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Isle of Man Masters: Nakamura beats Abhijeet Gupta to take shared first

by Aditya Pai - 26/10/2018

Top seeds have begun gathering around the top spots after the sixth round of the Isle of Man Masters. While Wang Hao and Jeffery Xiong concluded their faceoff in a fighting draw, Hikaru Nakamura, Radoslaw Wojtaszek and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave won their games to join in on shared first. Nakamura defeated Abhijeet Gupta on the second board, thereby bringing the Indian GM off the top spot on the leaderboard. Meanwhile, Vishy Anand climbed up to the shared second place after his win over Daniel Fridman. On board 6, Adhiban effortlessly held Aronian to a draw with the white pieces while D Gukesh also scored a major upset defeating former Women's World Champion, Alexandra Kostenuik. Round 6 report.

The number of tournament leaders has 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, GM Abhijeet Gupta was toppled by the American number three, Hikaru Nakamura.

Arkadiy Naiditsch had opted for a half point bye at this point in the tournament which had led Gupta to be downfloated 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 Grandmaster.


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.

Position after 22...Nb4

Gupta was fighting hard to get something tangible by this point. His 22...Nb4 had the direct threat of forking both white rooks with Nc2. But Nakamura did not bother saving the exchange; he had bigger plans. Play continued 23.Nb5! Nc2 24.Bd4! Ne3 and after 25.Bxe3 Nxe3, white forced an exchange of queens with 26.Rf1!

Position after 26.Rf1

Now black is losing by force. 26...Qxe2 27.Qxe2 Rxe2 followed and Gupta resigned immediately after 28.Nd4, forking bishop and rook.

Hikaru Nakamura toppled overnight leader Abhijeet Gupta in round 6 to take shared first place on the leaderboard | Photo: John Saunders

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.


Position after black’s 20th move

Needless to say, the evaluation remained equal all throughout. Inducing the exchange of rooks and bishops in the ensuing endgame, Adhiban sealed the draw by the 31st move.

Adhiban Baskaran managed to hold the top seed of the tournament, GM Levon Aronian on board 6 | Photo: John Saunders

Vishy 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.

Refreshed after a day of rest, Anand won a 72 move marathon against Daniel Fridman | Photo: John Saunders

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.

Position after 34.Re3

The position was roughly equal until the point Vidit went for 34.Re3, attacking the white queen. But this lost a pawn after the zwischenzug 34...Ra1+ 35.Re1 Ra2 36.Qe3 Qxb4. While Vidit’s position was already beginning to look forlorn, he blundered once again on move 39. The final tactic of the game was rather pretty.

Position after 45.Kh3

The white king will be checkmated if black can deliver a check on the h3-c8 diagonal. To accomplish that, Antipov deployed the neat deflection tactic, 45...Ra7 and forced resignation. The rook if, of course, immune from capture but even if the white queen remains on the important diagonal, black has Rf7.

Vidit Gujrathi lost his second straight game of the event to Mikhail Antipov | Photo: John Saunders

A bit further down the pairings table, on board 30, 12-year-old IM D Gukesh defeated the former women’s world champion, GM Alexandra Kostenuik. Gukesh essayed the Caro-Kann Defence with the black pieces and castled on the queenside 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.

IM Sagar Shah analyzes Gukesh's sixth-round game | ChessBase India Youtube

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.

Games from round 6

Standings (Top 20)


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