chessbase india logo

The Gibraltar gala is on

by Satanick Mukhuty - 22/01/2020

The Gibraltar Chess Masters opened with a cracker of a first round. A lot of Indians found themselves paired against world-class opposition and among them quite a few came out with flying colours. Praggnanandhaa R was shocked by Nandhidhaa PV in a tactically sharp game, while the Turkish Grandmaster Can Emre lost his encounter against Pranav Anand from what seemed like a completely winning position. Youngsters like Raahil Mullick and Sankalp Gupta too amassed wealth of experience playing against the titans Shakhriyar Mamedyarov and Veselin Topalov respectively, while the veterans Adhiban Baskaran and Krishnan Sasikiran found modest starts. 

The Gibraltar Chess Festival - one of the most vibrant events of the year - kick-started yesterday and will continue till the 30th of this month. This time the ten-round swiss tournament is hosting 248 players from 55 different countries in the Masters section alone and with 32 participants the Indian contingent makes for the largest representation in it. Along with young talents like Praggnanandhaa R, Gukesh D, and Raunak Sadhwani, the more seasoned Grandmasters like Adhiban Baskaran and Krishnan Sasikiran too are competing in this event. And needless to say the presence of Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, Wang Hao, Veselin Topalov, David Navara, and many more superstars like every year is also lending the tournament an otherworldly star-studded ambience.

A beautiful venue and high-class chess, that's quintessential Gibraltar!

The first round of the event itself saw some very interesting pairings as Raahil Mullick and Sankalp Gupta, two of India's brightest up-and-coming talents, were pitted against the top seed Shakhriyar Mamedyarov and former World Champion Veselin Topalov. The opening round also saw a few surprising upsets, foremost among them being Nandhidhaa PV beating Praggnanandhaa R in a wildly complex Sicilian game and the 14-year-old Pranav Anand getting the better of GM Can Emre from a dead lost position. In this illustrated article we bring you the glimpses of all the exciting moments.

Nandhidhaa stuns Praggnanandhaa in wild complexity

Praggnanandhaa is well known for his monstrous over-the-board calculative skills but yesterday Woman Grandmaster Nandhidhaa PV pulled off the really unexpected by not only outplaying but also out-calculating him in a highly tactical game. Nandhidhaa had the White pieces and went on the offensive right from the word go. She confidently played out the Sozin variation and grabbed a tangible edge by the twentieth move itself.

Nandhidhaa too strong for Pragg? | Photo: John Saunders

Nandhidhaa PV - Praggnanandhaa R, Round 1

The game turned quite double-edged by move 16 itself with White deciding to delay castling and start a flank attack on the kingside. In such positions it is important to keep calm. A move like 16...Rfc8 above would have been fine after which Black too is ready to begin counterplay with b6-b5 on the queenside. 17.Rg1 b5 18.axb5 axb5 19.Rxa8 Bxa8 20.Nxb5 Qxc2 is how a typical line runs and Black gets a decent position. Praggnanandhaa however hurried with 16...b5 right away and simply lost a pawn after 17.axb5 axb5 18.Rxa8 Bxa8 19.Nxb5. Both sides made quite a few inaccuracies after this. Nandhidhaa missed the most optimal continuations and Pragg failed to materialize on them but the bottom line was that White was able to get things going on the kingside.

This was perhaps the most critical moment in the encounter. Although it feels natural to bring the rook on the semi-open g-file but 28.Rg1 was already a mistake. Praggnanandhaa could have turned the tables on his opponent here with 28...dxe4 29.Qb3 exf3 because now if White goes 30.Qxb7 then Black has a spectacular blow, can you see it?


Analysis Board

Position after 30.Qxb7: Black to play and what?

Yes, Black has the brilliant queen sac 30...Qxh2+!! here. After 31.Kxh2 Rh4+ 32.Kg3 Nh5+ 33.Kf2 Bc5+ 34.Ke1 f2+ Black promotes his pawn and gets his queen back with a completely winning position. In the game Pragg failed to spot this and went 28...g6 instead which handed over the initiative back to Nandhidhaa and after 29.Nxe6 Bd6 30.Nf4 Qxh6 31.Nxd5 Black was simply down two pawns without enough compensation.

Position after 31.Nxd5

Exchanging queens with 31...Qxe3 is no relief in the above position. So Black tried some tricks by sacrificing his queen with 31...Qxh2+ 32.Kxh2 and using the bishop-knight battery on b8-h2 diagonal. However it was already too late and White was completely in charge from here on. The full game with detailed annotation is presented below.

Karthikeyan's sublime 26...Nxe4 against Divya

Another very interesting encounter happened between Karthikeyan Murali and Divya Deshmukh. Divya got a comfortable position with white pieces out of the opening but Karthikeyan came up with a devious idea in the middlegame to hem White's king directly in a mating net. The former was apparently taken completely by surprise as she immediately lost the thread of the play and was crushed in just 33 moves.  

Karthikeyan is good at spotting the most unusual of ideas over the board. Yesterday was no exception | Photo: John Saunders

Divya Deshmukh - Karthikeyan Murali, Round 1

Objectively it is perhaps White who has the better position above with the knight and queen firmly lodged on c4 and b5 respectively, one of the rooks controlling the open d-file, and the bishop on h2 eying the nice long diagonal. But Karthikeyan is a tricky opponent to play against for he always finds a way to complicate matters. Notice, Black has already advanced his g and h pawns and can potentially open up lines on the kingside to generate counter attack. Indeed, this is what he exactly did in the game and that too with a surprising knight sacrifice!

Can you guess how Karthikeyan continued in the above position?

It is not the most straightforward idea to see but the Indian Grandmaster went 25...gxf3 26.gxf3 Nxe4! here sacrificing his knight. This certainly opened up unforeseen complications for Divya and she soon lost her way. The best way to continue here would have been 27.Rxb6 Rxb6 28.Qxb6 Qxb6 29.Nxb6 but White erred with 27.fxe4 and Black lashed out 27...Rg6+ 28.Kf2 Qe7 29.Rg1 Qh4+ initiating a mating attack!

Pranav Anand defeated the almost 300 points higher rated Grandmaster Cam Emre and pulled off another big upset of the day | Photo: Niki Riga 

Pranav Anand - Can Emre, Round 1

Pranav was playing the white pieces and was completely lost in the above position. Just the simple Ne2+ followed by Nxg3 is crushing in this position. The Turkish Grandmaster started misplaying from here and slowly but surely squandered away all the advantage and not long after the Indian found his chance to strike back!

It looks surprising at first glance but with the move 39...Rg5 the position is tilted completely in White's favour. The game followed 40.Nxg4 Qg7 41.f6 Qh7 42.Nxd6 Nbd3 43.Nh6 Rxg2+ 44.Qxg2 and suddenly Pranav was in the driver's seat. Check out the full game below to see how the 14-year-old converted the rest of it.

Photo Gallery

Gukesh D was also surprisingly held to a draw by Priyanka Nutakki | Photo: John Saunders

Raahil Mullick played Shakhriyar Mamedyarov. Although he couldn't really hold his own against the Azerbaijani giant but it really was a great learning experience for the youngster | Photo: John Saunders

IM Sankalp Gupta played his first round against the former FIDE World Champion Veselin Topalov | Photo: John Saunders

Adhiban Baskaran was held to a draw by Reimanis Ritvars of Latvia | Photo: John Saunders

Krishnan Sasikiran too didn't find the ideal start as he was held to a draw by IM Sabrina Vega Gutierrez | Photo: John Saunders

Video Gallery

Ivan Cheparinov got an 18-move miniature win in the first round against Evgenios Loannidis. He speaks about how it happened | Video: Gibchess
Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, one of the elites in the event, walks the audiences through his victory | Video: Gibchess
Kirill Alekseenko, the Russian wildcard entrant of the Candidates this year, speaks about his victory in round one | Video: Gibchess
Ritvars Reimanis held Adhiban Baskaran to a draw and was quite excited about it. He tells what happened in the game | Video: Gibchess
Former World Champion Veselin Topalov explains where his opponent IM Sankalp Gupta from India went wrong in round one | Video: Gibchess

Results of first round

Bo.No.NameRtgPts. ResultPts. NameRtgNo.
1130CMMullick Raahil 23820 0 - 10 GMMamedyarov Shakhriyar 27701
22GMVachier-Lagrave Maxime 27700 1 - 00 IMSukandar Irine Kharisma 2402122
3121IMPercivaldi Martin 24030 0 - 10 GMWang Hao 27583
44GMTopalov Veselin 27380 1 - 00 IMSankalp Gupta 2400125
5123IMHouska Jovanka 24010 0 - 10 GMNavara David 27175
66GMLe Quang Liem 27130 1 - 00 IMTrent Lawrence 2383128
7129FMLombaers Peter 23830 0 - 10 GMAlekseenko Kirill 27047
88GMIvanchuk Vassily 26980 1 - 00 IMWemmers Xander 2380131
9132IMHedman Erik 23760 ½ - ½0 GMMatlakov Maxim 26989
1010GMAdams Michael 26940 1 - 00 IMMieles Palau Daniel 2374133
11134IMIoannidis Evgenios 23730 0 - 10 GMCheparinov Ivan 268611
1212GMJones Gawain C B 26790 ½ - ½0 IMSalimova Nurgyul 2372135
13136WGMTomilova Elena 23720 0 - 10 GMMaghsoodloo Parham 267413
1414GMSaric Ivan 26550 1 - 00 IMPigott John C 2370137
15138FMReimanis Ritvars 23700 ½ - ½0 GMAdhiban B. 265415
1616GMEsipenko Andrey 26540 1 - 00 IMPadmini Rout 2369139
17140IMMelia Salome 23680 0 - 10 GMLagarde Maxime 265117
1818GMSasikiran Krishnan 26480 ½ - ½0 IMVega Gutierrez Sabrina 2364141
19142IMShachar Ehud 23630 0 - 10 GMDonchenko Alexander 264719
2020GMTabatabaei M.Amin 26380 1 - 00 WGMAbrahamyan Tatev 2363143
21144IMGschnitzer Oswald Dr.23610 ½ - ½0 GMNarayanan.S.L 263721
2222GMParavyan David 26290 1 - 00 IMBeinoras Mindaugas 2355145
23146IMPetrov Vladimir Sergeev 23530 ½ - ½0 GMDeac Bogdan-Daniel 262623
2424GMDurarbayli Vasif 26250 1 - 00 FMBarrish Daniel 2352147
25148GMBellon Lopez Juan Manuel 23480 0 - 10 GMVocaturo Daniele 262225
2626GMChigaev Maksim 26160 1 - 00 GMZhukova Natalia 2338149
27150IMBorocz Istvan 23370 0 - 10 GMKobalia Mikhail 260927
2828GMYilmaz Mustafa 26070 1 - 00 IMLujan Carolina 2330151
29152WIMDivya Deshmukh 23220 0 - 10 GMKarthikeyan Murali 260629
3030GMPichot Alan 26060 ½ - ½0 WGMHeinemann Josefine 2317154

Related news:
Anna Muzychuk's jewel from the final round of Gibraltar 2020

@ 03/02/2020 by Satanick Mukhuty (en)
जिब्राल्टर मास्टर्स - आर्यन चोपड़ा रहे सर्वश्रेष्ठ भारतीय

@ 31/01/2020 by Niklesh Jain (hi)
David Paravyan wins Gibraltar Masters 2020

@ 31/01/2020 by Satanick Mukhuty (en)
Welcome to Planet Ivanchuk

@ 31/01/2020 by Sagar Shah (en)
Gibraltar R09: A crushing 27-move game by Aryan Chopra

@ 30/01/2020 by Satanick Mukhuty (en)
Can Indians make a strong finish in the last two rounds of the Gibraltar Masters 2020

@ 29/01/2020 by Sagar Shah (en)
जिब्राल्टर मास्टर्स - जोरदार संघर्ष के बाद हारे प्रग्गानंधा

@ 28/01/2020 by Niklesh Jain (hi)
प्रग्गानंधा नें फिर किया कारनामा पूर्व फीडे विश्व चैम्पियन टोपालोव को किया पराजित

@ 27/01/2020 by Niklesh Jain (hi)
Praggnanandhaa beats the highest rated player of his career - Veselin Topalov (2738)

@ 26/01/2020 by Sagar Shah (en)
How not following top level games can make you lose out on important points

@ 26/01/2020 by Sagar Shah (en)
Gibraltar R03: S.L.Narayanan and Adhiban Baskaran shine

@ 24/01/2020 by Satanick Mukhuty (en)
Praggnanandhaa's love for chess

@ 24/01/2020 by Sagar Shah (en)
Gibraltar R02: Adhiban turns his beast mode on

@ 23/01/2020 by Satanick Mukhuty (en)
Live Games from the Gibraltar Masters 2020

@ 21/01/2020 by ChessBase India (en)
Indians at the Gibraltar Masters 2019

@ 01/02/2019 by Sagar Shah (en)

Contact Us