Defending champion Hikaru Nakamura and 19-year-old Jan-Krzysztof Duda were the only 2700+ players to come through the opening rounds of the Tradewise Gibraltar Masters intact, though Hikaru needed 135 moves and almost 8 hours to beat Valentina Gunina. Top seed Levon Aronian came perilously close to losing to IM Anita Gara in the first round, while David Navara, Nikita Vitiugov, Wang Hao, Ivan Cheparinov and Daniil Dubov are among the players who did lose to lower-rated opposition.
If you only watch one video on the 2018 Tradewise Gibraltar Masters make it the one below, featuring enjoyable quick-fire answers from players at the opening ceremony. The first question Tania Sachdev poses is for the players to describe themselves in three words. If you haven’t seen it yet, try and first match the following 10 players to the answers below: Aronian, Nakamura, Adams, Howell, Short, Zhukova, Harikrishna, Saduakassova, MVL, Stefanova
Here’s the video:
You can check all the results, pairings and games using the selector below - simply click on a game to open it with computer analysis, or hover over a player's name to see all his or her results. Note that the first 50 games are live each day, but we’ve been adding the moves of the other games when they’re uploaded by the arbiters at some point over the next day:
The story of the start of big open tournaments is always about shock results, but frankly you usually don’t get too many. For instance, in the 2017 Gibraltar Masters Round 1 you had to go down to board 10 for a game in which the favourite didn’t win, with Robert Bellin holding Boris Gelfand to a draw. There were other surprise draws on boards 16 and 19, but you had to go all the way down to board 25 for a favourite actually losing, with Frank Buchenau beating 2645-rated Abhijeet Gupta.
In 2018, though, the top 24 boards saw 8 draws and shock defeats for Ivan Cheparinov and Daniil Dubov, and among those drawing were 2745-rated Harikrishna, 2737-rated Le Quang Liem and of course the player a lot of chess fans were there to see, Levon Aronian, who was held to a draw on board 1 by 34-year-old 5-time Hungarian Champion Anita Gara. It could have been worse, since after failing to force a draw when things began to go wrong Levon felt he was simply lost:
Here Aronian recommended 27.f4! when Black’s knight is forced to retreat, since 27…exf3? loses to 28.Nxc8 and the e5-knight is attacked twice. Instead Anita played 27.Nxc8 immediately and it came down to a technical ending a pawn up which Levon was able to hold with relative ease. It had still been a wonderful day for Anita:
It was made better by the fact that her younger sister Ticia Gara, also a Hungarian Champion, managed to hold Nigel Short to a draw.
A man from the 19th century chimed in:
The star of the round, though, was 47-year-old Liverpudlian IM Gary Quillan, who had the sheer pleasure of playing a successful “caveman” attack against super-talented Russian GM Daniil Dubov. Gary felt he was two tempi up when he was allowed to play 18.Qh4!, couldn’t see a defence after 22.f5!, and got to crash through in style:
25.Rxh5! gxh5 26.Rd2 d5 27.Nxd5 Rfe8 28.Rg2 Ng6 29.Nf6+ Kf8 30.Nh7+ Kg8 31.Qxg6:
Afterwards he summoned up the courage to be interviewed by Tania and talked about how nervous he’d been in the final stages:
I thought, if I do get a winning position I didn’t believe I would get nervous, but I did, I got very nervous, but thankfully I didn’t have to do too much at the end, because I had little time and was starting to shake – I could barely move the pieces! I came away from the board. I thought great, but I don’t want to be interviewed, because I was so nervous.
The giant killing didn’t die down in Round 2 but intensified, with two Indian Grandmasters, Debashis and Gagare beating the highly seeded Navara and Vitiugov respectively, while former Women’s World Champion Antoaneta Stefanova beat Wang Hao. Another noteworthy result was Norwegian GM Johan Salomon beating David Anton, who had previously only lost single games to Veselin Topalov and Hikaru Nakamura in his last four appearances in the tournament! (counting 2018 as well) Of course that didn’t mean we didn’t get to see some grit and class from the top stars.
Levon Aronian found himself playing catch-up, but he did it in style, beating Indian IM Hemant in 28 moves in Round 2 and then German WGM Sarah Hoolt in Round 3. The manoeuvring stage ended with 33…Kh8?
34.Nf6! Just when you thought you'd side-stepped that move! This was the start of tactical trickery that would last to the end of the game. If 34…gxf6 35.Qxf6+ Rg7 White attacks the pinned rook with his own rooks on g3 and c7 and the b7-bishop will fall.
Levon afterwards talked about how chess has changed since he last played an open tournament (which may be when he tied for first at the 2005 Gibraltar Masters!):
Any time I win I’m pleased! I think generally the level of opening preparation and the class of the players has raised by a mile. The last open I played wasn’t that difficult.
Levon also commented that playing badly in the opening round is something he shares with Mikhail Tal, though he called his performance “beyond bad”. He was enjoying the unpredictable pairings after years of playing mainly round-robins:
Every time I play somebody new I haven’t played before, so it’s kind of a challenge, and I love challenges!
Top seed, 4-time Champion and winner for the last three years in a row Hikaru Nakamura knows exactly what it takes, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy. To reach a perfect 3/3 he needed to beat Valentina Gunina in Round 2 in a position where he had two rooks against a queen by move 38. He summed up what he learned from the game as, “The main take was that rooks are just terrible pieces!” As late as move 114 Valentina could still draw, but it helped to be a computer rather than a human being having played chess for over 7 hours:
114...Kg7! is the only move still objectively a draw, but after 114…Qc2 115.Rd7+ Nakamura went on to win in 135 moves.
In our preview we mentioned that this was 19-year-old Polish GM Jan-Krzysztof Duda’s time to shine, and so far he’s doing just that as the only other 2700+ player to have a perfect 3/3. He showcased the range of his talent perfectly with a brilliant attacking win in Round 2, where his h-pawn blasted a path towards the black king before he unleashed a killer move:
17.Qg5!, threatening Nf6+, and the end was swift: 17…f5 18.Qe7+ Kg8 19.Nd6 Rf7 20.Qxe5 Bd2+ 21.Kf1 (avoiding the cheapo 21.Kxd2 Qxb2+ and it’s only a draw) Black resigns
Then in Round 3 Duda showed his endgame prowess by outplaying talented 17-year-old Italian GM Luca Moroni in what looked to be a drawn rook ending. In Round 4 Duda faces 18-year-old Hungarian GM Benjamin Gledura.
The junior most eyes are focussed on is 12-year-old Praggnanandhaa from India, who’s started with a win and two draws. One of those was against Nigel Short, a player 40 years his senior! Nigel was talking up the fight before it began…
…but although he had an edge he was unable to convert it
into a full point, citing Raymond Keene’s 70th birthday party the night before
as a factor (“I had to attend and drink copious amounts of alcohol”). A lot of
the focus is on whether Praggnanandhaa can beat Sergey Karjakin’s record as the
youngest ever grandmaster, but as Nigel put it, “In my book anyone over 2500 is
a GM – he’s already considerably stronger than a number of grandmasters”. He was
asked whether it was disconcerting to play such a young player:
I was a prodigy myself once upon a time, and it doesn’t bother me that much. He’s obviously a very strong player. I was looking at his games and he has what I would call a mature style of playing. Sometimes these kids don’t have too much understanding and he has a very good feel of where to put the pieces. Actually I think his strength is his strategic understand rather than tactics. Youngsters tend to excel in tactics. Of course he can play a good tactical game, but I think his real ability is his understanding.
Young Praggnanandhaa also gave his view on the game, giving his aim as "to play good chess and achieve a GM norm":
The seven players at the top are as follows (with Aronian, MVL and Adams among no less than 36 on 2.5/3!):
There are seven rounds to go and no rest days, so we can expect a feast of chess ahead! Tune into the live games from 15:00 each day. You can also follow the games in our free apps: