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Gibraltar youth rising through the ranks to take on chess elite

A total of 11 local young players participated in the Gibraltar Tradewise International Chess Festival.

  • Top player, Stephen Watley, who will feature in an article later this week, faced up to a long list of top chess stars from around the world in the Masters event.
  • At Round 8 Artemiev Vladislav was winning the competition with seven points with two rounds to go.
  • Organiser Stuart Conquest and Gibraltar’s top two ministers gave their verdict on the annual event held at the Caleta Hotel.

“It’s been very intense with lots of work to be done this year,” said Grand Master Stuart Conquest, who organises the chess open annually. “The event was launched and there’s a good vibe even now with the 17th edition. So many people want to come that there are even some who have already booked up for next year’s tournament.

We have a nice balance of young people, women players, families and professionals. We have someone from Madagascar and another from Australia, four guys from Patagonia and a family from Chile. England and Spain are the countries best represented at the tournament, although remarkably there are as many players from India as from Spain.”

Hotel owner Brian Callaghan shares a joke with Stuart Conquest

Hikaru Nakamura – who won the event four times – was back for more but he was up against a tough list of competitors. The ace US player was fifth seed in the Masters tournament, with Maxime Vachier-Lagrave being the highest ranking player at the beginning of the tournament. Chinese women’s world champion was also at the event, proving Gibraltar is still attracting the top guns even after 17 years.

Live action

“I never think about who might be champion,” said Conquest. “I just want people to be happy and that the best player wins. It’s a really tough field though but it would be nice to see a new name on the shield.

“We have the world’s youngest Grand Master playing too. Dommaraju Gukesh is 12-years-old and was on a very good five points by the end of the eighth round.”

The two week tournament is live for the exciting last two rounds at the Caleta Hotel. But for Stuart – who teaches children at Gibraltar schools throughout the year, it goes by all too quickly and he rarely has much time to enjoy it.

This event takes so long to prepare but just goes by like a flash,” said Conquest. “Then it is gone and everyone disappears quite quickly. Most of the people that come here are personal friends of mine that I would only see here. When they all check out I won’t see them for another year if they do come back, that is

“I don’t even participate much in tournaments any more and only play in tiny events in Spain that aren’t too competitive. All I do is this tournament and teaching in schools but I don’t have great drive and ambition to succeed like the top players.

I am at home in the chess world but now it is like looking at it through a different window.”

Promotion

Chief Minister Fabian Picardo commented on the ten local schoolchildren taking part and even had a short match-up with the 12-year-old GM himself (main picture).

“Gibraltar wants to continue to be the home of chess, and we want to grow this festival,” said Picardo. “We want it to appeal to all nationalities and all demographics within the chess world. We also want Gibraltar’s children to be tuned into chess.”

DCM Dr Joseph Garcia said the festival had not just encouraged the younger generations of chess players in Gibraltar to play the game but it had also placed Gibraltar firmly in the world of chess across the world.

To have 62 countries represented here today is an immense achievement. I don’t believe another sport equals this in terms of participation and number of countries represented,” he said.

“In our manifesto we had a commitment to the development of chess in Gibraltar and that is exactly what we are going to do.”

But probably the classiest remark of all came from an always pensive Minister for Economic Development, Joe Bossano, who as usual by-passed the whole occasion of making more political points.

“What brings us together is greater than what pulls us apart,” said Sir Joe. He was referring to the power of the internet, the unity we have in interest groups like the chess tournament and how internationalism works in this context.

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