Isle of Man 9: Radek and Alina steal the show

(портал chess24.com, 29.10/2018)

Husband and wife team Radek Wojtaszek and Alina Kashlinskaya triumphed in the Chess.com Isle of Man International. Radek drew with Arkadij Naiditsch to take a £37,500 share of the 1st and 2nd prizes and then won the blitz tiebreaker in Armageddon to take another £500 and the trophy. Alina meanwhile beat Sam Sevian on her 25th birthday, claiming her 1st grandmaster norm and the £7,000 women’s top prize – more than was earned by the 7 players in the tie for overall 3rd place. Those included Alexander Grischuk, who beat MVL for the 1st time in the tournament’s only world Top 15 clash.

Alina Kashlinskaya supporting her husband Radek Wojtaszek during the playoff | photo: John Saunders, official website

You can replay every single game from the Isle of Man using the selector below:

Wojtaszek edges out Naiditsch on tiebreaks

Going into the final round the temptation for Radek Wojtaszek and Arkadij Naiditsch to play for a draw was verging on overwhelming. After their wins over Mickey Adams and Hikaru Nakamura in the previous round they had a half-point lead over the 4-player chasing pack and knew that a draw would at worst mean a 5-way tie for first. As the top prizes drop precipitously from £50,000 for 1st to £25,000 for 2nd, £12,500 for 3rd and £7,500 for 4th (then £6,250 for 5th) that meant at worst a draw would mean a £20,250 payday each, while at best – and this is what happened – it would mean £37,500 each.

How much risk should they take? | photo: John Saunders, official website

The game was a classical Ruy Lopez, with Wojtaszek explaining that he was trying to play solidly and not repeat the mistake of Nakamura against Naiditsch the day before. The clash could have ended with a repetition on move 15, but Arkadij decided that he could play on with no risk and some chances of winning the £50,000 outright. That meant we got an interesting game featuring a sacrifice on move 22:

Created with Raphaël 2.1.0

22.Nxd4! exd4 (22…Qb7 was also playable) 23.Bxd4 Bf6 24.Bxf6 gxf6:

Created with Raphaël 2.1.0

Naiditsch thought for 29 minutes here about ways he could try for more (although White can play on, objectively the position is a draw), but in the end he decided to force a draw with 25.Qxf6 Rfe8 26.Qg5+ Kf8 27.Qh6+ and so on.

Radek Wojtaszek would later have to make the winner's speech | photo: John Saunders, official website

That already meant it had been a good day for both players, but as the hours went by it would get better and better, especially for Wojtaszek. If one of the players in the chasing pack had won it was Radek who would have missed out on the playoff, but instead he took the £37,500 share of the top two prizes and also got to play for the trophy and an additional £500 bonus.

The format of the tiebreaks was two 5-minute, 2-second increment blitz games followed by Armageddon, and right from the start it was utter chaos, with Wojtaszek later commentating:

I think the playoff has nothing to do with your skills, or at least I hope so, because the level was a disaster! I felt even quite ashamed to play like that…

The players seemed to struggle to adapt to the fast time control after 9 days of classical chess, and in the first game, playing White, Radek blundered a pawn in the opening. Up to a point it seemed Naiditsch was going to go on to convert smoothly, but then he allowed White to open up his king and all hell broke loose. The advantage swung from side to side until finally Wojtaszek had the last laugh after 48…Kg4?

Created with Raphaël 2.1.0

49.Rd4! turned the tables, but Black could still have forced a draw after 49…Re2! Instead Arkadij played 49…Kf3 and Radek gratefully took the queen and won a few moves later.

That meant Naiditsch had to win on demand with the white pieces to take the tiebreak to Armageddon, and he did, but not as easily as seemed likely after he landed a crushing blow in the opening:

White’s advantage at one point grew to around +7, but Radek never gave up. As he would say later:

I think in a playoff it actually matters who wants it more, and I think I was simply the guy!

It wasn’t quite enough in the second blitz game, as just when it seemed he would escape he was caught in a mating net – or at least he would have to give up his bishop in the next move or two:

That meant the perfect end for spectators – Armageddon! Wojtaszek had White and 5 minutes to Black’s 4, but if the game ended in a draw it was Naiditsch who would win the trophy. This time, though, it was one-way traffic as Radek first took control of the queenside and then used his space advantage to swing his pieces to the kingside when Arkadij rashly went for a pawn break there. Soon the white pawns were crashing through…

Created with Raphaël 2.1.0

…until the game and tournament ended one move before mate:

That meant that Wojtaszek had scored perhaps the biggest triumph of his career, with victory in the 2017 Dortmund supertournament the only real competition. He’d also taken his live rating to 2749.4, a fraction short of his peak rating, making him the world no. 16, a place above Hikaru Nakamura.

It’s noteworthy that both the players tied for 1st took a half-point bye in the middle of the tournament, potentially "sacrificing" half a point

It wasn’t just a personal triumph, though…

Alina Kashlinskaya’s birthday to remember

It’s not unheard of for Alina and Radek to win tournaments together, since they did so the first time they met back in 2011!

Joint winners of the 2011 György Marx Memorial | photo: Alina Kashlinskaya's Facebook page

Four years later they got married, and now as a married couple they managed to clean up the prizes on the Isle of Man. It wasn’t only about money, as Alina started the final round on her 25th birthday knowing that as long as she made at least one move she would make her first grandmaster norm:

It was to get much better, though. She commented:

I know that playing on your birthday is risky… I can’t say that it was easy, but all my moves were so natural and I just wanted to push!

She got to play the wonderful 16.Nd5!! against 17-year-old rising US star Sam Sevian:

Created with Raphaël 2.1.0

White is already better, and in the game Sam barely managed to put up any resistance as Alina won an utterly convincing victory. Black could have resigned around 15 moves earlier than he finally did:

That meant a 2705 performance for Alina and the £7,000 women’s first prize, more than the £5,607 taken home by the 7 players tied for 3rd place, and much more than the £184 earned by the other 18 players who scored 6/9 for a share of 10th place. 

It wasn't Sam Sevian's finest hour, but he was in good company - Anish Giri and Vladimir Kramnik also failed to beat Alina earlier in the tournament | photo: John Saunders, official website

Alexandra Kosteniuk took the £3,500 2nd women’s prize for 5.5/9 after beating Indian GM Sundararajan in a tricky ending that lasted until move 98. That was the last classical game of the tournament to finish and may have brought back painful memories for Alexandra, who lost the last game of the Batumi Olympiad. Instead it was an important win, since it meant she didn’t have to share 2nd place with Pia Cramling.

In other news

For most of the day the question was whether any of the other players on 6/8 could win and join Wojtaszek and Naiditsch, but although Jeffery Xiong and Wang Hao pressed with the white pieces against Gawain Jones and Vishy Anand they couldn’t break through. Maxime Vachier-Lagrave was the only world Top 15 player in with a chance of the title in the final round, but he was unlucky to be paired with Black against Alexander Grischuk. 

After so many fighting games between these two players it was finally Alexander Grischuk who drew the first blood | photo: John Saunders, official website

As Grischuk noted afterwards, that was the only such clash of the whole tournament, with his theory being that as the event has got stronger 9 rounds simply aren’t enough to divide the players:

It’s like making a 100m distance in cycling, or 1 km in Formula 1!

No doubt it was partly just coincidence this year, but in any case, the only “top” pairing of the tournament was a fascinating one, with both players approaching it with the aggression their tournament standing required. The Sicilian Najdorf was dynamically balanced all the way until what Grischuk described as, “the first mistake I’m aware of in the game”, 38…Re6?!

Created with Raphaël 2.1.0

Grischuk said that, “allowed me to exchange my e-pawn for his very dangerous h-pawn”, as he did with 39.Nf4! Rxe4 40.Nxh5+. Maxime still went on to defend well, but ultimately lost in a study-like manner:

Grischuk explained that had been the first decisive game between the two players, and also got to make up for lost time in front of the camera!

Everything’s so politically correct… and then you have the Isle of “Man” – it’s an amazing feeling to be here!

The win took him into a share of third place level with Vladimir Kramnik, who beat Alexei Shirov in the final round, Hikaru Nakamura, who beat Pavel Eljanov, Adhiban, who beat Mickey Adams, and Wang Hao, Gawain Jones and Jeffery Xiong, who all drew. 

A blast from the past as Vladimir Kramnik ended with a win over Alexei Shirov - Pavel Eljanov's hopes that Hikaru Nakamura might not show up for the game sadly proved unfounded! | photo: John Saunders, official website

The final standings in the top groups looked as follows (note all the places on the same number of points are shared):

Rk. SNo Name sex FED Rtg TB1 
1 10 GM Wojtaszek Radoslaw POL 2727 7,0
13 GM Naiditsch Arkadij AZE 2721 7,0
3 4 GM Kramnik Vladimir RUS 2779 6,5
7 GM Grischuk Alexander RUS 2769 6,5
8 GM Nakamura Hikaru USA 2763 6,5
12 GM Wang Hao CHN 2722 6,5
24 GM Jones Gawain C B ENG 2677 6,5
26 GM Adhiban B. IND 2668 6,5
29 GM Xiong Jeffery USA 2656 6,5
10 2 GM Giri Anish NED 2780 6,0
3 GM Vachier-Lagrave Maxime FRA 2780 6,0
6 GM Anand Viswanathan IND 2771 6,0
9 GM Karjakin Sergey RUS 2760 6,0
11 GM Rapport Richard HUN 2725 6,0
14 GM Le Quang Liem VIE 2715 6,0
16 GM Vidit Santosh Gujrathi IND 2711 6,0
17 GM Artemiev Vladislav RUS 2706 6,0
19 GM Almasi Zoltan HUN 2702 6,0
22 GM Leko Peter HUN 2690 6,0
23 GM Howell David W L ENG 2689 6,0
25 GM Sethuraman S.P. IND 2673 6,0
27 GM Kovalev Vladislav BLR 2664 6,0
28 GM Melkumyan Hrant ARM 2660 6,0
35 GM Sutovsky Emil ISR 2633 6,0
36 GM Parligras Mircea-Emilian ROU 2623 6,0
37 GM Ganguly Surya Shekhar IND 2622 6,0
41 GM Fridman Daniel GER 2600 6,0
84 IM Kashlinskaya Alina w RUS 2447 6,0
29 1 GM Aronian Levon ARM 2780 5,5
5 GM So Wesley USA 2776 5,5
15 GM Adams Michael ENG 2712 5,5
18 GM Eljanov Pavel UKR 2703 5,5
21 GM Nabaty Tamir ISR 2692 5,5
31 GM L'ami Erwin NED 2639 5,5
33 GM Shirov Alexei ESP 2636 5,5
39 GM Donchenko Alexander GER 2610 5,5
43 GM Svane Rasmus GER 2595 5,5
44 GM Deac Bogdan-Daniel ROU 2594 5,5
46 GM Huschenbeth Niclas GER 2589 5,5
49 GM Hess Robert USA 2574 5,5
50 GM Nihal Sarin IND 2572 5,5
52 GM Kosteniuk Alexandra w RUS 2551 5,5
54 GM Puranik Abhimanyu IND 2547 5,5
55 GM Mekhitarian Krikor Sevag BRA 2546 5,5
58 IM Lomasov Semen RUS 2540 5,5
66 GM Vishnu Prasanna. V IND 2504 5,5
79 IM Prithu Gupta IND 2458 5,5
82 IM Bellaiche Anthony FRA 2453 5,5
87 IM Krishna C R G IND 2445 5,5

Chess is unforgiving

Of course as always more happened on the final day than it would be possible to summarise. For instance, 13-year-old Vincent Keymer will have to wait for the grandmaster title after he failed to get the draw he needed against Emil Sutovsky. Other prodigies also suffered, with Praggnanandhaa lost against Le Quang Liem by move 15 while Gukesh also lost to Zoltan Almasi. They were sitting together, as was Nihal Sarin, who managed to draw against Wesley So in nerve-wracking mutual time trouble.

Two other players sitting together were English Grandmasters Nigel Short and Simon Williams. Nigel lamented:

A difficult game against Vishnu Prasanna had culminated in a nice final blow:

35.Rxf7!, and Short resigned, since 35…Rxf7 36.Rxf7 Qxf7 loses to 37.Qxg5+!, picking up the d8-rook. 

Erwin l'Ami and Simon Williams were co-creators of an extraordinary final round game | photo: John Saunders, official website

Simon meanwhile stayed true to his style and created some extraordinary chess art, with the position after his 22…e6 looking as follows:

Created with Raphaël 2.1.0

White was winning after 23.fxe5! exd5 24.exd6, though, as Erwin l’Ami went on to demonstrate:

The game finally ended in mate on move 37.

One of the stars of the event, Abhijeet “Superman” Gupta, followed beating two 2700 players in consecutive rounds with three losses in his final four games. He has the right attitude, though!

So that’s all for this year’s Chess.com Isle of Man International! Coming up in 11 days is the Carlsen-Caruana World Championship match in London, and our commentary team will feature the most star power we’ve ever assembled. Talking of which, what will Carlsen’s latest challenger cook up?

But first there are, of course, more top level events. On the 3rd November in Khanty-Mansiysk the 64-player Women’s World Championship knockout will start, with Alina Kashlinskaya facing a tricky 1st round tie against the even trickier to name 19-year-old WGM Gulrukhbegim Tokhirjonova from Uzbekistan. The status of that event has grown now that it’s been decided that not only will the winner become the Women’s World Champion but the remaining semi-finalists will qualify for a Women’s Candidates Tournament.

A day later Radek Wojtaszek will be in action in China as he plays in the 2nd edition of the Shenzhen Masters alongside Ding Liren, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, Anish Giri, Yu Yangyi and Nikita Vitiugov. Of course you can watch all the action here on chess24!