The Tradewise Gibraltar Chess Masters 2017, was beginning to get down to the nitty-gritty. Defending Champion, Hikaru Nakamura shared the lead with David Anton Guijarro and Michael Adams going into this seventh round of ten, but there was still some time for other hopefuls to try to take some points and improve their campaigns.
For this reason, the 14-move draw between Hikaru Nakamura and David Anton Guijarro, really puzzles me. On one side, it is the prerogative of the players, who obviously were not in the mood to debate things. On the other hand, I still can’t help but find it a little bit … ‘bleh’. In these types of events, every point matters and whether this type of decision is over-confidence, lack of it, or just plain laziness, it makes no sense to me not to fight it out. I can’t help but wonder if this has anything to do with appearance fees (I say this because I know of a few players in this field who rarely entertain playing events without them); but certainly, if either needs tie-breaks when it comes down to deciding the prize money, they should probably think of games like this. I definitely will.
Anyway, enough of that and on with the chess and luckily there were players who rolled up their sleeves and got bloody. One such player was France’s Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, who took White against Michael Adams. What a difference a day can make and this was the case in their Berlin Defence. It is possible that Mickey came out to consolidate on his victory over Ju Wenjun in the previous round, but if so, this was to backfire. Just as Adams had in his previous game, Vachier-Lagrave took the best of the activity in the game and used it to full effect. Black’s 33…Bxf5(?) should have given way to …Rxf5, but even so, White would have had the upper hand.
As it was, 34.Ra7 or 34.g4 would give White huge momentum and a possibly strategically won position. Vachier-Lagrave chose 34.g4 and after 34…hxg3 35.Nxg3 Bc2 36.Rdd7, Black was severely up against it. Vachier-Lagrave showed just what a potent player he is, not letting Black off the hook and converting his advantage in 55 moves. Very unfortunate for Mickey Adams, whose charge had come to an abrupt halt.
Another profiteer, was Yu Yangyi, who got the better of Valentin Dragnev in a Taimanov Sicilian. Playing White, Dragnev will have been very satisfied from the opening, but ended up taking his eye off his King and this proved fatal. Having castled to the Queenside, Valentin under-estimated his opponent’s a5 and a4 advance, which ended up opening up the a-file. Yu Yangyi had set up very effectively on the Queenside and White was soon trapped and being mated.
These results, along with Maxime Lagarde losing with White to Maxim Matlakov, meant that Vachier-Lagrave and Yu Yangyi joined Hikaru Nakamura and David Anton Guijarro in the lead on 6/7. Just a half point behind, however, were the likes of Adams, Short, Stefanova, Sutovsky, Topalov, Cheparinov, Gelfand, who surely had not given up just yet.
With the following Round being #8 of ten, things were getting serious.