The Tradewise Gibraltar Interational Chess Tournament 2016, got underway on Tuesday, January 26th. At 3pm, at the Caleta Hotel, on its famous rock, James Humphreys (Chairman of Tradewise Insurance Limited, the event’s main sponsor) made the first move of 1.d4 in the game of top seed, Hikaru Nakamura. And with that, 253 hopefuls began their campaigns.
Nakamura’s got off to a flying start. He had the White pieces against English IM Robert Bellinn. In the Dutch Defence, Black played a little too quietly and allowed White too much of a free hand. Nakamura gradually took space and when the position opened up, enjoyed much more activity, which included the bishop pair. Black’s development, meanwhile, was seriously lagging.
With White already holding a substantially better position, trouble started to loom when Black’s Queen became badly placed on the Queenside and extremely vulnerable, especially after 23…c6. Nakamura wasted no time in highlighting the situation, with 24.Bf1! There followed 24…Qa5 25.Bc3 and here Black should probably have played the painful retreat 25…Qc7 when White would likely have continued 26.Qxf5 with a commanding edge. However, Bellinn chose 25…Qxc5, which opened a real can of worms for him. It was like a red rag to a bull for Nakamura, and he continued powerfully with 26.e6! (Diagram.)
This really threw chaos into the Black camp. With the Bf7 under threat and a nasty discovery on the Qc5 threatened, White is storming towards a point. There followed: 26…Nxe6 (as good as anything really, …Qxa3 was also possible) 27.Bxg7+ Kxg7 28.Qb2+ Kg8 29.Rxc5 and from here it was all over bar the singing. Black’s position steadily deteriorated and Nakamura soon had the win.
The other well known names, Vachier-Lagrave, Howell, Naiditsch, Harikrishna, Li, Jakovenko, Wojtaszek, also got full points from their opening games. A noticeable exception was former World Champion, Viswanathan Anand. India’s chess hero, rated 2784, was playing Hungary’s Lazarne Vajda Szidonia, rated 2359. Ratings are very often poor indicators in Chess, but I do find it slightly concerning that Anand, as White, did not assert much authority. To me, he did not seem to play with much ambition in the game or look to create many chances. It certainly lacked his usual aggressive sparkle. Far be it for me to criticise one with Anand’s prowess, however, he has a wealth of experience and I am sure he knew what he was doing.
Famous last words … ? Only time will tell — and with that, round 2 beckons!