This year’s Isle of Man Masters, sponsored by Chess.com, could claim to be the strongest ever open chess competition. The line-up was formidable, with most of the English Olympiad squad participating, as well as former world champions Vladimir Kramnik and Viswanathan Anand.
As it was, the championship titans failed in their bid to capture the £50,000 first prize. Leading scores were as follows, with Radoslaw Wojtaszek emerging as the title holder after the obligatory playoff: Wojtaszek and Naiditsch Arkadij both scored 7/9 in the main event, ahead of Vladimir Kramnik, Alexander Grischuk, Hikaru Nakamura, Wang Hao, Gawain Jones, B. Adhiban and Jeffery Xiong, who all scored 6½.
Jones-Aronian: Isle of Man 2018
(see diagram 1)
England’s Gawain Jones had an excellent result including this win against elite grandmaster Lev Aronian. White is the exchange ahead here but the strong black passed d-pawn complicates the winning task. 35 Bc4 d2 36 Rb1 g6 37 Rb8+ Kg7 38 Rd8 Kf6 39 Be2 Ke5 40 Bf3 Ne6 41 Rd7 Bd4 42 Kg2 Now that White has the d-pawn under control he can activate his king. 42 ... h5 43 Kf1 Kf6 44 Bd1 Ke5 45 Ke2 g4 46 hxg4 hxg4 47 Bb3 Nc5 48 Rd5+ Ke4 49 Rg5 Bxf2 50 Bc2+ Kd4 51 Rxc5 Black resigns
Wojtaszek-Naiditsch: Isle of Man play-off 2018
(see diagram 2)
This was the decisive play-off game. Black has a King’s Indian position where he has very little opportunity for counterplay and would do best to remain passive. Instead he unwisely lashed out. 21 ... g5 This inexplicable thrust leads to a horrible weakening of the black position on the kingside. 22 hxg5 Bxg5 23 Qb3 Kg7 24 f4 Now White also gains an enormous central pawn roller. Black’s position is already hopeless. 24 ... exf4 25 gxf4 Bh6 26 e5 Ng4 27 Qh3 Black’s 21st weakened his h-pawn, a fact that White quietly observes with this queen regrouping. 27 ... Rh8 28 f5 Kf8 29 e6 This position is a classic demonstration of how the King’s Indian can go horribly wrong for Black. 29 ... Qd8 30 f6 Nxf6 31 d6 fxe6 32 Ne5 Kg7 33 Qg3+ Ng4 34 Nxg4 hxg4 35 Qe5+ Kg8 36 Qxe6+ Kh7 37 Be4+ Black resigns
The eagerly awaited clash for the world title commences in London this coming week. I will of course be featuring its highlights in this column.