Hikaru Nakamura

While congratulations go to Hikaru Nakamura for his victory in the Tradewise Gibraltar Masters – and commiserations to the unlucky runner-up, David Anton Gujarro after a play-off – the sensational news from Gibraltar today was not a victory by anyone but a defeat….and a deliberate one.  In what GM Stuart Conquest described as ‘the biggest crisis to hit chess in fifteen years’ (why fifteen? what happened in 2002?), our favourite female Chinese GM, Hou Yifan, amazed everyone in her final match by resigning after five moves. This was no blunder as you will see from the details below. In an interview afterwards Hou Yifan said that she was ‘upset’ at having been drawn against seven women in the first nine rounds and felt that this was not fair on the other women players although it did not do Ju Wenjun any harm as she won the women’s first prize of £15,000, beating Hou Yifan on the way.  The tournament organiser, Brian Callaghan, was sympathetic but pointed out that the draw is done by computer and that was the way it turned out.  I suspect we have not heard the last of this.

White:   Hou Yifan (2651)   Black:  Lalith Babu (2587)       

Tradewise Gibraltar Masters 2017


Congratulations to Wesley So who has added victory in the Tata Steel Masters to his success at London and the Chess Grand Tour. Over fifty games unbeaten – where will it end? Well, Broadstairs’ favourite grandmaster, Wei Yi, had a good go yesterday in the penultimate round where victory would have put him in the driving seat. After an interesting start where Wei Yi had a slight advantage but with isolated pawns, the game evened out and a draw was agreed. This followed victory for Wei Yi on Friday in only 31 moves against the World Championship runner-up, Sergey Karjakin. There was an amusing finish to this game for those following online where the result was initially given as a draw with Wei Yi in a clearly won position. Presumably, the chap pressing the button misunderstood the handshake between the two players and had not seen the position. Sadly, Wei Yi lost his last game today – only his second defeat in the tournament – but his final position of joint third was a tremendous result against some of the best in the world for a player who is still only seventeen.

                         Nigel Short

Meanwhile, attention now turns to the Tradewise Gibraltar Masters which, according to the Financial Times is “the strongest and best-organised event of its kind in the world”. Certainly, most of the world’s top players who were not at Wijk aan Zee are taking part in the 250-player ten-round Open which has just completed its sixth round. Hikaru Nakamura, Fabiano Caruana and MVL (Maxime Vachier Lagrave) are all competing for the £23,000 first prize and Hou Yifan is hoping to win the £15,000 for the top woman. British interest rests on the shoulders of Michael Adams, David Howell and Nigel Short. With four rounds to go, Adams shares the lead with Nakamura and David Anton Guijarro of Spain. However, Short is only half a point behind after a terrific win today against Caruana, the world number three, that must have brought back memories of his battles with Kasparov all those years ago.

White:   Nigel Short (2684)   Black:  Fabiano Caruana (2816)       

Tradewise Gibraltar Masters 2017

Broadstairs  2         Margate   2 

1 Reg Pidduck (107) 0-1     Colin Gregory  (106)
2 Bob Cronin (103) 1-0     Leon Garfield (102)
3 Michael Doyle (90) 0-1     John Clarke (94 )
4 Michael Jenkinson  (83) 1-0     James Maskell (77)

Reg Pidduck writes:

BOARD 4. TALE OF TWO SACRIFICES  First James tried one and then Michael responded with one of his own. Michael’s came out best with a pawn advantage which won the game. 1-0 to us

BOARD 3. JOHN ON FORM. John Clarke always looks to me better than his grade suggests and he gradually got the better of our Michael and duly won. 1-1

BOARD 1. BOTH IN TIME TROUBLE. I replied with a French Defence against Colin’s e4, and soon we both had an impasse with both of us using up time to think of a way through. Then with both times running out for the first time control, Colin found a great move that I could not counter. 2-1 down

BOARD 2. BOB COMES UP TRUMPS. Last to finish, Bob found an almost impossible win from his position (bishop pinned from a rook and a knight pinned from a bishop) by checking wherever he could and finally Leon running out of squares to place his king safely. Well done, Bob! A fitting end to a great evening

We have now won 0 drawn 4 lost 1  in our fight to regain the Walker Shield.


Usually, when the computer says ‘White is winning’ in a game involving a grandmaster, it is a fair assumption that the game will indeed be won. I was going to say that  you could eat your hat if White did not win in such circumstances but I’m steering clear of such rash assertions these days. Without doubt, however, the story that will appear in your chess columns on Monday – or Tuesday or Wednesday, whenever they catch up with Round 7 at the Tata Steel Chess Masters – will be how Magnus Carlsen failed to win his game against Anish Giri. Admittedly, Giri is the draw bore of the modern game, having drawn all his games at the London Chess Classic and the first five in this tournament. Nonetheless, this was the situation after 55…Kg8:

At this point the computer not only had White winning but the rating was 53.12 i.e. as near a dead cert as you can get – and remember, this is the World Champion we are talking about. However, there was a catch. The rating was based on Carlsen playing the ‘best’ move 56. Rc8+ whereby Giri would have to concede Q+R for R+B to avoid mate in three and the game was lost. Of the two best alternatives offered by the computer, 56. Bf7+ was rated at only 2.77 while 56. Rg5+ scored -2.53 i.e. favouring Black.  Carlsen chose 56. Bf7+ and 67 moves later the game was drawn. Giri did not spot the mate either and there was an amusing look of incomprehension on his face when the press informed him after the match. However, he considered that Carlsen’s failure to win a mate in three was of greater significance. “This is really the most embarrassing moment of Magnus Carlsen’s chess career, because no-one cares about me, but the guy, you know, is kind of a legend.”  It will be interesting to hear Carlsen’s version of events.

Regular visitors to this site may wonder why we are not celebrating the fine tournament being enjoyed thus far by Wei Yi. It is, of course, only the half-way stage and much could go wrong, especially as he still has to play So and Karjakin. Nevertheless, two wins in successive matches puts him joint second after seven rounds. While it is tempting to show either his fine win against van Wely today or his victory against Rapport on Friday, revenge for his World U20 defeat last month, we featured his first win a few days ago so instead let’s indulge in a little schadenfreude and enjoy another great escape, this time by Wesley So against….yes, Richard Rapport in Round 3. For 24 moves this was an equal game at which point Rapport (Black) began to gain an advantage. By move 31 he was ‘much better’ and a move later ‘Black is winning’ (-3.82). Once again, however, the ‘wrong’ move was chosen and after 33…Qf7 and 34…Qg6, the computer now tells us that ‘White is winning’ (4.00). Sadly, for Black it was not just a half-point that was conceded and So, who presumably could not believe his luck, won in 48 moves and now leads the tournament while Rapport languishes in 13th place.

White:   Wesley So (2808)   Black:  Richard Rapport (2702)       

Tata Steel Chess Masters 2017

Today is a rest day at the Tata Steel Chess Masters Tournament. After four rounds the early leader, Pavel Eljanov, has maintained his position at the head of the field with three wins and a draw. The heavyweights are breathing down his neck, however, and he has so far avoided some of the bigger names. These are early days and there are still another nine rounds to go. So what do top grandmasters do on their day off? Answer: they play football. Magnus Carlsen and Loek van Wely captained the two teams in a friendly played at Telstar F.C. this afternoon. This appears to have become an annual event as a similar match was played last year with van Wely’s team winning 14-9 – not sure who was playing in defence but perhaps Pep Guardiola was the manager. And what of the match, you may ask? Well, over to our on the spot reporter, Rook van Zugzwang, who filed this report for the Tata Steel Chess Masters website:

“Carlsen picked his assistant Peter Heine Nielsen, Ian Nepomniachtchi and his assistant Alexander Motylev, Vladimir Dobrov and Lu Shanglei. Grandmasters Benjamin Bok, Jorden van Forreest, Aryan Tari and two of Loek’s chess friends, Ard van Beek and Rob Duijn were on team Van Wely. Both teams were supplemented by players from Telstar. Telstar player Calvin Valies opened the score for Team Carlsen. Benjamin Bok scored the next two goals, bringing the score to 1-2. Carlsen scored 2-2, followed by Telstar players Stefano Lilipaly and Liban Abulahi taking Carlsen’s team to 4-2. Chinese grandmaster Lu Shanglei increased the advantage to 5-2 and Carlsen himself scored a wonderful goal half a minute before the end of the match, making it a 6-2 victory for his team and taking revenge for last year’s match.”    

Meanwhile, back at the chess Wei Yi has made a solid start although he came a cropper with the black pieces against Carlsen in Round 4 after what appeared an equal game on move 29 suddenly became ‘White is much better’ next move to ‘White is winning’ and defeat by move 33. However, his current total of 2/4 keeps him in the middle of the pack and he can take credit with this win in Round 3.

White:   Wei Yi (2706)   Black:  Ian Nepomniachtchi (2767)       

Tata Steel Chess Masters 2017