John Saunders reports: Round seven of the 2020 Gibraltar Masters took place on Monday 27 January 2020 at the Caleta Hotel. It was a case of ‘Hamlet without the Prince’ as the tournament leader, 17-year-old Russian Andrey Esipenko, was nowhere to be seen as he had taken a half-point and was presumably enjoying his rest day elsewhere on the Rock. I personally find the allowance of byes to leading players in the latter stages of a competition with major prizes on offer to be very strange indeed, but it’s allowed under the rules and there’s nothing more to be said.
One of the players half a point behind the leader, Mikhail Kobalia (Russia), also opted for a bye in this round, so that left six players on five points to slug it out between themselves to see if any of them could catch the leader. Three of them managed to do so as all three games involving them were decisive. Wang Hao (China) beat Rameshbabu Praggnanandhaa (India), Parham Maghsoodloo (Iran) beat Alan Pichot (Argentina) and David Paravyan (Russia) beat Mikhail Antipov (Russia), which means that, going into round eight, the four leaders are Esipenko, Paravyan, Wang Hao and Maghsoodloo on 6/7. Behind them on 5½ are two Russian players, Daniil Yuffa, who defeated Krishnan Sasikiran (India), plus Mikhail Kobalia who took the bye. No fewer than 29 players are on 5/7, including the two leading women contenders Bela Khotenashvili and Zhansaya Abdumalik.