The Tradewise Gibraltar Chess Masters 2017, has been won by America’s Hikaru Nakamura. That makes it a hat-trick of triumphs on the rock, having won the previous two also, and his fourth Gibraltar title in total.
I guess that makes him a rock star … sorry, couldn’t resist!
Nakamura had it all to do coming into the final round, however, trailing leader David Anton Guijarro by a half point. I think it’s fair to say that Guijarro’s tactic in the final round was to consolidate rather than take the bull by the horns. His tenth-round game against Michael Adams was a little bit squeamish and he didn’t really push the boat out. Unless Adams was in the mood to push with Black, Guijarro would take a half point and that is what happened. This meant that he could be caught by his followers if they were so inclined to try.
And two were, defending Champion, Nakamura being one of them. He faced Edouard Romain with the Black pieces, and in a must win situation if he wanted to get to tie-breaks, implemented the Nimzo-Indian. Nakamura’s play was already confrontational, but his opponent’s 13.Nf3(?) was really too slow and allowed him to turn up the heat. 13…Rd8 developed with tempo on the Queen and after 14.Qc2 g5 15.Bg3 Nc6 Black already had the more presence in the position.
White’s position quickly worsened and became very passive and Nakamura needed no encouragement to press. It was actually exactly the opportunity he had been hoping for. He was soon winning a pawn, and at 27…Qa6+, White’s position was in disaster territory. Romain did well to hang on as long as he did, but the point had been Nakamura’s for a long while.
Nakamura winning would make it at least a two-way tie-break to decide the outcome of the tournament and as things would turn out, there would be a third player to throw his hat into the ring, when Yu Yangi defeated Ju Wenjun.
Playing Black in the French Defence, Wenjun’s 12…Nf4, 13…Ne7 and 14…Neg6 were time consuming manoevers and White took full advantage. The writing was on the wall with White’s 29.Qd4(!), threatening e6, or Qxd5 for example. Black had a lot to deal with and it was a very tall order. Ju did her best, but in the end her attempt at resistance was to no avail and her countryman had the point without much interference.
So, this meant that the Gibraltar Masters 2017 would be settled on tie-breaks contested between Nakamura, Yu Yangyi and Anton Guijarro. First there would be rapid games, then (if needed) blitz, and then (again, if needed) armageddon. Due to the uneven number of players, David Anton Guijarro in effect got a free pass straight to the final based on his tournament performance rating.
This left Hikaru Nakamura and Yu Yangyi to contest a semi-final. This went Nakamura’s way with a 2-0 victory in the blitz games, (the rapid games being drawn). David Anton Guijarro and Hikaru Nakamura would contest the final. Nakamura stamped his authority on this a little more, winning the rapid play-off 1.5-0.5 to take his third title on the spin in Gibraltar. Congratulations to him!
When it came to the female prize, this was taken by Ju Wenjun, despite her final round loss to Yu Yangyi. Her 7/10 finishing score was enough to win this outright, though even if another female had equalled the score, her tournament performance rating would have settled the matter I believe. Congratulations to Ju also on this achievement, what a fine performance!
Top Final Standings
- Anton Guijarro, Nakamura*, Yu Yangyi — 8.0
- Vachier-Lagrave, Adams, Sutovsky, Cheparinov, Topalov, Gelfand — 7.5
- Howell, Ju Wenjun, Short, Caruana, Akobian, Matlakov, Naiditsch, Vitiugov, Fressinet, Iturrizaga Bonelli, Sethurman, Svidler, Lalith Babu, Edouard — 7.0
* Winner after tie-break play-off.