Carlsen Wins 2017 Isle Of Man International
GM Magnus Carlsen had his shortest day at the office. | Photo: Emelianova.

Carlsen Wins 2017 Isle Of Man International

| 72 | Chess Event Coverage

You're not supposed to work too hard when you're on vacation.

In a tournament where he uncharacteristically arrived with no parents, no manager, and no seconds, GM Magnus Carlsen and his girlfriend will leave winners.

"It was different," Carlsen told about the limited entourage. "It helped me relax for most of the tournament."

Carlsen won the 2017 Isle of Man International today with a short draw over GM Hikaru Nakamura in today's final round. His post-game interviews took as long as the game itself, which ended in less time than it takes to fly to London.


Look closely -- GM Hikaru Nakamura's cold Red Bull, seen here before the round, still had condensation on it when the game ended. | Photo: Klein.

GM Garry Kasparov once used the term "chess tourist," which has ambiguous connotation, but Carlsen proved it doesn't have to mean substandard play.

That's not to say in today's interconnected world that he was on his own. Carlsen checked in regularly with his most trusted chess confidant.

"I followed the advice of what Peter [Heine Nielsen] used to tell me," Carlsen said. "If you want to play for a draw, don’t leave anything to chance. Just force either a completely drawn ending or a perpetual."

He admitted that in other ways this event, he went rogue with Nielsen's instructions.

"He sent me some prep but most of the time I didn’t listen to him," Carlsen said about Nielsen. "He says when I surprise him I probably surprise my opponent as well!"

Today the world champ put the American between a rock and a hardly-fought game. Nakamura's only move to avoid a significant disadvantage had another drawback -- it essentially forced a repetition. In a game that he needed to win to overtake the leader, the situation was lose-lose.


Carlsen thus protected his half-point lead and won with 7.5/9. He finished with a performance rating of more than 2900, a check for £50,000, and his first classical tournament win in 435 days. While he did pepper in some faster-time control wins and a successful world championship title defense, it had been more than a year since he took first in a "regular" event.

The Norwegian didn't put much thought in the stat.

"Since I’d done quite well in rapid and blitz it told me that I could probably still play," he said. "In general the trend is very positive."

Carlsen told that in order to avoid this drawing line, Nakamura could have gone back to move one and chosen a different opening. In his mind, there was no chance that Nakamura would play a weaker move to avoid the 13...Bf5 draw.

"If he had wanted a worse position, he would have played the King’s Indian," Carlsen said. "Which I thought he might. Once he went for the Queen’s Gambit, I was sure he just wanted to consolidate a good tournament."

"I think Magnus has been waiting to play a King's Indian against me," Nakamura told in response. He referenced the famous "sunglasses game" from the 2013 Sinquefield Cup, which coincidentally was featured photographically in yesterday's report


Getting the world champion's king to e2 in the opening isn't all it's cracked up to be. | Photo: Emelianova.

Nakamura mentioned Carlsen's profligate openings from earlier in the event, but told that he couldn't play such extravagances as Black. Not against the world champ.

"What Magnus did against [GM Eugene] Perelshteyn in the early rounds, I think you can only do against a weaker player," he said. (For his part, Perelshteyn did obtain a better position in round two. Carlsen has several times cited this game as the one where he was the most in trouble. Perelshteyn told that he wants to analyze the game for this web site soon.)

that he was pleased with his play over the last nine days. He was in this must-win situation today due to trailing by a half-point, but Nakamura didn't dwell on missed opportunities.


In particular GM Viswanathan Anand kept coming leaving his own board two to check on the top game, but he likely knew the impending result. | Photo: Emelianova.

As Nakamura pointed out, if he had won a drawn game, for example against GM Aleksandr Lenderman in round six, he would likely have had Black against Carlsen in round seven. The best situation for him would have been GM Fabiano Caruana beating Carlsen yesterday, which would have given Nakamura White against Caruana and on equal points. But Nakamura was not interested in the "what-if" game.

With Carlsen's unexpected free afternoon and pocketful of cash, what would he do? He said he might visit the Manx Museum, which has exhibits on the island's flora, fauna, tectonic history, art, and of course its TT racing. When told there was no charge, he said, "It’s free? Excellent!"

The super-GM's joke has nothing to do with playing 1. b3; Carlsen's significant other shares a surname with a famous Danish player.

Moving on to the fight for the other prizes, the veterans really knew how to close. GMs Viswanathan Anand, Michael Adams, and Vladimir Kramnik all closed with wins.

Anand took out GM Hou Yifan, who still wins the top women's prizes despite the loss. Anand takes home more papadams than her since he splits second with Nakamura on 7.0/9.

Hou dropped into the studio to reflect on her last and a half of chess:

Kramnik kept on charging after his two losses in the opening three games. He remained mostly upbeat afterward despite lamenting the missed tactic in round three against GM James Tarjan, which served as a blight on his event.

After that, he came on strong with 5.5/6, and didn't count himself out in the ratings race for the Candidates' Tournament. He still has the European Club Cup, and perhaps another event, while competitors like GM Fabiano Caruana are done until the London Classic, which is too late to count.

Today the former world champion beat GM Gawain Jones, and therefore limited his ratings losses in Isle of Man to 8.4 points. Kramnik ended atop a nine-way tie for fourth at 6.5/9.


Here's Kramnik explaining his first open tournament since Qatar 2015.

If you need one last crazy game to fulfill your open tournament desires, it may just be Wagner-Sokolov you're searching for. Let's fill that void in your life with a truly original formation by the Dutchman on move 29. 

Or maybe it's not original. Tetris masters know to fill up corners of the screen while waiting for a long line piece.


The "Sokolov System?" Better save it for Tetris. Image: Wikipedia.

GM Michael Adams is soft-spoken in general, and quietly got himself into that logjam for fourth. Today experience beat youth.

There were no shortage of all-American matchups in Isle of Man, and the final round featured one last critical one. GM Fabiano Caruana exacted some revenge for his shock loss at this year's U.S. Championship. This time he evened the score against GM Varuzhan Akobian, and did so by using another American's "method." Like Brown, Caruana used Q+B to defeat Q+N.

Like one round ago, Akobian tried an h-pawn hammer strike as White, but today's U.S. player was up to the challenge:

Turning to norms, we already knew that IMs Nino Batsiashvili and Harsha Bharathakoti had their GMs norms clinched before today. It's a good thing too -- both lost today. If Batsiashvili's paperwork is in order, the GM title should be conferred.

Only one of the three in the "needing to win" camp could do so. While IM Anna Zatonskih drew and IM Nihal Sarin lose, IM Michael Brown was Mr. Clutch. The junior at Brigham Young University (the same university that's co-founders attended) was over-performing all event, and that was before today's win over GM Zoltan Almasi! To show you the strength of the tournament, Almasi is 2700+ and finished on an even score.

The game might have led this report on any other day; it was that exciting. Almasi could have had two queens for many moves, but was always lost if he cashed in. This is the way to get a norm! 

As usual, the awards ceremony featured plenty of fun with the awarding of trophies and prizes as well as the traditional bevy of blitz and bughouse.


Carlsen with his cheque and trophy next to the main sponsor. | Photo: Emelianova.


In what was a good speech, Carlsen thanked many, and specially his girlfriend. | Photo: Emelianova.


Some final blitz between Lawrence Trent and Hikaru Nakamura. | Photo: Emelianova.

2017 Isle of Man International | Final Standings, Top 24

Rk. SNo Name FED Rtg TB1 Rp w rtg+/-
1 1 GM Carlsen Magnus 2827 7,5 2903 7,5 11,4
2 4 GM Anand Viswanathan 2794 7,0 2806 7 1,6
5 GM Nakamura Hikaru 2781 7,0 2831 7 5,7
4 2 GM Kramnik Vladimir 2803 6,5 2660 6,5 -8,4
3 GM Caruana Fabiano 2799 6,5 2831 6,5 4,6
6 GM Adams Michael 2738 6,5 2719 6,5 2,3
8 GM Eljanov Pavel 2734 6,5 2749 6,5 3,3
12 GM Vidit Santosh Gujrathi 2702 6,5 2764 6,5 8,2
16 GM Sutovsky Emil 2683 6,5 2712 6,5 5,8
19 GM Rapport Richard 2675 6,5 2732 6 6,0
31 GM Shirov Alexei 2630 6,5 2703 6,5 13,2
55 GM Swapnil S. Dhopade 2532 6,5 2768 6,5 28,5
13 15 GM Rodshtein Maxim 2695 6,0 2616 6 -4,8
17 GM Leko Peter 2679 6,0 2646 6 -3,5
18 GM Kasimdzhanov Rustam 2676 6,0 2707 6 4,9
20 GM Movsesian Sergei 2671 6,0 2622 6 -4,5
22 GM Hou Yifan 2670 6,0 2687 5,5 2,0
27 GM Granda Zuniga Julio E 2653 6,0 2573 6 -3,4
29 GM Sargissian Gabriel 2652 6,0 2624 6 -2,4
34 GM L'ami Erwin 2611 6,0 2708 6 11,9
37 GM Bindrich Falko 2598 6,0 2666 6 8,6
45 GM Sunilduth Lyna Narayanan 2568 6,0 2704 6 17,0
46 GM Lenderman Aleksandr 2565 6,0 2768 6 24,3
48 GM Wagner Dennis 2564 6,0 2672 6 13,2

Full final standings are here.

Peter Doggers contributed to this report.

The Isle of Man International was an elite nine-round open tournament from September 23-October 1. The time control was 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). 

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Mike Klein began playing chess at the age of four in Charlotte, NC. In 1986, he lost to Josh Waitzkin at the National Championship featured in the movie "Searching for Bobby Fischer." A year later, Mike became the youngest member of the very first All-America Chess Team, and was on the team a total of eight times. In 1988, he won the K-3 National Championship, and eventually became North Carolina's youngest-ever master. In 1996, he won clear first for under-2250 players in the top section of the World Open. Mike has taught chess full-time for a dozen years in New York City and Charlotte, with his students and teams winning many national championships. He now works at as a Senior Journalist and at as the Chief Chess Officer. In 2012, 2015, and 2018, he was awarded Chess Journalist of the Year by the Chess Journalists of America. He has also previously won other awards from the CJA such as Best Tournament Report, and also several writing awards for mainstream newspapers. His chess writing and personal travels have now brought him to more than 85 countries.

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