Round 4 Report

Round 4 Report

John Saunders reports: after the fourth round of the Isle of Man International at the Villa Marina, we now have two joint leaders, Arkadij Naiditsch (Azerbaijan) and Wang Hao (China) on the maximum score of 4/4. Following them on 3½ are Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (France), Radoslaw Wojtaszek (Poland), Richard Rapport (Hungary), Santosh Gujrathi Vidit (India), Jeffery Xiong (USA), Mircea-Emilian Parligras (Romania) and Abhijeet Gupta (India).

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One fun feature of the tournament are the arm bands being attached to some players to monitor their heart rate.
Maria Emelianova helps Wang Hao to fit the band - perhaps it brought him luck (photo: John Saunders)

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Pavel Tregubov (left) and Arkadij Naiditsch shake hands before the game (photo: John Saunders)

Arkadij Naiditsch defeated Pavel Tregubov in a game which featured 5...Ba5 in the French Winawer variation, which was the line which Levon Aronian achieved little with in round three. Naiditsch played the more conventional 6.b4 and generally played more aggressively. That said, engines seemed to prefer his opponent’s position slightly in the early middle game, but Tregubov became indecisive and got into time trouble. It turned into a battle of the heavy pieces, with Tregubov creating what resembled a ‘Alekhine’s gun’ (tripled heavy pieces on a file with a queen at the rear) on the b-file but only with a view to providing a rather cumbersome defence for his pawn. One bad move in time pressure and he found himself facing a dreadful battery down his c-file which could not be defended.

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Jeffery Xiong of the USA kept MVL comfortably at bay in round four (photo: John Saunders)

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Radoslaw Wojtaszek (Poland) overcame Suri Vaibhav (India) but then chose to sit out round five (photo: John Saunders)

Jeffery Xiong played a Bb5 Sicilian against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and achieved a pleasant set-up, maybe even a slight plus. However, Black consolidated and a draw was the logical result. Of the top ten seeds, MVL and Radoslaw Wojtaszek (who beat Suri Vaibhav) have a score of 3½ while the other eight are a further half point back. Wojtaszek has opted for a bye in round five.

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Former world champions Vishy Anand and Vladimir Kramnik with an aspirant to their title looking over their shoulder:
Vincent Keymer (Germany) (photo: John Saunders)

The two former world champions in the field both won in the fourth round but they too have opted to celebrate their success by taking a half-point time-out in round five. Vishy Anand beat Shyam Sundar, the young Indian who so nearly defeated Gawain Jones in the previous round (incidentally, Gawain has since told me that he had drawn the same endgame at the recent Olympiad but with the colours reversed!). Sundar was no luckier against his country’s greatest chess player, finding him in prime form.

Vladimir Kramnik, sitting at the adjacent board to Anand, dished out a similarly routine lesson to the teenage Austrian GM Valentin Dragnev. I wonder what Anand and Kramnik will choose to do on their day off – perhaps enjoy a walk together in the beautiful Manx countryside reminiscing about a gentler time when there weren’t annoying young guys like Carlsen and Caruana around to threaten their dominance. Life is so unfair.

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Nothing to see here, folks, move along now: Kovalev and Grischuk came, saw - and agreed a draw (photo: John Saunders)

There were a couple of, shall we call them perfunctory, draws in round four. Vladislav Kovalev and Alexander Grischuk were the first to exit the auditorium after about an hour and the minimum stipulated 30 moves played. Gelfand-Aronian had a little more original content but it too fizzled out into a repetition at move 18.

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Former contenders for the crown, Nigel Short and Sergey Karjakin, go head to head in Douglas (photo: John Saunders)

As well as world championship winners we have a goodly sprinkling of those who have finished runners-up in world championship matches. Two of them met in round four, Nigel Short and Sergey Karjakin. Their game also ended in an early repetition after Short played a Closed Sicilian with just the merest hint of a reversed Dutch. A genuine enough game, albeit brief, with Karjakin perhaps choosing not to push his luck with Black.

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Vietnamese super-GM Le Quang Liem versus Abhijeet Gupta - or is it Clark Kent? (photo: John Saunders)

The former world junior champion Abhijeet Gupta, who ruefully admitted to the commentators he had struggled to beat the lowest rated player in the entire tournament in round two (Valerio Bianco, rated 2008 – spookily, this is the same number as the year in which Abhijeet won his world junior title. Jim ‘Mr Coincidence’ Plaskett has been notified) had an entertaining win against Le Quang Liem. Gupta’s Superman hat is obviously bringing him luck. As this is one of only three games out of 79 that the twenty 2700+ rated players have lost so far in this tournament, we should perhaps have a closer look at it.

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Parligras vs Almasi: for only the 3rd time in the event so far, a 2700+ lost a game (photo: John Saunders)

We saw the first of the 2700+ player losses yesterday (Pragg vs Eljanov) and the third one today was Zoltan Almasi losing to Mircea-Emilian Parligras. The Romanian player did well to keep the Hungarian bottled up after he played a rather passive defence and eventually a couple of pawns dropped off.

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A commendable effort for Danny Gormally to draw with former world title runner-up Peter Leko (photo: John Saunders)

Things went better for the Brits this round as Gawain Jones and David Howell both won, while Danny Gormally achieved a creditable draw with Peter Leko. Actually, the English GM might have achieved more than a draw had he played on as the position favoured him at the end as Leko would have been hard put to avoid a rook invasion. Earlier in the game Leko was well placed but a curious bishop retreat handed over the initiative to his opponent.

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David Howell displayed his usual brinkmanship in defeating Harsha Bharathakoti in 100+ moves (photo: John Saunders)

David Howell had one of his frenetic, time trouble afflicted games where he was playing for much of its course on the increment. But just before the time control it was his opponent, Harsha Bharathakoti, who went astray and dropped a pawn. That might have been game, set and match, but, to continue the tennis analogy, it was more like one of those five-set marathons at Wimbledon which seem to go on forever and which they have only just outlawed. Eventually, at move 76 it turned into the arbiter’s nightmare endgame – rook and bishop versus rook. Time to bring Keith Arkell on as super-sub? No, sadly, substitutions are not yet allowed in chess (maybe that’s something for new FIDE prez Dvorkovich to have a think about), so David had to try and win it himself. The game went on until move 102 when the Indian player blundered and David Howell was able to cash in, well before the 50-move rule might have cut across his efforts.

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Some tricky opening play soon led to a big plus for Gawain Jones against D Gukesh (photo: John Saunders)

After his remarkable save of the previous day, Gawain Jones went on the offensive against the talented 12-year-old IM D Gukesh, from Vishy’s home town, Chennai. (I haven't yet discovered what the 'D' stands for as this appears to be a closely-guarded secret.) Gukesh has a GM norm to his name, from the Bangkok Open a few months ago, when he defeated Nigel Short, but he was soon in trouble in this game. Gawain Jones finished off in style.

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A long, trademark grind but not a successful outcome for Mickey Adams against Vishnu Prasanna (photo: John Saunders)

Mickey Adams also had a long game but did not succeed in grinding down Vishnu Prasanna, who is making quite an impression in the Isle of Man.

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Nihal Sarin reaches out to grab material against Spanish FM Mario Gavilan Diaz. The Indian moves to 3/4 (photo: John Saunders)

As for tomorrow’s round five – which starts at the usual start time of 2.30pm, UK time – the leading pairings are Wang Hao - Naiditsch; MVL - Parligras; Rapport - Xiong; and the all-Indian clash of Gupta - Vidit. Amongst the pairings on a score of 3/4 are Aronian - Kovalev; an all-Dutch pairing of L’Ami - Giri; Grischuk - Short; Shirov - Nakamura; Karjakin - Sevian; and another star prodigy, Nihal Sarin, gets a chance to test his mettle against formidable fellow countryman Baskaran Adhiban.

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Digital artist Pia Sprong once again hard at work drawing chess players on her tablet (photo: John Saunders)

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Latest News

Round 9 Report
Published: 29 Oct 2018

Round 9 Report

John Saunders reports: the 2018 Isle of Man International was won by Radoslaw Wojtaszek of Poland after a play-off match with Arkadij Naiditsch of Azerbaijan. The two players led going into the last round and drew their ninth round game to finish on 7/9 while none of the four players on 6/8 managed to win in order to tie with them. They each take home a cheque for £37,500 with Wojtaszek also receiving a further £500 for winning the blitz play-off. The initial two-game blitz was tied on 1-1 but Wojtaszek chose White in the Armageddon game and duly won. Seven players finished on 6½: Vladimir Kramnik, Alexander Grischuk (both Russia), Hikaru Nakamura, Jeffery Xiong (both USA), Wang Hao (China), Gawain Jones (England) and Baskaran Adhiban (India).

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Round 8 Report
Published: 28 Oct 2018

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John Saunders reports: another pulsating day’s chess saw four 2700+ rated players bite the dust, all bar one beaten by players less highly rated than themselves, and in one case more than 200 points adrift. Two leaders emerge from the smoke of battle, Arkadij Naiditsch (Azerbaijan) and Radoslaw Wojtaszek (Poland), who now both have 6½/8, while four more players are half a point behind them and are still in with a chance of a share in the top prize – Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (France), Wang Hao (China), Gawain Jones (England) and Jeffery Xiong (USA).

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Round 7 Report
Published: 27 Oct 2018

Round 7 Report

John Saunders reports: another remarkable round at the Villa Marina saw the number of leaders increase by one – the same names as per the round six leader board, plus England’s perennial numero uno, Mickey Adams. There was some fantastic chess played, which it gives me great pleasure to report upon. Before we move on, let’s just record the seven leaders’ names for the record: Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (France), Hikaru Nakamura (USA), Radoslaw Wojtaszek (Poland), Wang Hao (China), Arkadij Naiditsch (Azerbaijan), Mickey Adams (England) and Jeffery Xiong (USA) all have 5½ out of 7.

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