Familiar Names and One Unknown Among Leaders at Gibraltar Chess Tournament

With a draw in Round 7 against Victor Mikhalevski of Israel, Vassily Ivanchuk of Ukraine held on to the lead of the Tradewise Gibraltar Chess Festival.

Ivanchuk has 6 points, followed by Mikhalevski, Nigel Short of England, Daniel Fridman of Germany, Michael Roiz of Israel, Geetha Narayanan Gopal of India, and Salome Meila of the Republic of Georgia, who each have 5.5. points.

A group of 21 players are another half point back in a tie for eighth. Almost of them are grandmasters or international masters, and many of them — Michael Adams of England, Fabiano Caruana of Italy, Alexander Onischuk of the United States, Viktor Bologan of Moldova, to name just a few — are among the best in the world.

There is one anomaly in the group: Paul Szuper of the United States. Measured by his international rating of 2,174, he is not a master. According to his United States rating of 2,208, he is just above the level of a master.

(Ratings are used to measure the relative ability of players. The higher the rating, the better the player. Masters are above 2,200, International masters usually rank from about 2,400 to 2,500 and grandmasters from 2,500 on up. The highest rated players in the world are just over 2,800.)

Szuper has put together a rather remarkable string of results, though he started by losing to someone with a rating 2,164. He then beat two lower-rated players before drawing with Inna Gaponenko, a Ukrainian international master rated 2,466. In Round 5, he beat Natalia Pogonina of Russia, a women’s grandmaster, who is rated 2,472, and then beat Damien Lemos, an Argentinian grandmaster rated 2,553, in Round 6. In Round 7, he drew with Vyacheslav Ikonnikov, a Russian grandmaster who is 2,580.

A lower-ranked player is bound to beat or draw with an elite player occasionally, but putting together a streak like Szuper’s almost defies the odds. He will be hard-pressed to continue to do it as he plays Viktor Erdos, a Hungarian grandmaster rated 2,593, on…

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