Round 8 Report
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).
England's Mickey Adams got caught with a new opening idea by Radoslaw Wojtaszek and instantly went wrong (photo: John Saunders)
Let’s get to grips immediately with the games that ended with 2700+ scalps. Mickey Adams’ game against Radoslaw Wojtaszek was a bit of a tragedy, from the British point of view anyway. It started with a Catalan and went down a line where Black gets an extra pawn at the expense of losing the right to castle. Then the Polish GM sprang a surprise, a new move 15.Qb3. It wasn’t anything necessarily earth-shattering but, after an 11 minute think, Mickey played a knight to the rim that was very dim indeed – an outright blunder. He played on but there was never the remotest chance of his saving the game. It put him right out of the running but assured Radoslaw Wojtaszek, the tenth seeded player, of at least a share of first place going into the final round.
Arkadij Naiditsch survived a frenetic time scramble to emerge a piece up against Hikaru Nakamura (photo: John Saunders)
Arkadij Naiditsch is an established 2700+ rated player but arguably not one of the star names that attract all the attention in the chess world. That said, it doesn’t rank as a surprise that, on his day, he should be able to beat the likes of Hikaru Nakamura. And this was indeed his day. It climaxed in an exciting time scramble with a couple of chances being missed along the way. Nakamura in particular missed an obvious ...Nf4 which would have saved his skin but for once he hesitated and missed his shot.
Hikaru Nakamura looked crest-fallen after his defeat by Arkadij Naiditsch (photo: John Saunders)
Interviewed about the game afterwards, Naiditsch said, “It started well for me – I was surprised at Hikaru’s opening choice. I did nothing special and I was doing much better.” He felt he used so much time because he was spoilt for choice. “So many choices... I’ve been a bit slow today.” I’ve incorporated some of his detailed comments into the annotation. Asked how nervous he was in time trouble, he answered, “I’m too tired to be nervous!” A good answer – perhaps one of the things fans watching the tournament online don’t see through their computer screens is the physical toll that big tournaments take on the competitors. Towards the end of a tournament you can start seeing fatigue etched on the features of some competitors, particularly the older ones. Last year we had the heroics performed by Jim Tarjan but that has been less in evidence this year. The increasing strength in depth of the tournament is a bit more evident and us old-timers have struggled more. Perhaps tiredness is the explanation for Mickey’s uncharacteristic blunder. Naiditsch’s win put him into a tie for the first place with Wojtaszek going into the final round. Those were not the glamorous names of chess that we were expecting to see in the frame for the top honours at this stage but at the same time neither were exactly surprises as they are battle-hardened competitors who can give any of the elite a good game on their day.
Gawain Jones has the knack of looking relaxed before his game (photo: John Saunders)
Gawain, Gawain, Gawain... sorry to sound a bit like Mrs Doyle in 'Father Ted', but as a loyal Brit it’s hard not to be a bit effusive and overexcited about Gawain Jones and his remarkable performance in this year’s Isle of Man tournament. His feats of escapology have been covered in detail in these reports but for once he was on the attack, against the top seeded player in the whole competition, Levon Aronian. The Armenian has not been on his best form during the event, being inclined to play safe – the same could be said of other major figures present – but he had no answer to Jones in this mood and in the end was well beaten.
Gawain Jones vs Levon Aronian: battle is joined (photo: John Saunders)
Asked how he felt after the game Gawain Jones replied: “Relieved. I’ve had so many long games here and been suffering in nearly all of them so it was nice to have a good position for a change. It was a strange game... he probably played an inaccurate move and was forced to sacrifice the exchange for play, and then it is completely crazy. I’ve no idea whether the tactics work for me, but they did in the game so I ended up the exchange up. I’m not sure I converted it the best way but stumbled over the line.” Gawain confirmed that Levon was the strongest player he’d beaten. “There aren’t that many stronger,” he joked. Asked about the secret of his success in saving so many bad positions, he replied, “I just keep fighting. I’m used to my openings being terrible from when I was very little. They’ve always been terrible – I’m used to fighting very bad positions, not giving up, going for it.”
Vincent Keymer: 13 years old with a great future ahead of him (photo: John Saunders)
Further down the pairings we had another classic Prodigy vs All-Time Great encounter that will go nicely with the Pragg-Eljanov game from a few rounds back. Vincent Keymer had already hit the headlines with his outright victory at the Grenke Open earlier this year so it wasn’t exactly a surprise to see him down a 2700+ rated player as it was clear he had the capability. However, his results here hadn’t been eye-catching until this round, when he confronted Boris Gelfand. the former world championship runner-up made most of the running in the initial stages but his attempts to bamboozle the young player had all been successfully defused.
The end is nigh: Vincent Keymer administers the deadly 47.Nf6+ and Boris Gelfand soon has to resign (photo: John Saunders)
The position remained broadly level until Gelfand apparently underestimated a queen for rook and minor piece sacrifice. But Keymer played it after a minute’s thought and backed it up with some excellent prophylactic play that left Gelfand struggling to find moves for his pieces. It didn’t take long before his king was snared in mating net.
The result means Keymer will need a half-point in the final round – he’s been paired with Emil Sutovsky – to secure his GM title but, to be honest, this title is a mere formality for such a supremely gifted young man. Who cares how old he’ll be when he gets it? The ‘youngest to become a GM’ record is a bit of an anachronism in the modern era and is an unreliable indicator of precisely who will climb to the very top of the heap. Keymer will have his sights set on something more significant than a title possessed by many players who are not as strong as he already is.
Maxime Vachier-Lagrave versus Wang Hao: a long struggle but a draw was the result (photo: John Saunders)
Two of the other overnight leaders, MVL and Wang Hao, played a long but rather colourless game which inevitably ended in a draw. Not much more worth saying about that one.
Vladimir Kramnik ultimately failed to make any impact on Jeffery Xiong (photo: John Saunders)
Kramnik-Xiong was more interesting, with the young American surviving a long and gruelling examination from the former world champion. For Xiong to have emerged unbeaten from five successive encounters with 2700+ rated players, including both Kramnik and Nakamura with Black, says much for his resilience and fighting quality. The USA has found another real good ‘un. The result left Xiong in with a shout of first place in the final round but ended Kramnik’s chances of the big money.
Vishy Anand gets kitted out with the heart rate monitoring armband, but it wasn't a heart-stopping game (photo: John Saunders)
Giri-Rapport and Anand-Artemiev will be games which will interest the theoreticians but never developed from being an opening discussion into a real fight with genuine spectator appeal. Ditto, to a lesser extent, Parligras-Grischuk, a King’s Indian, as was Giri-Rapport.
Cashing in: could be a bumper pay-day for Alina Kashlinskaya tomorrow. She beat Rinat Jumabayev today (photo: John Saunders)
I’ll mention one other result: that of Alina Kashlinskaya, whom you’ll remember started the tournament with draws against Giri and Kramnik. She’s kept up her challenge admirably and defeated Kazakh GM Rinat Jumabayev in round eight to make almost certain of a GM norm. A very good day for her as it had been for her husband Radoslaw Wojtaszek. It will be an even better and more lucrative day tomorrow if the two Polish players can clean up the two big prizes – £50,000 for the overall first prize and £7,000 for the first women’s prize. Polish ... clean up... geddit? Oh, please yourselves... I’ll get my coat. But before I go, I’ll remind you it’s a 1pm start for tomorrow’s last round and the UK clocks have gone back. Which means it is 13.00 GMT +0. (I think. It’s getting very late and I need my bed. Apologies if I’ve got that wrong.)