Do female chess players outperform men in Gibraltar? The proof to date …
By John Saunders
One of the ideas behind the upcoming #GibChess Battle of the Sexes from Gibraltar tournament organizer Brian Callaghan – a Scheveningen-format match tournament between two teams of ten men and ten women, from January 23 to February 3, 2022 – was to test her intuition that the top Female players tend to outperform their published scores when meeting top male opponents in her award-winning Gibraltar Masters tournament series.
Brian Callaghan, who received the OBE in the 2012 New Years Honors List for service to chess and tourism – the highest honor bestowed on a British subject for his contribution to chess in decades – has decided to put his hypothesis to the test in this innovative project. organize a men against women event, with teams chosen to be broadly similar in terms of ranking and age.
An equally important intention was to provide plenty of entertainment for the viewing audience.
As always in Gibraltar chess events, competitors are encouraged to play hard and work hard.
It is also fascinating to look back and examine the evidence generated by 18 Gibraltar Masters tournaments and select a few highlights that may have contributed to the tournament organizer’s intuition.
Almost all of the world’s best players in the 21st century have played in Gibraltar, tempted by the hugely generous Top Women Prize (£ 20,000 in 2020) as well as the red carpet reception the female competitors receive on the Rock.
There is no doubt that the healthier proportion of female competitors in Gibraltar, unlike so many open chess competitions where women are vastly outnumbered by men, leads to a more pleasant environment, allowing them to concentrate on their work. play and produce their best form.
Without question, a player’s best performance at the Gibraltar Masters to date came in 2012 by then-reigning women’s world champion Hou Yifan of China.
She came close to winning the main prize, in addition to the first female prize, after finishing tied for first place with England’s Nigel Short on 8/10, then losing a play-off blitz against the old one. vice-world champion. It was a sensational result for a player ranked 25th in the initial lineup.
He rose to a stellar rating performance of 2872 – slightly above Magnus Carlsen’s current rating.
Along the way, Hou Yifan beat no less than four players with scores over 2700 among his seven opponents ranked at this level.
One of her victims was Judit Polgar, universally recognized as the greatest player of all time, who was making her only appearance at the Gibraltar Masters.
The loss to Hou Yifan would have been a disappointment for Judit but despite the loss – her first against a player in 22 years – she also played close to her mark and scored 7/10, ending with a victory over another legend, Viktor Korchnoi, making his last appearance in Gibraltar.
Hou Yifan also achieved what was arguably the second best performance in Gibraltar by a player at the 2015 Masters.
She was unbeaten in 3rd place 7½ / 10 behind Hikaru Nakamura and David Howell but on the same score as former FIDE World Champion Veselin Topalov.
In the process, she claimed another scalp rated at 2700+, that of Richard Rapport.
On his third visit to Gibraltar in 2017, Hou Yifan was in a bad mood, scoring 6/10. She was overshadowed by fellow fit compatriot World Women’s Champion Ju Wenjun, who scored 7/10 for a performance score of 2731, beating Hou Yifan in the penultimate round.
If Ju Wenjun had won her last game against China’s top player Yu Yangyi, she would have tied for first place and tied Hou Yifan’s record score in 2012.
A third Chinese player, Zhao Xue, was also a resounding success in the Masters, equaling Hou Yifan’s second-best score of 7½ / 10 in 2013 and only missing the top female award the following year, 2014, in Mariya. Muzychuk from Ukraine. at the tie-break.
In recent years, seven out of ten points have become the regular score required to win the big check, the last two Masters tournaments to date, in 2019 and 2020, both won by China’s Tan Zhongyi with this score.
In 2020, she was only half a point behind the eventual winner.
The list of female world champions who also won the first female prize in Gibraltar now stands at six: Antoaneta Stefanova, Zhu Chen, Hou Yifan, Mariya Muzychuk, Ju Wenjun and Tan Zhongyi. Nana Dzagnidze in 2009 and 2011, Anna Muzychuk in 2016, and the only British winner, Jovanka Houska in 2007, have also won the first notable female award in recent years.
Finally, we come to the player who has won the first female prize in Gibraltar the most times: the Swede Pia Cramling.
Pia won in 2004, 2005, and then again in 2018, narrowly missing a fourth title in 2009 in the tie-break.
It’s a fair and just reward for the fact that she has never missed a Gibraltar festival, as well as the fact that she will have the honor of leading the #GibChess Battle of Sexes women’s team in 2022. .
Here is what Pia Cramling herself had to say when she was named captain of the women’s team for the 2022 event: “I am so happy and excited to come back to Gibraltar. This has been my favorite tournament over the years, the one I never wanted to miss. Playing Gibraltar is almost like coming home.
“It started almost 20 years ago in 2003. Anna, my daughter, was not even a year old and we, the whole family, Juan, Anna and I have been to every chess festival in Gibraltar since. during. Looks like Anna grew up with the tournament. It was here that she played her first international chess tournament, and where she also learned to complete the scoresheet at a very young age.
“Here we meet chess players from all over the world. Some are the best in the world, others lower rated. I enjoy the mix of players, the fact that the tournament is open to everyone, regardless of the category, and that we meet not only during the rounds but also for the many social events held in the evening after the rounds to get to know each other. and enjoy chess in a good relaxed atmosphere. ”
“We also meet more players here than in any other Open. The effort to bring in and attract female players has been enormously beneficial and it goes without saying that a tournament with a lot of female players makes a big difference! I am very honored to be selected captain of the women’s team in this upcoming 2022 gender battle and proud of my team with strong players from all over the world. I am sure we will make life difficult for our opponents!
GM men’s team captain Sabino Brunello and his colleagues have been warned!