Tradewise Gibraltar Chess Festival 2017

Monday 23 January – Thursday 2 February 2017

Battle commences:  Monday 23 January 2017 – by John Saunders (@JohnChess)

Even before the gala opening of the event, the Tradewise Gibraltar Chess Festival got underway on Monday 23 January 2017 with Round One of the Challengers and Amateurs Week One events, in which 140 competitors are taking part. You can find the results of the round via our website (link below) and there are some photos at the Flickr link below.

Monday saw a big influx of entrants to the Tradewise Gibraltar Masters, which starts at 15.00 Gibraltar time (GMT+1) on Tuesday 24 January 2017 in the Caleta Hotel. Some of the elite players like to arrive a couple of days early in order to acclimatise and relax after long journeys from all over the world. It was my pleasure to accompany 2012 world championship runner-up Boris Gelfand on a trip to the Upper Rock. This is perhaps the most seductive of the many tourist attractions that brings millions of people to Gibraltar every year, with stunning views across the Straits of Gibraltar to Morocco, the Rif Mountains, Algeciras, etc, and of course offering close encounters of the simian kind. Boris and I visited St Michael’s Cave with its stalagmites and stalactites, the great siege tunnels, and then moved further up the rock to meet the monkeys. As you’d expect, Boris made all the right moves, and avoided too close a contact with the slightly unpredictable apes (actually Barbary macaques for the purists amongst you) but my own less well calculated moves were greeted by a minor show of aggression from one ape and a small monkey using me as a sort of vaulting horse on a rapid passage through the area. Thankfully no chess players, apes or camera equipment were harmed in the course of this activity, and it was greatly enjoyed by all.

In the afternoon, just prior to the formal opening ceremony, English GM Raymond Keene delivered a fascinating lecture entitled ‘Brinkmanship in Baguio’ centring on the famous/notorious 1978 world championship match between Anatoly Karpov and Viktor Korchnoi in the Philippines. Ray Keene was ideally suited to the task of telling this tale as he had been Korchnoi’s second during the match and the preceding Candidates’ matches, and he first gave us an account of how he came to get the job.

In the evening came the formal opening of the 15th Tradewise Gibraltar Chess Festival, with Scottish pipers sounding a tattoo, and the Hon. Steve Linares, Minister for Sports, Culture, Heritage and Youth declaring the tournament open. The top six pairings were then drawn out of the hat, with top seed Fabiano Caruana securing the white pieces for himself in the draw conducted by tournament director Stuart Conquest, with the help of Miss Gibraltar 2016, Kayley Mifsud. One intriguing pairing was that of seven times Russian champion Peter Svidler against former Spanish champion Juan Manuel Bellon López.

A selection of photos of today’s activities can be downloaded from my Flickr account at

Official website:

John Saunders
Press Reporter, Tradewise Gibraltar Chess Congress
Official website: – Twitter @GibraltarChess
Personal Twitter Account @johnchess