News Isle of Man: Half the 2700s Nicked for Draws in Opener
It wasn't a safe day to be a super GM, but Maxime Vachier-Lagrave played a convincing game. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/ Isle of Man: Half the 2700s Nicked for Draws in Opener

| 40 | Chess Event Coverage

It turns out you don't need randomized pairings to make for an eventful opening of a chess tournament.

The 2018 Isle of Man International, the strongest open tournament in history, fielded a score of 2700s. But after only the first round, nearly half are already smarting from an early draw. Nine of the 20, including one of the two top seeds, couldn't escape the opening day without ceding a draw to an IM who was 300 points lower rated.

One former world champion, GM Viswanathan Anand, got all he could handle from a teenager, but survived the onslaught.

While no super-GM lost, the "death by a thousand cuts" began with GM Anish Giri, who along with GM Levon Aronian leads the tournament in rating at 2780. Playing on board two, Giri drew as black against IM Alina Kashlinskaya.

Levon Aronian

GM Levon Aronian was one of the fewer top seeds that didn't have any issues today. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

But it won't be all celebrations at her dinner, as husband GM Radoslaw Wojtaszek, himself a 2700, couldn't keep his torrid Olympiad form and also began with merely a draw. If anyone will be toasting, it will be the ladies, since Wojtaszek's mini-upset came at the hands of IM Batkhuyag Munguntuul, Mongolia's leading lady. IM Irina Bulmaga of Romania was a third woman to join the fun against a super-GM.

Another prominent 2700 getting off to less-than-perfect start was GM Vladimir Kramnik, who is actually ahead of last year's pace at 0.5/1 since he didn't have to start by facing Fabiano Caruana at least! The randomized pairings took a backseat thanks to FIDE's insistence -- the governing body precluded their use for the earning of norms, which many hope to earn while on the Isle of Man.


GM Vladimir Kramnik (standing, left) looks on to see fellow 2700 Radoslaw Wojtaszek eventually struggle down a piece to Batkhuyag Munguntuul. Both would end up dropping a half-point today. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

The other six super-GMs scoring a draw today were the two top Americas, GM Wesley So and GM Hikaru Nakamura. As GM Jacob Aagaard pointed out on Facebook, Nakamura has not won a game since the opening round of the Olympiad.

They were joined by GM Richard Rapport, GM Le Quang Liem, GM Michael Adams, and GM Zoltan Almasi, who also all drew to 2400s.

Several of the elite GMs also squandered a turn with white, including Adams.

Michael Adams

Michael Adams, right, has yet to win the modern incarnation of the Isle of Man tournament. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

To show how strong the tournament has become, Adams was the top seed in the first two editions in 2014 and 2015. This year England's top player is merely 15th, and couldn't find the winning queen trap in his first game:

While some of the underdogs adopted the age-old "trade everything" strategy to neutralize their opponents (Kashlinskaya-Giri and IM Paolo Ladron De Guevara Pinto-Nakamura being two examples), others "went for it" a little more. Munguntuul's effort against Wojtaszek was a prime example that you don't have to be meek against 2700s:


Radoslaw Wojtaszek's Poland squad played seeds 1-8 at the Olympiad, but today showed that even lower seeds can be a challenge! | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Only one board away, IM Harshit Raja also sacrificed an exchange against Rapport, and was perhaps even better in the final position when the two agreed to peace:

Richard Rapport

Richard Rapport skipped the Olympiad, but he's yet to get the rust off here in Isle of Man. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Like Rapport, So was also content to not castle. But his Hungarian colleague is much more in his element in offbeat positions, and the top American in Isle of Man almost paid for his indiscretions with a full point.

If it is wins you seek in your news reports, well there was a few of those too. You may have wondered why third-seeded GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave's pawn went from a2 to a4 to a5 so early? Well, like the chicken crossing the road joke, it went to a5 so it could get to a6!

Meanwhile, his opponent IM Nikolas Lubbe, who drew Caruana last year, was unwittingly creating some sort of retrograde puzzle. If you didn't see the opening moves, you probably wouldn't guess which Black knight was sitting on b8 after move 11!

When playing a higher-rated opponent, there's going for it, and then there's really going for it. For England's IM David Eggleston, protecting U.K. turf meant ripping open GM Vidit Gujrathi's king right away.

The sac, which doesn't lead to any immediate mate but rather long-term play, is actually not despised by the usually-material-hungry CPU. However, the elite Indian player found a prime moment to sacrifice back. By offering his queen for two minors, that meant he now had three for the lady, and they overwhelmed Eggleston rather quickly.

GM Viswanathan Anand survived a big scare from his 13-year old fellow countryman, IM Raunuk Sadhwani

"When I saw the pairing this morning, my first reaction was that it was very unpleasant." But those weren't the words of Sadhwani -- that quote came from Anand! "He's ridiculously underrated," Anand continued.

Raunuk Sadhwani

With 35 players, India has the largest contingent and more than 1/6 of the field, so sometimes they're going to have to play their own. Today young IM Raunuk Sadhwani nearly beat the best his country has ever seen. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Anand said he regretted playing the opening he chose, which was catered to his opponent. 

"I don't know, I just started doing some strange stuff at the board," Anand said, admitting that his queen sortie and capturing the pawn on e4 was "suicidal" since he missed the strength of the reply Ra7.

In the end, the teenager couldn't quite beat his country's chess hero, even though he did tie him up in knots.

Of the 82 games, only one full-point upset occurred. Way down on board 68, English FM Glenn House beat GM Swapnil Dhopade. Their game was off the DGT boards but doubtless if you shared a pint with House you got to hear all about it!

With the absence of GM Pentala Harikrishna and GM Magnus Carlsen, only two of the four previous winners of the modern Isle of Man event are here this year, but both won. GM Pavel Eljanov had to beat countrywoman GM Natalia Zhukova, while the 2014 champ is just getting back into classical chess.

"I'm extremely rusty, I've actually just not been thinking about playing chess at all," said 2014 winner and newly-appointed FIDE Vice-President GM Nigel Short. "I'm just hoping I can survive the first two or three rounds and I believe I will find my form in the event."

2018 Isle of Man International | All Round One Winners

Title Name FED Rtg TB1
GM Aronian Levon 2780 1,0
GM Vachier-Lagrave Maxime 2780 1,0
GM Anand Viswanathan 2771 1,0
GM Grischuk Alexander 2769 1,0
GM Karjakin Sergey 2760 1,0
GM Wang Hao 2722 1,0
GM Naiditsch Arkadij 2721 1,0
GM Vidit Santosh Gujrathi 2711 1,0
GM Artemiev Vladislav 2706 1,0
GM Eljanov Pavel 2703 1,0
GM Gelfand Boris 2701 1,0
GM Nabaty Tamir 2692 1,0
GM Leko Peter 2690 1,0
GM Sethuraman S.P. 2673 1,0
GM Adhiban B. 2668 1,0
GM Kovalev Vladislav 2664 1,0
GM Melkumyan Hrant 2660 1,0
GM Xiong Jeffery 2656 1,0
GM Short Nigel D 2652 1,0
GM L'ami Erwin 2639 1,0
GM Meier Georg 2639 1,0
GM Sevian Samuel 2634 1,0
GM Tari Aryan 2618 1,0
GM Donchenko Alexander 2610 1,0
GM Jumabayev Rinat 2605 1,0
GM Fridman Daniel 2600 1,0
GM Vaibhav Suri 2597 1,0
GM Svane Rasmus 2595 1,0
GM Huschenbeth Niclas 2589 1,0
GM Gupta Abhijeet 2588 1,0
GM Tregubov Pavel V. 2588 1,0
GM Hess Robert 2574 1,0
GM Nihal Sarin 2572 1,0
GM Wagner Dennis 2572 1,0
GM Debashis Das 2548 1,0
GM Puranik Abhimanyu 2547 1,0
GM Mekhitarian Krikor Sevag 2546 1,0
IM Christiansen Johan-Sebastian 2541 1,0
IM Lomasov Semen 2540 1,0
GM Praggnanandhaa R 2519 1,0
IM Paehtz Elisabeth 2513 1,0
GM Olafsson Helgi 2510 1,0
GM Dragnev Valentin 2508 1,0
IM Schneider Ilja 2507 1,0
GM Kobo Ori 2505 1,0
GM Shyam Sundar M. 2505 1,0
GM Vishnu Prasanna. V 2504 1,0
GM Anurag Mhamal 2495 1,0
GM Khmelniker Ilya 2492 1,0
IM Harsha Bharathakoti 2492 1,0
IM Zumsande Martin 2492 1,0
IM Keymer Vincent 2491 1,0
IM Henderson De La Fuente Lance 2484 1,0
GM Batsiashvili Nino 2482 1,0
GM Gormally Daniel W 2482 1,0
GM Darini Pouria 2475 1,0
IM Cornette Deimante 2462 1,0
IM Prithu Gupta 2458 1,0
GM Williams Simon K 2457 1,0
IM Gukesh D 2456 1,0
IM Bellaiche Anthony 2453 1,0
FM House Glenn L 2180 1,0
Untitled Bianco Valerio 2008 1,0

Full standings here and round two pairings here.

Games via TWIC.

Watch Isle of Man International from Chess on

The 2018 Isle of Man International is a nine-round Swiss from October 20-28 beginning at 2:30 p.m. local time daily (GMT+1), except for round nine, which begins at 1:00 p.m.. The host site is the Villa Marina and the tournament is generously sponsored by the Scheinberg Family. Live coverage can be found at either or

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