News Isle of Man: Aronian 'Bluffs' While Vidit Sacrifices Queen Again
Levon Aronian defeated Dennis Wagner with some risky play. | Photo: John Saunders/Isle of Man Chess. Isle of Man: Aronian 'Bluffs' While Vidit Sacrifices Queen Again

| 29 | Chess Event Coverage

It's been several years since the Isle of Man International was a combination chess and poker event, but GM Levon Aronian showed in today's round two that there's still room for bluffing. On top board, he played a calculated risk that worked to move him to 2.0/2, where he was joined one board lower by a birthday boy. GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave gave himself the best 28th birthday gift—a winning rook ending.

Maxime Vachier-Lagrave

Maxime Vachier-Lagrave seems to have been given a polo shirt for his birthday, but he gave himself a win. | Photo: John Saunders/Isle of Man Chess.

Boards 3-5 weren't so lucky. Whereas yesterday GM Anish Giri led the list of elite players ceding a draw, today three more household names followed suit. GMs Viswanathan Anand, Alexander Grischuk, and Sergey Karjakin all yielded half-points on those next three boards, unable to keep pace with their usual colleagues.

For Anand in particular, it was another struggle today, as he had to defend a worse rook ending. Instead of playing against an underrated kid, today he faced off against the nearly-retired GM Robert Hess, who doesn't play many international events these days. 

Things went far better for other members of the Indian contingent, even if they were feasting on their own. GM Vidit Gujrathi annihilated his countryman's king in a Romantic-era style by offering his queen for the second day in a row, while teenager IM Harsha Bharathakoti showed no respect for his country's elders by taking out GM S.P. Sethuraman by giving away his own queen for a mate that was arguably more impressive.

This report is not Shakespearean, so there's no sense in more rising action. Bharathakoti's climax was one for the tactics books:

Bharathakoti is the only IM out of the 19 players currently on 2.0/2.

Aronian's game became nearly as adventurous, but he was playing an opera instead of a play. Well, maybe not, but he was playing "Wagner."

He sacrificed an exchange, but despite the crescendo the game remained roughly balanced. That's when Aronian "bluffed" (as our analyzer guessed) with a further sacrifice against the white king. There were two refutations, but GM Dennis Wagner found neither and the game ended rather quickly after that.


Vidit took out his countryman GM Das Debashis in only 25 moves. There's a chapter in FM Sunil Weeramantry's book Best Lessons of a Chess Coach called "Playing With a Full Deck." And that's exactly what White did—just look at the array of forces he amassed after move 22.

Not surprisingly, Black lasted a mere three more moves. And if you are counting, yes, Vidit has now sacrificed his queen twice in two days, winning both!

Lovers of the French Defense, let's try some balance in the reporting. While it didn't turn out well at all for Debashis, the opening did just fine for Hess. Having just come from coaching the U.S. Women's Olympiad Team, where one prominent member is a full-fledged French aficionado, he might have felt comfortable from all the study.

Viswanathan Anand Robert Hess

Robert Hess, left, was actually the one pushing against Viswanathan Anand today. | Photo: John Saunders/Isle of Man Chess.

He told that he did "minimal prep" because he wanted to be fully rested for the game.

Hess and Anand spoke about the game afterward, but the American doesn't think he missed a win. He also doesn't remember the last time he played overseas (he thinks it was 2012). Hess said this is exactly the kind of game he hoped for when signing up for this tournament.

"I came to play Isle of Man because of exactly this," Hess said. "I wanted to compete against some of the best of all time."

He added more about his choice of opening:

It was an honor to play Vishy, as I’ve long been a huge admirer of Vishy as a person and a player. I greatly respect his chess, but I never was afraid of him. I chose the French because he knows everything, and I figured my best bet was to catch him off guard. I was fortunate that he was a bit out of shape in the game, but I’m immensely proud of the way I played. I pressed for hours and ultimately he held a tough ending. Sure, I probably missed some chances but I gave it my all and played what I consider an excellent game of chess.

As for Grischuk, he contented himself with an age-old repetition in the Closed Spanish, while IM Elisabeth Paehtz was never in danger while making a solid draw with Karjakin.

Elisabeth Paehtz

Elisabeth Paehtz, norm hunter. | Photo: John Saunders/Isle of Man Chess.

Paehtz is looking to rebound. After catapulting into the world's top 10 women with her recent peak rating of 2513, she lost more than 20 points at the Olympiad and European Club Cup. She seems to be one of the next top female candidates to earn the GM title, but it's still far too early for norm-watching at Isle of Man.

Vachier-Lagrave used several small advantages to cobble together a winning ending. His control of the open file, advanced king, and the loose target at a5 all combined together for the full point. HIs birthday present was a passed both a passed b-pawn...

...and a dinner with friends:

Maxime Vachier-Lagrave

Maxime Vachier-Lagrave's birthday dinner. He's seated on the right, fourth from the bottom, and is joined by fellow players, and staff from, the tournament, and Twitch. | Photo provided by Danny Rensch/

As for full upsets on the top boards, they've been hard to come by as of yet, but on board 12 GM Vishnu Prassana's nearly 200-point gap with GM Tamir Nabaty didn't deter him. The Indian GM's calm pin was weirdly impossible to defend, despite Black having a completely free move.

For all the chess teachers out there who need a great position to show forks, make sure you bookmark this game:

Lastly, the "Wild West" award goes to 21-year-old GM Ori Kobo and 20-year-old GM Vladislav Artemiev. They have a lot of years ahead of them, unless they keep playing with complete disregard for their own safety.


Ori Kobo (right) vs. Vladislav Artemiev. The pawn on h4 tells you all you need to know about what was to come. | Photo: John Saunders/Isle of Man Chess.

Make sure you also brush up on your geometry for the finish:

2018 Isle of Man International | Top 19 (All those on 2.0/2)

Title Name FED Rtg TB1
GM Aronian Levon 2780 2,0
GM Vachier-Lagrave Maxime 2780 2,0
GM Wang Hao 2722 2,0
GM Naiditsch Arkadij 2721 2,0
GM Vidit Santosh Gujrathi 2711 2,0
GM Gelfand Boris 2701 2,0
GM Melkumyan Hrant 2660 2,0
GM Xiong Jeffery 2656 2,0
GM L'ami Erwin 2639 2,0
GM Meier Georg 2639 2,0
GM Sevian Samuel 2634 2,0
GM Tari Aryan 2618 2,0
GM Donchenko Alexander 2610 2,0
GM Jumabayev Rinat 2605 2,0
GM Vaibhav Suri 2597 2,0
GM Gupta Abhijeet 2588 2,0
GM Tregubov Pavel V. 2588 2,0
GM Vishnu Prasanna. V 2504 2,0
IM Harsha Bharathakoti 2492 2,0

Full standings here and round three pairings here.

Games via TWIC.

Watch Isle of Man International Round 2 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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