As was expected with a close race going down the home stretch, the Chess.com Isle of Man International Tournament went down to the wire of a playoff to decide the bragging rights to the title of what was billed as one of the strongest-ever opens. Going into the final round, joint-leaders Radek Wojtaszek and Arkadij Naiditsch were paired against each other, and with so much cash at stake for the winner, it turned out to be a somewhat cautious affair only interrupted by a brief moment of excitement with a piece sacrifice that quickly fizzled out to a ‘safety-first’ draw by perpetual check.
A win for either would have secured a big £50,000 ($65,000) first prize, the biggest pay-day of their careers. A draw between £37,500 and £20,250 (depending on other results). A loss anywhere between £10,500 and £2,843. So you can understand the caution with so much money at stake, as the two leaders opted for the security of being the clubhouse leaders, safe in the knowledge that the lion’s share of the prize money was going to be split, and an agonising wait to see if anyone was going to joint them in a playoff for the title.
But no one emerged from the chasing pack to make it into a multi-player playoff. So, in the end, Naiditsch and Wojtaszek – both assured of a big £37,500 pay-day, the biggest of their careers – returned to do battle in the playoff. After the blitz contest was tied at 1-1, the Polish No.1, Wojtaszek, went on to outplay the Azeri in the armageddon decider to take the title and an additional bonus of £500 – and there was a further bonus for the Wojtaszek household!
While Wojtaszek took home £38,000 and the bragging rights to the title, his Russian wife Alina Kashlinskaya also crushed another grandmaster – America’s Sam Sevian – in the final round to guarantee herself the £7,000 ($9,000) women’s first prize on offer… plus she also got a bonus of scoring a full GM norm on her 25th birthday! That meant that the household finances was improved by a net haul of £45,000, with Kashlinskaya commenting that it was “definitely” the best result they’ve had as a couple.
And the Isle of Man husband and wife double winners are not the only ‘power couple’ to have both achieved a major success in the same tournament in October. The husband and wife team of Bu Xiangzhi and Huang Qlan played their part in China sensationally capturing double gold earlier in this month’s Batumi Olympiad in Georgia.
There was a seven-strong American contingent taking part: Wesley So, Hikaru Nakamura, Jeffrey Xiong, Robert Hess, Sam Sevian and veteran James Tarjan. The highest-placed turned out to be Nakamura and rising star Xiong, with both finishing on 6.5 points and a share of 3rd-9th equal.
1-2. R. Wojtaszek* (Poland), A. Naiditsch (Azerbaijan) 7/9; 3-9. V. Kramnik (Russia), A. Grischuk (Russia), H. Nakamura (USA), Wang Hao (China), G. Jones (England), B. Adhiban (India), J. Xiong (USA) 6.5. Women’s prize: A. Kashlinskaya (Russia) 6.
Photo: Husband and wife, and improving the household finances with the two top prizes! | © John Saunders / Official site
GM Radoslaw Wojtaszek – GM Michael Adams
Chess.com IoM Masters, (8)
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.g3 d5 4.Bg2 The Catalan has been a long favourite of Wojtaszek. 4…dxc4 5.Nf3 c5 6.0-0 Nc6 7.Ne5 Bd7 8.Nxc4 Catalan players shouldn’t be afraid of sacrificing a pawn or two in the opening. The Catalan is a free-spirited adventure, where the name of the game is to rapidly develop your pieces with a view to picking the sacrificed pawns up later. 8…cxd4 9.Bf4 Be7 There’s no way to try to regroup with 9…Nd5 as after 10.Nd6+ Bxd6 11.Bxd6 Nce7 12.Be5! White will easily reclaim his pawn with the better prospects due to the bishop-pair. 10.Nd6+ Kf8 11.Nxb7 Qb6 12.Nd6 Qc5 It is just too dangerous to snatch another pawn with 12…Qxb2?! as after 13.Nd2 Qa3 14.N2c4 White is on top with his active pieces. 13.b4!? Wojtaszek is determined to make the game as complicated as he can, and another pawn sacrifice opens up more lines for his pieces. 13…Qxb4 14.a3 Qc5 15.Qb3 “I managed to out-prepare him of course,” Wojtaszek said about his novelty of 15. Qb3. And the bittersweet irony isn’t lost as the Pole further revealed that he had prepared this idea for Pentala Harikrishna, in the last round of the Olympiad, and, had the Indian fallen into this line, then he, too, could well have lost just as badly as Adams does, and it would have been Poland and not China who would have won the gold medal at the Olympiad! 15…Na5? Uncharacteristically for normally a very safe and solid player, Adams cracks trying to deal with Wojtaszek’s simple threat of mobilising further with Rc1 and a near-winning position. He simply had to play 15…Qb6!? 16.Qd3 (There’s nothing in 16.Nd2 Qxb3 17.Nxb3 allowing the trade of queens, hoping that the active pieces will compensate for the pawn, as Black strikes a blow with 17…e5! 18.Nc5 Bxd6 19.Nxd7+ Nxd7 20.Bxc6 Rd8 21.Bd2 Ke7 with a big advantage.) 16…Nd5 17.Nc4 Qa6 18.Nbd2 Nxf4 19.gxf4 Rd8 20.Rfc1 and take the fight from here. Black does have a pawn and the bishop-pair – but White has a lot of space, and it is not going to be easy for Black to connect his rooks and get his king to safety. 16.Qb4! The simple trade of queens will see Adams losing material as both his knight and rook are left hanging – but will the Englishman be able to generate enough compensation to stay in the game? 16…Qxb4 17.axb4 e5 18.Bxa8 exf4 19.Rxa5 Bxd6 20.Rxa7 Bxb4 Adams is hoping that, with the bishop-pair and by restricting all the pawns to the one side of the board, he may have a slim chance of saving the game – but Wojtaszek has other ideas. 21.Rd1 fxg3 22.hxg3 Bc5 23.Ra5 Bb4 24.Ra6 Ke7 25.Bc6 The simple way to victory. 25…Rc8 26.Rxd4! [see diagram] Adams’ fate is sealed by Wojtaszek’s very accurate move, leaving him no hopes for survival. 26…Bc5 Even if Adams retained the mating threats on the long a8-h1 diagonal with 26…Bxc6, he’s doomed after 27.Rxb4 Ba8 28.Nc3! with no way to prevent e4 leaving Black stranded. 27.Bxd7 Nxd7 28.Re4+ Kf8 29.Nd2 g6 30.Kg2 Rd8 31.Rc4 Be7 Adams is left in dire straits now – and not in a good way with Mark Knopfler playing lead guitar! Basically, it is now a struggle to get to some respectability, by at least making the game last to the time control at move 40. 32.Ne4 h5 33.Rc7 Ne5 34.Raa7 What’s not to like about the rooks doubled on the seventh? 34…Re8 35.f4 Ng4 36.Nc3 Nh6 37.e4 It’s total domination now from Wojtaszek. 37…Bd6 38.Rc6 Rd8 39.Nd5 Kg7 40.Kf3 Ng4 41.Rb7 Kf8 42.Ra6 Bc5 43.Rc7 Bd4 44.Ra4 Bg1 45.Rb4 1-0 Adams resigns, as it is all over when White doubles rooks again on the seventh.