In an extraordinary finish at the end of 10 days of solid chess, 21-year-old Russian grandmaster David Paravyan, ranked only 22nd in the list of starters, won a tie-break rapid chess final against the tournament’s third highest rated player Wang Hao (China) to clinch the £30,000 first prize in the 18th Gibraltar Masters of the Gibraltar International Chess Festival.

Dubbed ‘the Russian submarine’ by chess festival director Stuart Conquest, Paravyan was an unknown name to expert chess pundits outside Russia before the tournament held at the Caleta Hotel last month. Ranked 165th in the world, he went through the tournament almost unnoticed as it was assumed that bigger names would ultimately prevail.

The winner of the other major prize, the £20,000 awarded to the highest placed female competitor went for the second year in succession to 28-year-old former women’s world champion Tan Zhongyi (China).

In many ways, it was appropriate that a Russian player should have won the tournament as the festival started and ended with visits from major figures in chess from Russia. Legendary and former world chess champion Anatoly Karpov opened the tournament by giving a ‘simul’, playing 29 opponents at the same time over five hours, and the festival closed with a visit from the president of FIDE (World Chess Federation) Arkady Dvorkovich, who attended the gala dinner and prizegiving.

2020 Gibraltar International Chess Festival: Masters, Round 10 Play-Off – © Niki Riga and John Saunders

The president gave a speech in which he recognised Gibraltar as an important centre of world chess and spoke of further cooperation between the international federation and the local chess organisation. Gibraltar is not a member of FIDE but Mr Dvorkovich told the large gathering of titled players at the Gala that it should become “a member of the chess family”. Being in Gibraltar at a festival which in 18 years had established itself as “a great tradition” in the world of chess, he said, had been a “huge experience” and as a member of the chess family Gibraltar players and the community would benefit, and FIDE would also be able to foster tournaments here. “Let’s start this endeavour together and achieve some results,” he said.

Festival founder and organiser, Brian Callaghan, in welcoming the president of FIDE for the first time, said he looked forward to a solid co-operation with Gibraltar going forward with FIDE. Sports Minister Steven Linares described the 2020 tournament as “yet another year of total success in the chess world” and spoke of the Gibraltar Government commitment in its support of the festival.

© Niki Riga and John Saunders

The event again saw a good participation from Gibraltar chess players, most holding their own. Joseph Greco, 17, showed progress in the game when in the first amateur event he reached the prize list for the first time, finishing in joint second place on 4/5. Anthony Farrell took the Gibraltar prize in the first week and Freddie Poggio in the second of the amateur events.

Meanwhile, Russian chess legend Anatoly Karpov, a renowned philatelist owning one of the greatest stamp collections on chess, was presented with a framed set of the Gibraltar Stamps issued in the year 2012 to commemorate the 10th Anniversary of the Gibraltar International Chess Festival – the Gibraltar collection of stamps from 2015 to 2019 on behalf of Her Majesty’s Government of Gibraltar by Deputy Chief Minister Dr Joseph Garcia. To everyone’s surprise, Mr Karpov explained he already owned the complete collection of Gibraltar stamps since 1886 when the first stamp was issued.

The next Gibraltar International Chess Festival will be held from the 18th-28th January, 2021.

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