Six Lead the Isle of Man; Svidler Beat Shankland to Take the Lead
Thursday, October 25, 2018 at 6:30PM
Dennis Monokroussos in 2018 Isle of Man, Peter Svidler, Sam Shankland

There were four leaders coming into round 6 of the Isle of Man International, and now there are six. Three were among yesterday's co-leaders, and three are new. The inherited leaders are Jeffery Xiong, Wang Hao, and Arkadij Naiditsch. Naiditsch took the day off, while Xiong made Wang Hao suffer for a long time before acquiescing in a draw.

The fourth pre-round co-leader, Abhijeet Gupta, had a tougher time, losing quickly to Hikaru Nakamura. Gupta played an interesting pawn sacrifice for play, but in the tactical flurry that followed he was outcalculated by Nakamura and resigned rather than surrendering the exchange. Nakamura thus joined the leaders, as did Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Radoslaw Wojtaszek. MVL sacrificed two pawns for tons of play, although his opponent (Rinat Jumabayev) was objectively okay it was the sort of position where the mistakes are waiting to be made. He "found" one of them with 33.f4, and four moves later it was over. Not all "equal" positions are equal for mere mortals. Wojtaszek's win came mostly due to a blunder. He had some advantage against Rasmus Svane, but nothing near decisive until 21...Nfd7?? 22.Qxf7+! Qxf7 23.Nxf7, when Black can't take on f4 due to 24.Nd6+. From there Wojtaszek had an easy time converting his advantage.

Mircea Parligras nearly made it a septet, as he was much better-to-winning against Sergey Karjakin for a long time. It came down to a rook ending, and when Parligras missed the subtle 81.Rd4, preferring instead 81.Rd3, Karjakin managed to sneak out with a draw.

Here are the top pairings for round 7:

  1. Vachier-Lagrave (5) - Naiditsch (5)
  2. Nakamura (5) - Xiong (5)
  3. Wang Hao (5) - Wojtaszek (5)
  4. Artemiev (4.5) - Kramnik (4.5)
  5. Sethuraman (4.5) - Anand (4.5)
  6. Rapport (4.5) - Jones (4.5)
  7. Adams (4.5) - Gupta (4.5)
  8. Antipov (4.5) - Giri (4)

Also in the 4-point score group are Levon Aronian, Wesley So, and Alexander Grischuk.

In the match between Peter Svidler and Sam Shankland, Svidler took his first lead of the match with a crushing win in game 4; (up to?) two games remain. Shankland was doing fine with Black, but 18...h4 was a bad idea. Technically, it wasn't a mistake; after 19.Bg5 he could have played 19...Be7!, threatening ...e5, and only after White's queen quits the d-file would he take on g3. But instead he played the natural 19...hxg3, winning a pawn but coming under a crushing attack after 20.Bxf6 gxf6 21.Qh6. Svidler finished in style, but for the most part it was pretty straightforward (though attractive). My guess is that Shankland missed either 19.Bg5, 19...Be7, or Svidler's terrific 25.Kh1, with the idea to meet 25...gxh2 with 26.Rg1+! with a speedy mate. (The undercard match between Vladimir Fedoseev and Jorden Van Foreest had another draw: 4 for 4.)

Selected games (mostly annotated) from the two events, here.

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