News Isle Of Man: Nakamura, Wojtaszek Join Lead
Fiona Steil-Antoni conducting an interview at the Isle of Man. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/ Isle Of Man: Nakamura, Wojtaszek Join Lead

| 29 | Chess Event Coverage

In the last three rounds of the 2018 Isle of Man International, the number of leaders has gone from two to four to six. You might want to go ahead and check those playoff regulations now. There might have been an unlikely seventh, but the "Minister of Defense," Sergey Karjakin, saved a completely lost game.

Today's increase came since another draw on the top board gave others in the chase group a chance to catch up, and Hikaru Nakamura and Radoslaw Wojtaszek did just that. It also helped that one of the four pre-round leaders, Arkadij Naiditsch, took the day off with a bye.

Was Naiditsch just ensuring he would avoid an elite player? Perhaps not—it was also his birthday, and as Lennart Ootes pointed out, he'd lost the last three games he played on October 25!

Nakamura can sympathize, to a degree. He said he played "one of the worst games of my life" the last time he played on his birthday (against Wesley So), but he added that it had probably been at least 15 years since he took a bye for any reason.

Nakamura Gupta Isle of Man

It's much more difficult to play with no byes when your games last for more than six hours, but Hikaru can't complain much about that. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

"You're giving up a half-point without playing, and in an open, I feel like every half-point you give up without playing, that's crucial," he said. "I don't see the point." He said if he took a bye, he'd likely just sit in his room anyway.

Mircea-Emilian Parligras was on the cusp of beating Karjakin, but miscalculated at a key moment, allowing the Russian to hold a worse rook ending.

Nakamura is now on quite a run. After struggling for wins and settling for merely an even score at the Olympiad, he again ceded a few early draws in Douglas. But the "King of Opens" has been unstoppable since Tuesday, picking up three wins on the trot.

"My opponent wasn't ready for this whole 8. Na4 line," Nakamura said. "I played this on the other side in the Candidates'." He said Abhijeet Gupta's response 8...Bc5 was "dubious."

"I didn't see any way for him to equalize. It was a lot smoother than I thought it would be," said Nakamura. 

Dejan Bojkov

"I think yesterday was the turning point," Nakamura said about his tournament. "Yesterday I was enjoying chess for the first time in a long time and I think that carried over into today."

While in early rounds the French Defense has been a frequent guest of the tournament, today some of the higher-level games essayed the King's Indian. Alexander Grischuk drew with it, Vladislav Artemiev won with it, and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave liked it so much, he played the "Attack" version of it, and a tempo down!

Maxime Vachier-Lagrave

MVL scored another smooth win. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Astute readers can see that his treatment was like the King's Indian Attack against the French Defense setup, except as Black. Bobby Fischer won some famous games with the setup, but MVL was even ceding a tempo to play it, and then soon after a pawn to boot, so today was like Fischer 2.0.

He explained that he'd prepared this idea some time this year, which is when he first took up the line:

MVL said he regretted not taking his own repetition (with 23...Qd7), then said it was a mistake for his opponent to also decline his chance!

"The position was extremely complicated and probably extremely fun to follow, but I'm still not so happy about my play today," Vachier-Lagrave said.

Vladimir Kramnik has been playing more inventive chess as of late (an analysis by Tarjei Svensen from after the Olympiad shows that of all the elites, he has by far the lowest draw rate of 2018).

That creative play might also earn him the moniker Kramnik 2.0, and today he continued the excitement. The ending of the game greatly resembles round two's finish by IM Harsha Bharathakoti. Recall that if a rook is worth two pawns on the sixth, then a queen is worth two pawns on the seventh!

Kramnik said he thought 18...Bb4 was a mistake because his knight could just coolly step out of the way. "My knights are extremely strong in this position," he said. 

These three players ended up on the adjacent chairs, and the spectators couldn't ask for more. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/ three players ended up in adjacent chairs, and the spectators couldn't have asked for more. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

He didn't think the game was "spectacular" despite the commentators honoring it in that way. Before you go thinking that Kramnik has totally reinvented himself, remember that he was sacrificing to get pawns to d7 and e7 as early as 20 years ago!

Kramnik thus moved to 4.5/6, only a half-point off the pace. He's in contention, unlike last year, where an opening-round loss to Fabiano Caruana and a later blunder against James Tarjan sealed his fate.

The former world champion has also already taken a bye. As he explained to Viswanathan Anand, "We are old chaps and it's difficult to play nine games in a row...I knew that by round eight I would start blundering, which might happen anyway!" Kramnik estimated that the average age of those taking a bye is around 40. "Let the young players work for us."

The start of the game between American and Chinese. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/ start of the game between Xiong (left) and Wang Hao. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Board one, which comprised two of the three pre-round leaders (that were playing!), was a solid draw, and a good reminder not to always trust those "red moves" on chess engines. Despite what you may have seen, Jeffery Xiong did not miss a win against Wang Hao.

Nakamura said Xiong has benefitted from some "soft" pairings in earlier rounds. He also did not like the piece sacrifice yesterday from his countryman, despite the results working out.

Post-game analysis between 2700+ players usually happen in the hallway, because who needs a boards these days? | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Post-game analysis between 2700+ players usually happens in the hallway, because who needs a board these days? | Photo: Maria Emelianova/ 

"Nonetheless Jeffery was quite resourceful, so it was a good win for him," Nakamura said. 

Wojtaszek also joined the lead as Rasmus Svane couldn't topple two giants in a row:

"I had problems in the first round, like many players here I think," Wojtaszek said. "Somehow something improved. I think I started to play more freely." The Pole took his own bye yesterday since he has another event in China after this one. Wojtaszek said today he felt like he had "new energy inside me."

Wojtaszek in the studio during the interview with Fiona.  | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

"I'm not a huge fan of [taking byes], but of course it is allowed by rules I don't have a problem with it,"Wojtaszek said. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/ 

Pavel Eljanov, the 2016 champion, does not seem to figure in the fight for first place this year. Already the second-highest rated player on 3.0/5 to start the day, an ignominious placement, today he botched a win by placing the wrong piece on b8. He's the one who had to scamper to a draw in the end.

An arguably larger comeback came from Robert Hess. He turned a loss into a win, but then, it shouldn't be a surprise at this tournament that the first person to part with his queen wins. Of course, Hess' offering was more out of necessity than glory:

Vidit Gujrathi's slide continued. Today, as White, he lost his second game in a row. Mikhail Antipov used his control of the open file to score the point.

No chess report on U.K. territory would be complete without a Simon Williams attack. Now out of the broadcasters' booth but back over the board, today he gave a reason to be back on the live show.

It took the Ginger GM a full seven moves to get his pawn to g4. Maybe he hadn't had his coffee today, but eventually he made it classic Ginger:

Finally comes the final position from Le Quang Liem, which is really the only thing you need to see. The symmetric mating ideas of d6# and f6# are not something you see every day:

2018 Isle of Man International | Standings After Rd. 6 (Top 20)

Rk. Title Name FED Rtg TB1
1 GM Vachier-Lagrave Maxime 2780 5,0
1 GM Nakamura Hikaru 2763 5,0
1 GM Wojtaszek Radoslaw 2727 5,0
1 GM Wang Hao 2722 5,0
1 GM Naiditsch Arkadij 2721 5,0
1 GM Xiong Jeffery 2656 5,0
7 GM Kramnik Vladimir 2779 4,5
7 GM Anand Viswanathan 2771 4,5
7 GM Karjakin Sergey 2760 4,5
7 GM Rapport Richard 2725 4,5
7 GM Adams Michael 2712 4,5
7 GM Artemiev Vladislav 2706 4,5
7 GM Jones Gawain C B 2677 4,5
7 GM Sethuraman S.P. 2673 4,5
7 GM Parligras Mircea-Emilian 2623 4,5
7 GM Antipov Mikhail Al. 2593 4,5
7 GM Gupta Abhijeet 2588 4,5
18 GM Aronian Levon 2780 4,0
18 GM Giri Anish 2780 4,0
18 GM So Wesley 2776 4,0

Full standings here and round seven pairings here.

Games via TWIC.

Watch Isle of Man, Day 6 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

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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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