4 Leaders Draw In Isle Of Man; 3 Others Catch Up
Two world champs and one hopeful chat before round four. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

4 Leaders Draw In Isle Of Man; 3 Others Catch Up

| 29 | Chess Event Coverage

"The principal mark of genius is not perfection but originality, the opening of new frontiers," the writer Arthur Koestler once opined.

In round four of the 2017 Isle of Man International, the four leading GMs all lost their perfection, although at least one showed originality right from the first move.

Despite the game ending in a draw, GM Magnus Carlsen opened with the Nimzowitsch Defense. No, not the "Nimzo" that is more commonly played -- here we are talking about 1. e4 Nc6! GM Rustam Kasimdzhanov told that he was not expecting to be able to guess Carlsen's opening in their first-ever classical matchup, but he likely didn't expect the novel approach to come on move one.


GM Magnus Carlsen "fakes" a center pawn move. He's been unpredictable so far as Black. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Even board two offered a bit of a new approach, at least for the man who played it. While GM Aleksandr Lenderman went 2-0 against GM Pavel Eljanov a few weeks ago at the World Cup, today the Ukrainian ditched his Dutch (he was no longer in a "must-win" game) but he did play an opening he'd only played once before, the Queen's Gambit Accepted.

Despite the new frontiers on the top boards, the twin draws meant that no player remains with a perfect score. Of the 19 other players on 2.5/3, only three managed to win to ascend to the top score group: GM Laurent FressinetGM Julio Granda Zuniga, and GM Vidit Santosh Gujrathi.

For one GM, you might say that not winning was just fine. GM Nigel Short was one of the many on 2.5 who drew. As he explained, this leaves him in a nice "sweet spot" of score groups between Carlsen's big score and GM Vladimir Kramnik's underperforming score. That's quite the wily veteran move!


GM Nigel Short, perhaps showing that there's a middle ground of score groups he's aiming for!  | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Moving back to board one to open the action, Carlsen again arrived late for the second round in a row. Kasimdzhanov opened with his king's pawn and waited. About four minutes into the round, Carlsen rushed in and quickly apologized to Kasimdzhanov. Then, as GM Richard Rapport did a round prior, out came 1...Nc6.


GM Rustam Kasimdzhanov had never played Carlsen in classical, and for the first few minutes, it wasn't certain he'd get his chance. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Eventually that knight got kicked back home. In a position where Black essentially offers two tempi to weaken some dark squares, Kasimdzhanov said he was being "provoked" by the Norwegian. He felt compelled to push, but later when Black held firm and reversed the trend, the former world champ was worried he would be squeezed by the current world champ.

Kasimdzhanov spoke with after the game about his first-ever experience playing Carlsen, and his relationship and preparation with GM Fabiano Caruana.

The draw keeps Kasimdzhanov out of the same score group as his famous student, who also drew today, but not before a quick security check...


"I dub thee, 'world champion candidate'?" IM and FA Jack Rudd wands GM Fabiano Caruana, who is looking good to qualify for the next Candidates' Tournament. | Photo: Mike Klein/

On board two, Lenderman tried to beat a man 150-plus points higher for the third time in the same month. He did achieve a better position against Eljanov, and after some ingenuity he obtained a dangerous passer. The Ukrainian, who lost Olympiad team gold by the narrowest margin to the Lenderman-coached U.S. team, found a useful liquidation to escape with a draw. Still, the diminutive Lenderman seems to cause the 2700 fits, and he's also cost him 17 rating points in the last few weeks. spoke with Lenderman after the game about his fantastic month of chess:

With those top four all failing to win, that meant the giant peleton had a chance to close the gap. GM Nils Grandelius and Caruana reprised their 2016 meeting in Isle of Man, but again the game ended drawn. GM Alexei Shirov played up for the second round in a row, but did nothing of note against GM Viswanathan Anand's Berlin, as they drew as well.

After an early innovation and pawn offering in the Cambridge Springs Variation, GM Hikaru Nakamura tried for more than six hours to eke out an equal ending against GM S.P. Sethuraman. The Indian held tough, and on down the line other boards went, with one draw after another.


GM Hikaru Nakamura looks away from the board as he tries to conjure winning chances. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Nakamura told afterward that his eighth move he'd played before.

Three players on 2.5/3 broke the trend, with two of them taking out leading ladies. Vidit beat GM Benjamin Bok, Fressinet beat GM Harika Dronavalli, and Grand Zuniga beat IM Jovanka Houska.

Of those three winners, the Frenchman's game stood out. Why? He had to break down nearly the exact same pawn and piece structure as Carlsen did against GM Jeffery Xiong yesterday. Recall that in round three Xiong had the pitiful formation of Be6 surrounded by pawns on d5, f5, and f7. Today, Dronavalli suffered the same. The pawns form a sort of triskelion, which is great for the Manx flag, but not for the chessboard.


GM Laurent Fressinet, now on 3.5/4. Is he on pace to play his sometimes boss, GM Magnus Carlsen? Not this round -- the Frenchman took a bye. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

At first it looked like a "Short-Timman" style king walk for Fressinet would break down the defenses. Like in Short's famous game, getting to h6 to threaten Qg7 was key. Instead, Fressinet's king did the hokey-pokey. He put his foot in, then his foot out, then realized that his h-pawn could stand in for his king.

Here's Vidit's win, which was rich with lines but almost became a snoozer. Bok at first seemed to want to repeat with Ng5 and Nf3, in the way that many Closed Spanish early draws have occurred in history. Luckily for chess fans, that didn't happen. Unlucky for Bok though.

Complete analysis of the game is provided by the winner below.

As for Kramnik, his two tournament losses earlier severely handicap his chances of qualifying for the Candidates' Tournament on rating. Still, he got back in the fight today with a win on the white side of a King's Indian Defense over WGM Altan-Ulzii Enkhtuul. If it was unusual for the audience to see him way down on board 50, it was also unusual for Kramnik.


GM Vladimir Kramnik on board 50!? No, the picture was not Photoshopped -- there are not any wires coming out of his board. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

When the game ended, he automatically placed the two kings on e4 and d5, signifying a White win.


For Kramnik, old habits die hard. | Photo: Mike Klein/

There was just one problem: he wasn't on a DGT board! One trusts he will be back there soon, and even if not, he is paired against IM Lawrence Trent in round five, who will surely Tweet the recap of the entire game.


Next up for GM Vladimir Kramnik: the Sith Lord, IM Lawrence Trent. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

GM Hou Yifan's string of female opponents will come to an end in round five. The world's best female chess player took matters into her own hands. After playing her fourth consecutive woman on Tuesday (a win against WGM Yuliya Schvayger), Hou elected to take a half-point bye in round five.

With all the discussion circulating about the unlikely pattern, two knowledgable parties weighed in on the matter. First, tournament organizer Alan Ormsby confirmed that there have been zero complaints from any players about any of the pairings. Second, GM David Smerdon, who holds a PhD in economics and loves analyzing in detail subjects such as these, dug into the numbers and calculated Hou's odds at "one in 3000 or one in 4000."

"It's a pretty wild thing to happen," Smerdon said. But not impossible. To put the chances in perspective, he also said that some betting lines had GM Ding Liren at one in 30,000 to win the World Cup -- 10 times less likely that Hou's foes all being women.


A question for GM David Smerdon (left): Were the odds of you drawing GM Magnus Carlsen at the Olympiad greater or less than the other odds you calculated?  | Photo: Mike Klein/

The two big underdogs that made headlines in round three had a bit of synchronicity the following round. After GM James Tarjan and IM Nino Batsiashvilli both beat former world champions (Kramnik and Hou, respectively), both went back a few decades in their opening choice. A pair of Two Knights Defenses came from the duo!


IM Nino Batsiashvilli (right) seems to play her best against top-flight opposition.  | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Batsiashvilli rose to the challenge again, drawing 2700+ GM Francisco Vallejo. Tarjan almost made it another day to remember, but faltered after he faced yet another wayward bishop offer.

Unfortunately for Chessbrahs fans, IM Aman Hambleton hasn't been able to crack the DGT boards during any of his games. Today he drew an IM, but with a lackluster tournament thus far, that doesn't mean Hambleton and GM Eric Hansen don't have a lot to say. caught up with the streamers in the skittles room.

You can find the full round five pairings here.

2017 Isle of Man International | Round 4 Standings, Top 35

Rk. SNo Fed Title Name Rtg TB1
1 1 GM Carlsen Magnus 2827 3,5
8 GM Eljanov Pavel 2734 3,5
12 GM Vidit Santosh Gujrathi 2702 3,5
18 GM Kasimdzhanov Rustam 2676 3,5
26 GM Fressinet Laurent 2657 3,5
27 GM Granda Zuniga Julio E 2653 3,5
46 GM Lenderman Aleksandr 2565 3,5
8 3 GM Caruana Fabiano 2799 3
4 GM Anand Viswanathan 2794 3
5 GM Nakamura Hikaru 2781 3
6 GM Adams Michael 2738 3
7 GM Gelfand Boris 2737 3
14 GM Short Nigel D 2698 3
15 GM Rodshtein Maxim 2695 3
16 GM Sutovsky Emil 2683 3
17 GM Leko Peter 2679 3
19 GM Rapport Richard 2675 3
20 GM Movsesian Sergei 2671 3
21 GM Adhiban B. 2670 3
23 GM Jones Gawain C B 2668 3
24 GM Riazantsev Alexander 2666 3
28 GM Grandelius Nils 2653 3
29 GM Sargissian Gabriel 2652 3
30 GM Xiong Jeffery 2633 3
31 GM Shirov Alexei 2630 3
33 GM Sethuraman S.P. 2617 3
34 GM L'ami Erwin 2611 3
35 GM Sokolov Ivan 2603 3
38 GM Huschenbeth Niclas 2596 3
41 GM Tari Aryan 2588 3
47 GM Pichot Alan 2565 3
49 GM Deac Bogdan-Daniel 2559 3
55 GM Swapnil S. Dhopade 2532 3
68 IM Batsiashvili Nino 2472 3
97 IM Harsha Bharathakoti 2394 3

The 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 with commentators GM Simon Williams and WIM Fiona Steil-Antoni.

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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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