Isle of Man: Six players keep a perfect score

by Antonio Pereira
10/23/2018 – The third round of the Isle of Man International Tournament left six players tied on first place with a perfect 3/3. From the top-10 rated players, only Maxime Vachier-Lagrave is in this group, while the biggest surprise amongst the leaders is 48th seeded Pavel Tregubov, who beat Hrant Melkumyan with the white pieces on Monday. Names like Giri, Kramnik, Anand and Nakamura are not even at the chasing pack on 2½, as all of them stand a point behind on 2/3. | Photos: John Saunders / Official site

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Raising the bar

The storyline of an open tournament starts switching at around round three from recounting upsets to figuring out who is in good form and has good prospects of making it to the top at the end of such a big event. After Monday's round, six players managed to score their third win in a row, putting themselves as early — and rather speculative — candidates to finish on the podium.

Someone who does not seem to be having trouble in the Isle of Man is Maxime Vachier-Lagrave — he got full points on rounds two and three with ease and speed. His rival on Monday was former Junior World Champion Aryan Tari, an ambitious young Norwegian who has his eye on surpassing the 2700-barrier. However, things started to look grim for Tari when he took a 27-minute think on move 11, while MVL had blitzed all his moves up to that point. White's positional advantages paid dividends on move 22:


Vachier-Lagrave won a pawn by force with 22.Rxe8+ Qxe8 23.Nxd5 Qd8 24.Ne3 Qxd4 25.Qxd4 Nxd4 26.Bxb7 and went on to win the queenless endgame with surprising efficiency. 

Maxime Vachier-Lagrave also won the Junior World Championship back in 2009 | Photo: John Saunders

MVL will face yet another former World Junior Champion in round four — Jeffery Xiong. The 17-year-old American also got most of the positional trumps with the white pieces after the opening against Vishnu Prassana. With his king stranded in the centre of the board, the Indian player eventually blundered:


Vishnu needed to passively defend with 29...Rc8, giving up his a-pawn and trying to make it harder for his opponent to break through — looking at that forecast, we cannot blame him for what he chose, however. After 29...Kd7 instead, 30.Rb4 pushed the queen away both from the f-file and the important h2-b8 diagonal. Vishnu resigned four moves later:


The black bishop cannot be saved.

Three of the six co-leaders — l'Ami, Xiong and Tregubov — sat next to each other in round three | Photo: John Saunders

Xiong is actually the only youngster in the leading group, while the biggest representative of the elder generation is 46-year-old Pavel Tregubov, who overpowered Hrant Melkumyan on board seven, also with the white pieces. The Russian got the critical passed b-pawn that would later give him the win on move 40:


White is already a pawn up, but after 40.Bxc5 it is simply impossible to stop the passer protected by a rook on the b-file. A very straightforward sequence took the hero of the game to its final destination:


Melkumyan was forced to give up a piece and go into a technically lost endgame. The Armenian needed eight more moves to accept he was lost.

Hrant Melkumyan was the rating favourite but ended up losing against Tregubov | Photo: John Saunders

Another veteran that rose to the top in round three is 32-year-old Arkadij Naiditsch. Despite not being as old as Tregubov, Naiditsch has been part of the 2700-club for many years and, perhaps, his uncompromising style has prevented him from reaching the very top and staying there consistently. In round three, he overwhelmed Rinat Jumabayev's king protection.


It is hard to imagine Black surviving this. At this precise moment, Jumabayev might want to capture with the rook, but 36.Qg4+ would be mate-in-nine. Therefore, the player from Kazakhstan played 35...Bxf6, allowing 36.Rxd6, bringing yet another piece to the attack. Black resigned two moves later:


The white queen joined the fray on h5 with decisive effect.

A focused Arkadij Naiditsch | Photo: John Saunders

Wang Hao was not part of the Chinese gold-winning Olympic team this year, but he is in top form at this event. He defeated Alexander Donchenko with the black pieces on Monday and will play Erwin l'Ami in the following round. The Dutch grandmaster is doing much better than his compatriot Anish Giri, as he beat Harsha Bharathakoti to join the top group.

Donchenko versus Wang Hao | Photo: John Saunders

Round four will see the co-leaders play against each other, with the large twenty-player chasing pack praying for draws in those games. 

Round 4 pairings (top 20 boards)

Name Pts. Result Pts. Name
Xiong Jeffery 3   3 Vachier-Lagrave Maxime
Wang Hao 3   3 L'ami Erwin
Naiditsch Arkadij 3   3 Tregubov Pavel V.
Gelfand Boris   Aronian Levon
Adhiban B.   So Wesley
Kovalev Vladislav   Grischuk Alexander
Short Nigel D   Karjakin Sergey
Wojtaszek Radoslaw   Vaibhav Suri
Meier Georg   Rapport Richard
Le Quang Liem   Gupta Abhijeet
Vidit Santosh Gujrathi   Praggnanandhaa R
Sevian Samuel   Artemiev Vladislav
Parligras Mircea-Emilian   Almasi Zoltan
Giri Anish 2   2 Debashis Das
Kramnik Vladimir 2   2 Dragnev Valentin
Anand Viswanathan 2   2 Shyam Sundar M.
Nakamura Hikaru 2   2 Zumsande Martin
Vishnu Prasanna. V 2   2 Adams Michael
Leko Peter 2   2 Gormally Daniel W
Harsha Bharathakoti 2   2 Howell David W L

Games from Round 3



Antonio is a freelance writer and a philologist. He is mainly interested in the links between chess and culture, primarily literature. In chess games, he skews towards endgames and positional play.


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