Reports Jan 31, 2019 | 1:18 AMby Colin McGourty

Gib Masters 9: Artemiev leads as Lev & Naka fail

Vladislav Artemiev beat David Navara to take the sole lead going into the final round of the 2019 Gibraltar Masters. We’re going to have a first time winner this year, with only three other players still in contention: Yu Yangyi, who has White against Artemiev, and Murali Karthikeyan and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, who face each other. The winners for the last four years - Levon Aronian and Hikaru Nakamura - are out of contention after being held to draws in the penultimate round.

Vladislav Artemiev is getting used to giving interviews in English! | photo: John Saunders, official website  

First a quick announcement: the last round of the Gibraltar Masters starts at 11:00 CET, 4 hours earlier than usual, and at 14:00 CET World Champion Magnus Carlsen will be joining Jan Gustafsson live here on chess24! They’ll be able to look at the games from Gibraltar, but will also be talking about other topics such as Vladimir Kramnik’s retirement and the recent Tata Steel Masters.

You can replay all the games from the 2019 Gibraltar Masters using the selector below:

The final four

Vladislav Artemiev is the only player who can draw in the final round and still have a chance of winning the 2019 Gibraltar Masters. The 20-year-old Russian earned that right by the bold decision to go for an exchange sac:

20.Qxa7!? Bxf1 21.Kxf1 led to a position where Navara felt, “it was very unpleasant for Black indeed, no matter what the computer says about it”. Artemiev felt he should at least have full compensation, and that even if he made mistakes he could probably still draw. Whatever the objective evaluation of the position, though, it’s clear that Navara’s giving back the exchange with 25…Ra8? was an unjustifiable decision:

Artemiev spent 16 minutes before correctly going for 26.Bxa8! Qxa8 27.f3!. Navara’s hopes were modest – “I believed it would allow me to simplify the position and achieve a worse but tenable position” – but they were still disappointed. The rest proved simple for Vladislav, with David resigning on move 37.

David Navara has had a great tournament, but his hopes of winning it have now gone | photo: David Llada, official website  

You can watch both players talk about the game afterwards:

There are two star names still in the fight for first place – Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Yu Yangyi. Maxime had a very easy day at the office, as he played 19.dxc6 in a Ruy Lopez, a novelty he later revealed he’d stored up for a couple of years to unleash on someone like Levon Aronian. The crunch then came after 19…Nxc6 20.c4, when Kirill Alekseenko thought for an epic 56 minutes and 9 seconds before playing 20…d5! 

It was “a step in the right direction” said Maxime, but he also commented, “had he played this in 2 minutes instead of 55 I would have been pessimistic”.

Maxime was taking no prisoners | photo: David Llada, official website  

Maxim described his preparation as, “a practical try” and, “a very poisonous trap”, with the game soon reaching another critical moment after 25.Qg4:

There was a draw available, but only if you found 25…Nc2! 26.Nxf7! Nxe1 27.Qe6 and then the key move you had to see in advance:

27…Qb8!, defending against the threat of smothered mate. It seems that objectively White has nothing better than to force a draw by repetition.

Instead of that Alekseenko thought for another 26 minutes and then chose the wrong pill: 25…Ra7? 26.h4 Nc6? (the final straw) 27.Bh6! Bf8 28.Nd7! f5 29.Rxf5 Black resigns

Here’s Maxime talking about the game:

Yu Yangyi started the tournament with two draws, like Hikaru Nakamura, but before the final round he’s now climbed to a +5 score, claiming the scalps of Adhiban and now Le Quang Liem. The Vietnamese player became too optimistic in a tricky position and had fallen into a mating net before the time control. That result took Chinese no. 2 Yu Yangyi to within a win of the Top 10.

Murali Karthikeyan has White in the final round, though his opponent is a certain Maxime Vachier-Lagrave | photo: John Saunders, official website  

The remaining player still in the contention for the title is 19-year-old and already two-time Indian Champion Murali Karthikeyan, who lost to Hikaru Nakamura but won the two games before and four games after that loss. He followed up victory over Rauf Mamedov in Round 8 by defeating Maxim Matlakov in Round 9 in an impressive grind.

The final showdown

For the title and the £25,000 top prize only the first two boards matter:

The situation is simple:

  • If Artemiev wins with Black he’s won the tournament
  • If Artemiev draws then he still wins the title unless there’s a winner on board 2. If there is, that winner will play Artemiev in a speed chess playoff
  • If Yu Yangyi beats Artemiev he’ll win the tournament unless there’s a winner on board 2. If there is, he plays that player in a speed chess playoff


Ivan Saric came close to beating Levon Aronian | photo: John Saunders, official website

It was a difficult day for many of the star players. Defending Champion Levon Aronian played the black side of an Italian against Ivan Saric, and found himself fighting for a draw that he eventually held in a study-like manner in 60 moves. Ivan is the author of a chess24 video series on the Italian.   

Hikaru has won Gibraltar 4 times, including 3 times in a row from 2016-2018, but he's not going to win it this year | photo: John Saunders, official website  

Hikaru Nakamura had no chances in a 30-move draw against David Howell, and his frustration probably wasn’t helped by Anish Giri’s response to his tweet:

Spain’s David Anton has a history of overperforming in Gibraltar, but he was also unable to get anything with White against former Gibraltar winner Nikita Vitiugov:

You could add Wesley So to that list, but even if he’d beaten Lalith Babu instead of drawing in 72 moves it wouldn’t have been enough for the Gibraltar debutant to join the fight for first place.

Women’s race too close to call

Nils Grandelius eventually got the better of Ju Wenjun | photo: John Saunders, official website  

Meanwhile in the race for the £15,000 women’s top prize Ju Wenjun suffered a loss to Nils Grandelius, while Mariya Muzychuk held French GM Jules Moussard to a draw to move to 6/9. She was caught on that score by her sister Anna, who won a showdown against former Women’s World Champion Antoaneta Stefanova and Tan Zhongyi, who beat another French GM, Sebastien Maze.

Anna Muzychuk won a direct battle against Antoaneta Stefanova | photo: David Llada, official website  

One more player on 6/9 and a tie for 18th place is the world’s youngest grandmaster, 12-year-old Gukesh, who took advantage of Argentinian GM Fernando Peralta allowing a Black passed pawn to slip through in time trouble.

Gukesh is performing at 2648, easily enough for another grandmaster norm... if he needed it! | photo: David Llada, official website  

Tune in to all the action from 11:00 CET live here on chess24!

See also:

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