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Giants of the Gibraltar Masters

by Aditya Pai - 23/01/2017

Be it amateurs, masters or the absolute bigwigs of the business, all have arrived at the Caleta Hotel in Gibraltar for the Tradewise Gibraltar Chess Festival. Scheduled to be played between January 23 and February 4, the Festival features five events for players of all strengths. The highlight obviously is the Master’s Open which is a star-studded field of 255 players includes a wide array of players from A-listers like Fabiano Caruana, Hikaru Nakamura, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Hou Yifan on one hand and a ton of norm-hungry youngsters on the other – the exact ingredients for some spectacular chess. Furthermore, there’s a total prize fund of £ 190,000 up for grabs with £ 23,000 for the first prize winner!  

Photos, unless mentioned otherwise, are by John Saunders

Gibraltar Chess Festival: An Outlook

The beautiful rock of Gibraltar (photo by John Saunders)

A super-tournament in the form of Tata Steel Chess is currently in progress at Wijk Aan Zee, Netherlands. An open Swiss tournament can hardly be called as a super tournament. However, if you were to take the top ten seeds of the Gibraltar Masters 2017, it would be as strong as an elite round-robin event!

Starting rank

No.   Name FideID FED Rtg
1 GM Caruana Fabiano 2020009 USA 2827
2 GM Vachier-Lagrave Maxime 623539 FRA 2796
3 GM Nakamura Hikaru 2016192 USA 2785
4 GM Ivanchuk Vassily 14100010 UKR 2752
5 GM Adams Michael 400041 ENG 2751
6 GM Svidler Peter 4102142 RUS 2748
7 GM Topalov Veselin 2900084 BUL 2739
8 GM Yu Yangyi 8603820 CHN 2738
9 GM Vitiugov Nikita 4152956 RUS 2724
10 GM Gelfand Boris 2805677 ISR 2721

The average rating of the top ten seeds is a whopping 2758! Let's meet some of the big names at the event:  

Fabiano Caruana - 2827 [USA]

It's a tradition at this event that the Miss Gibraltar is invited at the opening ceremony. This year it was Kayley Mifsud. 

2016 US champion, Fabiano's peak live rating of 2851 is the 3rd highest in history. Equal first at the 2016 Isle of Man Open. Led the USA to gold in the Baku Olympiad. Fabiano's only previous visit to Gibraltar came in 2011.


Maxime Vachier-Lagrave - 2796 [FRA]

Now firmly established as one of the very best players in the world, Maxime clearly relishes the special atmosphere and challenge of playing on the Rock. In 2016 he lost the Masters play-off to Hikaru by the narrowest margin. Will 2017 be his year?


Hikaru Nakamura - 2785 [USA]

Three times (2008/2015/2016) Gibraltar winner, Hikaru has impressed greatly here, forcing his way to the top with drive and determination. For 2017 the field is tougher than ever - will he achieve a record-breaking 4th victory?


Vassily Ivanchuk - 2752 [Ukraine]

Winner of Gibraltar 2011 with record score of 9.0/10. This will be Vasil's 3rd visit to the Rock. World Blitz Champion in 2007 and 2008, and World Rapid Champion in 2016 among all his other achievements Vasil has won four Olympiad team gold medals.


Michael Adams - 2751 [England]

Five-times British Champion, scoring a spectacular 10.0/11 in 2016, and undefeated on top board for England in the Baku Olympiad, Mickey has been established amongst the world's super-elite for over 20 years. He has competed six times in Gibraltar, winning the tournament in 2010.


Peter Svidler - 2748 [Russia]

This will be Peter's fourth time on the Rock. His most successful visit was in 2009, when he tied 1st= with 8/10, then beat Vadim Milov in the play-off. Peter is 7 times Russian Champion. He won the 2011 World Cup, and was losing finalist (to Karjakin) in 2015. As is well-known, Peter loves cricket!


Veselin Topalov - 2739 [Bulgaria]

(As usually is the case, we have to use a stock photo of Veselin because he wasn't present at the opening ceremony!)

FIDE World Champion (2005), and former world no.1, Veselin returns to the Rock, having played in the Tradewise Masters once before, in 2015. In a career of many highs, one to point out is that Veselin was the third player in history to pass the 2800 barrier.


Boris Gelfand - 2721 [Israel]

Boris enjoying with the apes of Gibraltar!

World Championship finalist in 2012, Boris was only edged out by Vishy Anand in the rapid play-off, the score in the classical part of the match tied at 6-6. We are delighted that this legend of the game will be making his first visit to Gibraltar.

Boris Gelfand and Ju Wenjun gave a tandem Simul two days before the start of the event. The result was 18 wins and two draws for the grandmasters. One of the games was especially picturesque:

[Event "Tradewise Gibraltar Simul"]
[Site "Gibraltar"]
[Date "2017.01.22"]
[Round "?"]
[White "Gelfand + Ju Wenjun"]
[Black "NN"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "E97"]
[Annotator "Sagar,Shah"]
[PlyCount "37"]
[EventDate "2017.01.22"]
[EventType "simul"]
[EventCountry "GGB"]
[SourceDate "2017.01.22"]
1. Nf3 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 Bg7 4. e4 d6 5. d4 O-O 6. Be2 e5 7. Be3 Nc6 8. O-O
Nh5 9. d5 Ne7 10. c5 a6 11. Nd2 Nf4 12. Nc4 dxc5 13. Bxc5 b6 14. Ba3 b5 15. Na5
Re8 16. Bf3 Bd7 17. Bc5 Kh8 18. b4 Rc8 19. Nb7 {Smothering the queen! That's
pretty special!} 1-0

This man loves chess!

Hou Yifan - 2651 [China]

Women's World Champion. Two previous visits to Gibraltar, both times performing brilliantly. Her win against Judit Polgar here in 2012 made world-wide headlines, and she nearly won the whole event that year, only losing to Nigel Short in the final play-off.

The Indian Contingent

Although nobody from the Indian contingent stands out as a favourite for winning the tournament, we’ve got a strong league of participants. Some of them are listed below.


Surya Shekhar Ganguly

Rated 2657, GM Ganguly is the 19th seed in the tournament and is the highest rated participant from India. He has not only won the Indian National Championship six times, but has also gained a lot of experience working as Vishy Anand’s second in Vishy’s World Championship matches against Kramnik, Topalov and Gelfand. With that kind of an experience and the plethora of knowledge that he possesses, he is sure to give his opponents a tough time.


Abhijeet Gupta

Currently ranked 8th in the country, the 2645 rated GM Abhijeet Gupta is the 25th seed at the Tradewise Gibraltar Masters. Besides having won the World Junior title in 2008, Abhijeet has made the country proud by winning 23 medals for the country in several World, Asian and Commonwealth championships in various categories. This go-getter is definitely a force to be reckoned with.


Sethuraman SP

A member of the Bronze medal winning Indian team at the Tromso Olympiad and the National Premier Champion of 2014, Sethuraman is the 26th seed in the tournament. His current rating is 2637 and he is by no means an easy nut to crack.

All Indian participants at the event

SNo   Name Rtg FED 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Pts. Rk. Group
19 GM Ganguly Surya Shekhar 2657 IND                     0,0 19 Masters
25 GM Gupta Abhijeet 2645 IND                     0,0 25 Masters
26 GM Sethuraman S.P. 2637 IND                     0,0 26 Masters
37 GM Lalith Babu M R 2587 IND                     0,0 37 Masters
40 GM Gopal G.N. 2579 IND                     0,0 40 Masters
61 IM Aryan Chopra 2503 IND                     0,0 61 Masters
72 GM Debashis Das 2472 IND                     0,0 72 Masters
91 GM Sundararajan Kidambi 2420 IND                     0,0 91 Masters
92 IM Karavade Eesha 2418 IND                     0,0 92 Masters
115 WGM Soumya Swaminathan 2375 IND                     0,0 115 Masters
124 IM Siva Mahadevan 2356 IND                     0,0 124 Masters
129   Kulkarni Rakesh 2344 IND                     0,0 129 Masters
132 FM Rakesh Kumar Jena 2335 IND                     0,0 132 Masters
141 IM Saravanan V. 2306 IND                     0,0 141 Masters
155 WIM Pratyusha Bodda 2247 IND 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0,0 155 Masters

Check out the pairings for all the Indian players here

What’s more? The glamorous Indian WGM Tania Sachdev is at the rock of Gibraltar to host the Festival for us! Below is a video of her interviewing Vishy Anand in the 2016 edition!

Tania Sachdev interviews Vishy Anand Part I

Tania Sachdev interviews Vishy Anand Part II

With such a magnificent line up of players and a host like Tania, the Gibraltar Chess Festival is sure to be a spectacle. Stay tuned for our reports on the rounds.


Official website

Live games begin at 19.30 hours IST (15.00 hours local time)


About the author

Aditya Pai is an ardent chess fan, avid reader, and a film lover. He has been an advertising copywriter and is currently pursuing a Master's in English Literature at the University of Mumbai. He loves all things German and is learning the language. He has also written scripts for experimental films.