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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PatrickP PatrickP 10/14/2017 02:06
Any selection in an open like this will miss most players. Just the masters section already had 161 players! I personally think it is great to not focus on the same players all the time. In an open even more so! So many stories to tell. And actually told by a chess player who was playing in the tournament.

I see these kind of remarks here all the time. Indian fans want to see a lot of games from the Indian players, Americans seem only to be interested in games of the American players, etc. Why not simply enjoy the tournament as a whole? Or at least not express your dislikes because your favorite player was not mentioned (often enough).

Thank you Alina. Great photos and great article... again!
kanatoly kanatoly 10/13/2017 03:50
It really reminds me "It was Friday afternoon in the middle of June ..." by a tribe called quest :-)
Petrarlsen Petrarlsen 10/13/2017 09:59
@ ulysseganesh : I don't quite understand. Alina l'Ami DOES speak of Anand (in the introduction - "A chilled Viswanathan Anand walks in (...)"- and also further in the article - "A chilled Viswanathan Anand walks in, magnetizing 30+ Indian eyes and more.").

And, yes, there are no games by Anand, but, for example, there aren't either any games by the tournament's number 3, Nakamura : Alina l'Ami's objective, in her choice of games, wasn't to create a "panorama" of the best games of the higher ranked players of the tournament, but rather, in my opinion, to illustrate several themes with a choice of games. And Anand's games simply didn't fall in any of these categories, so she didn't put any of his games...
ulyssesganesh ulyssesganesh 10/12/2017 05:22
not a single word about vishy! oh, what an article!!!
TommyCB TommyCB 10/11/2017 07:14
Alina l'Ami, BRAVO!!
What Carlsen is to Chess, Alina is to chess photography: A world champion!
Petrarlsen Petrarlsen 10/11/2017 04:09
One last point on the subject of Carlsen's style : obviously, it isn't possible to draw final conclusions about these possible changes in his style now ; it will be necessary to take into account the games he will play in several future tournaments. But I also think it is now already possible to begin to discuss this question...
Petrarlsen Petrarlsen 10/11/2017 03:39
Following my previous posts on this same page on (what I consider as being) the recent transformations in Carlsen's style, I will try to describe what I rather think is Carlsen's new style. Obviously, I don't consider at all that I have reached any definitive conclusions ; my idea is MUCH more to attempt to launch a discussion on this subject !

As a basis, I take Carlsen's 5 wins against GMs, in the Isle of Man Open.

In my opinion, at very first view, Carlsen's new style could be characterized like this : Carlsen's goal seems to me now to be to try to obtain complicated positions, tactically and positionally (in particular positionally complex positions), his idea being that, globally, his opponents will negotiate less satisfyingly than he the different problems that will occur to them, and that he will probably emerge on top at the end.

The main difference - schematically - with his previous style (for example at the time of his two matches with Anand) is, in my opinion, that, before, he generally aimed to obtain apparently more or less drawish positions, from which he proceeded to slowly outplay his opponents ; nowadays, I think that he rather prefers to go in the direction of tactically, and, more still, positionnaly complex positions. From which he will also try (and, very frequently, succeed...) to outplay his opponents, but more quickly than before !

Am I on the right track on this subject ???
parselmouth parselmouth 10/11/2017 01:25
Reads like a poem.
Petrarlsen Petrarlsen 10/10/2017 11:50
@ Raymond Labelle : "Alina participated to that tournament and modestly did not mention that, as a result of it, she increased her rating by 12,5 points."

Thanks for the information ! ; I see, indeed, that she obtained a 2424 performance rating !

I don't know how she does it, getting all the necessary elements for such an article as this one, and playing in the same tournament at such a level ! Quite outstanding, in fact !... I congratulate her also for this result !
Petrarlsen Petrarlsen 10/10/2017 11:38
@ Raymond Labelle : And, on the official tournament final rankings, Kramnik is ranked fourth, with only Carlsen, Anand, and Nakamura above him, and, notably, with Caruana behind him.

It it true that, in terms of Elo rating, this tournament hasn't given him good results (which is very unfortunate for him, in view of the next Candidates...), but in terms of tournament rankings, his global result is in fact quite correct ! Taking into account that, in the first third of the tournament, he lost 2 games out of 3, in fact, he played rather outstandingly from then on !
Petrarlsen Petrarlsen 10/10/2017 11:04
@ Alina l'Ami : In fact, seeing this article, personally, I would very much like that, after each important tournament, you would make such a final retrospective !
mozartiano123 mozartiano123 10/10/2017 09:09
Caruana player better than Kramnik. However the american GM didn't. It is not to his demerits, but the former w.champ just blundered material in a better position. From there on, the american GM played well enough to convert it, but before that, white's play was no inspiration.
Raymond Labelle Raymond Labelle 10/10/2017 08:15
"Poor Kramnik had to face opponents that played better than him and won against him."

To have a complete picture, it could be useful to remind that after his defeat against Tarjan, he played 6 games: 2 draws, 4 consecutive wins and no loss. Ended up ranked 4-12, same rank as Caruana, Eljanov, Adams, Shirov, Rapport and others. Limited his huge rating loss from his 2 defeats in the first 3 rounds to -8,4 points in the end.
Raymond Labelle Raymond Labelle 10/10/2017 08:04
Alina participated to that tournament and modestly did not mention that, as a result of it, she increased her rating by 12,5 points. Congratulations for your performance Alina!
adbennet adbennet 10/10/2017 05:04
@ChessBase - More articles by Ms. l'Ami, please.
Petrarlsen Petrarlsen 10/10/2017 05:00
@ Alina l'Ami : Thank you very much for this very interesting report ! An excellent blend of pictures, text, and games' analysis !

I am particularly pleased to find here an analysis of the Perelshteyn - Carlsen game, who hadn't been analyzed at all in the "normal" reports ! The Caruana - Carlsen game had been analyzed by GM Yermolinsky, but, as I find it particularly interesting, I am also very pleased to find here a new analysis of it !
Petrarlsen Petrarlsen 10/10/2017 04:54
@ e-mars : I'm not sure, but I wonder if this change doesn't reflect something deeper than that : a long reflection on his own style by Carlsen, and a quite strategical implementation of his new ideas. My impression is that his previous style wasn't so effective anymore, and that, perhaps, he thought up a new way to obtain the same level of domination as before. I'm not sure how to caracterize it exactly, but I'm under the impression that his new style is really a "creation" ; something deliberate and coherent, not simply the indirect result of changes in his life. But we will also see all this more precisely with Carlsen's next tournaments !
maxharmonist maxharmonist 10/10/2017 03:21
Poor Kramnik had to face opponents that played better than him and won against him
e-mars e-mars 10/10/2017 02:35
@Petrarlsen Carlsen got a girlfriend. That's able to change a lot of things at that age, in bad and good. It's going to last until... it lasts. No wonder if his style changes again while being involved in this relantionship, until it settles (... routine) or something else happens.
Petrarlsen Petrarlsen 10/10/2017 02:31
"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." (Alina l'Ami, in this article)

I don't think that this first round pairing system gives a really significantly bigger role to chance.

This because, if a top-player encounters another top-player in the first round, and loses his game, in the second round, he will be paired with a player who will have also lost his first round game, when the top-players who would have won their first round game will be paired with players having also won their first-round game, the result being that the top-player who would have lost his first-round game will have a clear compensation, in the form of a weaker opponent for the second round (the same being relatively true for the following rounds - for example, in the third round of this tournament, Carlsen, who won his first two games, was paired with Xiong, who won his first two games of the tournament and who was 2633, when Kramnik was paired with Tarjan, who drew his first two games and was 2412 ; we all know that, in fact, Kramnik lost to Tarjan, but, nonetheless, theoretically, Carlsen's opponent was clearly stronger than Kramnik's opponent).

(And, obviously, this system cannot have any negative consequence on the players' ratings...)

As for Kramnik, his performance rating was 2660 - it is necessary to go down to the 13th rank to find another player with a performance rating under 2700, so, in fact, the problem seemed to be with the global quality of his play, and not with the pairing system ( fact, as the 8 players who followed him in the final rankings have a better rating performance than him, in the end, chance seems to have played much more in his FAVOR than in his disfavor, as for his final ranking...).

So, personally, I don't think that this system gives too big a part to chance...
Petrarlsen Petrarlsen 10/10/2017 01:52
Am I the only one to think that Carlsen has significantly changed his style ??

In this tournament, Carlsen's performance was 2903 (above Carlsen's best ever rating - 2882), and he finished first, in a tournament where, in particular, Anand, Kramnik, and Caruana where participating : a global result quite worthy of the Carlsen of the best years.

But when I study his five victories over grandmasters, in this tournament (I don't take into account his first round victory, because the rating difference was too important...), I have the distinct impression that, in all five of these games, Carlsen's style is quite different from his style in 2013 or 2014, for example. (My meaning is that, in this tournament, we have at the same time a Carlsen playing "full-strength", and a "different Carlsen"...)

To elaborate a little, for example, in the 2013 and 2014 World Championships, a clear majority of Carlsen's victories were typical "Carlsen's grinds" (for example, Carlsen's in my opinion archetypal first victory in the 2013 match -

And, in the Isle of Man Open, none of his victories were played in this style - and, in my opinion, far from it -, not even his two victories against 2700+ GMs, those against Eljanov and Caruana.

So, I wonder : hasn't Carlsen deliberately changed his playing style ?
CostaMaison3 CostaMaison3 10/10/2017 01:35
I thought Kramnik finished shared 3rd