News Isle Of Man: Naiditsch, Wojtaszek Lead Going Into Final Round
Arkady Naiditsch defeated Hikaru Nakamura in the penultimate round. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/ Isle Of Man: Naiditsch, Wojtaszek Lead Going Into Final Round

| 35 | Chess Event Coverage

Arkadij Naiditsch and Radoslaw Wojtaszek will be the only two leaders going into the final round nine of the 2018 Isle of Man International. A chasing group of four players is trailing by half a point. 

As if a battle between the leaders is not ideal enough, Naiditsch even gets his fifth turn with white of the tournament, against only three blacks. That's because both men took a bye and both were due black to even out their colors, but Naiditsch got the lucky break.

Arkady Naiditsch Isle of Man 2018

A lucky Naiditsch gets another white for his final round game. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Neither player backed into board one as both had to beat strong opponents to get to 6.5/8. Naiditsch bested Hikaru Nakamura's creative play and Wojtaszek took out England number one Michael Adams, who will again not win on Isle of Man, despite several times being the top seed.

Nakamura was quoted earlier in the tournament saying that Vladimir Kramnik played offbeat chess to try to get chances against weaker opponents, but today the American also went outside of the box.

He tried the Smyslov Variation of the Spanish (3...g6), whereupon Naiditsch also wanted to veer off course a little and played a gambit line recommended by Alexander Khalifman, which was used successful by another Alexander (Grischuk) over Shakriyar Mamedyarov earlier this year at a Grand Chess Tour blitz event.

"I think I did nothing special, and I'm much better," Naidistch said about the opening moves.

Naiditsch-Nakamura Isle of Man

A "messy" timetrouble phase. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Nakamura went for it with a piece sac against the king, which Naiditsch said was a good practical chance. After that both sides missed some chances. The attack was eventually rebuffed and Naiditsch took control.

Dejan Bojkov

"I'm very relieved," Naiditsch said. "It was a very tough game."

He said that some of his time pressure was due to having so many pleasant options at several earlier phases of the game. "I've been a bit slow today. If I would have 20 minutes more (after the bishop sacrifice on h3) the game would have been going well for me...Playing Nakamura is just very unpleasant. He's banging these moves."

Arkady Naiditsch Isle of Man 2018

How Naiditsch kept his cool? "I think I am too tired to be nervous!" | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

The other player to get to 6.5/8 was a man still looking for his glory after the Olympiad. Despite his country's remarkable run, longtime Polish leader Wojtaszek (who actually played board two in Batumi) can partially make up for his team's fourth-place finish tomorrow. He will be playing his third straight 2700 in Naiditsch.

Today he beat Adams rather convincingly. By first offering his d-pawn, then his b-pawn, he tangled up the Englishman's pieces. Adams didn't react well after a novelty, and after that all he could do was delay the inevitable.

The Pole is now in pole position thanks to this clean win:

Radek Wojtaszek Isle of Man

Wojtaszek, about to win with an exchange up. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

"I managed to out-prepare him of course," Wojtaszek said about 15. Qb3. "After 16. Qb4 it's just over. I was surprised that it happened. If there are so many options, you can go wrong simply."

He said he had this idea ready for the final round of the Olympiad against Pentala Harikrishna, but he didn't steer the game into the same position. Wojtaszek said that if he had played into the line, and his novelty was uncorked there with the same effect, then the Polish team would be gold medalists.

Radek Wojtaszek Isle of Man

"I thought it would be a great surprise, and it worked," Wojtaszek said about today. He also noted great sportsmanship from his opponent, as Adams wished him good luck for the final round. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Three other players began the weekend also on 5.5 points, but none of them was able to match wins. On board one today, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Wang Hao drew, while on board four, Jeffery Xiong drew as black against Kramnik (who only had 5.0 starting the day's play). The puts Kramnik out of contention for first, and it means the other three men mentioned will all be desperately rooting for a draw on top board Sunday.

Wang Hao "won" a pawn, but essentially had to give it right back. While MVL had the better minor piece in the ending, the game never strayed from practical equality as the Chinese player was able to hold:

Wang Hao Chess Isle of Man

Wang Hao, as usual in a merry mood. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Similarly, Kramnik tried his hardest to beat the young American, also enjoying the bishop versus knight on the open board. Somehow Xiong was neither mated nor even lost. He set up a nice fortress to hold the draw.

Kramnik vs Xiong Isle of Man

Xiong continued to impress vs a former world champ. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

In the 5.0 score group, there was a spate of draws, except for Gawain Jones beating Levon Aronian after the Armenian's mate threats were all parried. It was the biggest ever scalp so far for the English GM, who had let Magnus Carlsen off the hook in Wijk aan Zee earlier this year.

"Relieved," was Jones's feeling after the game: "I've had so many long games, and I've been suffering in nearly all of them as well, so it's nice to have a good position for a change!"

Gawain Jones Levon Aronian Isle of Man

Gawain Jones scored the biggest single win of his career. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

In a battle of generations, young Vincent Keymer beat Boris Gelfand after, what else, yet another Isle of Man queen sacrifice. The young German, still coached by Peter Leko, has good chances to score his second GM norm tomorrow.

Keymer vs Gelfand Isle of Man

Getting mated, Gelfand resigns the game. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Keymer and Leko chess

Keymer congratulated by his coach Leko. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Two other young stars, Sam Sevian and Rameshbabu Praggnanandhaa, battled into what looked like a harmless rook ending. In another case of not trusting some of the online engines, the American did not in fact miss a tactical win, but it was a fun try!

Praggnanandhaa Isle of Man

Praggnanandhaa knows his theoretical rook endings. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Finally, norm season is upon us and IM Alina Kashlinskaya already has her GM norm (not fully confirmed yet but most probably) thanks to beating Rinat Jumabayev. Tomorrow is her birthday but she's guaranteed one of chess's nicest presents.

Alina Kashlinskaya Isle of Man

Kashlinskaya will have a very nice birthday tomorrow. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Here's the standings with one round to go. Only those with 6.0 or higher are mathematically able to win. In case of a tie, the top two players on tiebreaks will head to a playoff.

2018 Isle of Man International | Standings After Rd. 8 (Top 25)

Rk. Title Name FED Rtg TB1
1 GM Wojtaszek Radoslaw 2727 6,5
1 GM Naiditsch Arkadij 2721 6,5
3 GM Vachier-Lagrave Maxime 2780 6,0
3 GM Wang Hao 2722 6,0
3 GM Jones Gawain C B 2677 6,0
3 GM Xiong Jeffery 2656 6,0
7 GM Giri Anish 2780 5,5
7 GM Kramnik Vladimir 2779 5,5
7 GM Anand Viswanathan 2771 5,5
7 GM Grischuk Alexander 2769 5,5
7 GM Nakamura Hikaru 2763 5,5
7 GM Karjakin Sergey 2760 5,5
7 GM Rapport Richard 2725 5,5
7 GM Adams Michael 2712 5,5
7 GM Vidit Santosh Gujrathi 2711 5,5
7 GM Artemiev Vladislav 2706 5,5
7 GM Eljanov Pavel 2703 5,5
7 GM Leko Peter 2690 5,5
7 GM Sethuraman S.P. 2673 5,5
7 GM Adhiban B. 2668 5,5
7 GM Melkumyan Hrant 2660 5,5
7 GM Shirov Alexei 2636 5,5
7 GM Parligras Mircea-Emilian 2623 5,5
7 GM Fridman Daniel 2600 5,5
25 GM Aronian Levon 2780 5,0

Full standings here and round-eight pairings here.

Watch Isle of Man, Round 8 from Chess on

The 2018 Isle of Man International is a nine-round Swiss from October 20-28 beginning at 2:30 p.m. local time daily (GMT+1), except for round nine, which begins at 1:00 p.m.. The host site is the Villa Marina and the tournament is generously sponsored by the Scheinberg Family. Live coverage can be found at either or

Anand Isle of Man

Anand analysing with Artemiev. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Indians chess Isle of Man

GMs Vishnu Prasanna, Sundararajan Kidambi, Sethuraman S.P. (standing), GM Abhijeet Gupta analysing with IM Tania Sachdev and IM Rakesh Kulkarni, who runs the India social media channels. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Cramling and Bellon

One of many chess couples in Isle of Man: GMs Pia Cramling and Juan Bellon. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

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Mike Klein began playing chess at the age of four in Charlotte, NC. In 1986, he lost to Josh Waitzkin at the National Championship featured in the movie "Searching for Bobby Fischer." A year later, Mike became the youngest member of the very first All-America Chess Team, and was on the team a total of eight times. In 1988, he won the K-3 National Championship, and eventually became North Carolina's youngest-ever master. In 1996, he won clear first for under-2250 players in the top section of the World Open. Mike has taught chess full-time for a dozen years in New York City and Charlotte, with his students and teams winning many national championships. He now works at as a Senior Journalist and at as the Chief Chess Officer. In 2012, 2015, and 2018, he was awarded Chess Journalist of the Year by the Chess Journalists of America. He has also previously won other awards from the CJA such as Best Tournament Report, and also several writing awards for mainstream newspapers. His chess writing and personal travels have now brought him to more than 85 countries.

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