As the tournament almost reaches the halfway mark, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave seems to be unstoppable! He overpowered Mark Hebden in a one-sided game yesterday to take his total to a perfect 4/4!
After the game Maxime told me things had started going wrong for Mark at a very early stage, as 7...Nc6 appears to be an inaccuracy (the main line being 7...cxd4 8.Nxc4 Nc5) and he felt he was already slightly better after 8.Qxe4. He then went on to point out that 11...Be6 was probably a better try than 11...e6 (and the computer seems to agree with him!) and that 13...Kf7? was already the decisive mistake because of the strong 14.b4!, when White has a winning advantage. He believed Mark’s only hope was to go for 13...Nc2 14.Qd3 Nxa1 15.b4 Qxa2 16.Nc7+ Kf7 (After 16...Kd7 Maxime had planned to go 17.Rd1 Be5 18.Bf6 which would have given White a huge advantage, but 17.Nxe6, which he would doubtlessly have found within a second over the board, would just have ended the game on the spot) 17.Qxd6 Rf8 Bxb7!+-
Maxime had kindly given these variations straight off the top of his head, and jokingly told me to double-check them with the computer before publishing anything. His intuition was almost flawless, although the engine does give 15...Qa4 16.Nc7+ Kf7 17.Nxa8 h6 as being only slightly worse for Black.
Position after 7...Nc6 Position after 13.Qe3
Boards 2 and 3 were both draws, but the games could hardly have followed more different courses. While Hawkins-Adams never ventured onto unbalanced territory, Sargissian and Vaisser were fighting it out in an ending where the Armenian player had a bishop and a knight for a rook and a pawn, and was thus pressing for a win. The players eventually entered a R+N vs R endgame, where after trying for 61(!) moves, Sargissian finally had to give in to the fact that two-times Senior World Champion Anatoly knew how to defend this ending.
Sergey Tiviakov, Daniel Fridman and Mihail Marin all scored victories against their lower rated opponents, thus staying on hot pursuit of Maxime on 3.5/4.
On board 5 the much anticipated game between English legends Keith Arkell and Nigel Short ended in a draw and when I asked Keith for his impressions after the game, he told me “I can’t really think of anything useful to say about my game. I just swapped all the pieces off like I always do!”
It was also a very good day for the young Israeli players as no less than three of them (all under the age of 18!) created upsets on the middle boards: Avital Boruchovsky (2501) inflicted a second defeat on 5th seed Granda Zuniga (2674), while Kobo Ori (2380) and Nitzan Steinberg (2435) took out Abhijeet Gupta (2640) and Alon Greenfeld (2542), both with the black pieces!
Down on board 13, third seed Laurent Fressinet finally took home the full point after his three initial draws, eventually overpowering young Jonathan Bakalchuk in what seemed to be a drawish endgame.
Elsewhere in the room, the board 23 encounter between Christopher Wallis and Eylon Nakar caught my eye for its pretty finish.
Christopher Wallis during an earlier round
After Nakar went astray with the dubious 28...Qb6, Australian Wallis played the strong sequence 29.Rf3 Nfd7 30.Nf5! gxf5 31.Rxh3 Kf8?? (Black had to find a series of 4 only moves in order to survive here: 31...Re5 32.fxe5 Nxe4 33.Rxd3 Nf2+ 34.Kg2 Nxd3 35.Qxd3 with a complicated but roughly equal position) 32.Qf6!! (A thematic yet beautiful queen sacrifice, leading to forced mate) Nxf6 33.gxf6 1-0
Position after 28...Qb6 Final position
You can replay this game as well as all the others from the first 4 rounds here: http://www.iominternationalchess.com/pgn.html
For today’s 5th round Maxime gets the white pieces for a second time in a row, undoubtedly making Daniel Fridman’s task even harder. Besides them, the experienced GMs Marin and Tiviakov will battle it out on board 2, while on board 3 Mickey Adams will take on 17-year old Avital Boruchovsky. However, we also have our fair share of English duels again, with Gawain Jones facing Keith Arkell and Nigel Short paired against Jonathan Hawkins.
Don’t miss out on the action and follow the live games starting at 1.30pm here: http://www.iominternationalchess.com/live-games.html
Fiona Steil-Antoni (Press Officer)