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Record numbers again expected in Gib Chess festival

Grand Masters, international chess players, amateurs and challengers from as far afield have arrived on the Rock for the 18th edition of the Gibraltar International Chess Festival.

The main Gibraltar Masters tournament gets underway tomorrow as from 3pm at the Caleta Hotel. As in the past a full house is expected with 252 players entered for the event.

Players have travelled from Honduras, Madagascar, Ecuador, Indonesia, Singapore, Taiwan, Algeria, Kazakhstan, Iceland, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and South Africa, to compete in the festival.

Record numbers are again expected in the morning tournaments - Amateurs and Challengers - which will also see local participation. At the time of going to print the numbers were: Challengers A 78, Challengers B 85, Amateur A 61 and Amateur B 77.

Leading the field in the Gibraltar Masters this year are GMs Shakhriyar Mamedyarov from Azerbaijan and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave from France .

Other top players include Hao Wang from China, Veselin Topalov from Bulgaria, David Navara from the Czech Republic and GM Liem Le Quang from Vietnam.

For the ladies the field is led by Anna Muzychuk from Ukraine, Alexandra Kosteniuk from Russia, Sarasadat Khademalsharieh from Iran, Zhongyi Tan and Lei Tingjie from China.

“We are looking forward to another feast of chess and offering what we are well known for a quality tournament in a home from home friendly environment,” said tournament director, Stuart Conquest.

With Gibraltar still the biggest supporter of the women’s game, he said there was a very high entry of women in the Gibraltar Masters.

“25% is a very high percentage of women participating this year. It has never happened before and we are delighted because we are keen supporters of the women’s game in chess,” he emphasised.

“This is the largest number of female entries ever in this tournament.”

This year the event will also see an increase in the prize fund, a new commentary team led by Grandmaster and one of England’s top players David Howell and International Master Fiona Steil-Antoni, and a new broadcast facility built in the Cecilia Suite, managed by Hammonds.

The 10-day event will as always include an extensive social programme with another and always popular - Battle of Sexes - on the Saturday night.

Meanwhile the first Gibraltar International Chess Seminar was held in the run up to the festival at the University of Gibraltar last week – Thursday to Saturday.

In its inaugural edition last year, the organisers of the Gibraltar International Chess Festival opened the event to Gibraltar’s junior players.

This year leading the three-day event was Grand Master Veselin Topalov and International Master Elizabeth Paehtz. The event attracted some 10 participants from England, Germany, Denmark, Spain, USA and South Africa.

All participants bar one will be staying on for the Gibraltar International Chess Festival this week and seven of them will be playing in the Gibraltar Masters.