Reports Jan 28, 2015 | 2:38 AMby Colin McGourty

Gibraltar Masters, 1: Don’t try this at home!

Hikaru Nakamura brought his queen out early, moved it six times by move 8, first developed another piece on move 11, never moved his e-pawn… and won! That defiance of everything we’re taught in chess school was perhaps the highlight of Round 1 of the 2015 Gibraltar Masters, which saw the higher-rated players steamroll their opponents on almost every board. The exception was Mongolia’s 2240-rated and untitled Badrakh Galmandakh beating the reigning European Champion Alexander Motylev... after playing 1.d3!

There are worse places to play chess! The Caleta Hotel venue towards the end of Round 1 

Let’s start with the hero of the day. Mieses Opening, 1.d3, is a move most of us probably only play as an occasional mouse-slip. It was famously used by Garry Kasparov in Game 3 of his 1997 rematch with the computer Deep Blue (draw), but it’s unlikely the move has ever been played with as much intent as shown by Badrakh Galmandakh:

Official photographer Sophie Triay captured the moment perfectly | photo: official website

White could hardly claim to be better after 1…d5 2.e4 dxe4 3.dxe4 Qxd1+ 4.Kxd1, but perhaps the need to win against the lower-rated player got the better of Motylev, since he drifted into trouble, and looked all but lost when he went for 25…Nd3+?, with White’s two minor pieces clearly superior to a black rook.

The agony went on, and on, and on, with Motylev trying every conceivable trick to rescue half a point – in vain. You can play through the last game to finish here.

Elsewhere the favourites almost all got there in the end, although it’s curious that the man who finished second to Motylev in the European Championship, Spain’s David Anton, had the second longest game of the day - though he did eventually convert this tricky ending (he had White):

Ivan Cheparinov needed 70 moves to finally win a queen + pawn vs. queen ending, but noted afterwards he’d studied precisely that ending with Ivan Salgado in the past week.

The Spanish-Bulgarian collective at the Opening Ceremony. From left to right: IM Pablo Almagro, GM Ivan Salgado, IM David Martinez, GM Ivan Cheparinov, GM David Anton | photo: Sophie Triay, official website

Lawrence Trent was one of those who didn’t rush things:

Lawrence was trying to speed things up with a Tal-like stare at his opponent... until he spotted the photographer! | photo: Jose Huwaidi

Team Norway is marshalled by Simen Agdestein | photo: Sophie Triay, official website 

Usually the weaker opponent would crack in the end. For instance, FM Hans-Joerg Cordes had been hanging on against Women’s World Champion Hou Yifan, but while she was calmness personified (if you withstand Carlsen, Caruana and co. in Wijk aan Zee there’s probably not much on the chessboard that scares you!) he was low on time and eventually made the fateful decision to “improve” the position of his king with 38…Kg5??

39.h4+ provoked resignation. 39…Kf5 40.Rf1 of course loses, but White has lots of more excruciating ways to turn the knife!

Hou Yifan only managed to win one game in Wijk aan Zee but things are likely to be very different in Gibraltar! | photo: Jose Huwaidi

Playing against a chess monster like Svidler was never going to be easy even without jettisoning material on move 10... | photo: Jose Huwaidi

It didn’t always take so long for the higher-rated player to gain the upper hand. Ellinor Frisk’s pawn grab was a little unwise vs. Peter Svidler:

11.Rxe4! was the rude awakening, with the point becoming clear after 11…Nxe4 12.d5! and if the c6-knight moves Qa4+ picks up its companion on e4. Ellinor gave up that knight for a pawn on f2, but it was never going to end well.

The quickest win of the day on the top boards, though, came from a familiar source… Wei Yi. The Chinese kid is in such a hurry to the top he’s almost only a blur:

Wei Yi showed no signs of fatigue after coming straight from Wijk aan Zee | photo: Jose Huwaidi

Top seed Veselin Topalov wasn't quite so fast, but once he'd cranked the complications up to a high enough level there was only ever going to be one winner | photo: Jose Huwaidi

The one game you had to stop and marvel at, though, was Serbian Women’s Champion Jovana Vojinovic’s encounter with no. 2 seed and world no. 9 Hikaru Nakamura. 

Nakamura and his Italian girlfriend Mariagrazia de Rosa (2101), who's also playing in the Gibraltar Masters | photo: Sophie Triay, official website

The American played the Dutch Defence and soon set off on an epic queen escapade, picking up pawns on b2 and f5 in a six consecutive move sequence:

This is the position on move 8, and soon afterwards White had developed four minor pieces to Black’s zero. The position after 11…Nd7 would have been a dream for Jovana’s boyfriend Richard Rapport (aged 18, rated 2716), sitting only metres away.

Alas, Jovana rushed with 12.h5 when the preparatory 12.Rg1 was apparently the way to go. 

It wasn't only one of the world's best players Jovana was up against!

Soon Hikaru had managed to evacuate his king to relative safety on the queenside while the white king was stranded in the centre of the board. Resignation came on move 33:

Hikaru commented:

A story of more local interest – for Gibraltar and chess24 – was our Spanish editor, IM David Martinez, taking on the top local youngster Stephen Whatley. Stephen, a winner of the Gibraltar “Junior Sportsperson of the Year” award, managed to win a simultaneous game against Francisco Vallejo during our launch event last year

David was also once a promising youngster before he decided to focus on his studies rather than compete against the likes of his friend Paco Vallejo! | photos: Sophie Triay/Jose Huwaidi

David ultimately took revenge on behalf of his Spanish colleague  although you couldn’t fault Stephen for a lack of courage:

Here he sacrificed his rook with 14…Qg5 15.Bxf8 Bg4 but in the end the compensation wasn’t sufficient.

So apart from some local turbulence suffered by Alexander Motylev the hierarchy of the chess world was maintained in Round 1 of the Gibraltar Masters. With nine rounds still to go, however, we can be sure the heavy-hitters will clash. In fact there are already some juicy ties to look forward to in Thursday’s Round 2. Nakamura takes on India’s no. 2 woman Harika Dronavalli, while Svidler faces a tough test against rising German star Dennis Wagner, as Rapport does against Norway’s next hope Tari Aryan. Wei Yi vs. Alan Pichot can be considered the “absolute” World U16 Championship, since the Argentinian won the official event this year. Trent vs. David Howell is also a tasty all-English showdown. In short, there’s a lot to look forward to!

The tournament is also providing daily round-ups hosted by Tania Sachdev, such as the following before the first round began:

Games begin at 15:00 CET and all the top games can be followed here on the chess24 website. You can also watch the games using our free mobile apps:


See also:

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