After two rounds of the Isle of Man International Chess Tournament, there were nineteen players with a perfect score of 2/2. At the end of round three, those with a perfect score would be reduced to just six.
These would be led by French Grandmaster, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (2780), to whom it was left to keep the top seeds end up in this round.
He played White against Norwegian Grandmaster, Aryan Tari (2618). The King’s Indian that this led to saw Vachier-Lagrave doing a much better job in the opening than his opponent. Tari seemed rather passive to me and reluctant to make concrete decisions. This led to trouble for him.
As can be seen by the diagram, above, the players arrived at a position in which both have an isolated pawn. When analysing this position, it is useful to remember, that when playing with an isolated pawn, we primarily want to try to advance it, obviously. If that is not possible, we want to post pieces around it. So, in White’s case, c5 and e5 — c4 and e4 for Black.
The reason for this, is that if we can make our opponent exchange on one of these squares, it can result in our pawns being reconnected and very strong later on. Also, it can open up a very useful file for us. This is clear to see in this position.
If we are playing against the isolated pawn, we want to blockade it and then attack it. Here, both players are having to consider both attack and defence, obviously. However, White is slightly better because of his better pieces and the vulnerability of the Black d-pawn.
Tari had to be accurate and his 16…Bf8(?) did not really tick the boxes. The bishop is actually very useful on g7, where it fires along the a1-h8 diagonal. 16…f5, therefore, was quite an alternative. As was 16…Nc8, in my opinion, the Nb6 is not well placed at all.
After Vachier-Lagrave’s 17.Bc5, we see Black’s situation. 17…Bxc5 is not a good option, precisely because first it opens up the d-file, but also because there is the very out of place Nb6 to consider now. With the d-pawn rather hanging in the air, …Nd7 would be met by Nxd5 and White would be feeling rather vindicated in his opening play.
As it was, Aryan chose 17…Nd7 and this was probably best, forcing White to consider his bishop. After 18.Bxf8 Nxf8 the d-pawn was safe for now but 19.Nf4 then put another piece on it. And here, it became clear that Tari did not not really have this game under control. His 19…Ne6(?) was inaccurate and should have given way to …Re7, preparing to swing the rook to d7.
There followed, 20.Nxe6 Bxe6 21.Rfe1(!) and the Black d-pawn was shaking in its boots. And here we see the drawback to defending pieces with the Queen, it is as if there is only one black piece guarding the pawn on d5. It was no surprise that White was soon claiming the pawn.
One does not have to give players like Maxime Vachier-Lagrave much of an edge in order to be deprived of a point and he made no mistake in converting his advantage. 1-0 in 40 and I imagine that Aryan Tari will be a little disappointed to have not put up more of a fight.
With this, Maxime made his score 3/3 and went to the top of the standings. He is not alone at the top, however, Wang Hao, Arkadij Naiditsch, Jeffery Xiong, Erwin l’Ami and Pavel Tregubov are also on 100%! A total of 20 players are within half a point’s range on 2.5/3, though, and these include Sergey Karjakin, Richard Rapport, Wesley So, Alexander Grischuk and Radoslaw Wojtaszek.