Reports | February 01, 2013 3:50

Vitiugov wins play-off to clinch title at 11th Gibraltar Masters

Nigel Short resigns his first play-off game against Nikita Vitiugov

In a thrilling play-off, together with Chanda Sandipan, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Nigel Short, it was Nikita Vitiugov who proved to be the strongest chess player at the 11th Tradewise Gibraltar Festival. The Russian grandmaster beat Chanda Sandipan in the "semifinals" and then Nigel Short in the final, both times by winning the first game and drawing the second. Short had beaten Vachier-Lagrave in the semis. The best female player this year was Zhao Xue from China.

Nigel Short resigns his first play-off game against Nikita Vitiugov

Event Tradewise Chess Festival | Chess-resultsPGN | Playoff PGN 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.

Round 10

It's not something chess players are fond of, but it's a necessary evil at chess tournaments: getting up early for a last round. At 11:00 CET the players were behind the chess boards again for a final decisive round that... wouldn't be decisive, but more about that later.

The round took off in spectacular fashion as Maxime Vachier-Lagrave uncorked a theoretical novelty as early as move 3, something extremely rare these days. (Well, in fact it wasn't a novelty strictly speaking, as it has been played in 1934 already in a Soviet Championship, but since then only two amateur chess players had repeated it in modern times.) What followed was a spectacular game on board 1 where it was the Frenchman who missed his chances at the end, as he completely overlooked 34.Qd6+. 

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The start of Vitiugov-Vachier-Lagrave, with the remarkable 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.f3 e6!?

Board 2 also ended in a draw but here the fun part lasted only a few moves:

PGN string

This meant that Vitiugov, Vachier-Lagrave and Short ended on 8 points and Navara on 7.5. Le Quang Liem, Adams, Georgiev, Ivanchuk, Sandipan and Zhao Xue could still catch the leaders.

Zhao Xue managed to hold Vassily Ivanchuk to a draw and this way the Chinese won the top women's prize of £12,000 (€13,970). In the end only Sandipan joined the leaders.

Alexei Shirov finished his tournament with one of his typical, hyper-sharp, amazing games. It was not 100% correct, but who cares? The finish was beautiful.

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Gibraltar Masters 2013 | Round 10 standings (top 40)

Rk. Title Name FED Rtg Pts. TB1 Rp rtg+/-
1 GM Vitiugov Nikita RUS 2694 8.0 2830 2821 17.7
2 GM Vachier-Lagrave Maxime FRA 2711 8.0 2788 2777 10.2
3 GM Sandipan Chanda IND 2590 8.0 2765 2762 22.7
4 GM Short Nigel D ENG 2690 8.0 2730 2715 7.0
5 GM Georgiev Kiril BUL 2643 7.5 2745 2738 14.3
6 GM Adams Michael ENG 2725 7.5 2744 2733 3.5
7 GM Navara David CZE 2710 7.5 2742 2733 5.2
8 GM Kamsky Gata USA 2740 7.5 2730 2697 1.2
9-10 GM Ivanchuk Vassily UKR 2758 7.5 2726 2685 -1.4
9-10 GM Yu Yangyi CHN 2688 7.5 2726 2717 5.9
11 GM Salgado Lopez Ivan ESP 2606 7.5 2698 2693 13.1
12 GM Fridman Daniel GER 2667 7.5 2653 2644 -0.2
13 GM Zhao Xue CHN 2554 7.5 2621 2620 10.8
14 GM Le Quang Liem VIE 2705 7.0 2726 2717 4.3
15 GM Jones Gawain C B ENG 2632 7.0 2678 2672 8.1
16 GM Felgaer Ruben ARG 2557 7.0 2635 2634 12.1
17 GM Wojtaszek Radoslaw POL 2723 7.0 2622 2611 -10.2
18 GM Shirov Alexei LAT 2708 7.0 2614 2605 -9.1
19 GM Stefanova Antoaneta BUL 2516 7.0 2611 2611 13.8
20 IM Gunina Valentina RUS 2490 7.0 2593 2593 15.4
21 GM Muzychuk Anna SLO 2582 7.0 2589 2586 2.5
22 GM Sutovsky Emil ISR 2684 7.0 2542 2521 -13.8
23 GM Gallagher Joseph G. SUI 2499 7.0 2538 2538 7.9
24 GM Bartel Mateusz POL 2629 7.0 2521 2514 -10.5
25 IM Kuipers Stefan NED 2431 7.0 2384 2342 -1.4
26 GM Iturrizaga Eduardo VEN 2650 6.5 2631 2624 -0.8
27 IM Oparin Grigoriy RUS 2478 6.5 2592 2591 17.8
28 GM Dzagnidze Nana GEO 2555 6.5 2572 2571 3.8
29 GM Swiercz Dariusz POL 2627 6.5 2571 2565 -4.8
30 IM Ibarra Jerez Jose Carlos ESP 2538 6.5 2569 2569 5.8
31 IM Larino Nieto David ESP 2497 6.5 2562 2554 11.1
32 IM Docx Stefan BEL 2426 6.5 2543 2543 16.9
33 GM Jakubiec Artur POL 2518 6.5 2541 2541 4.8
34 GM Kulaots Kaido EST 2587 6.5 2534 2531 -4.3
35 GM Kanep Meelis EST 2512 6.5 2519 2519 2.2
36 GM Gordon Stephen J ENG 2533 6.5 2517 2517 -0.2
37 IM Muzychuk Mariya UKR 2471 6.5 2516 2516 7.8
38 GM Hoang Thanh Trang HUN 2469 6.5 2512 2510 7.3
39 GM Cramling Pia SWE 2518 6.5 2509 2500 1.8
40 IM Paehtz Elisabeth GER 2482 6.5 2504 2504 4.9


According to the tie-break rules, in the event of a tie for first place, a tiebreaking playoff would be held to determine the winner of the first prize. A maximum of 4 players could be qualified for this play-off. The qualifiers were to be determined by the best performance ratings of the tied players. In this case it was easy, as exactly four players finished on 8/10: Chanda Sandipan, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, Nigel Short and Nikita Vitiugov.

The drawing of lots paired Sandipan and Vitiugov together, and Vachier-Lagrave with Short. This play-off was planned for 17:30 CET, but one game was still in progress at that point: Sutovsky-Ju Wenjun. They had no problem finishing their game in another room!

The rate of play was 10 minutes plus 5 seconds increment and in case of 1-1 the players would continue with blitz games. Fortunately for the organizers, who saw their perfect schedule for the evening already in danger, this wouldn't happen. Vitiugov and Short won the first game, and drew the second to reach the final. Here are the games of this "semifinal":

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In this final, especially the first game was a thrilling affair. Vitiugov started with the white pieces and didn't get much of an advantage in a Nimzo-Indian. However, then he won a pawn, then another one, then he lost one, the rooks went off and the Russian had a queen, knight and four pawns against queen, bishop and three pawns.

Having almost no time left, and playing on the increment, Vitiugov gave an enormous amount of checks with his queen, which at some point prompted Short to offer a draw. (The Englishman could indeed have successfully claimed a draw somewhere; White went Qh5+ three times.) But the Russian showed cojones and went on to win with good technique. In the second game Short couldn't break his opponent's defence and the tournament was suddenly over. Well, almost.

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After the play-off a dinner was served to all participants, attended by many sponsors and other officials, including Gibraltar's Chief Minister Fabian Picardo. The best game prize was awarded to Dariusz Swiercz for his win over Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, which we showed earlier. Vitiugov said he liked Gibraltar, "especially because he won"!

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.


NN's picture

lol at "Alexei Shirov's game was not 100% correct". To put it mildly.

redivivo's picture

Yes, engines have Shirov as roughly ten pawns down after 28. Kc1 but a couple of moves later he had won against his 200 points lower rated opponent.

Anonymous's picture

Did Short receive the second or the fourth price in the end?

Lee's picture

Seems likely 2nd-4th money would have been pooled and shared between Short and the other 2 players in the playoff.

Anonymous's picture

Maxime must have had difficult times waking up this morning ! Yesterday's match was almost heartbreaking

Michel83's picture

@ Peter

"They had to problem finishing their game in another room!"

Stop typing articles late at night! :p

Peter Doggers's picture

Merci, corrected!

achtie's picture

Not 100% correct, but who cares? Whodini does!

strana's picture

Vitiugov, Nepo, Andreikin, Kramnik and Grischuk. This is the real russian national team. It would win any team competition 2 rounds earlier than expected.

Morley's picture

The rapid tiebreaks were awesome. Particularly the first game of Vitiugov - Short. Vitiugov showed impressive nerves and a real will to win, and the commentary from Williams and Krush was great as well.

Excalibur's picture

Strana: No lovr for karjak?

strana's picture

No. Vitiugov, Nepo and Andreikin are all stronger than Karjakin. Ok, Karjakin rating is higher but I still would pick those 3 plus Grischuk and Kramnik. Svidler is also better than Karjakin, but I think russian team needs new blood. In 3-4 years, both Eliseev and Artemiev will also be strong candidates for Russia.

Sergio Henrique Riedel's picture


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