Sexes, that took place midway through the tournament. We played a best of three match with ten minutes per side on a giant chess board in the middle of the dining hall. This was a lot of fun to be a part of, especially as the men did not play theoretical lines (1.b3 as white; 1.d4 b6 and 1.d4 f5 as Black). Their speculative play in the opening did help our chances, although we blundered a piece early in game one and still wound up winning! (not sure how that happened). 1000£ was given to a children's cancer foundation from the winning team. 

The 1000£ best game prize went to the draw Fier-Adams in round three, a very exciting game.

This was my second year working in the commentary room rather than playing. I have to say, it's an honor to be a part of such an event and to be able to make some kind of contribution to it. I got a chance to see from the inside how much effort and heart is put into this tournament by the organizers. The chairman of the chief sponsor, Tradewise Insurance, even watched the commentary daily from his office! (When I saw him later, he quoted back to me some of the things I had said during the commentary, such as when I'd tackled the question of 'is Gibraltar British?' with 'yes...it's uhh a British property' and continued with the joke 'everyone needs a seafront villa on the Mediterranean.'). It seems like over the years the event has developed a strong sponsor base and a happy relationship with the Gibraltar government, and has a strong footing going forward.

The Caleta Hotel

I am lucky to do this job with a great co-host, English GM Simon Williams, the author of many books and DVD's. I've watched some of Simon's DVD's, and he has a real talent for presenting material in an accessible way. His website is http://www.gingergm.com/. The nice thing about Simon and I is that we have completely different styles, so between the two of us we can cover most of the important aspects of a position. I think it's quite helpful to my chess to spend ten days seeing the ideas of a clearly pronounced creative attacking style like Simon's. He sacrifices pieces so easily! 

I also really enjoyed having the top players come into the commentary room and give opinions on the games in progress (yes, this is a selfish treat! I keep them in there even though I know most of our viewers cannot follow their analysis). After Ivanchuk had finished his game against Kamsky, he stopped by for a while and looked at games with Simon and then with me. I could watch him analyze all day. Maxime Vachier-Lagrave was also very impressive in the commentary room. The catch with such players is that they tend to analyze on their own level, perhaps not aware that maybe 1% of the viewers can actually follow their variations. But whenever I try to point out that some line is based on a discovered attack or a pin, I feel they get a tiny bit impatient with me :) 

Here are some tidbits from my interviews with the players who visited us in the commentary room:
  • (this is by far the best): Ivanchuk didn't know the tiebreak rules for the Candidates tournament in London, so he didn't realize that by beating Kramnik, Carlsen would be getting the ticket into the World Championship match; he thought there'd be a playoff between them in case of a tie. Therefore he felt no pressure at all holding Kramnik's fate in his hands.
  • Cheparinov no longer works as Topalov's second.
  • What card game were the French players always playing in the lobby area of the hotel? Tarot, which is apparently very popular in France. Maxime started explaining the rules, but that seemed like a good time to go back to the chess.

Of course, I also got to see some great chess in action, including my favorite move of the event:

GM Fier, Alexandr- GM Al-Sayed, Mohammed
2014 Tradewise Gibraltar Chess Festival


My favorite move of the tournament. Black could take the g5 pawn directly, but then there is a pin on the f-pawn so that after ...Ng3 you cannot recapture
the way you'd like, ...fxg3. If White takes on h6, there is ...Ng3 and ...Qh4-
Black opens the way for the queen to come to h4 bypassing the pin on the
f-pawn. A deep and beautiful idea. White's position collapses after it.

20.Rec1 hxg5 21. Kf1 Rf7 22. Rc2 Rh7 23. Ke1 Ng3 24. Bxg3 fxg3 25. Bf1 Bd7 26. Ne2 g4 27. f4 Qf6 28. Rc3 Bb5 29. Nxg3 Bxf1 30. fxe5 dxe5 31. Nxf1 Rf8 32. Ke2 Qf2+ 33. Kd3 Qd4+ 34. Kc2 Rf2 35. Qxf2 Qxf2+ 36. Kb3 Rh1



So yeah, I love this job. I would certainly be happy to do it more than once a year. But I wouldn't say I prefer it to playing. Playing is like what I imagine it is to have kids, with ups and downs, you sacrifice a lot and you get back a lot. I've often heard people say having kids has changed their life, given it a totally different meaning, etc. And most people wouldn't trade their experience of parenthood for anything. So it's similar to playing: once you're a player, you're a player and don't think of being anything else...until you can't play anymore. When that point comes, of course you can move to other roles, kind of like parents get a second life when their kids grow up and start living independent lives. But for some stage of life in both cases you have a primary identity. 

Or maybe I should just say, playing is life. You keep doing it no matter how painful it may be :) Another day, another game! Another chance for victory!  

As many people have expressed, Gibraltar is the best open tournament in the world, and I can only add, by far. The prizes are generous and draw many elite players (the ladies prizes' are absolutely unique in the world); the venue is simultaneously exotic yet not difficult to get to; the weather is a treat for anyone coming from countries which experience winter; there are side events with good prizes for amateurs (various categories under 2250)  in the mornings; evening blitz tournaments and exhibitions, master classes by people like Ivanchuk, etc. There is a special event every evening!

Not by accident is it called the Gibraltar Chess Festival. It now completed its twelfth year- if you haven't visited it yet, remember the date: the Festival will be back January 26th-Feb 5th 2015!