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Indians at the Gibraltar Masters 2019

by Sagar Shah - 01/02/2019

The Gibraltar Masters 2019 had 26 Indians playing at their event. Karthikeyan Murali was our best performing player as he not only finished second and gained 24 Elo points, but went back home richer by £20,000. Lalith Babu was another top performing Indian who finished eighth and gained 27 Elo points. Youngsters Gukesh and Raunak Sadhwani had a fine event as both of them gained rating points. Although India's top women players Humpy and Harika did not get a prize, they performed well holding their own against the best of grandmasters. The Gibraltar Masters is one of the best open tournaments in the world, and through this comprehensive round up article we give you the feel of the entire atmosphere on the rock!

There are very few open tournaments in the world where the elite players compete. Perhaps the only two tournaments where the absolute best in the world participate are the Isle of Man Masters and the Gibraltar Masters. Chess fans look at these tournaments with great excitement because here you can find talented and promising 2500-2600 rated players getting their chance to play against guys like MVL, Aronian, Wesley So and others. Normally you can never see such pairings.


The Indian contingent at the Gibraltar Masters 2019 consisted of 26 players and was spearheaded by B. Adhiban. We had many more strong players like Sethuraman, Vaibhav Suri, Karthikeyan Murali, Lalith Babu - a total of 9 GMs and 10 IMs. Not to forget, India's strongest female players Humpy Koneru and Harika Dronavalli were also seen in action. Here's a quick look at how the Indians performed:

Overview of Indian performance at the Gibraltar Masters 2019

18GMAdhiban B.2689IND1½11½10½½½6,52810-5,80Masters
22GMSethuraman S.P.2665IND11½½½0011½6,05710-13,50Masters
41GMVaibhav Suri2590IND11½01011106,5251013,50Masters
49GMKarthikeyan Murali2570IND½½110111118,021023,60Masters
55GMLalith Babu M R2547IND11½½½1½1½½7,081029,80Masters
59GMKoneru Humpy2541IND1½1½½½01½½6,049108,40Masters
63GMPuranik Abhimanyu2536IND1½100111½06,050108,50Masters
80IMGukesh D2497IND1½01½1101½6,5271021,20Masters
88IMHarsha Bharathakoti2481IND11½100101½6,0471016,80Masters
91GMHarika Dronavalli2471IND1½½½0101015,5761010,90Masters
93IMKrishna C R G2469IND10½10110105,582106,50Masters
97IMPrithu Gupta2462IND1010½1½1½½6,066107,80Masters
101IMIniyan P2456IND10011010116,072101,30Masters
105IMSadhwani Raunak2451IND1½0101110½6,0561015,80Masters
111IMRaja Rithvik R2431IND1010½½01105,012310-5,50Masters
139FMAnand Nadar2373IND½010½½½1½04,515320-7,00Masters
142IMKrishna Teja N2371IND01½01001½½4,516110-9,20Masters
143IMRahul Srivatshav P2370IND01010½½1½15,5102105,70Masters
155IMSidhant Mohapatra2344IND½1½½00½½115,5931013,70Masters
157IMDhulipalla Bala Chandra Prasad2341IND½011½½00½15,01172019,20Masters
183Moksh Amit Doshi2242IND01001100003,022620-40,80Masters
189WIMSrija Seshadri2210IND0½10½½1½0½4,51642021,20Masters
193WIMPriyanka Nutakki2195IND0½01½001104,0188404,80Masters
194FMPhadke Sohan2191IND00101½½10½4,51632027,00Masters
195WIMTejaswini Sagar2190IND001½01½01½4,5172209,40Masters
220WFMCholleti Sahajasri2122IND½½0½0½½½014,01842026,60Masters

Trophies for the winners!

Vladislav Artemiev of Russia won the title with an amazing 8.5/10

20-year-old Russian grandmaster Vladislav Artemiev won the 2019 Gibraltar Masters tournament with a brilliant last-round win against the Chinese grandmaster Yu Yangyi. He finished on 8.5 points out of 10, half a point ahead of 19-year-old Indian grandmaster Karthikeyan Murali who scored a sensational win against the tournament top seed Maxime Vachier-Lagrave to finish second on 8 points. Artemiev takes the £25,000 cheque for first prize, while Murali takes home the £20,000 second prize. The last time there was a straight win at the Gibraltar Masters was in 2015. Artemiev has gained 27 Elo points at Gibraltar Masters 2019 and with a live Elo of 2736 is now World no.20! He beat strong players like Navara, Yu Yangyi, and Hikaru Nakamura at the event.

Russia lost a VLADimir in Kramnik but seems to have gained a VLADislav in Artemiev.

Tan Zhongyi won the best women's prize of £15,000

Karthikeyan Murali - 2nd place

Karthikeyan finished second at the Gibraltar Masters with a score of 8.0/10 | Photo: Gibchess

Karthikeyan started the tournament on a slow note with draws against IM Jozef Michenka (2280) and WFM C.Sahajashri (2122). Having lost 22 Elo points at the National Championships in December 2018 and 16 Elo points at the Delhi GM in January 2019, this seemed another event where Karthikeyan would play below par. After five rounds he was on 3.0/5 and although he had scored wins over IM Rahul Srivatshav (2370) and IM Demiante Cornette (2448), he had lost his crucial fifth round encounter to Hikaru Nakamura. But, in the second half of the tournament, Karthikeyan rose like a phoenix. It seemed like he was a player, who was born again! First off he began with a win over GM David Larino (2432) and followed it up with another point against Fabien Libiszewski (2481). While these wins were great, Karthikeyan was still just beating players who were more than 100 Elo points below his rating. His next big challenge came against Rauf Mamedov (2703) in round 8. Showing great self-belief Karthikeyan played a new idea in the Caro Kann and won the game. He then scored a win against the strong Russian GM Maxim Matlakov (2700). With 7.0/9, even a draw would give him a top ten finish. But his last round opponent was not at all easy.

Karthikeyan faced none other than Maxime Vachier Lagrave (2780), the top seed of the Gibraltar Masters 2019, in the last round

Attitude Matters

What is the most important ingredient required to beat a player like MVL in the final round of an event like Gibraltar Masters where you have nearly £20,000 at stake? ATTITUDE! The right attitude and approach to the game is extremely important. You have to believe from within that you can beat a world class player like Maxime. As Karthikeyan said after the game, "I agree that I was playing against MVL, but according to the tournament situation I had to win the game to finish on the top. I just wanted to make the best moves. And he also has to make the best moves. If he doesn't then I win the game!" Not getting affected by the stature of his opponent, is one of Karthikeyan's biggest qualities and he showed it in ample measure in the opening phase of the game against MVL.

Maxime likes to test his opponents playing a move like ...Ng4. Would they be ready for a draw? Would they play Bc1? Well, not Karthikeyan he immediately moved his bishop to g5

The move ...h5 was something that Karthikeyan had not prepared before the game

MVL's ...Bh6-g5 move was the key mistake of the game according to Karthikeyan. He simply moved his bishop back to g3. The bishop on g5 looks silly.

Karthikeyan jumped from h4 to f5 with his knight and from then on was dominating the game

Karthikeyan also beat two more 2700+ rated opponents in round 8 and 9. Let's have a look at his favourite game from the event against Rauf Mamedov.

Do you think the new idea with ...f6 in Caro Kann will find takers after this game?

Karthikeyan also won a very nice rook versus two minor pieces endgame against Maxim Matlakov. Have a look at how he gave up a piece and took his time before he captured the pinned rook on f7.

To beat three 2700+ GMs in three consecutive rounds shows what an amazing talent this youngster is!

Karthikeyan won £20,000 (Roughly Rs.18,65,000). Speaking to Tania Sachdev after the tournaament Karthikeyan said that he would use these funds to travel to important events like Gibraltar Masters or Isle of Man which are very expensive for Indians. Usually chess players are unable to sustain with just the prize money. But what Karthikeyan has won, if used in an appropriate way, will surely help him to take the next step towards his aim of reaching 2700.

Interview with Karthikeyan after he finished second at the Gibraltar Masters 2019

Check out this interview that was done just a few days ago by ChessBase India's Rupali Mullick with Karthikeyan at the Rilton Cup. The Chennai GM speaks about his 2019 goal! I want to reach 2650 is what he says!

Interview of Karthikeyan Murali with Rupali Mullick at the Rilton Cup 2018-19

Lalith Babu - 8th place

The other Indian who did exceedingly well at the Gibraltar Masters is Lalith Babu, who finished eighth | David Llada

Lalith performed at an Elo of 2767, remained unbeaten and gained 30 Elo points! Fantastic performance. He even beat two strong GMs - Ivan Cheparinov and Aleksandar Indjic

Lalith's wins against Cheparinov and Indjic were both clinical without any real errors. Let's have a look at both of them:

Lalith's growth is now clearly visible. He has moved to 2556 as on 1st of February 2019. He will be gaining another 30 Elo points, which takes him to 2586. | Photo: Gibchess

Lalith had reached a career high rating of 2594 way back in 2014. Towards 2018 end he had gone as low as 2518. In the last 3 months Lalith has picked up speed. He gained 20 Elo at the Shanghai Cooperation Cup in China, then 18 Elo points at Asian Continental, and 10 Elo points at the Rilton Cup 2018-19. Gibraltar has been one of the best performances of Lalith's chess career as he is now marching with fresh vigour towards the 2600 mark. Pundits have always compared him and considered equal to Adhiban, Sethuraman or Vidit. It seems as if Lalith is slowly and steadily going to achieve his potential.

Vaibhav Suri played well and gained 13 Elo points. He also beat strong English GM Gawain Jones

After achieving his GM title Gukesh left for the Gibraltar Masters 2019 in a couple of days | Photo: Gibchess

It is now well known that Gukesh loves to play chess. That's precisely the reason why he didn't decide to take a break after becoming a GM and instead left for Gibraltar Masters in a couple of days after the Delhi GM International 2019. But one would have imagined the youngster to have been burnt out or feel some bit of tiredness. However, it was not to be. Gukesh drew against Eljanov in the second round itself. This was followed by a draw against David Anton Guijarro and then two big wins with the black pieces against Eduardo Iturrizaga (2637) and Fernando Peralta (2580). To beat two strong GMs with the black pieces is never an easy feat. Let's have a look at both these victories by Gukesh. The first one against Iturrizaga was pretty clean.

Against Fernando Peralta, Gukesh was outplayed and was on the brink of a loss, but he fought back and from a near impossible position scored the full point!

Gukesh had no problems to hold Adhiban to a draw in the final round
Gukesh speaks to Tania Sachdev after the event

Even after the tournament ended Gukesh was busy playing chess with Lawrence Trent, Tania Sachdev and many other players! Thank God, he has a break of two weeks before his next tournament - the Aeroflot Open A, but I get a feeling that he would not be staying away from the chess board for too long!

13-year-old Raunak Sadhwani also played an excellent tournament and beat two strong GMs Varuzhan Akobian and Daniil Yuffa | Photo: Gibchess

Raunak's best game of the tournament was surely against Varuzhan Akobian. He studied the games of his opponent before the encounter and decided to play aggressively. Akobian is known to be a positional player and Raunak took tremendous amount of risk in the opening. This was a great psychological ploy as Akobian found himself in uncharted territory. The 13-year-old from Nagpur never plays the King's Indian, but against Varuzhan he played exactly this opening and within a few moves gained a decisive advantage! Let's have a look at the game:

Raunak's victory against Akobian is analyzed in this video along with Gukesh's win against Iturrizaga

Raunak also beat Daniil Yuffa. But in the final position, it is Daniil who has a winning position. It is quite possible that Raunak won on time.

Humpy gained Elo points at the Gibraltar Masters 2019. She lost only to David Howell, but drew against many strong world class GMs like Sethuraman, Nigel Short, Gawain Jones and Vassily Ivanchuk! It seems as if the top Indian female player is slowly finding her way back into the chess world! | Photo: Gibchess

Harika with her husband Karteek Chandra! Harika played well at the tournament and gained 10 Elo points | Photo: Gibchess

CRG Krishna didn't achieve his final GM norm, but he showed great promise by beating Sethuraman and Kateryna Lagno. CRG is slowly and steadily inching towards 2500 Elo mark and has a live rating of 2480.

Prithu Gupta gained a few Elo points and also drew against some strong players, most notably the current Women's World Champion Ju Wenjun | Photo: Gibchess

Adhiban didn't particularly have a great event and lost 6 Elo points. But as he always says, "I always ask myself, is this going to stop me? And the answer is always No!" | Photo: Gibchess

Sethuraman finished strong. But two losses to Jan Werle and CRG Krishna proved costly. He lost 13.5 Elo points | Photo: Gibchess

Harsha Bharathakoti made a strong start at the event by beating Anton David (2642) and Hrant Melkumyan (2660) in the first four rounds. He was on 3.5/4. Harsha couldn't keep the momentum going and ended with 6.0/10, but still gained valuable 16 Elo points.  | Photo: Baskaran

Draw with Maxime Vachier Lagrave and a win against Nigel Short is something that Abhimanyu will cherish! | Photo: Baskaran

Gibraltar Masters 2020:

The dates of the Gibraltar Masters 2020 have already been confirmed and it is from the 19th to the 30th of Janaury 2020. It is one of those tournaments in the calendar year that you shouldn't be missing out on.

The scenery... | Photo: Baskaran

...the sunset | Photo: Baskaran

...and the Caleta Hotel, are all absolutely breathtaking! | Photo: Baskaran

A big thanks to three wonderful photographers - David Llada, Niki Riga and John Saunders for their coverage | Photo: Gibchess

And Adhiban's father Baskaran, who sent us some very nice pictures from the tournament | Photo: Alina l'Ami

A big congratulations to India's very own Tania Sachdev (right) for being the host to some of the most wonderful interviews that the chess world has seen in recent times! | Photo: Gibchess

Check out the Gibraltar Chess 2019 Playlist on ChessBase India

ChessBase India had a tie-up with the Gibraltar Chess Masters 2019 where we embedded a chess board in their videos and could use their content on our channel. Here are two of our favourite videos from the event:

One of the finest interviews with Levon Aronian by IM Tania Sachdev
For all those who thought men are better at chess than women, check out this video!

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