Reports | January 29, 2013 1:02

Gibraltar: Battle of the Sexes, Vitiugov in the lead (VIDEOS)

Juga di Prima

Nikita Vitiugov, Russia's 12th grandmaster, is the sole leader in Gibraltar after 7 rounds with 6.5 points. Three players follow close behind, with 6 points: Le Quang Liem, Gata Kamsky and Nigel Short. We've produced a number of videos at the tournament, and one of them is about what was called the "Battle of the Sexes"!

On one of the nights, two players playing in the Amateurs and Challengers tournaments, Tormund and Odin Blikra Vea from Norway, brought out their guitars to the delight of everyone adding a jazzy atmosphere to the Caleta Hotel in Gibraltar. As in previous years singer songwriter Maria Jose Yarur from Chile, playing in the Amateurs, played songs from her latest album singing and playing the ukulele. Her artistic name is Juga di Prima and her latest album released in Chile is called Cada isla un tesoro | Photos © Zeljka Malobabic, Monroi

Event Tradewise Chess Festival | Chess-resultsPGN via TWIC
Dates January 21st-31st, 2013
Location Gibraltar, UK
System 10-round Swiss, different groups
Players Top players in the Masters include Vassily Ivanchuk, Gata Kamsky, Michael Adams, Radoslaw Wojtaszek, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, David Navara, Alexei Shirov, Le Quang Liem, Nigel Short and Nikita Vitiugov
Rate of play 100 minutes for 40 moves followed by 15 minutes for the remaining moves with 30 seconds increment for each move starting from the first move.

Whereas the Tata Steel chess tournament has finished, the Tradewise Gibraltar Chess Festival is well under way as we've reached the 7th (of a total of 10) round on Monday. We have already covered the event until round 3, and so today we'll bring you up to date of the developments of rounds 4-7. Warning: very big report! :-)

Let's start with our short video of the Team Blitz event that took place on the evening of the 3rd round: 

Round 4

The four leaders with a 4/4 maximum score were Eduardo Iturrizaga from Venezuela, Le Quang Liem of Vietnam, Nikita Vitiugov of Russia and Dariusz Swiercz of Poland. The group of seventeen players on 3.5 included Vassily Ivanchuk and Gata Kamsky, who recovered from their slow starts.

Former World Junior Champion Dariusz Swiercz, aged 18, from Poland, beat Maxime Vachier-Lagrave of France in a superb game, full of elegant moves. 

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Le Quang Liem, with his previous successes at Aeroflot 2010 & 2011, is one of the most successful open tournament players in the world, and the Gibraltar Masters title would be a big feather in his cap. In the fourth round he came up against Iván Salgado López of Spain and won with smooth positional chess, capitalising on his opponent’s entombed bishop.

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Le Quang Liem (Vietnam)

23-year-old Eduardo Iturrizaga is Venezuela’s first and as yet only GM, who first served notice of his strength when he defeated Sergei Tiviakov in the first round of the 2009 FIDE World Cup. He outplayed former women’s prize winner Nana Dzagnidze but still the position was not entirely clear when Nana made an error at the end.

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Nikita Vitiugov comes from St Petersburg, where he was born in 1987 when it was still in the Soviet Union. Like Le Quang Liem, he is something of an open tournament specialist and he tied for first with the Vietnamese super-GM at the 2011 Aeroflot Open. He beat the Estonian GM Kaido Kulaots.

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Round 5

The next day, Eduardo Iturrizaga might have been better in the early part of the game against Le Quang Liem. As so often, the fateful move was made right before the time control and the killer move was a Zwischenzug, or intermezzo move, depending on your preference for chess jargon.

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The game between 100-percenters was won by Nikita Vitiugov of Russia in what was quite a smooth positional style against the teenage Polish GM Dariusz Swiercz. It was a good demonstration of the quiet but venomous strength of the English Opening.

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That left Nikita Vitiugov and Le Quang Liem as the two remaining players on 5/5, with six players on 4.5, namely Yu Yangyi, David Navara, Vassily Ivanchuk, Gawain Jones, Kiril Georgiev and Vladislav Tkachiev. 

And now for something completely different...

During the afternoon, between 3pm and about 8pm, the playing area is a serious place of work, as befits a major international tournament, but from 9pm onwards players and spectators can relax and let their hair down. The other night we had the team blitz event, in which players make up adhoc teams of four to play against each other. A lot of fun, though played with some intensity.

The "Battle of the Sexes" | Photo © John Saunders

On Saturday night the tournament hosted a new event called the "Battle of the Sexes" rapidplay match, held on a single giant-sized board in the restaurant of the Caleta Hotel, with two teams of six – men versus women – taking turns to move, without colluding. Given that it was a new idea, we didn’t know how it would work, but it went down a storm with the watching audience in the room and on the balcony. The two teams, had they been representing one country, would have been good enough to be strong contenders for the gold medals at an Olympiad. The men were Gata Kamsky (USA), Maxime Vacher-Lagrave (France), Le Quang Liem (Vietnam), Kiril Georgiev (Bulgaria), Emil Sutovsky (Israel) and Gawain Jones (England), and the women were Nana Dzagnidze (Georgia), Valentina Gunina (Russia), Zhao Xue (China), Victoria Cmilyte (Lithuania), Jovanka Houska (England) and Tania Sachdev (India).

It was designed as a bit of fun and the players entered into the spirit right away. Most photos you see of Gata Kamsky and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave sitting at the board show them to be poker-faced but here they were clowning around like schoolkids and playing to the crowd, while the women players were being sisterly and giving each other encouragement, and squealing with glee when they beat the men in the second game.

Here's our 25-minute video that shows all three games between the Ladies and the Gentlemen:

Maybe soon the more competitive participants of six-a-side chess (shouldn’t it be seven-a-side?) will be dreaming up new types of tactical tricks to bamboozle the opposition. For example, it is important to think whereabouts on the board you want your opponent to have to make their next move, and see whether you can arrange for them to have to walk the longest distance and lift the heaviest piece. Have you seen how big these pieces are? At my time of life I’m not sure I could play the move ‘Qa1x(Q)h8’ without straining my back and getting a little out of breath. Another case of modern chess favouring younger players, dammit.

It is certainly great fun. Grandmaster of ceremonies Stuart Conquest, armed with a microphone and a wicked sense of humour, entered into the spirit with his running commentary, which wasn’t always as even-handed as it might have been. Take the following position...

Battle of the Sexes
Gibraltar, 2013

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The women have just played Qd3. Stuart’s helpful piece of advice to the men’s team: "Guys, your d6 pawn is under attack!" This got a big laugh from the watching audience who, like Stuart, were hoping that they would miss the threat of Qxh7 mate. (Sadly, they didn't.) This was the deciding game of three and, surprisingly in view of what looks like a great position for White, the men won. Boo! But the good news was that the event helped raise £1,000 for charity, and winning captain presented the cheque to Shirley Callaghan, wife of tournament organiser Brian Callaghan.

Below are all three Battle of the Sexes games for replay.

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Round 6

As the Swiss pairings system dictates, the two tournament leaders faced each other in the 6th round on Sunday. And what a fight it was! In a Ragozin Defence the Vietnamese grandmaster got a slight plus, and going into the ending the Russian had to say goodbye to one of his pawns. His bishop was strong though, strong enough to commit suicide for White's remaining two pawns, leaving the RN vs R ending to play for. Le Quang Liem tried it for a while before he agreed to a draw at move 86.

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Vlad Tkachiev played a good game and also reached an ending with an extra pawn against top seed Vassily Ivanchuk, but here too the defending side managed to hold the draw. Gawain Jones got under pressure against David Navara, but after checking theory and Houdini's evaluations, it seems that the Englishman was always more or less in control:

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Gawain Jones (England)

Kiril Georgiev is one of several representatives of the "older generation", to which Vassily Ivanchuk, Nigel Short and Artur Jussupow belong as well here in Gibraltar. The 47-year-old Bulgarian became World Junior Champion in 1983 and was the strongest Bulgarian grandmaster until Veselin Topalov appeared on the scene. He won a good game against one of China's most promising players, 18-year-old Yu Yangyi.

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Gata Kamsky beat Kaido Kulaots of Estonia with a nice central breakthrough tactic:

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Michael Adams also played a nice tactic in his game against Nana Dzagnidze. Look at the difference in harmony – beautiful for the black pieces, completely absent for the white pieces.

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After this round Le Quang Liem, Nikita Vitiugov and Kiril Georgiev were tied for first place with 5.5 out of 6. A group of 11 player followed with 5 points.

Round 7

After the 7th round we have a sole leader, as Nikita Vitiugov ground down Kiril Georgiev in 77 moves and almost 7 hours of play while the third leader, Le Quang Liem, had drawn quickly with Vassily Ivanchuk. Too quickly, in fact. It was the story of the day: The Ukrainian and the Vietnamese shook hands after 14 moves, apparently not aware of the fact that the Gibraltar Masters has a "no draws before move 30" policy.

Incidentally, exactly the same thing happened at a much lower level but in the same round: two players from Venezuela were paired against each other on board 67 an also drew "too quickly". In both cases the players were asked to replay their game, and the two Venezuelans duly made 30 moves in no time. 

Le Quang Liem was happy to cooperate as well, but Vassily Ivanchuk didn't really feel like returning to the chess board, arguing that the 30-move rule hadn't been communicated to him clearly enough. The organizers thought he had a point there, and went for a compromise: they let the draw stand, but agreed with the players that they'd be fighting hard in their last three rounds! (On top of that, Vassily Ivanchuk gave a wonderful masterclass in the evening – see below.)

Here's Vitiugov's win on Monday:

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After his disappointing draw in the first round, Gata Kamsky is back in contention. The American won a good game against Eduardo Iturrizaga:

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Gata Kamsky (USA)

The same can be said of Nigel Short, who suffered a loss in the second round but is now also in shared second place. He beat Spanish IM David Lariño from an unusual Ruy Lopez, Bird's Defence.

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Speaking of Spanish speaking players; the best so far is Ivan Salgado, who was better against David Navara but eventually had to settle for a draw. The Czech grandmaster showed encyclopedic endgame knowledge during and after the game!

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David Navara (Czech Republic)

Commentary & Masterclasses

We'll mention once more that the tournament is providing live online commentary by GM Simon Williams (ENG) and IM Irina Krush (USA) which can be followed here. And if you have even more time, you shouldn't miss the masterclasses either. There have been three sessions, by Anna Zatonskih, Gata Kamsky/Jovana Vojinovic and Vassily Ivanchuk, and you can still watch them online here!

Gibraltar Masters 2013 | Round 7  standings

Rk. Title Name Fed Rtg Pts. TB1 Rp rtg+/-
1 GM Vitiugov Nikita RUS 2694 6.5 2959 2946 17.0
2 GM Le Quang Liem VIE 2705 6.0 2869 2857 13.0
3 GM Kamsky Gata USA 2740 6.0 2798 2752 4.8
4 GM Short Nigel D ENG 2690 6.0 2707 2686 1.4
5 GM Adams Michael ENG 2725 5.5 2752 2737 2.9
6 GM Jones Gawain C B ENG 2632 5.5 2743 2735 10.7
7 GM Ivanchuk Vassily UKR 2758 5.5 2737 2678 0.1
8 GM Navara David CZE 2710 5.5 2733 2721 2.4
9 GM Tkachiev Vladislav FRA 2650 5.5 2727 2717 7.7
10 GM Georgiev Kiril BUL 2643 5.5 2727 2718 7.8
11 GM Yu Yangyi CHN 2688 5.5 2725 2713 3.6
12 GM Vachier-Lagrave Maxime FRA 2711 5.5 2715 2699 0.8
13 GM Salgado Lopez Ivan ESP 2606 5.5 2702 2696 9.1
14 GM Sandipan Chanda IND 2590 5.5 2677 2672 7.9
15 GM Shirov Alexei LAT 2708 5.5 2669 2656 -2.0
16 GM Fridman Daniel GER 2667 5.5 2652 2640 -0.4
17 IM Oparin Grigoriy RUS 2478 5.5 2638 2636 15.9
18 GM Zhao Xue CHN 2554 5.5 2544 2543 0.4
19 GM Iturrizaga Eduardo VEN 2650 5.0 2680 2670 4.4
20 GM Ehlvest Jaan USA 2603 5.0 2642 2636 5.3
21 GM Al-Sayed Mohammed QAT 2507 5.0 2612 2612 11.6
22 GM Wojtaszek Radoslaw POL 2723 5.0 2607 2591 -7.7
23 GM Dzagnidze Nana GEO 2555 5.0 2602 2601 5.9
24 GM Felgaer Ruben ARG 2557 5.0 2596 2595 5.5
25 IM Muzychuk Mariya UKR 2471 5.0 2568 2567 10.7
26 IM Larino Nieto David ESP 2497 5.0 2566 2556 9.0
27 IM Ibarra Jerez Jose Carlos ESP 2538 5.0 2564 2563 4.1
28 IM Gunina Valentina RUS 2490 5.0 2560 2560 8.3
29 GM Muzychuk Anna SLO 2582 5.0 2545 2541 -1.6
30 IM Kjartansson Gudmundur ISL 2408 5.0 2517 2517 11.2
31 IM Nezad Husein Aziz QAT 2394 5.0 2489 2488 10.0
32 GM Cramling Pia SWE 2518 5.0 2480 2466 -0.5
33 IM Tania Sachdev IND 2403 5.0 2435 2424 6.1
34 GM Vazquez Igarza Renier ESP 2565 5.0 2429 2427 -8.7
35 WGM Dolzhikova Olga NOR 2239 5.0 2394 2348 23.5
36 GM Stefanova Antoaneta BUL 2516 4.5 2613 2613 10.5
37 GM Swiercz Dariusz POL 2627 4.5 2585 2576 -1.8
38 IM Aloma Vidal Robert ESP 2389 4.5 2546 2544 15.7
39 GM Jussupow Artur GER 2611 4.5 2538 2530 -4.6
40 IM Melia Salome GEO 2403 4.5 2528 2528 13.7
41 GM Kanep Meelis EST 2512 4.5 2520 2520 2.3
42 GM Womacka Mathias GER 2442 4.5 2511 2511 7.9
43 GM Cmilyte Viktorija LTU 2515 4.5 2502 2502 0.6
44 IM Paehtz Elisabeth GER 2482 4.5 2489 2489 2.7
45 GM David Alberto ITA 2599 4.5 2483 2477 -8.4
46 GM Sutovsky Emil ISR 2684 4.5 2468 2439 -15.2
47 GM Gordon Stephen J ENG 2533 4.5 2468 2467 -4.0
48 GM Tischbierek Raj GER 2472 4.5 2465 2465 1.0
49 GM Bartel Mateusz POL 2629 4.5 2463 2454 -12.3
50 IM Docx Stefan BEL 2426 4.5 2462 2461 5.0
51 WGM Ju Wenjun CHN 2505 4.5 2458 2443 -1.6
52 FM Fenollar Jorda Manuel ESP 2325 4.5 2451 2450 19.0
53 GM Harika Dronavalli IND 2514 4.5 2450 2450 -3.9
54 GM Gallagher Joseph G. SUI 2499 4.5 2442 2442 -2.5
55 IM Cernousek Lukas CZE 2453 4.5 2437 2436 0.4
56 IM Zatonskih Anna USA 2491 4.5 2435 2435 -2.4
57 IM Jones Richard S. WLS 2393 4.5 2419 2408 7.3
58   Janev Pavel BUL 2126 4.5 2406 2406 37.2
59 FM Arvola Benjamin NOR 2309 4.5 2390 2384 13.9
60 IM Kantorik Marian SVK 2331 4.5 2382 2382 9.4

Thanks to John Saunders for his notes on rounds 4 and 5

Peter Doggers's picture
Author: Peter Doggers

Founder and editor-in-chief of, Peter is responsible for most of the chess news and tournament reports. Often visiting top events, he also provides photos and videos for the site. He's a 1.e4 player himself, likes Thai food and the Stones.


Anonymous's picture

A wonderful report....too bad the camera people at the battle of the sexes didn't have adequate lighting for the video.

Lee's picture

Great to see some class players kicking back and having a good time. Even better seeing charity benefit from their participation.

PeterV's picture

Battle of the sexes > great fun!

Mattovsky's picture

I'll add some encyclopaedic knowledge to the Salgado-Navara game: the same endgame (mirrored to the other side of the board) occurred in Khalifman-Leko, 3rd match game, Budapest 2000. The nice resource shown by Navara was actually played then.

Thomas Oliver's picture

"Vitiugov ... is something of an open tournament specialist"
This actually means that Vitiugov doesn't get many round-robin invitations!? The fate of the 12th Russian player - if he was Dutch or German, he would regularly play in Wijk aan Zee (A group) or Dortmund.

strana's picture

That is absolutely true. The same could be said about Andreikin, Nepo etc. Even Svidler and Grischuk are almost never invited to play in big Western tournaments. This is really sad, but nothing can be done about this. Vitiugov is a very strong strong player, see the game against Maxim Rodshtein, in 2010. If white was Fischer and black Spassky, or Carlsen- Nakamaura, than it would be the game of the century.

Casey Abell's picture

"The fate of the 12th Russian player - if he was Dutch or German, he would regularly play in Wijk aan Zee (A group) or Dortmund."

Yeah, that's why Naiditsch got an invite to group A this year.

Oh, wait a minute, he didn't get into group A. But they'll probably have to put him there next year. He won group B, after all.

Thomas Oliver's picture

I obviously referred to Dutch players in Dutch events, and German players in German events (Spanish players - Vallejo, formerly Illescas - in Spanish events, Romanian Nisipeanu in Romanian events, what else?).

Before earning his Wijk aan Zee A spot, Naiditsch also didn't get prestigious non-Dortmund invitations. It's also the fate of all players rated 2700-2750, there are too many of them; Dominguez may be the only exception because he is by far the strongest from all of Latin America.
But Vitiugov wasn't even ever invited to Tata Steel or Corus B.

Casey Abell's picture

That was obvious? It sounded like a general complaint that Russian players don't get invited anywhere. Anyhoo, it's not really a surprise that Dutch tournaments invite Dutch players, German tournaments invite German players, Russian tournaments invite Russian players...

Funny how that works. Bottom line, Naiditsch deserved an invite to Tata A but got excluded in favor of Dutch players.

Thomas Oliver's picture

Initially it was just a comment on why Vitiugov is an open tournament specialist (and also a "specialist" in team events). Of course any tournament will invite some local players - but there aren't enough strong round robins in Russia to cater to all strong local players.

Being part of the "Russian chess school" (if it still exists) may first be a blessing - strong coaches and training partners, strong opens (Aeroflot, Moscow Open, Chigorin Memorial) in your own country. But later it can turn into a curse? I am not complaining, just describing the situation.

Evgeny's picture

Chucky has fully disappointed me with this short draw already yesterday. He turned out to be a real coward, which is a sad discovery. He is clearly afraid to lose again against Le Quang Liem...

Michel83's picture

Nah, I don't think so, not on planet Chucky. He loves chess too much and has never been much of a strategical-draw-player.
Probably he was just feeling moody or tired and didn't want to play. And afterwards he stubbornly insisted as his mind was already not on the game anymore.

Disappointing and not so ok, yes; but not "cowardice". Just a typical Ivanchuk. ;)

Thomas Oliver's picture

Hmm, today Ivanchuk (obviously aware of the rules) drew in exactly 30 moves. It didn't make sense to play on but already his opening choice with black (1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 g6 3.c4 Bg7 4.g3 c6 5.Bg2 0-0 6.Nc3 d5) wasn't too ambitious. In round 1 he drew against "nobody" Zygouris in 31 moves - aware of the rule which he forgot later on?
For some reason, Ivanchuk doesn't seem to be in his best shape - four draws is probably too much to join the fight for first or even second place. But it's Evgeny's secret what he means with "lose again" - Ivanchuk didn't lose a game in this event, and it seems he never lost against Le Quang Liem.

Anonymous's picture

This photo reminded of this article:

language warning - use of the "MC" word.

S3's picture

When I looked at that link and read the first sentence I was instantly reminded of the many times that Carlsen cheated ("did i really touch ur piece again?"), but in the end it turned out to be about something else after all.

Casey Abell's picture

By the way, Short won a nice endgame against Le today to tie for first on 7/8. He plays against Vitiugov on first board tomorrow. There's just something about Gibraltar for Nigel. He's won the tournament more than anyone else, and he might win it again this year.

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