Isle of Man: Adams joins the ever-growing lead

by Antonio Pereira
10/27/2018 – With only two rounds to go, seven players share first place at the Isle of Man International Tournament. The six co-leaders drew each other — in fact, the six first boards finished tied, while the only player that used this opportunity to join them at the top was Michael Adams, who inflicted Gupta's second straight loss. Twelve players are trailing by half a point, including round seven winners Anish Giri, Levon Aronian and Alexander Grischuk. | Photos: John Saunders / Official site

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Anybody's game

It is hard to think of a more uncertain scenario in a tournament — it is not impossible for one of the leaders to win his last two games and take first place outright and, at the same time, it is feasible to imagine four or more players ending up shared first. Therefore nerves will play a big role in the final rounds, when a single mistake might take any player out of contention. It is anybody's game, as it would be naïve to talk about favourites at this point.

This is a good time to take a look at the regulations regarding tiebreaks in case of a tie for first. The policy in the Isle of Man is to have a single deciding match between two players. Before going into the format of this match, let us see what would happen if three or more players are tied — the following criteria will be followed:

  • The results between the players involved in the tie
  • Sum of progressive score
  • Sum of opponent's scores (Buchholz)
  • Sonneborn-Berger
  • Number of won games

In the deciding match, two 5'+2" blitz games will be played. In case of a tie, an Armageddon game will take place, with 5 minutes for White and 4 for Black, plus an increment of 2 seconds per move from move 61 — Black has draw odds.

Going back to the action of round seven, despite the fact that the first six boards finished in draws, most of them were hard-fought. On first board, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave needed six minutes to play his seventeenth move in a complex middlegame that resulted from a Ruy Lopez:


The time spent by Maxime to play 17.c4 was mentioned above because his rival, Arkadij Naiditsch, spent no less than 42 minutes to respond! And we cannot blame him, especially if we look at the ensuing variation seen in the game (and the many possible sidelines that needed to be calculated). The co-leaders continued with 17.Nxe5 18.cxd5 Nxf2 19.Kxf2 Ng4+ 20.Rxe1+:


MVL took with the queen and accepted a repetition a few moves later, as his king was unprotected and his queenside undeveloped.

Will Vachier-Lagrave or Naiditsch manage to pull ahead in the end? | Photo: John Saunders

The all-Russian game between Vladislav Artemiev and Vladimir Kramnik was a strategical struggle in which the older Vlad obtained the upper hand with the black pieces. Kramnik handled the position in remarkable fashion but did not take his chance to force matters in his favour when he could have done so:


The former World Champion invited a queen exchange with 30...Qg6 when he could have gone for the energetic 30...f5. White would have been forced to exchange queens after 31.Qd1 and Black's a-pawn would have started moving forward, making it hard for White to keep it at bay while maintaining material balance. In the game, the contenders continued fighting in a nuanced endgame until move 64, when the draw was signed. It was a case of what could have been for the veteran.

Kramnik looked disappointed after letting go of his advantage | Photo: John Saunders

The big winner of the day was Mickey Adams, sometimes nicknamed Spiderman, who incidentally defeated the player that wore a Superman cap throughout the event — Abhijeet Gupta. An Exchange French-type position benefited the Englishman's ability to find subtle positional resources in seemingly quiet setups. According to the computer evaluation, Gupta erred on move 24:


The Indian went for 24...Ng6, when he should have kept the option of taking the knight to e6 in the future, without losing a tempo due to a pawn attacking the piece from h5 (as was later seen in the game). Massive simplifications followed and Black was left with an inferior structure. It took Adams some thirty more moves to grind down the victory, a common sort of win for England's highest-rated player.

Spiderman won the super-hero battle | Photo: John Saunders

On a lower board, Alexei Shirov won the kind of game that brought him to fame in the past, against Le Quang Liem. It is a struggle worth replaying in full, but here is a small example of the sharp play that was seen right from the opening:


White (Shirov) is a piece up, but his king's position invited Le Quang Liem to continue looking for a perpetual check until move 56. In the position shown above, Alexei played 44.Nb7 — Black cannot take due to mate on c8. Shirov now belongs to the huge group of chasers on 5/7.

Alexei Shirov showed his class | Photo: John Saunders

With the end of the tournament getting closer, the favourites have climbed up the standings — amongst the co-leaders the only slightly surprising name is that of Jeffery Xiong's. Aronian, Giri, Kramnik, Anand, Grischuk and Karjakin are in the chasing pack, while the only top-10 clearly underperforming is Wesley So.

Jeffery Xiong and Hikaru Nakamura | Photo: John Saunders

It is impossible to highlight one or two particular games from round eight's top boards — they are all alluring!

Round 8 pairings (top 20 boards)

Name Pts. Result Pts. Name
Vachier-Lagrave Maxime   Wang Hao
Naiditsch Arkadij   Nakamura Hikaru
Wojtaszek Radoslaw   Adams Michael
Kramnik Vladimir 5   Xiong Jeffery
Jones Gawain C B 5   5 Aronian Levon
Giri Anish 5   5 Rapport Richard
Anand Viswanathan 5   5 Artemiev Vladislav
Parligras Mircea-Emilian 5   5 Grischuk Alexander
Karjakin Sergey 5   5 Sethuraman S.P.
So Wesley   5 Shirov Alexei
Svane Rasmus   Vidit Santosh Gujrathi
Eljanov Pavel   Antipov Mikhail Al.
Leko Peter   Hess Robert
Gupta Abhijeet   Howell David W L
Adhiban B.   Christiansen Johan-Sebastian
Tregubov Pavel V.   Kovalev Vladislav
Melkumyan Hrant   Lomasov Semen
Sevian Samuel   Praggnanandhaa R
Wagner Dennis   Sutovsky Emil
Williams Simon K   Ganguly Surya Shekhar

Games from Round 7



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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