Once again, the players absolutely spoilt chess fans from all over the world with exciting, high-quality games yesterday. In fact, this might well have been the most decisive round in an open tournament I have ever witnessed, with only 8 draws on 36 boards!
However, it was not just an extremely bloodthirsty round, but also an exceptional day for the English players. The main news of the day is of course David Howell and Nigel Short overpowering their higher-rated opponents, making it an incredible 3 wins in a row for both of them!
On the top board, Howell got some slight pressure in the middlegame against Vachier-Lagrave, but the Frenchman’s real mistake came on move 21, when his pawns simply became too weak after 21...gxf5. Maxime later confessed he regretted not playing 20...h5 in order to block up the kingside.
Board 2 saw Nigel Short unleash the Benoni, a choice that clearly caught Sargissian by surprise. Although the computer seemed to favour White’s position for most of the game, the tide turned around move 25 and in the end, Nigel’s attack on the kingside proved decisive.
On boards 3 and 4, Fressinet and Tiviakov both took advantage of the white pieces to dispose of Jones and Gupta respectively and thus stay within striking distance of the leaders.
Board 5 saw Gil Popilski score yet another upset as he ground down Daniel Fridman in 74 moves, with the black pieces. 21-year old Gil has had an impressive tournament and his performance currently stands at 2750!
The board 6 encounter between Harika Dronavalli and top seed Mickey Adams was a draw
Other remarkable results from English players include Jonathan Hawkins’ crushing victory over Mihail Marin (securing him both the GM norm and title!) and Keith Arkell’s positional masterpiece against super GM Granda Zuniga.
On the norms front, besides Jonathan Hawkins’ imposing GM norm, three players have already achieved IM norms with one round to go: Alan Merry, Ori Kobo and Alon Mindlin. Many congratulations to all of them!
Jonathan Hawkins Alan Merry
Ori Kobo Alon Mindlin
As for last round norm possibilities, Merry and Kobo both need a win for a GM norm, while Yulyia Shvayger needs a draw for a WGM norm.
Thanks to their impressive trebble, Short and Howell are now in the lead with 6.5/8, but three other players can still have a shot at the title as they stand on 6/8: Fressinet, Tiviakov and Popilski. In the 9th and all-decisive round, Nigel Short will face David Howell with the white pieces, while Tiviakov plays Fressinet and Popilski is paired against Vachier-Lagrave.
The round will start at 12.30 and you would be crazy not to watch the action unfold live here: http://www.iominternationalchess.com/live-games.html
Fiona Steil-Antoni (Press Officer)