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Levon Aronian wins Gibraltar Masters 2018

by Sagar Shah - 03/02/2018

He is one of the most loved characters in the chess world. As Garry Kasparov said, "The world is a better place when Levon Aronian is playing good chess!" It was his first attempt at the Gibraltar Chess Festival and Levon Aronian did it! He won the event in style beating Richard Rapport and MVL in the tiebreaks! For Indians, Abhijeet Gupta showed a solid performance scoring 7.0/10 and finishing ninth. GM norm was scored by Prithu Gupta and IM norm by Raunak Sadhwani. Players like Debashis Das, M.R. Venkatesh, Hemant Sharma performed admirably, much above their rating. We have the detailed final report from Gibraltar.

The last round of the Gibraltar Masters, the tenth one, began with five players on 7.0/9 and fifteen on 6.5/9. At the end of the round we had seven players on 7.5/10 - Nakamura, MVL, Rapport, Aronian, Adams, Le Quang Liem and Vitiugovv. The first four players based on the rating performance tiebreak were selected for the playoffs.

It was going to be an exciting semi-final with Nakamura taking on MVL and Aronian facing Rapport

Aronian came to the last day in his favourite cat t-shirt. Unlike the World Cup 2017, he was wearing the blazer! Aronian beat Rapport 2-0 in the 10+5 tiebreaks but it was by no means a one-way stream!

In the first game, Aronian was clearly on the defensive with Rapport (White) having the bishop pair. But he defended staunchly and managed to trick his opponent in time pressure.

In the second game Aronian gave his opponent absolutely no chances and won in clean style:

"We both are playing each other in the tiebreaks!" MVL tells Naka

The first two games ended in draws. The third one was the decisive one, filled with great drama that MVL was able beat Nakamura in. In fact the American was clearly better for the major part of the game, but in time pressure it all went wrong for the defending champion. MVL won the game with some nice knight jumps!

In a must-win scenario Nakamura tried all that he could but was unable to shake his French opponent who maintained his cool and drew his game

It was now a repeat of the World Cup 2017 semi-finals tie-break! Aronian vs MVL!

The first three games were all drawn, with both players being evenly matched. In the fourth game Levon played in classy positional style, giving absolutely no chances to his opponent right from the opening until the endgame and scoring the full point, winning the tournament! It was a game where the Armenian showed what a classy player he is!

Interview with the champion!
Maxime Vachier-Lagrave speaks after finishing second

MVL - second, Nakamura-third and Richard Rapport - fourth

The Champion - Levon Aronian!

Aronian won the tournament, while the best woman prize went to Pia Cramling!

Pia Cramling speaks to Tania Sachdev after a fantastic performance!

Abhijeet Gupta was the best performer for Indians as he scored 7.0/10 and finished ninth

Prithu Gupta lost the last round to Lalith Babu but he had already achieved his GM norm and IM title

Scoring his second IM norm - 12-year-old Raunak Sadhwani

Hemant Sharma needed to win the last round to get his GM norm. He drew and missed it narrowly. However, a performance of 2570 is something to be proud of!

Lance Henderson played the tournament of his life beating Huschenbeth, Papp, Huzman and Ju Wenjun. This was after he had drawn the first round to Dev Shah, rated 1977!

Debashis is the only Indian player apart from Abhijeet Gupta who remained unbeaten in the tournament.  His last game against Sandipan Chanda is a show of wonderful positional chess:

If you looked at the game carefully, you will realize that the two key moments of the game happened on the d6 square. The queen sacrifice and then the king entering in the position which led to resignation!

Qd6!! led to a forced queen exchange after Qf8.

King entering d6 completed the picture of domination!

GM M.R. Venkatesh played against some of the finest women players in the world. He drew against Ju Wenjun, Lagno and Anna Muzychuk and beat Alexandra Kosteniuk in the last round!

Player overview for India

5GMHarikrishna P.2745IND½½111½00116,539Masters
25GMSethuraman S.P.2646IND11½½0111017,016Masters
31GMGupta Abhijeet2610IND1½½11½½1½½7,09Masters
37GMGopal G.N.2593IND½1½1½½01½16,545Masters
42GMSandipan Chanda2579IND½½11110½½06,056Masters
45GMNarayanan S. L.2573IND11½½101½½17,023Masters
63GMLalith Babu M R2542IND11½½0½10116,536Masters
68GMSwapnil S. Dhopade2533IND11½0½1½½1½6,542Masters
71IMNihal Sarin2524IND1½½0½111½½6,546Masters
74IMPraggnanandhaa R2515IND1½½½½110½05,592Masters
81GMDebashis Das2501IND11½½½½½½117,010Masters
82GMGagare Shardul2494IND11½½1001½05,581Masters
102IMPrasanna Raghuram Rao2458IND10110½½1½16,544Masters
108GMVenkatesh M.R.2445IND11½½½01½½16,533Masters
114IMSwayams Mishra2432IND1½10½0½½½15,5103Masters
119IMRaja Harshit2427IND½1½0½101½05,0135Masters
136IMMohammad Nubairshah Shaikh2380IND1½½½10½½105,593Masters
139FMPrithu Gupta2373IND½½11½½½0105,583Masters
149IMHemant Sharma (Del)2348IND½011½½½½½½5,585Masters
159IMPadmini Rout2325IND010110½1004,5160Masters
162FMSadhwani Raunak2321IND½01½½½10½04,5159Masters
176IMMohota Nisha2269IND½01½0110½04,5164Masters
186WIMNandhidhaa Pv2238IND01½0101½105,0146Masters
228WFMCholleti Sahajasri2083IND00110100003,0241Masters
230WIMTejaswini Sagar2081IND½½½100½01½4,5170Masters
247WIMGagare Shalmali2001IND½0001½0½½14,0210Masters
254CMDev Shah1977IND½00001001½3,0255Masters
268Mayank Pal1834IND½000½½½½½14,0222Masters

Final Ranking after 10 Rounds

Rk.SNoNameFEDRtgPts. TB1 
13GMNakamura HikaruUSA27817,52822
212GMRapport RichardHUN27007,52763
32GMVachier-Lagrave MaximeFRA27937,52759
41GMAronian LevonARM27977,52746
57GMVitiugov NikitaRUS27327,52731
11GMAdams MichaelENG27097,52731
76GMLe Quang LiemVIE27377,52713
816GMHowell David W LENG26827,02760
931GMGupta AbhijeetIND26107,02732
1081GMDebashis DasIND25017,02728
119GMDuda Jan-KrzysztofPOL27247,02713
33GMOparin GrigoriyRUS26077,02713
1310GMWang HaoCHN27117,02710
1432GMVocaturo DanieleITA26097,02679
1514GMGelfand BorisISR26977,02673
1625GMSethuraman S.P.IND26467,02672
1719GMSutovsky EmilISR26737,02668
1815GMDubov DaniilRUS26947,02658
19116Henderson De La Fuente LanceESP24297,02642
2093GMKobo OriISR24777,02638

The first four places are not in the right order because of the tiebreaks, as explained at the start of the article, the rest of the standings are correct!


A huge congratulations to the entire team of Gibraltar Chess Festival led by tournament director Stuart Conquest for another splendid tournament.

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