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Carlsen, Nakamura Still Perfect As German IMs Draw Anand, Caruana
The German flags flew high in round two. | Photo: Chess.com/Maria Emelianova

Carlsen, Nakamura Still Perfect As German IMs Draw Anand, Caruana

Thanks to two German IMs in their 20s, now only two of the top five seeds have perfect scores after 48 hours in the 2017 Chess.com Isle of Man International. Both GM Fabiano Caruana and GM Viswanathan Anand ceded half-points as Black today in round two, although the American suffered more.

Meanwhile top-seeded World Champion GM Magnus Carlsen also had a fight on his hands after his occasional usage of the Tiger Modern was tested once again. GM Hikaru Nakamura played one of his common double-fianchetto systems, but couldn't prove advantage until the beginning of the endgame. However, both of them converted to become the highest-rated players with clean records.

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Former U.S Junior Champion GM Eugene Perelshteyn didn't shy away from complications, but ultimately was outplayed by GM Magnus Carlsen. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com

Anand's draw resulted from a mostly static game. In fact the end was prompted by his moves, but otherwise the game was dead flat anyway. Neither player made any attempts to make use of his own pawn majority. In fact, as Anand's opponent explained afterward, Anand told him that he's not a big fan of Black's kingside structure since it's so hard to mobilize.

The former world champion's opponent, IM Jonas Lampert from Germany, is 20 and currently not planning to make chess a career. Must be nice to be an amateur and play level with a legend.


Lampert's countryman, IM Nikolas Lubbe, is seven years older but only one rating point higher. He will be a lawyer soon, but before then, he interrogated Caruana for most of the game's 44 moves.

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In unintentional solidarity, GM Fabiano Caruana's coach also played a German player today. Unlike his student, GM Rustam Kasimdzhanov won to go 2-0. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com

Speaking to Chess.com afterward, Lubbe admitted that if he sat across from a player of any lesser caliber, he would have kept playing. He expressed the same human sentiment that many of us do when paired with someone out of our league -- not wanting to pass up the result of a lifetime, even if it's not the heroic ending.

Despite Lubbe having a few extra birthdays on Lampert, it was he that acted more giddy after the game. Both Germans had discussion-only post-mortems with their opponents, but only Lubbe asked for a selfie with his 2800 cohort. Then, a small request.

"Oh, and Fabiano, do you need your scoresheet? I have a student who would love to have it." Caruana said he keeps his scoresheets, but would be happy to sign something else for Lubbe later in the event. As for his own copy of the game, Lubbe conceded that he'd probably have to give that away too.

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IM Nikolas Lubbe (left) was GM Fabiano Caruana's equal on this day, but that didn't stop him from still being a fan. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com

With the top players on boards two and three having their hands full, what about board one? Like Caruana and Anand, Carlsen also had Black, but he was clearly in for a fight from the beginning. He trotted out one of his occasional counterpunching weapons, the Modern with ...a6!

The so-called "Tiger Modern" is an infrequent guest for the champ. He'd used it last in classical in 2016 against both GM Wei Yi and GM Dragan Solak, winning both of those. Carlsen also used a more classical Modern a few times in the PRO Chess League, but today he brought the claws back out.

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Maybe Carlsen was inspired to play the Tiger Modern by this player's t-shirt? And if so, is that considered "use of notes"? | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com

Who better to take readers through the game than the man who literally wrote the book on the subject? Guest analyzer GM Tiger Hillarp Persson is always eager to see Carlsen cross the border from Norway into Sweden, and he shares his deep knowledge below.

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GM Tiger Hillarp Persson was happy to learn that "Team Carlsen" mostly agrees with his analysis. Allowing the e6 pawn sac is why you play the opening!

Analysis by GM Tiger Hillarp Persson

One more tidbit about the game: The two were following Anand-Svidler 1998 until move 12, when Anand played 12. Bd2 instead of 12. a4. Anand remembered this game but did not remember that it was his first-ever against Svidler! That's quite a way to start a long series of head-to-head games which now number more than three dozen.

With several of the favorites falling off the lead, how many other 2700s could keep pace with Carlsen? Only a cozy quartet: Nakamura, GM Michael Adams, GM Pavel Eljanov, and GM Francisco Vallejo.

Like his rival Carlsen in round one, Nakamura had to face off against an Icelander, but his was a grandmaster.

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GM Hikaru Nakamura usually twirls a captured pawn, but here he dizzies the invasive knight that unexpectedly landed in his territory a few moves prior. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com

The American fell victim to a pretty liquidation by GM Helgi Olaffson, which might have ended his chances to fight for full point. But just when the game was clarifying, Nakamura ruined the tranquility by rerouting his knight to d5, where it reigned and ended the game quickly thanks to numerous forks.

Meanwhile Adams continued the trend of "older vs. younger" matches. Whereas in round one GM Maxim Rodshtein gave away 41 years of experience to his opponent, and GM Richard Rapport ceded 44 years (to GM Jan Timman!), Adams was the "beneficiary" of 33 extra years of chess knowledge against IM R. Praggnanandhaa. The more important difference? Adams didn't draw like the other favorites mentioned.

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IM R. Praggnanandhaa tried to be the aggressor, but ran into a Cornish wall today. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com

Adams suspected, correctly, that the normally reduced winning chances of opposite-colored bishops were offset by the connected passers.

Eljanov continued his quest to retain his title from last year. He was in synchronicity with Carlsen in one respect. Whereas the top seed had at one point Rf8, Kg8, Rh8 (it's a good thing he gets all that Chess960 practice in the Chess.com Speed Chess Championship), Eljanov forced his opponent into the same formation as White: Rf1, Kg1, Rh1.

Unlike Carlsen, here White's king and pawns had no space to breath, allowing Eljanov to have all the fun. White was helpless to stop the death from a thousand cuts, which came from a simple c-pawn.

The most electric game of the day might have been GM Nils Grandelius offering two pieces to rip open IM Anna Zatonskih's kingside. As he explained after the game, many GMs prefer 14. Qc2 instead of 14. Bc2, but he thought, "Why not put the queen in front of the bishop?" While the response 14...h6 was likely a losing move, it seems there may be a few converts after this attack.

It didn't hurt that he had the position on his preparation, when he noticed that the computer hated 14...h6. He just had to figure out the antidote, which didn't take long:

Tidying up for round two involves the continued discussion of pairings. With the random pairings now over and a "Dutch Swiss" in effect for the remainder, there were no huge rating spreads playing this round. You'd have to sleuth all the way down to board 40 for the first full point upset (IM Harsha Bharathakoti beating GM Varuzhan Akobian).

Finally, while GM Hou Yifan won her game against IM Elisabeth Paehtz, that didn't stop the improbable from happening, again. With only three other women out of 34 on the 1.5/2 score group that she had not yet faced, Hou got paired with one of them -- IM Nino Batsiashvili (weirdly two of the other women on 1.5/2 are playing as well). That makes Hou 10-for-13 in being paired against women in open events this year.

Her personal "Groundhog Day" continues, only instead of "Needle Nose Ned" she gets Nino!

You can find the full round three pairings here, where Carlsen has to fight the Americans again. This time GM Jeffrey Xiong steps onto top board. Board two is GM Alexei Shirov vs. Nakamura. That will likely only be a snoozer if you don't know how to play chess.

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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