News Isle Of Man: MVL In Lead Group With Perfect Score
Norwegian Aryan Tari resigns to Maxime Vachier-Lagrave in the third round. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/ Isle Of Man: MVL In Lead Group With Perfect Score

| 21 | Chess Event Coverage
While other world top-10s have had their struggles at the 2018 Isle of Man International, GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave keeps making it look easy through three rounds. Even a birthday celebration couldn't stop his lucid play. He's faring just as well as a 28-year-old as he did at 27. 

The top French player of all time leads the pack of a half-dozen GMs on 3.0/3. He was also the first to get to that score by switching to 1.d4, as he expected a Grunfeld, where he has no shortage of knowledge. When that didn't come, he said he borrowed an idea that GM Shakhriyar Mamedyarov played against him in blitz in St. Louis this year.

Maxime Vachier-Lagrave Isle of Man 2018

A smooth win for the 28-year-old Frenchman. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

"I got in big trouble that day, so I repeated it," Vachier-Lagrave said.

Also continuing today was the resurrection of the French Defense. A day after GM Robert Hess nearly won with it against GM Viswanathan Anand, today on the top board, GM Sam Sevian, a frequent practitioner, had no troubles at all holding with it against fellow Armenian-blooded GM Levon Aronian.

Samuel Sevian

Samuel Sevian, of Armenian descent, got half a point from the top-seed. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Joining MVL with three points are GM Wang Hao, GM Arkadij Naiditsch, GM Jeffery Xiong, GM Erwin L'Ami, and GM Pavel Tregubov.

Often the game of the day is crazy, chaotic, or double-edged, but Vachier-Lagrave is getting the job done with clean, powerful chess. While three players rated exactly 2780 began the event, only MVL has been able to keep his nose clean.

Chess Game of the Day

"I thought I'd be a little less predictable for once," Vachier-Lagrave said about opening with d4. Maybe turning 28 did make him a new man! "It worked tremendously well today," he said. 

Vachier-Lagrave will face his second straight former world junior champion tomorrow, Xiong. Of course, Vachier-Lagrave once won the title himself. There are many more former world junior champions in the field. Besides Tari, Xiong, and MVL, you can find GM Mikhail Antipov, GM Emil Sutovsky, GM Abhijeet Gupta, and of course Aronian and Anand!

Today was also a day that Isle of Man tried out heart-rate monitors for the first time. There's only a limited supply, and their use is completely voluntary, but players like GM Hikaru Nakamura agreed to wear one. The live broadcast experienced some hiccups but eventually was able to display them on the screen (while not an exhaustive analysis, at one point Nakamura's rate jumped to 130 beats/minute).

Hikaru Nakamura

According to his heart rate monitor, the American grandmaster burned more than 1,000 calories during this game. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

There's at least one player in the field who has experience wearing one. In 2016 Sevian played a match with one against GM Nils Grandelius. In the second game of that match, both players' rates spiked after Sevian's 1. b4!

Vachier-Lagrave was observed to be in the 80s most of the day, and he said he thinks his normal resting rate is not lower than 70.

"Well I was not in time trouble today, probably that helped!" Vachier-Lagrave said.

Isle of Man Chess Tournament 2018

With a big playing hall provided by Villa Marina in the capital of Isle of Man, players have a plenty of space for walking around before they reach time-scramble. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Before showcasing some of the other leaders today, there's no sense delaying the beautiful idea turned in by GM Rameshbabu Praggnanandhaa. Today he took out former Isle of Man winner GM Pavel Eljanov with the tournament's most common theme: a queen sacrifice!

Pavel Eljanov

Exhausted after this game, Pavel took a "bye" in round four. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Fittingly, in round four, Praggnanandhaa will face his third straight 2700 (well, if you "round up" for 2690 Peter Leko). And that opponent will be GM Vidit Gujrathi, who has himself been sacrificing his queen like she's just another piece (although today he only played a 17-move draw and didn't get the chance).

Another queen offering wasn't really a sacrifice since it netted two rooks right away, but it was just as powerful. In fact, the very first move after GM Vladislav Artemiev traded her for two rooks is when another super-talent went astray. 

Vincent Keymer

Vincent Keymer reviewing his game vs Artemiev together with his famous coach and fellow participant here, Peter Leko. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

IM Vincent Keymer, winner of this year's Grenke Open despite being the 99th seed, will play next year's round-robin in Germany but the lessons against 2700s have already begun.

Xiong will get to play on board one tomorrow thanks to his ability to attack his opponent's king from both angles. A simple pushing of the queen away from the defense doomed Black.

Xiong is the surprise leader of the American contingent (GM Wesley So is on 2.5/3 and Nakamura is on 2.0/3). He said he was out of his opening knowledge early, but that he thinks he's played "clean" chess to get to 3.0/3.

"It's already an improvement over last year, because in round three, I was Black against Magnus, which isn't ideal," Xiong said.

Alexander Donchenko vs Wang Hao

Alexander Donchenko vs Wang Hao appeared to be the longest game of all in round three. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

While Hess achieved the famously not-winning rook plus f- and g-pawns ending yesterday and indeed couldn't beat Anand, today Wang Hao showed that one extra pawn can make the difference!

Tregubov spotlighted the error 34...b6 and eventually made a nice transition from a better ending into a trivially-winning ending. His simplification made his day easier, and is a good lesson in winning without counterplay.

Tregubov's win also keep his family unbeaten; his wife GM Alexandra Kosteniuk is on a more modest 1.5/3 score from playing down every round, but it comes from three draws.

Fiona Steil-Antoni

This year the live show on Twitch offers live interviews on site with Fiona Steil-Antoni, while commentators can ask their questions! Here Fiona is talking to Pavel Tregubov about his game, coaching and married chess life.| Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Tregubov said that the split between coaching and studying for himself is 90-10 in favor of his students. "I don't have time for myself," he said.

L'Ami didn't need elementary ending knowledge for his perfect score. Instead, he needed another beginner concept: back-rank tactics.

Nakamura tried to get in on the fun by parting with his own queen, but agreed to a draw when it became clear that White could disconnect his rooks by planting a knight on f6.

2018 Isle of Man International | Standings After Rd. 3

Rk. Title Name FED Rtg TB1
1 GM Vachier-Lagrave Maxime 2780 3,0
1 GM Wang Hao 2722 3,0
1 GM Naiditsch Arkadij 2721 3,0
1 GM Xiong Jeffery 2656 3,0
1 GM L'ami Erwin 2639 3,0
1 GM Tregubov Pavel V. 2588 3,0
7 GM Aronian Levon 2780 2,5
7 GM So Wesley 2776 2,5
7 GM Grischuk Alexander 2769 2,5
7 GM Karjakin Sergey 2760 2,5
7 GM Wojtaszek Radoslaw 2727 2,5
7 GM Rapport Richard 2725 2,5
7 GM Le Quang Liem 2715 2,5
7 GM Vidit Santosh Gujrathi 2711 2,5
7 GM Artemiev Vladislav 2706 2,5
7 GM Almasi Zoltan 2702 2,5
7 GM Gelfand Boris 2701 2,5
7 GM Adhiban B. 2668 2,5
7 GM Kovalev Vladislav 2664 2,5
7 GM Short Nigel D 2652 2,5
7 GM Meier Georg 2639 2,5
7 GM Sevian Samuel 2634 2,5
7 GM Parligras Mircea-Emilian 2623 2,5
7 GM Vaibhav Suri 2597 2,5
7 GM Gupta Abhijeet 2588 2,5
7 GM Praggnanandhaa R 2519 2,5

Full standings here and round three pairings here.

Games via TWIC.

The 2018 Isle of Man International is a nine-round Swiss from October 20-28 beginning at 2:30 p.m. local time daily (GMT+1), except for round nine, which begins at 1:00 p.m.. The host site is the Villa Marina and the tournament is generously sponsored by the Scheinberg Family. Live coverage can be found at either or

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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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