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Carlsen-Nakamura To Play For Isle Of Man Title
Which car goes faster -- Caruana or Carlsen? | Photo: Chess.com/Maria Emelianova.

Carlsen-Nakamura To Play For Isle Of Man Title

Carlsen. Nakamura. Board one. Final round. Sometimes the headline writes itself.

GM Magnus Carlsen and GM Hikaru Nakamura have never faced each other in the last round of an open tournament before, or likely in an open event at all. That will all change for tomorrow's final round of the 2017 Chess.com Isle of Man International.

By winning today on the top two boards, both distanced themselves from the field and now only they can win it all. The math is simple: Carlsen takes White, so it's like reverse-Armageddon. He takes the title on a win or draw; Nakamura must win as Black. 

There will be no playoff.

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When these two face off, the spotlight shines just a little brighter. We'll see if GM Hikaru Nakamura brings his shades for the final round. This photo, from the 2013 Sinquefield Cup, also reminds that Carlsen doesn't always "settle" for the draw, even when it would clinch clear first place| Photo: Chess.com/Mike Klein.

Carlsen took great pleasure in winning today, not just because he beat GM Fabiano Caruana as Black. He also rebuffed a novelty in the process. Did that give him added pleasure?

"Yeah for sure," he told Chess.com. "It feels really good." 

The world champion repeated the opening that Caruana had just crushed a day before. This time Black went for 14...Re8 instead of opening the center with 14...exd4, which GM Gawain Jones opted for one round earlier. Carlsen told Chess.com his move is much safer.

But then he was hit with an immediate novelty -- 15. g4! Carlsen looked uncomfortable and went into the tank.

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GM Magnus Carlsen has planted his flag on board one for the duration of the event. He'll win or lose the Isle of Man on board one tomorrow. | Photo: Chess.com/Maria Emelianova.

"The main lines there are incredibly dangerous for Black," Carlsen said. He didn't shirk from the battle though. "I thought, 'let’s go for it' but I wasn’t very comfortable."

Still, his thinking wasn't nearly as long as Caruana's, who only a few moves later spent nearly 40 minutes on move 20. As with anyone who has awaited a big announcement, Carlsen had the entire spectrum of thoughts going through his head.

"It's sort of an ambivalent feeling when he starts thinking," he said. "You think both 'It’s great that he’s thinking!' but also that 'I did something horribly wrong!' since it's probably not something he prepared.

"I felt when I got ...c5, ...c4, there are some plusses to my position, but he has so many tempting options."

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Carlsen explained more when he spoke with Chess.com after the game:

Nakamura kept pace by not letting GM Emil Sutovsky into his wheelhouse. After two straight games where the Israeli offered a knight to rip open his enemies' kings, today Nakamura didn't allow such extravagances. At one point, he held all the trumps.

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GM Emil Sutovsky (left) ran out of his bag of tricks today against Nakamura. | Photo: Chess.com/Maria Emelianova.

"Sutovsky's sacrificed two pawns to get attacked!" commentator GM Simon Williams said. "He could be going home in an early bodybag."

Of course that embellishment didn't happen. As they say in Hollywood, no grandmasters were harmed in the making of this tournament.

Here's Nakamura's full thoughts on the live show:

The only other players on 5.5/7, GMs Vidit Santosh Gujrathi and Pavel Eljanov, played to stasis and drew right on the minimum number of moves. They now find themselves on 6.0/8. Since Carlsen sits on 7.0 and Nakamura on 6.5, all others but those last two are mathematically eliminated from the first place prize of £50,000.

In older reporting, that equated to $64,000 USD. Now, thanks to the weakening dollar this month, it's closer to $67,000 USD. In case Carlsen is reading this report, that's 533,000 NOK, or an unlimited amount of petrol for your Tesla.

For those wanting to know a little but more about the Arkhangelsk Ruy Lopez, why not listen to the man who authored videos on the subject? It was a timely round for GM Alexei Shirov to visit the studio, although he admitted that he'll need to record an update with all the recent topical games.

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GM Alexei Shirov gets more fodder for his videos against GM Alexandra Kosteniuk. Of course, she's now recording for Chess.com, so maybe she will gather some usable content too! | Photo: Chess.com/Maria Emelianova.

First, his game, which was one of the first of the event where he looked like the Shirov of old. He used to offer an exchange before even getting out of bed in the morning:

While those two top games mattered much for the final placements, board 10's American civil war takes the prize for game of the round. Ken Burns may need to add another episode to his series.

The analogy breaks down when you consider GM Varuzhan Akobian and GM Aleksandr Lenderman actually comprise an East Coast-West Coast combo, but the game itself was a true battle. The two are linked in one way: They've both been U.S. Olympiad Team coaches at some point.

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GM Varuzhan Akobian gives GM Alex Lenderman the "Garry Special." | Photo: Chess.com/Maria Emelianova.

"Somehow I didn't even look at this in my preparation," Lenderman said after the early h4 lunge in the Nimzo-Indian. "It's what Kasparov played, so maybe I should have."

We're not talking about some historic game from the 1980s. Recall that GM Garry Kasparov's biggest opening innovation at last month's St. Louis Rapid and Blitz was 9. h4, which netted him a win against Nakamura, a loss against GM Levon Aronian, and a draw against GM Viswanathan Anand.

Akobian did on-site commentary for the entire event, so he certainly knew these games well. But just when the win was there, his time was too low to find it. His queen sac was flashy and fun but only good enough for a draw. Instead he should have corralled the enemy queen with a majestic move.

Akobian analyzed with Lenderman at length afterward, then brought their combined knowledge onto the live commentary:

Several other sub-battles are taking shape. First, in the race for top women's prize, GM Hou Yifan has already clinched! She's on 6.0/8 after winning today against GM Sebastian Bogner, which means she is 1.5 points clear of six other women on 4.5/8. Out of nowhere, she plays on board two after winning three in a row following a well-timed bye.

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Time-outs aren't allowed in chess tournaments, unless you count byes, in which case GM Hou Yifan used hers perfectly to get back on track. | Photo: Chess.com/Maria Emelianova.

Of course with such a high score, she's able to go for the top prizes as well. Hou is guaranteed at least £6,000 for being the leading lady, even if she's not always keen to face them. Be careful what you wish for -- tomorrow the computer gave her Black against GM Viswanathan Anand. They've only played once before, a draw at 2013 Tata Steel.

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GM Viswanathan Anand has never contended for first, but will figure greatly in the top standings. | Photo: Chess.com/Maria Emelianova.

Some of the women aiming for second would likely even prefer the GM norm instead. This may be the last time IM Nino Batsiashvili is called by that name! She told Chess.com yesterday that she already has two norms, and because her last two opponents are so high rated, she doesn't need to score anything in round nine.

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The world's 36th woman to become a grandmaster will still try to earn the title with a little style tomorrow. | Photo: Chess.com/Maria Emelianova.

Although she lost today to GM Gawain Jones, Batsiashvili faces another high 2600 tomorrow, GM Baskaran Adhiban. She won't mind getting Black again -- she cares much more that the Indian is 2600+. A loss still keeps the Georgian's performance rating plenty clear of the 2601 requirement (the back-of-napkin math makes it about 2637). No one would want to get the title with three losses in a row, but that goes to show just how well she played the first two-thirds of the event.

IM Anna Zatonskih will not get the luxury of losing a triple for the norm. She's now dropped two in a row after sensationally finding a one-mover that beat GM Boris Gelfand in round six. She sits on a performance rating of 2582 and will therefore need a win against her 2544-rated GM tomorrow.

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Mother of two IM Anna Zatonskih isn't as active as she once was, but she's making her time in Isle of Man count. | Photo: Chess.com/Maria Emelianova.

According to tournament officials, others needing a win for a GM norm include college freshman IM Michael Brown of USA and young IM Nihal Sarin of India.

Like Batsiashvili, there's also no drama left for IM Harsha Bharathakoti. He's on 5.0/8 but more importantly is sporting a 2745(!) performance rating. Harsha could lose to your cat in round nine and still make his norm (well, not really, unless your cat was rated 1850). GM Julio Granda Zuniga will more than suffice as a stand-in for the cat.

Crowd-favorite IM R. Praggnanandhaa will go home without his first GM norm. He drew against today against an untitled player, and gets a 2200 tomorrow, so there's no chance of him taking that next step to being one of the youngest grandmasters ever. His time will certainly come.

More IM norms will also be reported tomorrow as they are confirmed.

For those into studies, you surely know the famous name "Mitrofanov." Today that ending had a close parallel coming to fruition against the tournament's first champion. Three pawns beat 2014 winner GM Nigel Short's army.


The full pairings are here.

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Both Carlsen and Nakamura are guaranteed a lot of cheddar. Or, they could get paid on Chessbrah gear? | Photo: Chess.com/Maria Emelianova.

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The beard stays for now: Chessbrah IM Aman Hambleton's shaving party is delayed as he will miss his GM norm. | Photo: Chess.com/Maria Emelianova.

2017 Chess.com Isle of Man International | Round 8 Standings, Top 25

Rk. SNo Fed Title Name Rtg TB1 Rp n w we w-we rtg+/-
1 1 GM Carlsen Magnus 2827 7 2947 8 7 5,8 1,2 12
2 5 GM Nakamura Hikaru 2781 6,5 2835 8 6,5 5,99 0,51 5,1
3 4 GM Anand Viswanathan 2794 6 2769 8 6 6,17 -0,17 -1,7
8 GM Eljanov Pavel 2734 6 2782 8 6 5,41 0,59 5,9
12 GM Vidit Santosh Gujrathi 2702 6 2781 8 6 5,14 0,86 8,6
19 GM Rapport Richard 2675 6 2746 7 5,5 4,94 0,56 5,6
22 GM Hou Yifan 2670 6 2740 7 5,5 4,97 0,53 5,3
55 GM Swapnil S. Dhopade 2532 6 2778 8 6 3,41 2,59 25,9
9 2 GM Kramnik Vladimir 2803 5,5 2614 8 5,5 6,66 -1,16 -11,6
3 GM Caruana Fabiano 2799 5,5 2807 8 5,5 5,36 0,14 1,4
6 GM Adams Michael 2738 5,5 2684 8 5,5 5,63 -0,13 -1,3
13 GM Howell David W L 2701 5,5 2635 8 5,5 6,08 -0,58 -5,8
16 GM Sutovsky Emil 2683 5,5 2674 8 5,5 5,38 0,12 1,2
17 GM Leko Peter 2679 5,5 2656 8 5,5 5,69 -0,19 -1,9
18 GM Kasimdzhanov Rustam 2676 5,5 2721 8 5,5 4,9 0,6 6
20 GM Movsesian Sergei 2671 5,5 2623 8 5,5 5,87 -0,37 -3,7
23 GM Jones Gawain C B 2668 5,5 2621 8 5,5 5,8 -0,3 -3
25 GM Akobian Varuzhan 2662 5,5 2560 8 5,5 6,16 -0,66 -6,6
28 GM Grandelius Nils 2653 5,5 2699 8 5,5 4,7 0,8 8
30 GM Xiong Jeffery 2633 5,5 2625 8 5,5 5,13 0,37 3,7
31 GM Shirov Alexei 2630 5,5 2658 8 5,5 4,78 0,72 7,2
34 GM L'ami Erwin 2611 5,5 2713 8 5,5 4,39 1,11 11,1
37 GM Bindrich Falko 2598 5,5 2665 8 5,5 4,75 0,75 7,5
45 GM Sunilduth Lyna Narayanan 2568 5,5 2703 8 5,5 4 1,5 15
46 GM Lenderman Aleksandr 2565 5,5 2779 8 5,5 3,23 2,27 22,7

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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