20-year-old Vladislav Artemiev beat Yu Yangyi with Black in the final round to complete a stunning triumph in the 2019 Gibraltar Masters. His 8.5/10, 2941 performance earned him £25,000 and 27.4 rating points as he soared to world no. 20. Elsewhere it was a day of the underdogs as David Howell beat Levon Aronian with Black and 19-year-old Karthikeyan Murali from India took the £20,000 2nd prize by smoothly outplaying top seed Maxime Vachier-Lagrave. Tan Zhongyi snatched the £15,000 women’s top prize with victory over GM Aleksandar Indjic.
You can replay all the games from the 2019 Gibraltar Masters using the selector below:
We wrote in our preview of the Gibraltar Masters that, “we can see if 20-year-old Russian Vladislav Artemiev can push his case to be a member of the elite (where many people expected him to be by now)”. He certainly did that, dominating the tournament despite facing almost all the top seeds:
He scored a 2941 rating performance while no-one else exceeded 2800, and his play had everything: bold attacks (e.g. vs. Nakamura), tenacious defence (vs. Aronian) and clever psychology (the exchange sac to get Navara into a passive position) as well as the intuitive technique that had already made him a feared rapid and blitz player. IM David Martinez highlighted his ability to grind out the smallest advantage in an article published on chess24 five years ago, while Magnus Carlsen commented in December last year:
Yeah, he’s good. He has a very good natural feel for the game, which is great in blitz. I think he’s legit.
His speed chess skills meant there was no reason for Artemiev to fear anyone in a speed chess tiebreak, so that with a half-point lead over the field he admitted he would have been fine with a draw in the final game.
That was why he played the Caro-Kann instead of the Sicilian, but he didn’t shy away from complications when Yu Yangyi showed he was in the mood for a fight. The journey of the black queen’s knight was perhaps the highlight of the game:
14…Nb8!? was the start of an adventure that culminated with 40…Nxh4+:
Artemiev had won a pawn and he made no mistake after the time control as he took home victory in 52 moves.
It had been a magnificent tournament for the 20-year-old, who recently got married and said he and his wife plan to celebrate with dinner back in Kazan, Russian, “maybe with music”. His upcoming plans include playing for Russia in the World Team Championship (March 5-14), while he hopes to get a chance to qualify for the Candidates Tournament via the World Cup. He’s also now hoping for some of the invitations that his play merits – on the live rating list he’s now overtaken Jan-Krzysztof Duda and Wei Yi, so there’s no-one younger and higher rated above him.
While Artemiev was a dark horse before the event began, it’s unlikely anyone could have predicted that the 49th seed, 2570-rated Karthikeyan Murali, would find himself among the big winners. The 19-year-old two-time Indian Champion took home £20,000 for clear 2nd place after defeating three 2700 opponents in the last three rounds. The last was top seed Maxime Vachier-Lagrave:
It was in many ways a remarkable game, since Maxime played his beloved Najdorf, went for a line Murali hadn’t expected on move 10, and took no serious thinks in the game until he found himself in a lost position. It was hard to pinpoint exactly where the French no. 1 had gone wrong, though Karthikeyan described 20…Bg5!? as “a huge mistake”:
After 21.Bg3 Bh6!? 22.Nh4! Kf7!? 23.Nf5 White’s edge is already clear, and Maxime sank without a trace. When asked how he could play so confidently against the top seed Karthikeyan responded, “he’s also human!”
The watching Magnus Carlsen was impressed:
And I see that Maxime is dead lost… he was a bit worse early on, but you don’t expect him just to go down in flames… I’ve liked [Karthikeyan’s] game for a while – a good, solid player, but you don’t expect him just to outplay Maxime like this, so it’s very, very impressive.
The other star name to suffer was Levon Aronian, and his game against David Howell was perhaps the most memorable of the day. Arguably David’s preparation of three hours’ sleep and not checking the pairings the night before was sub-optimal:
I found out at 10:20 this morning that I was playing Black against Lev - not a nice surprise!
On the other hand, he pointed out he was too tired to get nervous, and Aronian’s strange opening played right into his hands. In the exchange variation of the Caro-Kann Levon unwisely ignored Sopiko Guramishvili’s advice:
Instead of 7.Ne2 he went for 7.Qc2, only to run into a novelty (not a well-disguised one, as it's the computer’s top line), 7…f6! After 8.Ne2 e5 9.0-0 Nge7 it was now time to play 10.c4!? (if that was the plan), as David suggested, since after 10.dxe5 fxe5 11.c4?! e4! Black was already close to winning:
For the rest of the game David had to battle against facial impressions - those of his opponent…
When you’re playing against one of the greatest attacking players of this generation, when he’s sitting there across the board, looking super-confident, it’s nerve-wracking.
…and of Hikaru Nakamura, who didn’t seem entirely convinced by Aronian’s play!
Howell would admit afterwards he had to try not to look at Hikaru to avoid laughing, but it also inspired him to play well:
It made me double check all my variations, because Hikaru’s face if I blundered - that would not be a pretty sight!
Howell didn’t blunder a thing and held on to take £11,000 for sharing 3rd place:
Howell had started the tournament slowly, including with a horror blunder we mentioned in our first report, and the same went for the other two players he shared third place with. Nikita Vitiugov drew two of his first four games and reached 7.5/10 despite only playing four 2600 players and no 2700+ opponents. The 8th seed was the only top 10 seed to finish with any serious prize money:
David Anton lost to a 2400-player in Round 2 but hit back for another fantastic Gibraltar Masters performance - his best result remains finishing 2nd on tiebreaks to Nakamura in 2017 after topping the table in the classical games. In the final round he got to plant a bishop on f3 by move 12 and went on to crush Arkadij Naiditsch in 27 moves:
The player who came closest to joining that tie for 3rd place was David Navara, whose game against Hrant Melkumyan caught the eye of Magnus:
Sure enough, we got a repeat of the ending of Shankland’s game against Giri from the Tata Steel Masters, but Melkumyan didn’t resign after setting up a fortress…
…and went on to draw.
Wesley So finally won a game, against Bogdan-Daniel Deac, but he didn’t sound thrilled at the prospect of playing more opens: “Hopefully not! I never gain points in open events.” He was at least happy to have escaped the bone-chillingly cold polar vortex in Minnesota!
Wesley So actually finished top of the star players, in 11th place, ahead of MVL in 13th, Nakamura in 16th and Aronian, who doesn’t feature on the top standings below, in 24th:
One player to mention who also finished on 6.5/10 like Aronian is D Gukesh, the 12-year-old Indian who recently became the 2nd youngest grandmaster in history. His 2650 performance gained him 21.2 rating points, and it says all you need to know about his ambition that he was disappointed with a draw against Adhiban in the final round:
We also can’t end a Gibraltar report without featuring the
great Vassily Ivanchuk, who finished in 52nd place and later “complained”:
I had this year too many women – five from ten it’s too much!
Three players went into the final round leading the women's rankings on 6/9: the Muzychuk sisters and Tan Zhongyi. In the end it was the Chinese former Women’s World Champion who took the £15,000 first prize, after following up a win against GM Sebastien Maze by beating Aleksandar Indjic. The Serbian grandmaster was punished for overpressing in a drawish ending.
The 74th seed had finished in 22nd place, which means she’ll also claim some prize money from the overall pot.
Anna Muzychuk lost to Rauf Mamedov and was caught on 6/10 by Ju Wenjun, Koneru Humpy, Lei Tingjie, Antoaneta Stefanova, Pauline Guichard, Sabrina Vega and Lela Javakhishvili. Mariya Muzychuk would have been dragged into that tie herself, but Rinat Jumabayev failed to win a rook ending two pawns up:
It was a win, but 70…Rc1! was the only move to do it here, while after 70…Ke2 Mariya managed to hold in 88 moves. That escape earned her the £10,000 women’s 2nd prize.
So that’s all for the 2019 Gibraltar Masters! Let’s end, in case you haven’t seen them, with some fun videos featuring rapid-fire answers from the players:
Even grandmasters are going to miss having a top supertournament around for a while...
...but the good news is it's a Chess Bundesliga weekend, so plenty of stars will be in action on Saturday and Sunday. The Cairns Cup, a new women's supertournament, starts in St. Louis on Wednesday, and you can check out more upcoming events in our 2019 Chess Calendar.
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