Caruana and Wang Hao are 3-0 at IOM


Round two started with five players with a perfect score. By the end of day three – there were two. After only three days of play, the American Fabiano Caruana and Chinese Wang Hao are the only ones among 154 players who have the maximum score at the Isle of Man Grand Swiss. In a game with a lot of turns, Fabiano Caruana got the better of Alexei Shirov, while Wang Hao defeated Bu Xiangzhi. On board four, the World Champion Magnus Carlsen allowed Rustam Kasimdzhanov to squeeze out of a weaker position, with the game ending in a draw. The top two players are followed by a pack of ten GMs with two and a half points out of three.

On the third day of the Isle of Man Grand Swiss, it was Fabiano Caruana’s turn to take the seat at the top board. He was facing Alexei Shirov, the world No 2 from 20 years ago. The opening developed into a very complicated position. The shadow of uncertainty hung over both sides for much of the game. Caruana did manage to block white’s progress on the kingside, forcing Shirov to move his c-pawn forward in an attempt to find another way of breaking Black’s defence. White, however, ended in serious time trouble, with 30 seconds for ten moves to reach the first time control. Fortunately for Shirov, Caruana missed some good options and both players ended in a somewhat even position after 40 moves. Caruana, however, managed to pin his pawn on d3 which helped gradually force the collapse of White’s defence. This win secured Caruana the leading place on the score-board, joined by only one other player.

The game between the two Chinese GMs on board two ended with a victory for Wang Hao, who outplayed Bu Xiangzhiafter achieving a more comfortable position in the opening. Wang Hao was the first player in the tournament to reach 3/3.

The big excitement ahead of round four

The most anticipated duel of Round 4 of the Isle of Man Grand Swiss will be that between the American Fabiano Caruana and Chinese Wang Hao, the only two players to have three points after three rounds. The World No 2, however, does not have a great history with the Chinese player: in their eight classical games so far, the score is 6.5:1.5 for Wang Hao! More precisely, five wins, three draws and zero (!) loses for the Chinese.

However, in seven of the eight games, Wang Hao had white pieces, and the last game the two played was back in 2013. It is said that every time the history repeats, the price goes up. The stakes for both players are now much higher than when they last met six years ago. Both have a lot to gain, but also a lot to lose, which suggests a tough battle on board one.

Another strong performance from Alexey Sarana, as Kasimdzhanov escapes Carlsen’s grip

On board three Radoslaw Wojtaszek won a pawn early on in the game against Baskaran Adhiban. Although Wojtaszek did have a slight advantage, the position seemed drawish. After simplifications, the game ended in both players sharing a point.

On board four the World Champion Magnus Carlsen took the initiative as White against former FIDE World Champion Rustam Kasimdzhanov. Despite ending in a slightly worse position, Kasimdzhanov managed to shake off Carlsen’s grip before passing the 40-move mark. Although taking control of the game, the World Champion, however, missed a few chances in the middlegame. His disappointment was visible afterwards. In the end, Carlsen was a pawn down but able to easily maintain a draw.

For the last decade, Rustam Kasimdzhanov has been a key figure behind the preparation of chess stars such as Anand, Karjakin and Caruana – in particular, their matches for the world title. This fact gives the game between Kasimdzhanov and Carlsen a different context.

On board five Alexey Sarana, who in the first two games at the FIDE Grand Swiss, demonstrated excellent play against the senior and current world champion, had a very tough duel with Chinese GM Yu Yangyi. After securing a 2:1 pawn advantage on the queenside, Yu confidently pushed them forward until creating a loose runner on the a-file. Sarana sacrificed a bishop but in return managed to stop the a-runner and get some compensation with 2:1 pawns on the kingside, with one of them advancing on the f-file. Although Yu Yangyi had an advantage, the Russian carefully moved his pieces to avoid potential traps and the game ended in a draw. So far, the 19-year-old Russian has proven to be a surprise of the tournament.

The Russians vs the rest, and Aronian’s first victory

Boards six to ten saw Russians playing against the rest of the world: seven Russians, one Armenian, one Greek and one American (Nakamura)! The only decisive matches, however, were those played between the Russians themselves: Grischuk beat Oparin (after a tiring rook and pawn vs rook endgame; one of the last games to finish) and Vitiugovdefeated Motylev. On board eight Nakamura drew by repetition on move 21.

Rinat Jumabayev achieved a strong position and was playing for a win against Sergey Karjakin. The Russian at one point offered a move repetition which Jumabayev refused and, later on, got into serious time trouble. With only seconds left, the Kazakh player reached move 40, but was by that point completely lost. The Russian is now on 2/3.

On board 39 Levon Aronian – who started with two draws – dominated in the Queen’s gambit the young Russian GM Andrey Esipenko. The Russian sacrificed a pawn to get the initiative to attack the black’s king, but the Armenian (who became GM before Esipenko was born!) defended himself well, launching the pawns in front of his castled king and grinding white’s attack to a halt. For the greater part of the game, the position was balanced, but after c5 in the 28th move, Black was better.
It seems that Aronian is getting into his game and is now - with two points out of three games - showing that he is picking up the pace!

Wesley So drew against Volokitin in 27 moves. After three draws in three rounds, So is now (only?) on 50 per cent. He is joined by Vishy Anand who drew with Nijat Abasov of Azerbaijan and now has 1.5 points.

The sharpest battle of the day

One of the sharpest games of the round was that between Israeli GM Avital Boruchovsky and the Ukrainian GM Yuriy Kryvoruchko where it was not clear whose king was more exposed. In the Ruy Lopez, Black neutralised White’s threats and then aligned his rooks on the open h-file, threatening the White king. White launched a counterattack but Black was just in time to place one of his rooks on the first rank. In an attempt to trap the exposed black king one of the white rooks was sacrificed. A fierce tactical battle followed. Although having some loose pawns, black pieces were aligned just right for a tactical storm which forced the white king into a mate in the middle of the board!

Four queens, but a decision-making pawn

One game deserves a special mention – that of Alexander Riazantsev (2645) – former Russian champion and now the coach of the Russian Women’s Olympic team – and Ekaterina Atalik who is 201-points lower rated. After exchanges in the middlegame, Riazantsev was a pawn up. By move 45 there were four queens (!) on the board. Despite there being so many queens, the prevailing factor was a loose a-pawn for Riazantsev, which made his position comfortable to secure a victory.

Antoaneta Stefanova, one of the top contenders for the $10,000 prize for women, lost to the US Olympic team member, Ray Robson. In the final position she was two pieces down.

A good day for the English

After a fine victory in the closed Sicilian in round two, Luke McShane had another great game, winning with black pieces against Ngoc Truong Son Nguyen. After launching an attack on the white’s king, black got into a winning position by move 20. McShane is now on 2.5 out of three and is at the top of the British players at the Isle of Man.

Overall, it was a good day for the English: David Howell was confident with black pieces against Daniele Vocaturo, while Gawain Jones beat Dietmar Kolbus in a King’s Indian, after the German blundered early in the game. British women’s champion Jovi Houska scored her first victory of the tournament, against Indian GM Prithu Gupta.

Text: Milan Dinic

Photos: Maria Emelianova/ John Saunder

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