Tradewise Gibraltar Chess Festival 2011
Monday 24 January – Thursday 3 February 2011


Stewart Reuben reports: Yesterday unquestionably the game of the round in a competitive sense had to be that between the young Italian/American Fabiano Caruana and the veteran superstar Viktor Korchnoi. Viktor was puzzled as to why he was on board three against the 18-year-old, but surely he has played in many Accelerated Pairing Swisses that I have run, dating back as far as 1980. John Saunders suggested it was actually 1880, but I pointed out I wasn’t actually involved in international chess organisation then. By the time we spoke over dinner, Viktor was in good humour as you would expect. He told me his previous score was 0-4 with no draws against the boy. In what other sport is an encounter at all likely between two players 60 years apart in age? Well, perhaps bridge, but in that game it is difficult to find a player under 30.

The other game I found time to kibitz was that between Pia Cramling and Nigel Short. The advantage of looking at Nigel’s games is that he is perfectly prepared to come and analyse his games in the commentary room afterwards. He explained that he got totally confused at the point where he played 10…Bxg3 followed by 11…Bxf3. This enabled Pia to respond 12 gxf3 giving her the better game. Had he first played 10…Bxf3, then no doubt she would have played 11 Bxf3. Why did he get confused? Because he needed a caffeine injection at that point. You don’t usually get this type of insight into the reasons for people’s moves. 23 b5 would have been far more active for White and she would probably have then stood somewhat better.

Meanwhile yesterday the electronic board system had something of a nervous breakdown, presumably because there were so many interesting encounters. Thus we were not able to access the top five boards directly. But no problem, Thomas Rendle in England enabled us to access the games for the commentary room using the Monroi website where players had keyed in the moves by hand.

The event this year has a slightly different format from the previous editions. It started with a tandem simul on Sunday by the Russian Kosintseva sisters. Then the Challengers A and Amateur A started Monday morning. Monday evening saw the traditional opening ceremony including the drawing of lots for the top pairings and the equally traditional Caleta Hotel hospitality.


Tuesday afternoon the Masters got underway. This evening Vassily Ivanchuk gave a master class to a packed house, probably spread over all the continents. He went through his win today and also another from 1984, purely from memory (including several of the most attractive sub-variations). This was greeted by rapturous applause – with good reason. Again, in what other sport would this happen after quite a gruelling game?

People often ask how many people are playing and so on. This is currently impossible to answer correctly as more people are playing in Challengers B and Amateur B. Also it is not unknown for people to turn up late. Currently we have 231 players in the Masters, the biggest ever turn-out; 55 in Challengers A; and 30 in Amateur A. There are 53 grandmasters competing, three of whom are rated over the elite level of 2700; 15 are rated between 2600-2699; 31 between 2500-2599. There are 50 different federations in the congress, counting players from Gibraltar separately. There is no doubt this is the biggest and strongest of the series. To think, in 2003 there were just 66 entries.

Here is Viktor the Terrible’s revenge on Fabiano the Young.

Round 2

Caruana, Fabiano (2721) – Korchnoi, Viktor (2544)

Ruy Lopez

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.d3 d6 6.c3 Be7 7.0–0 0–0 8.Re1 Nd7
First played exactly 100 years ago at a tournament in San Sebastián by Maroczy but the famous Hungarian’s plan was more cautious. Viktor has something quite aggressive in mind. Jack Rudd reminds me (JS) that Korchnoi and Maroczy are alleged to have played chess with each other in the 1980s via a psychic medium (Maroczy died in 1951). Viktor won that game too. Maroczy never had a ghost of a chance. 9.Be3 Nb6 10.Bb3 Kh8 11.Nbd2 f5 12.Bxb6 cxb6 13.Bd5 g5 “This clearly took the youngster by surprise and his failure to respond actively took me equally by surprise,” said Viktor after the game. 14.h3 Instead 14.Nc4 would allow the f3 knight to retreat to d2 when Black plays g4. As played, the knight gets driven out of play. 14…g4 15.hxg4 fxg4 16.Nh2 Bg5 17.Nc4 17.a4 restrains Black’s next move. 17…b5 18.Ne3 Bxe3 19.Rxe3 Qf6 20.Qe1 The position is equal according to silicon but Korchnoi is having all the fun. 20…Ne7 21.f3 Nxd5 22.exd5 Rg8 23.Qg3?! Perhaps this is a little too provocative. 23…gxf3 24.Qxf3 Bf5 Self-pin but Black has it all worked out. 25.Rf1 Rg5 26.Kh1 Qh6 27.Rf2 Rag8 An unpleasant position to defend and it has a negative effect on Black’s subsequent play. 28.Re1? 28.Kg1 looks more resilient. 28…Qg6 29.Re3?! The position is already very difficult and the d3 pawn beyond salvation, but 29.Nf1 Bxd3 30.Ne3 Be4 31.Qf6+ Qxf6 32.Rxf6 gives White an outside chance. 29…Bxd3! There is no way back for the young Italian after this. He is firmly in the clutches of Viktor the Terrible. 30.Kg1 30.Rxd3 e4 also wins. 30…e4 31.Qh3 Rxd5 32.Qd7 Rg5 33.g4 Qh6 34.Rf7 R5g7 35.Rxg7 Rxg7 36.Qd8+ Rg8 37.Qb6 Qf6 38.Qxb7 Rf8 39.Qa7 b4 40.Rh3 Qg7 41.Qe3 bxc3 42.bxc3 Qxc3 43.Rh5 d5 44.g5 Qa1+ 45.Kg2 Bf1+ 46.Kg3 Qe5+ 0–1 47.Kg4 d4 and something has to give.

Round 3 (of 10) starts at 3pm (GMT+1) on Thursday 27 January.

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