Isle Of Man Set For Sprint Finish
Caruana and his computer got the point today. | Photo: Emelianova.

Isle Of Man Set For Sprint Finish

| 39 | Chess Event Coverage

One of the Isle of Man's most famous sons is a sprinter. The bicyclist Mark Cavendish, born in the capital of Douglas, is known for breaking out of the pack right at the finish.

The "Tour d'Isle of Man," better known as the Isle of Man International, will similarly need a sprinter's kick for the would-be winner. GM Magnus Carlsen still has his front wheel ahead of the pack, although today his margin was halved. It's not time to release the confetti just yet.


GM Magnus Carlsen's high standards were not met today. | Photo: Emelianova.

After a lackluster draw as White against GM Vidit Santosh Gujrathi in which the world champion even struggled to equalize, many players a full point back took advantage.

Now only 0.5 off the pace are GMs Fabiano Caruana, Hikaru Nakamura, Emil Sutovsky, and Pavel Eljanov. All four won today.


Where did you get all those points, Mr. Sutovsky?! | Photo: Emelianova.

It was also a very good round for the top boards' black pieces. Of the 13 decisive games in the top 25 boards, Black went an astounding 11-2!

Caruana won his game, against GM Gawain Jones, essentially at home.

"I thought I might be able to win the game without making a move on my own," he said about his deep theoretical knowledge of the position. Caruana told that since everyone has access to the same "supercomputers" these days, games like these are now "one in a thousand."


The post-game analysis was short, but not due to lack of conviviality. There just wasn't much to suggest for Black after a slip. | Photo: Emelianova.

While he dialed back that number as an exaggeration, Caruana did say that the game was influenced by the intervention a world-class player who's not even here. The variation in question came from a GM Peter Svidler DVD, but Svidler didn't include a key wrinkle.

"Peter led Gawain astray," Caruana said. The American knew his database went deeper when Jones paused late in the variation.

"When he hesitated, I got very optimistic," Caruana said.


Caruana is now the highest-rated player on the 5.5/7 score group, but his colors don't line up with Carlsen. When asked about whether he wanted to play Carlsen or not, he told, "I don't worry about the pairings because I always end up getting mad when they come out."

Nakamura would be the next one down the line with 5.5 points. Today he got there after creating imbalances in the middlegame from some crafty moves. His perennial time advantage didn't hurt either against the German GM Dennis Wagner.


GM Hikaru Nakamura (left) and GM Dennis Wagner discuss their game. Wagner, a physics major, couldn't stop the inertia of Black's attack. | Photo: Emelianova.

The American channeled a different Wagner and sounded the war cry with 21...Be3! and 22...Nd5!, then followed with an exchange sacrifice to get a strong knight to f4. 

In Richard Wagner's magnum opus "Ring Cycle," from which "Ride of the Valkyries" originates, the characters are based on Norse sagas. Similarly, Nakamura will have to overtake another Norseman to win one of the few large open tournaments that has eluded him. caught up with Nakamura after the game, where he discussed his upcoming Speed Chess Championship match with Caruana, and what sectors of the investment world he thinks are the most bullish.

Pairings update: As onlooker IA Chris Bird speculated, Caruana will take White against Carlsen. Bird told that since four of the top six players were all due Black, then one "bad pairing" (colors conflicting) would be necessary, so that induced the natural pairing of Caruana "floating up" as the highest-rated player on 5.5/7. Nakamura gets White against Sutovsky and Vidit will be White against Eljanov.


Carlsen's other "pairing" -- his Instagram posting with his girlfriend yesterday (embedded in last round's report) has now cleared 10,000 likes. | Photo: Emelianova.

Back to today. Some of Carlsen's games are mythic, but not this one. He got less than nothing as White against Vidit.

"Of course I'm disappointed," Carlsen told "I miscalculated at some point and I didn't even see a way to equalize."


Even though the game didn't go as planned, Carlsen is enjoying at least one part of island life. Several Norwegian journalists have reported that he gets spotted consistently when at home in Norway. Does he enjoy the relative anonymity in Isle of Man, where almost no locals even know the event is taking place?

"Yeah, it's nice," he said with a smile.


He was deep in thought after move one, but GM Vidit Santosh Gujrathi didn't have that stressful of a day against the world champion. | Photo: Emelianova.

Two others reached 5.5/7 today as well, both by beating the leading females.

First Sutovsky overran IM Anna Zatonskih in a one-sided game. In a near carbon-copy from yesterday's game with Caruana, Sutovsky this time offered a knight on h3 to denude the kingside (yesterday it was Nxh6!).

The other cinderella story is on a pause. Yes, IM Nino Batsiashvili lost a drawn ending to GM Pavel Eljanov. But there's a silver lining. She's played such strong opposition in her first seven games that she doesn't even to earn any more points, as long as her final two opponents are a little over 2500.

She's only played 2600s and 2700s since round two, so that seems quite possible.


Nino Batsiashvili could become a GM here in Douglas. | Photo: Emelianova.

This isn't just any norm she's after -- Batsiashvili told that she already has two in her pocket, and she's previously cleared the 2500 barrier. No one wants to lose three games in a row to become a grandmaster, but for Batasiashvili, that could be plan B!

Today she initially left disappointed, since holding the ending would have netted the title for certain (when told of the math by this reporter, her spirits improved).

Batsiashvili looks primed to be the 36th women in history to become a grandmaster, and the fifth from Georgia. In a stat researched by this reporter and told many times, it's also the fountain of youth -- no woman who has ever earned the title has died.

More information on other player norm chances will follow in later reports, but there will likely be some more earned.

The public was not deprived of GM Richard Rapport's creativity, but they were deprived of a satisfying ending. It's as if the two players conspired to repeat the final episode of "The Sopranos." Did Tony live or die as Meadow entered the restaurant? Or, in chess terms, did Black's king live or die as White's queen entered? We'll never know...fade to black.

Open tournaments like these produce copious storylines, so we'll close up with another lightning round: GM Vladimir Kramnik played the Benko Gambit for the first time in his life to beat GM Harika Dronavalli...GM Jan Timman joined the live broadcast, which is where he found out from one of the co-hosts that he'd won the English Chess Federation's "Book of the Year" Award. His "Timman's Titans: My World Chess Champions" took him six hours per day for 18 months to write.

After four consecutive women and then two straight Indian opponents, GM Hou Yifan will face her own white whale, a European man in round eight (GM Sebastian Bogner)...IM R. Praggnanandhaa's GM-norm chances took a hit when he went down to GM Varuzhan Akobian...This writer just memorized how to spell his name, saving countless hours of editing...GM James Tarjan drew today, and at 65 he has a performance rating of 2654, which is even higher than when he got his first Olympiad individual gold medal...Here's a fun four-queens game on one of the lower boards.


GM Vladimir Kramnik used a surprise weapon to beat GM Harika Dronavalli today. | Photo: Emelianova.

Full round-seven pairings are here.

2017 Isle of Man International | Round 7 Standings, Top 21

Rk. SNo Name FED Rtg TB1 Rp
1 1 GM Carlsen Magnus 2827 6,0 2893
2 3 GM Caruana Fabiano 2799 5,5 2873
5 GM Nakamura Hikaru 2781 5,5 2800
8 GM Eljanov Pavel 2734 5,5 2803
12 GM Vidit Santosh Gujrathi 2702 5,5 2797
16 GM Sutovsky Emil 2683 5,5 2728
7 4 GM Anand Viswanathan 2794 5,0 2722
6 GM Adams Michael 2738 5,0 2685
18 GM Kasimdzhanov Rustam 2676 5,0 2733
19 GM Rapport Richard 2675 5,0 2695
20 GM Movsesian Sergei 2671 5,0 2624
22 GM Hou Yifan 2670 5,0 2689
25 GM Akobian Varuzhan 2662 5,0 2556
26 GM Fressinet Laurent 2657 5,0 2716
28 GM Grandelius Nils 2653 5,0 2691
34 GM L'ami Erwin 2611 5,0 2715
35 GM Sokolov Ivan 2603 5,0 2648
36 GM Bogner Sebastian 2599 5,0 2580
37 GM Bindrich Falko 2598 5,0 2661
46 GM Lenderman Aleksandr 2565 5,0 2793
55 GM Swapnil S. Dhopade 2532 5,0 2727


Magnus Carlsen was among the players at the indoor football pitch later that night. | Photo Emelianova.


The former school principal turned out to enjoy whistling and "guiding" the players. | Photo Emelianova.


Julio Granda Zuniga brought a decent amount of Latin American talent to the pitch.

Peter Doggers contributed to this report.

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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