News Isle Of Man, Strongest Open Ever, Kicks Off Saturday
Hikaru Nakamura and Lawrence Trent blitzing at the 2017 closing ceremony. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/ Isle Of Man, Strongest Open Ever, Kicks Off Saturday

| 51 | Chess Event Coverage

The Irish Sea will play host once again to the top-flight open event Isle of Man International from October 20-28. This year's edition will be the strongest open tournament ever held.

While the top four players in the world have decided to skip the turboprop flight, numbers 5-11 are all there along with about 170 other masters for this fifth edition. Headlining this year will be a field normally worthy of an elite round-robin event: Anish Giri, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, Vladimir Kramnik, Wesley So, Viswanathan Anand, Levon Aronian and Alexander Grischuk (Grischuk's participation is not certain due to visa issues).

Aronian and Grischuk are making their tournament debuts, while Vachier-Lagrave only played in 2014.

At one point even more of the top 10 were signed up, but Fabiano Caruana withdrew back in August, ostensibly to focus on next month's world championship match in London. Magnus Carlsen will not return to defend his title, and while Hikaru Nakamura and Sergey Karjakin are still playing (the latter also making his debut!), both have recently fallen but are still inside the top 20.

You can see a full list of players in the masters section here.

James Tarjan

GM James Tarjan (left) receives his prize last year from organizer Alan Ormsby. Tarjan, a 1976 Olympiad gold medalist, famously beat Kramnik in 2017. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Besides the well-known elites, many promising juniors are once again attending, although some that needed norms last year don't anymore! As John Saunders reports, both Nihal Sarin and Rameshbabu Praggnanandhaa are chasing ratings thresholds now instead of the GM title. 

They are part of the once-again sizable contingent from India (at 35 strong, it appears to be the largest federation represented; England has 22 coming). Luckily there's more than a dozen Indian restaurants in the sleepy capital city of Douglas. Strong junior American grandmasters include both Sam Sevian and Jeffery Xiong. And don't sleep on Vladislav Artemiev, still only 20 but on the north side of 2700.

lawrence trent

Just can't get enough: The tournament was over last year but IM Lawrence Trent needed more chess, as did Hikaru Nakamura.  | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Two players are having most of the expenses paid by virtue of winning the Titled Tuesday Qualifier: the two Iranians, GM Pouria Darini and WGM Mitra Hejazipour.

If you just love both random and useful numbers alike, check out last year's preview, where much of the research is still valid! Yes, 5,742 Isles of Man could fit inside India. Now you can sleep tonight.

But the number that most top players care about it simple and round: 50,000, as in the number of Manx Pounds to the winner. That's the same top prize as last year, and quite a sizable increase from the £15,000 offered just two years ago. The generous support of the Scheinberg family makes the increased prize fund possible, which totals £133,000.

The event also offers some of the highest women's prizes in open-tournament chess. In total £15,750 will be awarded to women, with £7,000 being fought over by the likes of GMs Alexandra Kosteniuk, Nino Batsiashvili, the legendary Pia Cramling, and others.

The Isle of Man International will be nine consecutive rounds with no rest days. It will be held once again at the 100-year-old Villa Marina, but one younger "institution" is gone. Organizers have scrapped the randomization of round-one pairings that amazingly matched Caruana and Kramnik in round one last year. Sorry conspiracy theorists, you'll have to find something else to latch on to for this edition.

Magnus Carlsen

At last year's prize ceremony, an informal vote was taken about the preference for round-one randomization of pairings. Norway seems to have voted in lockstep. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Many staff members will be on site, including a rare appearance by IM Danny Rensch. He will add color commentary, interviews, instructional segments, and skittles-room voyeurism to the studio hosts GM Danny King and IM Anna Rudolf. WIM Fiona Steil-Antoni will be part of the broadcast as well.

The live show begins daily from October 20-28 at 2:30 p.m. (GMT+1) local time (6:30 a.m. PDT, 9:30 a.m. EDT), except the final round, which begins earlier, at 1:00 p.m. local time. You can watch at either or

You can follow the event even when the playing day is done with post-round news reports on and also John Saunders' reports here.

FM Mike Klein

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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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