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Sunday, 20 Oct 2019 00:10
Grand Swiss: Four at the top as Nakamura joins the leaders

Round nine of the Isle of Man Fide Grand Swiss saw one more player joining the leaders – Hikaru Nakamura. The American had a slow start to the tournament with four draws and one win in the first part of the event, but then he picked up speed and is now in the leading pack. Levon Aronian and David Anton drew their game on board one in what was a long and sharp battle. The most anticipated game of the day – between World Champion Magnus Carlsen and World No 2 Fabiano Caruana, ended in a draw after perpetual check. Carlsen is now on 6 points and shares fifth to 15th place in a group which is dominated by six Russians. Round nine of the Grand Swiss will be memorable for some of the youngest players at the event as Raunak Sadhwani (13), Vincent Keymer (14) and Jonas Buhl Bjerre (15) all confirmed they had qualified for GM title.

One of the toughest battles of the 9th day of the Isle of Man Grand Swiss was on board one where Spaniard David Anton – who made his way to the leading three in round eight – played as Black against Levon Aronian.

The opponents played sharply into the opening. It started as a battle of preparations in the Italian – with 19 moves being played in the first 20 minutes. There was even a novelty by Black – 17…c5 – but both played these first 19 moves so confidently that it seemed there were no surprises there.

The game developed into a dynamic position with a material imbalance, where White had a knight and a bishop for a rook and two pawns. Black launched an attack on White’s king, but after exchanging pieces the position seemed even. Aronian, however, had two things in his favor: he spent considerably less time than his opponent and, he had a clearer path ahead in terms of play while Anton had to pay attention to several factors – development, control of the center and coordination of his attack on the White king. Aronian then offered an exchange of queens wishing to simplify but also significantly diminish the resources Anton could use in his attack. Black accepted the exchange and the game moved into an endgame.

For the greater part of the game, it seemed that Black had to make more of an effort to maintain equality, struggling to coordinate his rooks. At the same time, Aronian did manage to stop Black’s pawn advance on the queenside. But Anton did not allow his position to deteriorate – after returning material in the later stage of the game (giving a rook for a pawn) he was aiming for a rook and knight vs. rook ending, which is a theoretical draw. In the final stage of the game, White was a piece up but Black had two pawns of compensation with the a-pawn on the third rank, supported by the rook from behind. Aronian eventually accepted that further attempts might lead to the tables being turned and the players agreed to draw after more than five hours of play. With this draw, the two maintain their position among the leaders of the tournament.


(Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com)

World Challenger vs World Champion: The derby of round nine

The most anticipated game of the tournament was that between World Champion Magnus Carlsen and the challenger for his title, World No 2, Fabiano Caruana. The last time the two played was at the Sinquefield Cup, where they split a point.

The game between the two progressed fast in the first nine moves of the English opening. Then Caruana got into a deep think and spent 19 minutes on what appeared on the surface to be a logical move. Carlsen made an interesting decision in the 11th move: despite a somewhat loose pawn structure on the queenside (pawns on a2, doubled pawns on c2 and c3, and with the Black bishop attacking the c3 spot from a5), the World Champion, placed his bishop on f4 (which was a novelty) and opted for castling long. The decision seemed like a sign of World Champion’s determination to go into a sharp play and seek a victory. (Until round 9, Carlsen had five draws and was clearly disappointed in Round 8 when Wang Hao forced a quick draw as White). Carlsen’s decision to castle on the queenside was also founded on a thorough analysis: Black was lacking in development. Nevertheless, it seemed like a risky choice against World No 2. Then, on move 17, after black played 16.Rfe8, Magnus went into a tank (47 minutes long!), and eventually played 17.Rhe1. It was then the American’s turn to think. Having had other choices which would have led to uncertainty, Caruana then decided to sacrifice his bishop on c3 and send his queen to harass the exposed white king. After perpetual checks by the black queen, a draw was sealed on the move 25.

Apart from splitting a point and saving faces, both players got something else: Caruana maintained his place in the top leaders, while the World Champion added one more game to his unbeaten streak which is now just one game shy of one hundred.


(Photo: David Llada)

Anand finally reaches the top three boards

After a surprise loss in Round one on board four, Viswanathan Anand was relegated to lower boards but in the past eight days managed to pull himself together, keep his head, and slowly but confidently progressed towards the top. In Round nine he was playing on board three as Black against Russia’s Kirill Alekseenko. The Italian opening was played, like on board two, but a variation in which White puts pressure on black’s e-5 pawn. Alekseenko got out of the opening with a pair of bishops and used them to test Black’s accuracy. Anand, however, defended very well and, in the process, activated his knight which dominated the center and pushed white’s strong pieces back. After 31 moves, in a balanced position, the opponents decided to bury the hatchet.  Both players are now on 6/9 and remain in competition for the top spot.


(Photo: John Saunders)

“The Minister of Defence” proves his title

On board four Sergey Karjakin was playing as black against World Junior Champion, Parham Maghsoodloo. In the English opening, Maghsoodloo played in his fashion – positionally, cautiously moving his pieces around the back three ranks. Interestingly, this was the seventh game in this tournament in which the Iranian fianchettoed his bishop.

White achieved some space advantage but was exposed to Black’s intrusions. Eventually, the players got into a rook endgame where Karjakin was a defending part. White then created a passer on the a-file, but Karjakin was not shaken. In a tricky endgame, the former contender for the title of the World Champion built a comfortable defensive position, true to his nickname - “The Minister of Defense”. Both players are now on 6/9 and remain in the second tier.

Nakamura breaks through to the top

After nine rounds of the Isle of Man Grand Swiss, Hikaru Nakamura emerged at the top, becoming one of the leaders of the tournament.

In a convincing game as black against Vladislav Kovalev of Belarus on board five, the American sensed his moment – both in the game and in the tournament – and made a resolute push forward. Nakamura managed to build a very promising setup: his pawns advanced on the kingside, supported by stronger pieces, while at the same time White’s queenside pieces were pinned to the starting positions and could not break free. Kovalev’s positional problems were compounded by the time trouble. As his last-minute was about to expire, after black’s 32nd move, Vladislav resigned.


(Photo: David Llada)

Wang vs Vitiugov – the longest game of Round 9

Wang Hao, who was the leader for the most part of the event, until he lost to Aronian in Round 7, was facing Nikita Vitiugov of Russia. A classical Dragon variation of the Sicilian was played. The game was heading for a heavy piece endgame where White had more space but Black has a solid defensive position.

After the opening, Vitiugov was slightly better, but Wang skillfully stanched the initiative. After putting pressure on White’s c-file, Wang opened another front on the kingside, putting his pawn on h4, immobilizing White’s h3-g2 pawn formation. With Black having an active play on both flanks it was Vitiugov who had to be careful. The position evolved into a four rook endgame where black had some edge, but nothing decisive was in sight. The Chinese GM took advantage of White’s mistakes and reached an absolutely winning position, but then it was his time to slip up. Instead of terrible 69…Rb3, which cost him a half-point, Wang Hao could have forced a quick capitulation from his opponent by protecting his pawn differently – 69…Rf4. Despite this disappointing outcome, Wang Hao is leading the second tier with 6/9, behind the top four players.

Gelfand and So out of the race for the top

Boris Gelfand, one of the most experienced top players at the event, suffered a loss at the hands of Maxim Matlakov, who also knocked him out in the World Cup earlier this year. Both GMs played for the maximum, but the initiative was on Matlakov’s side. The complicated position with a lot of diagonal threats had a greater toll on the Israeli GM who fell well behind on time. The several last moves before the first time control, the Israeli GM played with seconds remaining on his clock. 

Eventually, he did reach the time control but by that point, according to the computer, Boris was lost: White had a very strong bishop who was cutting the h1-a8 diagonal, aiming straight at the Black king in the farthest top left square of the board, while White’s king was mostly safe. Gelfand resigned, falling out of the second tier of players with strong chances to get to the top, while Matlakov, currently on 6/9, is now 13th in the tournament, half a point behind the top pack.


(Photo: David Llada)

One other player is out of the race for the top: Wesley So. The first game of the day to finish was that between him and Luke McShane who was leading white pieces. After 50 minutes of play, they called it even. With seven draws and two wins, Wesley So cannot make it to the Candidates’ tournament anymore.

Three more tough contenders were also eliminated from the top ranks: Alexei Shirov lost to Alexander Grischuk and is now on five points, while Yu Yangyi and Adhiban Baskaran drew their game and are both on 5.5/9. 

Apart from Alexander Grishuk, the Englishman David Howell and another Russian, Aleksandr Rakhmanov, scored victories in the ninth round and with 6/9 secured their position among the top 15.

Altogether, there are now four leading players with 6.5 points and another 11 with six points, who have the strongest chances of reaching the top spot of this tournament.

Three new grandmasters crowned

Round nine of the Isle of Man Grand Swiss was marked by three players securing their GM titles.

Raunak Sadhwani (at 13 years, nine months and 28 days) became the ninth youngest player in the world to reach the GM title and India’s 65th GM! While the 13-year-old only needed to show up for the game to get his final GM norm, he went on to convincingly defeat the strong Russian GM Alexander Motylev and is now on solid 5/9, having suffered just one defeat in the tournament.

He is joined by German 14-year-old Vincent Keymer who also achieved his GM norm in Round nine and held the Russian GM Vadim Zvjaginsev to a draw. Finally, Denmark also got it’s youngest GM - Jonas Buhl Bjerre (15), who completed this norm by drawing his 9th game and is now on fifty percent.




(Photos: David Llada)

Text: Milan Dinic

Photos: David LladaMaria Emelianova/Chess.com, and John Saunders

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