The number of tournament leaders have steadily been on the rise in the second half of the Isle of Man Masters. There were two after Round 4, four after Round 5 and now the number of leaders has risen to six at the conclusion of the sixth round. Of the four overnight leaders, Jeffery Xiong, Wang Hao and Arkadij Naiditsch kept their lead. The fourth leader, Grandmaster (GM) Abhijeet Gupta was toppled by the American number three, Hikaru Nakamura.
Akadij Naiditsch had opted for a half point bye at this point in the tournament which had led Gupta to being downgraded and pitted against Nakamura on board two. Gupta had scored impressive upsets in the last couple of rounds but the third time wasn’t a charm for the Indian GM.
Gupta, who had the black pieces in an English Opening, did not react in the best possible manner to his opponent’s opening and ended up in a slightly inferior position. On his 15th move, Gupta gave up a pawn in order to provoke complications.
Talking about his opponent’s play in the opening, Nakamura said, “I think my opponent wasn’t ready for this whole 8.Na4 line. I have played this from the other side in the Candidates against Svidler, so I was fairly familiar with the line. I thought 8…Bc5 was slightly dubious but it is still not so clear.”
“I think, my opponent just didn’t want to play some sort of a long game where he was slightly worse. So he kind of bluffed with this a6-b5 (pawn sacrifice),” he added.
Gupta continued energetically after his pawn sacrifice and did not make it easy for Nakamura. But the American Grandmaster came up with some very accurate calculation to refute Gupta’s superficial initiative. On the 28th move, Gupta was caught in a knight fork that cost him the piece, and with it, the game.
Four boards below, Adhiban Baskaran almost effortlessly held Levon Aronian to a draw on board 6. While the game was a rather dull affair, this is a great result for the young Indian Grandmaster. Adhiban had the white pieces in a symmetrical Four Knights Defence. In fact, the position was perfectly symmetrical well until the 20th move of the game.
Needless to say, the evaluation remained dead equal all throughout. Inducing the exchange of rooks and bishops in the ensuing endgame, Adhiban sealed the draw by the 31st move.
Viswanathan Anand, who was back to the board after taking a half point bye in the fifth round, scored a much needed victory against German GM Daniel Fridman. Quite apparently, Fridman was looking for a quiet game. He essayed the Petroff against Anand’s King Pawn opening and reached a sedate position out of the opening.
Around move 30, however, Fridman began to go astray. Around the 34th move, he lost a pawn and gave Anand the upper hand in the position. Converting the game, however, was not an easy job. Anand had to fight until the 72nd move before he was finally able to force resignation. After his win, Anand is in close proximity of the leaders, just half-a-point behind on 4.5/6.
Vidit Gujrathi, the second strongest Indian in the fray, lost his second game in a row in the sixth round. In a Slav Defence game, Vidit began to crack around move 35 and shed a pawn. Perhaps, Vidit was under time pressure by this point given that the game was nearing the first time control.
While Vidit’s position was already beginning to look forlorn, he blundered once again on move 39. Antipov, Vidit’s opponent, pounced with some lethal tactical punches that caught the white king in a mating net by the 45th move.
A bit further down the pairings table, on board 30, 12 year old International Master D Gukesh defeated the former women’s world champion, Grandmaster Alexandra Kostenuik. Gukesh essayed the Caro-Kann Defence with the black pieces and castled on the queen side out of the opening. Kostenuik showed that she was up for a fierce battle by going with her king to the kingside. Pawns of both sides soon stormed at the enemy kings.
Kostenuik had the chance to exchange queens on the 25th move and stabilized the position. Instead, she went for complications and ended up in an inferior position. On her 30th turn she grabbed one of Gukesh’s pawns, only to realize she had fallen for a trap. After the dust had settled, Kostenuik had lost her queen for a rook and a minor piece and went on to lose after 44 moves.
At the conclusion of the sixth round, quite a few of the top rateds who had remained behind have surfaced back to the top. Nakamura, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Radoslaw Wojtaszek have already reached the top of the leaderboard scoring 5.0/6. Anand, Kramnik, Karjakin and Adams are not too far behind at 4.5/6. Anish Giri, Wesley So, Levon Aronian, Alexander Grischuk and fifteen others are a further half point behind at 4/6.
Standings (Top 20)
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Updated Date: Oct 26, 2018 20:29:15 IST