With six players on three wins from three games, the parings going into round four of the Isle of Man International Chess Tournament 2018, were rather straight forward, with the leaders playing each other. This would produce a draw and two decisive games.
The draw belonged to Jeffery Xiong of the United States and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave of France. The players took it easy in this round and the game lasted just over the required thirty moves.
It was looking like there might be another draw in the Berlin Defence of Wang Hao vs Erwin l’Ami, too. However, when Erwin slipped up in the endgame, it presented a great opportunity to his opponent.
In the diagram, above, Erwin has just played 42…c6, which was not accurate and opened up the seventh rank for Wang Hao. After 43.Ra7+(!) Bc7 we see that Black is very tied down. 44.Bd2 followed, with the bishop on its way to a5, where it will put pressure on the pinned Bc7.
L’Ami was in big trouble and it was not about to ease up for him. 44…Kc8 45.Ba5 Bb8 saw Wang Hao picking up a pawn with 46.Rxg7 and a few moves later he had the point.
This win meant that Wang Hao would be assured of at least a share of the lead going into round 5. Joining him would be Azerbaijani Grandmaster, Arkadij Naiditsch, who defeated Russian GM, Pavel Tregubov.
The game was a Winawer Advance variation of the French Defence. White took the better of things out of the opening, with slightly more activity and Black’s King dislodged from e8 to f8 (and later to g8). This tends to be a feature of this opening, however, so it is nothing that Black would not be expecting.
And there is compensation, namely good development and a rather mischievous h-pawn. His King’s rook is also able to use the h-file for quick mobilisation. And this, together with a little misplay by Naiditsch, saw Tregubov getting himself right back into the game.
Just a couple of rather ineffective moves at crucial moments cost him and saw Naiditsch seizing the initiative. The game arrived at the position shown below, with White having played 36.Qa5.
Here, White is better, mainly because Black has become slightly bogged down with defence. His 36…Rhb6 only made this more so and should probably have given way to …Qe8, which was more positive. There followed 37.Qb4 (which targeted the now deserted h4-pawn) and 37…Rh6.
It seems to me that Tregubov was slightly over estimating his stance, here. I say this with extreme caution, but it is the only explanation I have for him thinking that this kind of shuffling with his rook was going to be adequate. Perhaps he missed Naiditsch’s next, which showed Black’s position to be severely lacking. 38.Qg4(!).
Shown in the diagram is just what a serious problem this is for Tregubov. White has a huge amount of strength along the c-file and now that the Queen is also targeting the c8-square, there is complete disarray with Black being unable to challenge or close the file off.
It is very difficult to know what to suggest for Black, here, his position is just very bad and under serious pressure. Tregubov’s 38…Re6 was a good try and there certainly is not anything better. This is worrying, however, because White has the very nasty 39.Ng5. There followed 39…Qxe5 40.Qxh4 and Black resigned.
This sees Wang Hao and Naiditsch as the players to beat, then, but there are some very capable players right behind them. Only one point separates the top spot from 36th.
Top Standings after round 4
Wang Hao, Naiditsch — 4.0
Vachier-Lagrave, Wojtaszek, Rapport, Vidit, Xiong, Parligras, Gupta — 3.5