After 9 days of hard-fought and thrilling chess, the PokerStars Isle of Man International Chess Tournament 2014 came to a close with a brilliant triumph by Nigel Short, who had entered the tournament as 9th seed and finished on 7.5/9, a full point ahead of the rest of the field!
Facing his young compatriot David Howell in a winner-takes-all decider, Short followed an old Korchnoi-Karpov game in the Nimzo-Indian. Although admitting afterwards he was aware the line was almost certainly dubious for White, his gamble paid off by taking David onto unfamiliar ground at a very early stage of the game and thus forcing him to spend a lot of time. Let’s have a look at the key moments of the game which Nigel later dubbed as the only one in which he was in trouble.
Position after 22.Nh5 Position after 26...c4
In the above position, Nigel failed to play his original intention 22.Ba4 and instead went for the dubious 22.Nh5, which spoils all of White’s advantage. He had indeed overlooked David’s strong reply 22...b3, burying the bishop on b1. However, as Nigel also pointed out, from a practical point of view the game is still not easy- especially when short of time.
In another twist of events, just as the initiative seemed to be passing over to Black, David played the decisive blunder 26...c4, which loses to 27.Rxa5 Qxa5 28.Nxf6. The newly crowned champion pointed out afterwards that on 26...Bb4 he had planned to play 27.Ra7, which, although not directly threatening anything, is quite annoying. He thought that David had actually wanted to play 26...Bb6 (the strongest move in the position), but was probably afraid of 27.Qxb3 (which the computer points out to lose to the strong 27...c4).
This meant Nigel finished the tournament with an incredible streak of four wins in a row, to add another tournament victory to his long and impressive career. Many congratulations! Congratulations are also in order for David Howell, who, despite doubtlessly being disappointed by this last-round loss, posted one of his best tournament performances ever.
On board 2, Tiviakov and Fressinet quickly gave up the fight for a chance of coming equal first (in case of a draw on board 1) as they drew their game by repetition after just 14 moves.
Once this draw was agreed, Gil Popilski was the only other player who could still theoretically catch up with the leaders, but in order to achieve that he needed a win against none other than second seed Vachier-Lagrave. Indeed, it was the Frenchman who was pressing for all of the game, but Gil defended resourcefully and the game ended in a draw.
On board four there was some more fantastic news for English chess as Jonathan Hawkins, who had already secured his GM norm before the last round, easily drew his game against Gabriel Sargissian. His title should be confirmed at the next FIDE Congress. I was especially pleased for Jonathan, as being his captain for Cheddleton in the 4NCL, I know how hard he has worked for this achievement.
Last but not least, down on board 11, Alan Merry played an epic 90-move battle to finally overpower Avital Boruchovsky and thus secure his third and final IM norm and first GM norm! It is surely only a matter of time before Alan reaches the 2400 rating required to gain his IM title.
In the Major, no less than 4 players shared the first place with a result of 4.5/7: Arjan Plug, Neville Gill, John Cooper and Samuel Flanagan, with the latter taking the trophy on tie-break.
The Minor was dominated by Israel’s Vladimir Lanin, who finished on 5.5/7. Second place was shared by Jason Madden, Zahed Miah and Gary White, all on 5/7.
Masters Closing Ceremony
GM Norms were achieved by Jonathan Hawkins and Alan Merry
IM Norms were achieved by Kobo Ori and Alon Mindlin
Harika Dronavalli receiving her prize for best woman player
Sergey Tiviakov Gil Popilski
Laurent Fressinet David Howell
In his winner's speech, Nigel mentioned that while not being his first tournament victory, this was nevertheless a very emotional one, as he felt it marked some sort of renaissance in his career. He also thanked Tournament Director Alan Ormsby for his last-minute invitation and for putting up this great event. Alan in return raised a cheer from the crowd when he announced the tournament was now guaranteed to return in 2015!
David Welch, Zahed Miah, Alan Ormsby, Fiona Steil-Antoni, David Clayton, Arno Eliens, Peter Purland, Keith Allen, David Sedgwick
You can find all the pictures from the closing ceremony here: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.850009895031093.1073741843.840126609352755&type=1
To conclude this 2014 edition of the PokerStars Isle of Man International Chess tournament, I would like to thank Alan Ormsby, Brian Woodard, Keith Allen and Zahed Miah for all their hard work and congratulate them on organising this remarkable tournament!
See you all next year!
Fiona Steil-Antoni (Press Officer)