20th - 31st January 2020       #gibchess

Masters Round 6 - Nakamura and Howell Share a Scotch on the Rock Image

Masters Round 6 - Nakamura and Howell Share a Scotch on the Rock

Jan 29, 2018

It's still very much the Nakamura show here at the Tradewise Gibraltar Masters but in round six his streak of wins was brought to an end when he drew with England's David Howell. As regards the race for the women's first prize Ju Wenjun has moved ahead of her rivals and, like Nakamura, is currently the favourite to win and repeat her success of 2017.

The Nakamura-Howell pairing was a case of history repeating itself. Back in 2015 the two of them met in round seven, with Nakamura on 6/6 and again Howell brought his streak to an end with a draw. Hikaru was a little miffed on that occasion though the setback did not affect his overall result as he won the tournament with 8½/10, followed by Howell on 8 in what was one of the best performances, if not the best, of the young Englishman's career so far. Their 2018 game was again highly intense, with the players expending exorbitant amounts of time in the opening – a Scotch – and leaving Howell in particular with only seconds and the increment to reach the time control with about 15 moves left. Thankfully for him the position had clarified sufficiently for him to be able to get away with his perilous clock handing but earlier in the game he missed a shot (15...Nxc2!?) which might have given him the advantage. By the same token it was horribly complex and he might have used up even more time had he played it and stirred up a veritable hornet's nest.

The top five boards all resulted in draws. Antipov had a long battle with Harikrishna in which the Russian GM nearly came to grief around move 40 but still had enough after sacrificing an exchange for a pawn to hold the draw. This glut of draws enabled three players to join Howell and Antipov in the second score group on 5: Chanda Sandipan, Wang Hao and Ivan Saric. Wang Hao managed to eke out a win at the end of a long struggle with SL Narayanan, who went astray around move 54, allowing a liquidation into a lost king and pawn endgame when he had chances to save had he kept rooks and bishops on the board.

Full pictorial report with annotated games ...