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Carlsen Is 'The Man' Of The Island, Takes Sole Lead
The king of the island? | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

Carlsen Is 'The Man' Of The Island, Takes Sole Lead

King Magnus III ruled the Isle of Man from 1099 to 1103. One millennium later, King Magnus IV is attempting to conquer the quaint island a second time.

While Magnus Carlsen is not actual royalty (his name being preceded by "GM" rather than a dynastic honorific) in the 2017 Chess.com Isle of Man International he is beginning to reign.

After six rounds, he's clear of the field on 5.5/6. Today he allowed GM Pavel Eljanov to be his vassal on board one, but then reminded him that this was his land (Carlsen has played on board one every round).

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GM Magnus Carlsen (left) simply has GM Pavel Eljanov's number. And now that number is "six." | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

Before our astute readers jump on the joke, yes we're aware that the real King Magnus IV of Norway has long since passed. But after all, he was called "Magnus the blind" and Carlsen's pretty good blindfolded, too. So maybe the conflation is apt.

Carlsen is here in Isle of Man with his girlfriend. Apparently every king has a queen:

Exploring the wildlife at night

A post shared by Magnus Carlsen ( @magnus_carlsen) on

Today Carlsen played his third "creative" opening as Black, this time 1...b6, then slowly took over the initiative and the point.

"I try to do some things that I might not allow myself to do in other events," Carlsen told Chess.com. In his other two games as Black, he's used the Tiger Modern and the Nimzowitsch Defense. Carlsen is 2.5/3 in his Black games.

That's less than half as impressive as his career record against Eljanov. Carlsen moved to six wins in as many games against the Ukrainian. He guessed that part of the reason he scored today as Black was that Eljanov never settles as White, no matter who he is playing.

"He's usually quite ambitious with the white pieces," Carlsen said. "He doesn't play for a draw and maybe that's why I have such a big record against him."

There's at least one regard where Carlsen would not like to replicate the long-ago leader of Norway. King Magnus III was the final Viking king to die in battle abroad. Carlsen, by all appearances in his play and off the board, is still full of vigor and not likely to suffer the same fate any time soon.

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Carlsen explained more about his game in the commentary:

The win from the top seed created some more space from his pursuers, save one player. Of those one-half point behind, only GM Vidit Santosh Gujrathi could keep the same gap, while all others fell further behind. That included the top two Americans, GMs Fabiano Caruana and Hikaru Nakamura, who mustered only draws against lower-rated opposition.

Since Carlsen is the only player on 5.5/6 and Vidit the only one on 5.0/6, they necessarily play tomorrow.

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Carlsen chats with the tournament benefactor Isai Scheinberg, who asked about the playability of 1...b6. Carlsen said the computer evaluation isn't the only story. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

Vidit's win today came at the expense of the tournament's unheralded star, IM Harsha Bharathakoti, who had been nipping at 2900 in performance rating before today's speed bump. Don't cry for him, he's still on 2787, and very comfortably in range for a GM-norm, even with another loss or two! His incredible September is contiunuing -- just days before Isle of Man, he won the Indian Junior Championship.

It shouldn't surprise so much that Bharathakoti is such a good player. As Chess.com found out during an interview today with GM Harika Dronavalli, who is nine years older, the two families are so close that she was there for his birth! 

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IM Harsha Bharathakoti (left) got taught all about pawn structures today by GM Vidit Santosh Gujrathi. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

Today though the lack of top-level experience caught up with him. Harsha got snookered into a pair of doubled pawns in the opening, thanks to a clever pawn offer by his 2700-opponent. Vidit eventually picked them apart one-by-one in a way that someone might savor delectable chocolates.


In another all-India matchup, GM Viswanathan Anand, who began the day a full point behind the leaders, got to do something he's almost never done in recent memory. It had nothing to do with the moves of the pieces.

After playing GM S.P. Sethuraman, he chatted with him briefly while exiting the tournament hall.

"I don't remember the last time I analyzed in Tamil!" he said while this reporter was listening. Curiously, he made this comment to GM Magesh Panchanathan, also in Tamil, before translating. Both Anand and Panchanathan are from southeastern parts of India where Tamil is an official language. (For his part, Panchanathan lost his game, but still helped dispel any long-surviving rumors since his opponent was GM Hou Yifan.)

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They both speak Tamil, but who would be the Tiger today? | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

As for the game itself, Anand explained that the position after move 13 is well known, except that White has his queen on d3. The extra tempo came courtesy of Black's dark-squared bishop hopping to c5 before retreating to e7.

"He's challenging me to do something with this move," Anand said.

But that wasn't the most peripatetic black bishop. Sethuraman's light-squared bishop bounced to and from e6 no fewer than five times!

"It's quite sophisticated what he's doing but it gives a strange impression that he's just moving the bishop around," Anand said.

Check out the full analysis by Anand below:


If video is more to your liking, here's the former world champ joining the studio:

Anand explained that the large Indian contingent in Isle of Man (30 players, the largest federation) presents a unique challenge that has nothing to do with having to play a few of them.

"This is the first tournament since Gibraltar where I cannot come to the tournament hall and find my flag because it's full of Indian flags," he joked. "Yesterday I found my table by finding the Swedish!"

GM Nils Grandelius, Anand's fifth-round opponent, is the only one holding the mantle of his nation of 10 million. Strangely enough, that still makes Sweden more represented per capita in Isle of Man than India!

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Since we mentioned Short-Timman 1991 in an earlier report, here's Short-Timman 2017! | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

As for the other closest chasers, no one else could muster a win. Nakamura spun his wheels trying to get an advantage against GM Aleksandr Lenderman, despite White getting the tournament's much-discussed battery of Bc2/Qd3.

Caruana took Black and faced a serious attack from GM Emil Sutovsky, who must have been well-rested after yesterday's miniature. Today Sutovsky was "rewarded" with White again, and despite facing the third seed, he tried to blow him off the board as well.


The final game in the 4.0/5 score group, between GM Laurent Fressinet and GM Michael Adams, had no such fireworks and ended right on the minimum 30 moves.

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GM Emil Sutovsky (left) surprised no one by attacking -- it didn't matter that he faced GM Fabiano Caruana. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

While Bharathakoti's dream tournament hit a snag, the other-worldly performance discussed yesterday kept on going. That would be IM Nino Batsiashvili, who beat a 2600 today as Black. Which stat impressed you more -- that she's played all six games games against GMs, that she's undefeated with 4.5/6, or that her performance rating is north of 2800, higher than Anand's or Nakamura's?

In any case, she may only need a smidgen more for a GM norm. Tomorrow it'll be GM Pavel Eljanov for her, who is so high-rated that probably any mark against him may virtually clinch with two rounds to spare!

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IM Nino Batsiashvili (left) is showing that just because the World Cup ended, that doesn't mean you can forget about Georgia. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

But first, her round-six win:

Surely Batsiashvili leads the race for the top women's prize, right? Nope! She's only tied. That's because IM Anna Zatonskih has shaken off that one-sided loss to Grandelius from early in the tournament. She's also on 4.5/6 with nearly a 2700 performance rating.

Yesterday she beat former women's world champion GM Alexandra Kosteniuk. Today she reversed the way her game was trending, and beat former world champion runner-up GM Boris Gelfand.

Life can change in a single move, and if she gets that GM norm, this may be the move that did it:

Here's here full explanation of the game from the winner:

Finally, IM R. Praggnanandhaa nearly beat another strong GM, but Grandelius just barely held on after more than six hours of play and down a pawn for much of it. The game was the third-to-last to finish.

As Grandelius left the tournament hall, he turned to this reporter, and gave a wry smile.

2017 Chess.com Isle of Man International | Round 6 Standings, Top 40

Rk. SNo Name FED Rtg TB1
1 1 GM Carlsen Magnus 2827 5,5
2 12 GM Vidit Santosh Gujrathi 2702 5,0
3 3 GM Caruana Fabiano 2799 4,5
4 GM Anand Viswanathan 2794 4,5
5 GM Nakamura Hikaru 2781 4,5
6 GM Adams Michael 2738 4,5
8 GM Eljanov Pavel 2734 4,5
16 GM Sutovsky Emil 2683 4,5
18 GM Kasimdzhanov Rustam 2676 4,5
19 GM Rapport Richard 2675 4,5
20 GM Movsesian Sergei 2671 4,5
23 GM Jones Gawain C B 2668 4,5
26 GM Fressinet Laurent 2657 4,5
34 GM L'ami Erwin 2611 4,5
35 GM Sokolov Ivan 2603 4,5
46 GM Lenderman Aleksandr 2565 4,5
48 GM Wagner Dennis 2564 4,5
55 GM Swapnil S. Dhopade 2532 4,5
68 IM Batsiashvili Nino 2472 4,5
85 IM Zatonskih Anna 2424 4,5
21 9 GM Vallejo Pons Francisco 2716 4,0
10 GM Almasi Zoltan 2707 4,0
11 GM Naiditsch Arkadij 2702 4,0
14 GM Short Nigel D 2698 4,0
17 GM Leko Peter 2679 4,0
22 GM Hou Yifan 2670 4,0
24 GM Riazantsev Alexander 2666 4,0
25 GM Akobian Varuzhan 2662 4,0
28 GM Grandelius Nils 2653 4,0
29 GM Sargissian Gabriel 2652 4,0
33 GM Sethuraman S.P. 2617 4,0
36 GM Bogner Sebastian 2599 4,0
37 GM Bindrich Falko 2598 4,0
43 GM Aravindh Chithambaram Vr. 2573 4,0
44 GM Timman Jan H 2573 4,0
45 GM Sunilduth Lyna Narayanan 2568 4,0
49 GM Deac Bogdan-Daniel 2559 4,0
50 GM Donchenko Alexander 2559 4,0
61 IM Praggnanandhaa R 2500 4,0
97 IM Harsha Bharathakoti 2394 4,0

Full round seven pairings are here.

Peter Doggers contributed to this report.

The Chess.com Isle of Man International is an elite nine-round open tournament from September 23-October 1. The time control is 40/100, 20/50, SD/15 with a 30-second increment from move one. The total prize fund is £133,000 with a £50,000 first prize (~$65,000 USD). All rounds will be at 1:30 p.m. local time (GMT+1) except the final round, which will be at 12 p.m. All of the action can be found live at Chess.com/TV with commentators GM Simon Williams and WIM Fiona Steil-Antoni.


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