PRESS RELEASE by John Saunders - The 11th edition of the Tradewise Gibraltar Chess Festival starts on Monday and promises to be as prestigious and exciting as the previous ten.
With ten tournaments now played, the Gibraltar Festival already has a bit of history behind it and maybe it’s time to consider a few stats and records. For example, let’s consider the most impressive victory in terms of score and rating performance: that goes to Ukrainian super-GM Vassily Ivanchuk in 2011 when he ran up an amazing 9/10 score and was only 32 rating points shy of 3000. That’s right – a TPR of 2968!
As for the player with the most Gibraltar victories: that honour goes to England’s Nigel Short, who shared first with Vassilios Kotronias at the inaugural tournament in 2003, came back to win outright in 2004, and won last year’s tournament after a play-off with Women’s World Champion Hou Yifan. That’s three first places in only five visits to the Rock.
Vassily Ivanchuk and Nigel Short, Round 6 2011
Those seem like the most significant stats – and the good news is that Ivanchuk and Short are back to do battle in 2013. Nigel Short could consider himself more than a little unlucky not to have won a fourth Gibraltar title in 2011 when he scored 8½/10 for a rating performance of 2883: good enough in almost any other year but not when Hurricane Chucky is blowing through the Straits of Gibraltar! The sight of Chucky and Nigel cutting a swathe through the rest of the field that year is not one that those of us who witnessed it will forget.
Nigel’s consolation came in 2012 when he managed to finish level with Hou Yifan after the Chinese women’s world champion had recorded one of the finest performances (if not the best ever performance) by a female player in chess history, and then used his vast experience to overcome her in the play-off.
Nigel Short beat Hou Yifan in a playoff in 2012
Nigel enjoys playing in Gibraltar and he remains one of the most formidable Swiss System specialists in the world, but in rating terms he is only eighth in the pecking order at the 2013 Tradewise Gibraltar Masters. Between number one Ivanchuk and number eight Short are some more big-name players. Like Nigel, Gata Kamsky is a former world championship finalist and he has played in Gibraltar before though he has still to win the title.
25-year-old Polish GM Radoslaw Wojtaszek is third in rating order on 2723. Radoslaw is perhaps not as well known as he might be but this might almost be deliberate: he is one of Vishy Anand’s regular helpers at world championship matches. He is making his first appearance at Gibraltar.
Mickey Adams is the fourth highest rated player playing in Gibraltar. He is a former winner, having tied with eight(!) others on 7½/10 in 2010 and then won the play-off. Mickey comes to Gibraltar on the crest of a wave (well, not literally – I expect he is flying in like everyone else). At the recent London Classic he finished an excellent third equal after Carlsen and Kramnik, and with a win against world champion Vishy Anand to his credit. In the process he wrested back his status as England’s highest rated player from Luke McShane. At 2725 he is the only English player currently above the elite 2700 threshold. This will be his fifth Gibraltar tournament. Mickey almost personifies the Rock: he has only lost one game of the 39 classical games he has played here.
Mickey Adams at the 2012 London Chess Classic
22-year-old French GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave is making his third visit to Gibraltar. In 2009 he scored what was for him a slightly below par 6½/10 and then 6/10 last year, so he will be looking to make it third time lucky. At 2713 he is France’s top rated player.
Maxime Vachier-Lagrave winning the 2012 SPICE Cup
Some last-minute recruitment on the part of our tournament director secured the services of another very strong and interesting 2700+ player – Czech GM David Navara. 27-year-old David is a universally popular player who is definitely going to be a big hit with the Gibraltar audience. David has played several sponsored matches in Prague against strong opposition and has match wins against Nigel Short and Sergei Movsesian to his credit.
Last minute recruit GM David Navara, at the 2011 World Cup
Alexei Shirov needs no little introduction. He could and should have had a match for the world title with Garry Kasparov in the late 1990s when he was one of the best four or five players in the world but lack of financial backing meant the match was never held and later he had to stand by and watch Vladimir Kramnik – the player whom he had beaten to earn the shot at Kasparov – not only get an invitation to a title match but win it. Since then Shirov has become one of the world’s most prolific players, playing and winning a whole host of events. He has been to Gibraltar three times, in 2005, 2006 and 2012, with scores of 7½/10 (five-way tie for first), 7/10 and 6½/10. Alexei represented Spain for many years but has recently re-registered for his native Latvia.
Alexei Shirov at the 2011 Euro Team Championships
Le Quang Liem is the last of the Gibraltar line-up’s eight players rated in excess of 2700 on the January 2013 FIDE List. The 21-year-old Vietnamese GM burst onto the elite scene in the space of a few months in 2009/2010 when he first won the annual Kolkata Tournament in India, and then two prestigious tournaments in Russia, the Aeroflot and the Moscow Open. The Aeroflot success secured him an invitation to the 2010 Dortmund tournament where he proved his earlier victories were not flukes by securing second place behind Ponomariov but ahead of Kramnik. This is his second Gibraltar tournament: he scored 7/10 last year.
Le Quang Liem winning the 2011 SPICE Cup
As well as the seven 2700+ players, there are 14 players rated between 2600 and 2699. Two names to look out for: we are very pleased to welcome back Artur Yusupov (or Jussupow, to give the German version of his name), who was a world championship contender of the 1980s, three times reaching the semi-final stage of the Candidates’ competition. Artur was coached and mentored by the legendary Mark Dvoretsky and he later became his regular writing collaborator, helping to produce a number of influential titles. Artur is a giant of the game, but very much a gentle giant, with a ready smile. The other name to look out for is Gawain Jones, the reigning British Champion, who recently added another success to his record when he won the traditional Hastings Masters tournament.
The first prize in the Masters is an impressive £20,000 but one of the distinctive features of the Gibraltar tournament is the long list of special women’s prizes which can be won in addition to the main Masters prizes. First prize for female competitors is set at £12,000 and there are more than £24,000 in subsidiary women’s prizes, so there is also an impressive field of top women players in competition.
To give you an idea, the 2004 Women’s World Champion Antoaneta Stefanova, who reached the final of the 2012 Women’s World Championship and was close to regaining her title, is at number 39 in the competitors and in sixth place amongst the women’s competitors. In rating order the top women competitors in 2013 are Anna Muzychuk, Nana Dzagnidze, Zhao Xue, Marie Sebag, Pia Cramling, Antoaneta Stefanova, Viktorija Cmilyte, Dronavalli Harika and Ju Wenjun. All of these are rated in excess of 2500, and all but Marie Sebag and Ju Wenjun have competed at Gibraltar before (in most cases, regularly).
Anna Muzychuk and Zhao Xue at the 2012 Ankara Women's Grand Prix
Of course, there are lots of other prizes for different rating categories, juniors, seniors, etc. One of them we will mention specifically is the special prize awarded by the Association of Chess Professionals (ACP) to the best score made by one of their members. In the citation for this the ACP said “by establishing this prize, the ACP is proud to support its members' choice: earlier this year the Tradewise Gibraltar Chess Festival won the “2012 Best Open Tournament of the Year" vote, run by the ACP.” To which we can only respond – thanks very much, ACP!
The Tradewise Gibraltar Chess Festival has always been at the forefront of webcasting technology, housed at the specially-built suite at the Caleta Hotel, and this year we have added to our commentary team. English GM Simon Williams will be with us again and he will be joined at the commentator’s desk by reigning US Women’s Champion Irina Krush.