Round five of the Tradewise Gibraltar Masters, was played on Friday 28th January. It would be the halfway stage of the ten round Swiss format tournament.
Going into the round, Ju Wenjun had been leading together with Emil Sutovsky. In round five they would face each other, but in the end this proved no cause for excitement. When it came down to it, they just did not feel like a fight and recorded a fifteen move draw. This is their prerogative of course, such things are not unusual, but it does present those chasing with an opportunity to catch up.
And this was grasped with both hands by the likes of Michael Adams. Mickey was paired against Women’s World Champion, Yifan Hou, and once again chose the English Opening. He took an advantage out of the opening, but Yifan coped with it very well and then decided to spice things up with her 27…Nc5!? As shown in the diagram, below, this is an extremely gutsy move and really puts the cat among the pigeons. It is possible that Yifan had opted for this move because of her opponents tastes, which tend to be more positional than tactical.
Adams opted for 28.Qe3, which takes control of the a7-g1 diagonal. Now he has the possibility of bxc5 without Black’s …Qxc5+. For example, in the event of the immediate 28.bxc5, there would likely follow 28…Qxc5+ 29.Kh1 Rf2 30.Rg1 Bxg2 31.Rxg2 Rf1+ 32.Bxf1 (32.Rg1 Rxg1 33.Qxg1 Qxd6 may be better for Black, here) Rxf1 33.Rg1 Rxg1+ 34.Qxg1 Qxd6 when Black will not be unhappy with her situation, which I do not believe is as overwhelmingly in White’s favour as some engines show. What an absolute testament towards Hou’s skill over the chessboard that she has worked all this out before playing 27…Nc5.
It is also a testament to Adams that he was able to work all this out — or maybe he just smelled a rat. Whichever it was, his 28.Qe3 obligated Black’s 28…Rf2 (anything else was great for White) and here White went Queen for two rooks which maintained a slight edge for him. Hou then erred with 30…Kg7(? …Bd5 was necessary) and after 31.bxc5 Qxc5+, 32.Kf1 seems rosy for White, but he opted for 32.R1d4 instead and this let Black back into the game with 32…Bd5!
Where Adams came into his own, however, was the endgame. When the Queens came off the board, White had knight and two pawns against Black’s four pawns. Though White carried a slight advantage, it is very easy to go wrong in such situations, but Adams took control of the position and did not give his opponent any margin at all. Black advanced her connected passed pawns on the Queenside and her King travelled from one corner to the other in their support and it all looked very threatening indeed. It is extremely instructive to see how Adams dealt with this, tying Yifan up completely in the end and setting up mate in one. A very nice finish indeed!
Elsewhere, defending Champion, Hikaru Nakamura was also using the opportunity to close the gap on the leaders. The American completely dominated with the White pieces in his game with Eduardo Iturrizaga Bonelli to win in 28 moves. This meant that he joined the leaders on 4.5/5. David Anton Guijarro and Maxime Lagarde also won their games (against Boris Gelfand and Laurent Fressinet, respectively) and also joined the leaders going into round six.