Isle of Man Retrospective

by Alina l'Ami
10/10/2017 – 13 o'clock Saturday afternoon in the sweeping bay of Douglas, Isle of Man. The out of sorts wind and nagging rain make sure one hurries indoors, into the snug haven of Villa Marina. Excited in anticipation, the chess crowd keeps on chirping and chatting and glancing at the swinging doors. A chilled Viswanathan Anand walks in, and relaxed Fabiano Caruana, a determined, frowning Hikaru Nakamura, Vladimir Kramnik, intimidating and imposing, and then there's Carlsen...Alina l'Ami retells the story of Isle of Man in pictures.

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Beauty and the Chess Beast

13 o'clock Saturday afternoon in the sweeping bay of Douglas, Isle of Man.

The out of sorts wind and nagging rain make sure one hurries indoors, into the snug haven of Villa Marina. It is spacious, it is quiet and still uninhabited. But it is ready.

Five minutes later, the players, dozens of them, young players, experienced players, amateurs, professionals, parents, coaches, bystanders and journalists are all marching to the tournament hall, and that outside storm relocates inside.

Villa Marina

A short break before the weather multiplied tenfold its force.

Excited in anticipation, the chess crowd keeps on chirping and chatting and glancing at the swinging doors. A chilled Viswanathan Anand walks in, magnetizing 30+ Indian eyes and more. Heads are turning to catch a glimpse of that smiling and relaxed Fabiano Caruana, who's new look brings Afrobeat or Desert Blues thoughts to mind. A determined, frowning Hikaru Nakamura steps in too and the word 'cool' can be read on the lips of many. Two boys are hopping and skipping while leaping to find their boards — they're the twelve year-old wonder kids who inspired more than one generation already. Then Vladimir Kramnik rushes in, intimidating and imposing with his presence, name and stature.

And finally, there he is:



Allow me to spare you the hyperbole: Magnus Carlsen is strong. The strongest. Those who do not understand him, fear him. Those who understand him, fear themselves.

13:30 — The first round starts and the chess community is taken by storm.

Playing hall Isle of Man International is now a milestone in chess history

Journalistically speaking, there is no breaking news to offer you about the chess event on the Isle of Man. It was the strongest Open ever, with a line-up that will make your jaw drop and eyes protrude. It marked the stormy comeback of the Viking after a silent period with no classical tournament wins. It satisfied both the newsworthy headlines and those more fit for tabloid journalism. It was a tournament organized for the love of the game and its players, with a generous time control and substantial prize fund.

It's all there. Feel free to knock your socks off.


“Great event here in the Isle of Man” (Nakamura)

Trent and Caruana

“Lousy weather, good games #iomchess" (Caruana)

This current article is more about a spectator's experience. The random pairings of the first round or the possibility of taking a bye up to and including Round 8 embraced that one main idea: of rocking your world as a viewer. If one was not converted yet, the tongue in cheek tweets “First round of IoM against Kramnik! Well ya can't accuse the pairings of being dull” (Caruana) / “I thank the Lord for not pairing me with Black against @MagnusCarlsen in the first round. #prayerworks #isleofman” (Short) would close the gap.


Master Class Vol.8: Magnus Carlsen

Scarcely any world champion has managed to captivate chess lovers to the extent Carlsen has. The enormously talented Norwegian hasn't been systematically trained within the structures of a major chess-playing nation such as Russia, the Ukraine or China.

While other sports are making sustained efforts to eliminate hazards (video arbitrage is introduced in football), chess seems to take a reversed path. The random pairings are fun and it offers a chance to no-names for facing the likes of Carlsen. But at the same time it can also change the course of the tournament for those who were less fortunate with their drawing of lots. And Kramnik is a good example of that.

Vladimir Kramnik

Working hard to overcome the first round loss, the four points in the final four rounds brought Kramnik a shared fourth place

Taking a bye until very deep into the tournament may seem odd too. The point behind it, as I see it, is to watch and learn not only the strategies on the chess board but also those outside of it. This rule introduces a new tactical component, which, if used wisely, can propel the player to a prize card.

Hou Yifan

Or change the streak of female opponents as was the case for Hou Yifan

Although much has been written and debated about the subject matter, the players welcomed the new elements (the ones against were outvoted by a large margin in the closing ceremony), while the public was given room for further speculations and prognostics.

Vidit - Carlsen

Is Vidit Gujrathi giving Magnus Carlsen a rough time?

Three illustrative examples to prove an obvious thesis: no opponent will offer you easy times in this tournament (dropping pieces like your author did in one game is out of discussion).


Improve your Tactics

The aim of this course is to help you understand how to make tactical opportunities arise as well as to sharpen your tactical vision - these selected lectures will help to foster your overall tactical understanding.

But the main reason why I love this tournament is a straightforward one. It brings the giants among us. Witnessing firsthand the chess beauty and genius of top players is next to impossible to describe directly. Or to evoke.

Nihal Sarin

And when brilliant moves are played by twelve year old hands (Nihal Sarin)...

Praggnanandhaa can only wonder how is it possible for these young shoulders to sustain such mature heads? (Praggnanandhaa)

The next three examples exhibit the powers that youth offers, particularly in the case of the two talented, and very strong already, Indian boys.


My Career Vol. 1

The first DVD with videos from Anand's chess career reflects the very beginning of that career and goes as far as 1999. It starts with his memories of how he first learned chess and shows his first great games (including those from the 1984 WCh for juniors). The high point of his early developmental phase was the winning of the 1987 WCh for juniors. After that, things continue in quick succession: the first victories over Kasparov, WCh candidate in both the FIDE and PCA cycles and the high point of the WCh match against Kasparov in 1995.
Running time: 3:48 hours

unknown girl

Genius can hardly be replicated, inspiration though is contagious

Almost anyone who loves chess and follows the game online has surely had what might be called moments of inspiring contamination. That “Aha!” second when it all becomes clear (or not) and glues you further to the monitors, making your spouse wonder if chess should actually be forbidden... Those moments are much more intense when one is undressed of any computerized prejudices and watches the moves 'hands-on' as they unfold in the tournament hall. And the truth is...broadcast chess is sometimes to live chess pretty much as a Valentine Day's tv show is to the reality of love.

Carlsen and Synne Cristian Larsen

No man is an island (Magnus Carlsen and Synne Cristian Larsen)

Seeing in the Isle of Man what this Man can do with his 16 pieces is an experience which defies description. Carlsen's anticipation and board sense are otherwordly and his moves so simple yet effective. It is pure harmony on 64 squares.

Perhaps an elucidative thesis for his strength is...metaphysics. The Norwegian is not human but a descendant from Star Trek, a maven, exempt from certain neuroscientific laws. He is never hasty or off-balance — a boa constrictor which went out hunting. Scary. But that power and onslaught becomes vulnerable to beauty at the fingertips of Magnus.

Anand watching Magnus

We've got our eyes on you

In case your dream is to follow in Carlsen's footsteps, here you have more material for a gray matter workout:


My Path to the Top

On this DVD Vladimir Kramnik retraces his career from talented schoolboy to World Champion in 2006. With humour and charm he describes his first successes, what it meant to be part of the Russian Gold Medal team at the Olympiad, and how he undertook the Herculean task of beating his former mentor and teacher Garry Kasparov.

Older man thinking

Winning is not always possible but wanting to is

Players after tournament party

Masters, Major, Minor — more chess and more fun in the traditional after party

If that's what Alan Ormsby and his organizing team did this year with Scheinberg family's financial support we can only speculate how the 2018 edition will look like.

We do have high expectations.


Alina is an International Master and a very enthusiastic person in everything she does. She loves travelling to the world's most remote places in order to play chess tournaments and report about them here on ChessBase! As chance would have it Alina is also an excellent photographer.


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