Isle of Man: rain and sunshine (part 2/2)

by Alina l'Ami
10/17/2014 – In this second part of her chronicle, Alina L'Ami shares her impressions of a place that mixes the deeply traditional with the modern at every step of the way, and that remains both part of the neighboring world, and apart in its own ways, such as a currency that can only be used there. It certainly helped that it had a friendly people and beautiful landscape.

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The time has come to speak about the social and political status of the island, just another paradoxical issue. The Isle of Man is a British Crown Dependency, but not a part of the UK or of the European Union! For more details please Google it, you will find plenty of information if interested.

Maybe it looks like we had quite some nice weather but it is only partially true as I usually
had to hunt the rays of light

The weather was even more capricious than what-they-usually-call: a woman's personality.
However when she cooperated, it was all worth it.

My camera got quite some showers in the process

I would describe the island's main thread as modernism and originality masked under the proverbial British traditionalism; or was it vice-versa?! People use the British pound, but have their own national pound with the same value, which is not accepted elsewhere. They used to have their own language, Manx Gaelic, which is not to be heard anymore, except for the original name of the island: Ellan Vannin.

The promenade where the players could be seen during the usual walks

Otherwise they would enjoy the beach for a stroll

The Isle of Man has its own flag, with the Triskelion symbol. I have heard several possible explanations of the ancient symbolism of the three legs; the one I like most says that the island is so small that wherever you go you still are here, together with your less than 100,000 compatriots.

I could feel the latter in the actions of the small organizing team, which looked united and
in perfect harmony, so I cannot help mentioning the kindness of the main organizer, Alan Ormsby!

Yochanan Afek not only composed a study especially for this tournament
but also played in it himself

The island keeps all the British traditions such as driving on the left side and the rich English breakfast. I didn't quite understand the beans' presence in the company of eggs, sausages and bacon, but ate them with pleasure every morning! I was delighted to travel with the train formed of the more than 100 year old wagons and steam engine but some other aspects of traditionalism look a bit counter profitable, though.

My adventure in the nearby city, Castletown, could have ended badly; it was pouring with
water and my camera is not weather sealed. Thankfully, it survived the test.

For instance, using two separated knobs for the hot and cold water is not too comfortable, at least for a foreigner. And the arbiters made the round by round pairing "by hand", without the use of the computer! True, the quality of the result was excellent, but the process surely was demanding for them...

Abhijeet Gupta

Julio Granda Zuniga might not have had the score he was dreaming
of in this event but his chess is always one of the attractions

Maybe the most plastic way of describing the modernism hidden under the coat of traditionalism is the presence of the Unisex toilets, which is not only useful but practical too!
From my point of view, the most positive form of traditionalism was disputing the tournament at the classical, almost never used in opens, rhythm of play: two hours for 40 moves, one more hour for the next 20 and only then the "till finish" phase, with the extra 30 sec starting from move one. I tend to spend lots of time in the search of truth and the popular 90 minutes + 30 seconds for the whole game frequently leads me to time troubles before the game reaches a purely technical phase.

Chess creates strong friendships: Keith Arkell, Elisabeth Paehtz, Fiona Steil Antoni and Jonathan Hawkins

Earlier this year I had a couple of tournaments I would be glad to forget about, but given the excellent playing conditions in the Isle of Man I felt like reborn. And keeping the difference of level, the tournament winner, Nigel Sort, had similar feelings, as confessed during his speech at the prize giving.

The main winner was of course: Nigel, who is thanking Alan Ormsby
for his wonderful work, appreciated by everyone!

The 1st of June children. Nigel and yours truly are born on, yes, 1st of June
and we were both happy to recover from the less good chess periods we had before!

[Event "PokerStars IoM Masters 2014"] [Site "Douglas ENG"] [Date "2014.10.11"] [Round "8.2"] [White "Sargissian, G."] [Black "Short, N."] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "A61"] [WhiteElo "2690"] [BlackElo "2646"] [Annotator "Alina"] [PlyCount "78"] [EventDate "2014.10.04"] [EventRounds "9"] [EventCountry "ENG"] {It is obvious to me that the tournament held in Isle of Man was very inspiring for many of us and especially for Nigel, who won the tournament with a full point ahead of the runner-up! But even more remarkable is another "little" detail which I noticed here: the famous English GM switched from playing the allegedly quiet openings, like Queen's Gambit or Spanish and French, to the ever sharp Benoni and Najdorf lines! His strategy not only paid off and brought him loads of money and the first place in the tournament but even more important: Nigel enjoyed playing chess and that transpired in his games, too. He mentioned that the previous chess period was not really in his favour, so winning this event means a lot to him, while delivering some masterpieces for us to enjoy as well!} 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 c5 4. d5 exd5 5. cxd5 d6 6. Nc3 g6 7. Bf4 a6 8. a4 Bg7 9. h3 O-O 10. e3 Ne8 11. Be2 Nd7 12. O-O Rb8 13. Nd2 Ne5 14. a5 f5 15. Bg3 Bd7 16. Qb3 b5 17. axb6 Rxb6 18. Qc2 Bb5 19. Nxb5 axb5 20. Nb3 {Of course, analyzing in depth such lines like Benoni would take ages but the way Nigel handled it is very powerful, just like his next move:} g5 $1 {I just loved this move, which, for me, came out of the blue, although it is typical for such crazy variations where, at some point, Black is throwing its pieces and is just mating you. Or the other way around...but here Nigel backed up his dynamic decision with strong and stronger moves until his opponent had to sign the scoresheets.} 21. Na5 f4 22. Bh2 Nc7 23. Rfd1 Kh8 24. Qe4 Qf6 25. exf4 gxf4 26. Nb3 Na6 27. Nd2 c4 28. Qb1 Nc5 29. Ne4 Nxe4 30. Qxe4 Rb7 31. Ra5 Nd7 32. b4 cxb3 33. Bd3 Qh6 34. Qb4 Nc5 35. Bb1 Be5 36. Rxb5 Rg7 37. Be4 Nxe4 38. Qxe4 Qxh3 39. Kh1 Qh5 0-1

But Nigel shouldn't be considered the only winner, one doesn't necessarily need to end up first to be called like that. We all followed with great interest the games played by the group of very young and talented Israeli players, giving a hard time to several grandmasters. And I felt happy for the way my dear friend Harika opened her way to the first ladies prize, holding her own against strong and experienced opponents.

Harika Dronavalli, first place in the ladies section

On a more amusing note, the last round offered to my compatriot Mihail Marin the feeling of a winner twice in the same game. He had played a good game and more or less seen how he would win. Having returned from the cigarette break he found the pieces set on their initial positions, the clock stopped, the score-sheets removed.

Mihail Marin, a noted author of many books and ChessBase DVDs

[Event "PokerStars IoM Masters 2014"] [Site "Douglas ENG"] [Date "2014.10.10"] [Round "7.7"] [White "Marin, Mi"] [Black "Harika, D."] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "A15"] [WhiteElo "2583"] [BlackElo "2528"] [Annotator "Alina"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "1rr3k1/1b3pb1/pq1p2pp/p2P4/2PN4/3R4/2QB1PPP/2R3K1 w - - 0 26"] [PlyCount "35"] [EventDate "2014.10.04"] [EventRounds "9"] [EventCountry "ENG"] {This was such an interesting game, played by two of my friends, Harika and Mihail. Since they are both very concrete and dynamic players, without forgetting prophylaxis of course, I was expecting nothing less than what happened in the game. The opening followed the usual course of most chess battles, when the "enemies" tried to outsmart each other from the very first moves; then they moved on to the strategical, maneuvering phase of the game, which culminated with the very original...can you find it?} 26. Nf5 $1 { Perhaps the-silent-best-friend of most modern chess players, alias the computer, would immediately mark it as red, disagreeing with this decision. But for us, humans, I believe it was the best possible continuation. And creative, too! Harika was down on her clock but enjoying a comfortable position and a slight psychological advantage from having neutralized all her opponent's threats. So things should go her way now and quite smooth as well, right? The Romanian GM felt it is the moment to change the balance, posing new and newer questions for the Indian GM to solve, which is not an easy task in time pressure. These were the preliminaries which led to the very esthetic 26. Nf5 positional sacrifice.} gxf5 {Harika kept cool and accepted the offer. In the post-mortem analysis, Mihail admitted he didn't calculate all the lines, since that was rather impossible, but saw two, three which worked perfectly well for him, so he had to go for it!} 27. Rg3 {You will have quite some fun if you setup the board and play through the possible variations yourself, while trying to discover the best moves. In the game Harika proved to be very down to earth and didn't try to hold on to her piece but rather give it back as fast as possible and still keeping an edge, too!} Bxd5 $1 28. Bc3 Rxc4 29. Rxg7+ Kf8 30. Qd2 Rxc3 $1 {This is the second part of the best moves series, after her previous 27...Bxd5. And then again, if you check with an engine, it will spoil your pleasure, since he says that 30...Qc5 is not only cold blooded but that it works as well. In any case, who would play such things with seconds on the clock, without being afraid of Qxh6 and so on?! That might even be shooting yourself in the foot, since things are not simple at all.} 31. Qxc3 Qb2 32. Rg3 Qxc3 33. Rgxc3 {And all the complications were "simplified" into an unbalanced endgame, where Black has no risk and an army of pawns for the exchange. Perhaps Harika could have tried to push for more but, given the tense game, the time trouble and simply the fatigue such a fight brings, a draw was more than welcome. Both players agreed it is worth playing chess for such beautiful games, even if you don't win!} Rb5 34. f3 a4 35. Kf2 Kg7 36. Rd1 a5 37. Ra3 Rb2+ 38. Kg1 Bb3 39. Rxd6 Rb1+ 40. Kf2 Rb2+ 41. Kg1 Rb1+ 42. Kf2 Rb2+ 43. Kg1 1/2-1/2

So, his opponent proved his respect by resigning, but Mihail noticed the kings were positioned in the center as if the game had ended in a draw and immediately corrected the mistake. The next step was looking for an arbiter in order to sign the score-sheets and take away his own copy. But in the very moment when Fiona (the tournament press officer) told his opponent (IM Ferguson) about the problem, Mihail understood he had approached another board... He instantly corrected the kings' position again, apologized to Fiona and his opponent and a few moves later won the game anyway! Even though he felt like winning twice, he only got one point in the classification for that.

Many will return to repeat the wonderful experience and, perhaps, next time they will be winners on the poker tables too!

Gabriel Sargissian happily taking his prize, just like all the other participants in the tournament,
with absolutely no exception! Happiness is contagious.

Final standings

Rk SNo Ti. Name Fed Rtg  Pts 
1 9 GM Short Nigel D ENG 2646 7.5
2 3 GM Fressinet Laurent FRA 2713 6.5
  6 GM Tiviakov Sergei NED 2668 6.5
  8 GM Howell David W L ENG 2657 6.5
  21 GM Popilski Gil ISR 2493 6.5
6 1 GM Adams Michael ENG 2758 6.0
  2 GM Vachier-Lagrave Maxime FRA 2757 6.0
  4 GM Sargissian Gabriel ARM 2690 6.0
  7 GM Jones Gawain C B ENG 2664 6.0
  16 IM Hawkins Jonathan ENG 2533 6.0
  57 FM Merry Alan B ENG 2269 6.0
12 10 GM Gupta Abhijeet IND 2640 5.5
  11 GM Fridman Daniel GER 2635 5.5
  12 GM Marin Mihail ROU 2583 5.5
  13 GM Hillarp Persson Tiger SWE 2555 5.5
  14 GM Greenfeld Alon ISR 2542 5.5
  18 GM Harika Dronavalli IND 2528 5.5
  19 GM Tarjan James E USA 2525 5.5
  23 GM Gormally Daniel W ENG 2488 5.5
  24 GM Smith Bryan G USA 2482 5.5
  28 IM Van Foreest Jorden NED 2455 5.5
  58   Mindlin Alon ISR 2259 5.5
23 5 GM Granda Zuniga Julio E PER 2674 5.0

Click for complete standings

Pictures by Alina L'Ami


The games are being broadcast live on the official web site and on the chess server If you are not a member you can download a free Playchess client there and get immediate access. You can also use ChessBase 12 or any of our Fritz compatible chess programs.

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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