Hou mystified by pairings, sits out round five

by Albert Silver
9/27/2017 – Since round four ended with the four leaders drawing their respective games, now seven share first with 3.5/4, from Magnus Carlsen to Alexander Lenderman. Hou Yifan, who faced her fourth consecutive female opponent, requested a half point bye in round 5, but contrary to rumour has no intention to withdraw for now. | Analysis by GM Elshan Moradiabadi; Photo: Alina L'Ami

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Carlsen and six others tied for lead

The foremost games of the round were the two between the last players left with 100% scores: former FIDE World Champion Rustam Kasimdzhanov against Magnus Carlsen, and Alex Lenderman, who has often shared his deep analysis with ChessBase readers, against Pavel Eljanov.

Kasimdzhanov opened with 1.e4 without trepidation, perhaps wondering whether the World Champion would repeat his ‘Tiger Modern’ from round two. When Carlsen replied with 1…Nc6, essentially inviting all manner of unorthodox opening play, Kasimdzhanov backed down slightly, and a slightly offbeat Pirc ensued. If Magnus was hoping to just outplay his opponent, he also had to deal with his serious space disadvantage, which Rustam negotiated well, and they eventually drew after 72 moves.

It as nice to see both players leave the board in visble good spirits after the hard-fought game that had lasted no fewer than 72 moves. | Photo: John Saunders

Alexander Lenderman showed that his share of first was not a fluke, as he outplayed his higher rated opponent, Pavel Eljanov, for a good portion of the game, and even achieved what was likely a winning endgame advantage.

Lenderman ½-½ Eljanov

Alexander Lenderman has shown great chess so far | Photo: Alina L'Ami

Unfortunately for his supporters, this was shortly before the time control, and by the time move 40 was reached, his advantage had been reduced to a four vs three rook endgame that the Ukrainian held to a draw.

Fabiano Caruana, who made waves by beating Vladimir Kramnik in the very first round, will be kicking himself slightly as he missed a nice opportunity to get ahead in his game against Nils Grandelius.

Grandelius ½-½ Caruana

Though he strived hard to wrest the advantage again, he never quite got the same opportunity and they drew.

One advantage of a big open such as this compared to a tighter round robin is how many colleagues and friends the players get to run into | Photo: Alina L'Ami

One player who did not miss his chance was the young Indian grandmaster Vidit Santosh Gujrathi, who completely swamped his opponent Benjamin Bok.

Fabiano Caruana faced Nils Grandelius in round four | Photo: John Saunders

Benajmin Bok 0-1 Vidit Santosh Gujrathi (annotated by Elshan Moradiabadi)

[Event "Chess.com Isle of Man"] [Site "Isle of Man, England"] [Date "2017.09.26"] [Round "4"] [White "Bok, Benjamin"] [Black "Vidit, Santosh Gujarathi"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "C92"] [Annotator "GM Elshan Moradiabadi"] [PlyCount "80"] [EventDate "2017.??.??"] 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 {Vidit chooses the Spanish Defense against the Dutch talent. He is capable of playing several other openings including the Caro-Kann defense!} 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. O-O Be7 6. Re1 b5 7. Bb3 d6 8. c3 O-O 9. h3 Bb7 {Known as the Zaitsev variation, it is named after the 12th world champion's coach, Igor Zaitsev. This fighting line has been a source of debate for more than 27 years after Karpov (unsuccessfully) employed it against Kasparov in their last match in 1990.} 10.d4 Re8 11. Ng5 Rf8 12. Nf3 Re8 {Both players are gentlemen and enter the fight without repetition.} 13. Nbd2 (13. Ng5 Rf8 14. Nf3 {is definitely a way to make a draw!}) 13... Bf8 14. a3 {There are a number of other equally interesting moves here.} (14. d5) (14. a4) (14. Bc2) (14. Ng5) 14... g6 15. d5 (15. Ba2 Bg7 16. b4 exd4 17. cxd4 a5 18. Qb3 Qd7 19. Bb2 {is the mainline.}) 15... Nb8 16. Nf1 Nbd7 17. Ba2 Nc5 $1 {Something does not make sense to me: White seems to be many tempi down and his center is about to be invaded by Black's well-placed pieces. I do not know whether it was Bok's preperation or something else, but whatever the case White's position does not appeal to me at all!} 18. Ng3 c6 19. Bg5 (19. b4 Na4 20. dxc6 Bxc6 21. Qb3 Qe7 22. Bg5 Rec8 {is slightly better for Black.}) 19... cxd5 20. Bxf6 Qxf6 21. Bxd5 Bxd5 22. Qxd5 Na4 (22... Qe6 { could be an equally good or even better choice.} 23. Rad1 Qxd5 24. Rxd5 Reb8 25. b4 Na4 26. Ne2 Be7 {with a great endgame for Black.}) 23. Qd2 Rad8 24. Nf1 $2 { A big mistake. White does not sense the dynamics of the position and falls for a deadly positional pseudo-sacrifice} d5 $1 25. exd5 e4 26. N3h2 Qd6 27. Rad1 f5 {d5 will fall soon. The question is what is White going to do about it.} 28. g4 $2 {This only adds to White's problems.} (28. f3 Nc5 29. Re2 {and White should sit tight and pray hard!}) 28... Nc5 29. gxf5 gxf5 30. Ng3 Nd3 31. Nxf5 Qg6+ 32. Ng3 Bc5 $1 {Black's pieces dominate the board. They are so much better that Vidit was probably thinking: "Should I really exchange them with any of White's pieces?".} 33. Re3 Bxe3 34. Qxe3 Rxd5 35. Ng4 h5 36. Nxe4 {The last try but this wouldn't even work in a rapid game against Vidit!} hxg4 37. Nf6+ Qxf6 38. Qxe8+ Kg7 39. Qe3 gxh3 40. Kh2 Qd6+ {A clean and nice finish by Vidit who joined the pack of 3.5/4 players in the lead.} 0-1

WGM Enkhtuul Altan had to be a combination of shocked and delighted to get an opportunity to play against Vladimir Kramnik despite her modest start and playing on board 50. | Photo: Alina L'Ami

Hikaru Nakamura pressed hard throughout the entire game and endgame, but was unable to get his Indian opponent, GM S. P. Sethuraman to crack and they drew. | Photo: Maria Emelianova / Chess.com

While the tale of any event, short of a scandal or controversy, is inevitably comprised of the action by the top boards and players, such a large open with such a rich selection of strong players means that there will also be a wealth of fascinating struggles that have no direct effect on the podium, yet deserve to be seen and enjoyed. One such game was between young Argentinian GM Alan Pichot, former World under-16 champion, who overcame his 2700+ opponent, Zoltan Almasi from Hungary in an imbalanced tussle.

Alan Pichot and Zoltan Almasi showed that all games deserve to be checked out, not just the elite | Photo: Maria Emelianova / Chess.com

Alan Pichot 1-0 Zoltan Almasi (annotated by Elshan Moradiabadi)

[Event "Chess.com Isle of Man Open"] [Site "Isle of Man, England"] [Date "2017.09.26"] [Round "4"] [White "Pichot, A."] [Black "Almasi, Z."] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "C95"] [Annotator "GM Elshan Moradiabadi"] [PlyCount "131"] [EventDate "2017.??.??"] 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 {Today's recipe is all Spanish!} 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. O-O Be7 6. Re1 b5 7. Bb3 d6 8. c3 O-O 9. h3 Nb8 {Almasi feels very patriotic today and plays a line which is named after his countryman, Gyula Breyer.} 10. d4 Nbd7 11. Nbd2 c5 {A sideline. Surprisingly Almasi does not show any interest in the mainline duel. From my past experience against Almasi, he prefers technical and complex positions. So, his choice makes a lot of sense given that he probably tried to outplay his much lower rated, yet strong, opponent.} 12. Nf1 Re8 13. Ng3 Bf8 14. Ng5 $5 {It seems that White gives up a tempo to force Black to relinquish his pressure against White's center.} (14. Bc2 cxd4 15. cxd4 exd4 16. a4 d3 $6 (16... Bb7 17. Nxd4 bxa4 {should be roughly equal.} 18. Ndf5 d5) 17. Bxd3 bxa4 18. Bc2 Bb7 19. Rxa4 Nc5 20. Rd4 Ne6 21. Rd2 Qb6 22. b3 d5 23. exd5 Nf4 24. Rxe8 Rxe8 25. d6 N6d5 26. d7 Rd8 27. Rd4 Qc7 28. Rc4 Qb8 29. Ng5 Ng6 30. Bf5 h6 31. Nxf7 Kxf7 32. Qh5 Qd6 33. Ne4 Qb6 34. Bb2 Ndf4 35. Qg4 Qxb3 36. Bxg6+ Nxg6 37. Qf5+ Kg8 38. Nf6+ gxf6 39. Qxg6+ Bg7 40. Qe8+ Kh7 41. Qxd8 Qd1+ 42. Kh2 Qd6+ 43. Kg1 Qd1+ 44. Kh2 Qd6+ 45. Kg1 Qd1+ {1/2-1/2 (45) Sevian,S (2587)-Ipatov,A (2660) Saint Louis 2017}) 14... c4 15. Bc2 h6 16. Nf3 Bb7 17. b3 $146 (17. Nh2 d5 18. dxe5 Nxe5 19. f4 Bc5+ 20. Kf1 Ng6 21. e5 Ne4 22. Nxe4 dxe4 23. Qg4 a5 24. Rxe4 Bxe4 25. Bxe4 Ra6 26. Bc2 Nh4 27. Qh5 g6 28. Qg4 Ba7 29. Nf3 Nxf3 30. Qxf3 Qb6 31. Ke2 Qg1 32. Rb1 Kg7 33. Bd2 Qc5 34. Rf1 Rd6 35. Be3 Qxe3+ 36. Qxe3 Bxe3 37. exd6 Bxf4+ 38. Kf3 Bxd6 39. Rf2 Re6 40. Re2 Rf6+ 41. Ke4 Be7 42. a4 Re6+ 43. Kf3 Rf6+ 44. Ke4 b4 45. Kd5 bxc3 46. bxc3 Bd8 47. Be4 Rf4 48. Bf3 Bf6 49. Re4 Rxe4 50. Bxe4 Bxc3 51. Kxc4 Be5 52. Kd3 f5 53. Bc6 Kf6 54. Ke2 h5 55. Be8 h4 56. Kf3 {1/2-1/2 (56) Esserman,M (2426) -Grandelius,N (2603) Reykjavik 2015}) (17. d5 g6 18. Be3 Qc7 {And we transpose to one of the main lines in the Breyer!}) (17. Be3 exd4 18. Bxd4 Nc5 {does not seem right to me!}) 17... Qc7 18. Bd2 Rac8 $2 {I have a hard time endorsing this move. White's plan is clear. He wants to shut down the center and undermine Black's position on the queen side. Thus, it makes sense for Black to try something against it. However, Almasi's move looks like a waste of time.} ( 18... exd4 19. cxd4 (19. Nxd4 d5 {Black is more than fine.}) 19... c3 20. Bf4 b4 21. a3 a5 {with an unclear position.}) 19. d5 $1 {Now things on the queenside are problematic.} cxb3 20. axb3 g6 21. Bd3 $1 {A nice finesse. White tries to play c4.} Nc5 22. Bf1 Qb6 23. Be3 Qc7 24. Nd2 h5 25. b4 Ncd7 26. c4 $2 {Hasty! This gives away most of White's advantage.} (26. Rc1 h4 27. Ne2 Nb6 28. c4 Nxc4 29. Nxc4 bxc4 30. Nc3 Qd7 31. Qd2 Nh5 32. Qa2 f5 33. Na4 Qd8 34. Bxc4 f4 35. Bb6 Qg5 36. f3 {This is a losing King's Indian position where White had achieved everything he needs and Black has gotten nothing out of his attack} Ra8 37. Bf2 Bc8 38. Kh2 {And Black has absolutely no attack.}) 26... bxc4 27. Qc2 c3 $6 {Almasi returns the favor again. Now was the right time for the typical piece sacrifice.} (27... h4 28. Ne2 Bxd5 29. exd5 Nxd5 {was the right timing!}) 28. Nb1 h4 29. Ne2 Bxd5 {Last practical chance otherwise Black is completely doomed! Nevertheless, it is a bit late and White's advantage should be very big and close to decisive. However, in a practical game, anything can happen!} 30. exd5 Nxd5 31. Qb3 {[#]} (31. Nexc3 $1 Nxc3 32. Nxc3 Qxc3 33. Qa4 Qc6 (33... Nf6 34. Rec1 Qb2 35. Rab1 {traps the queen!}) 34. b5 Qc2 35. bxa6 Qxa4 36. Rxa4 Rc7 37. Bc4 {This endgame is winning but hard to evaluate for a human! I cannot blame Pichot for not choosing to enter this position!}) 31... Nxe3 32. fxe3 c2 33. Nbc3 Nf6 34. Qxc2 Qb6 $6 {This is probably a serious inaccuracy.} (34... Nd5 35. Rec1 Bh6 36. Qe4 Nxe3 (36... Bxe3+ 37. Kh1 Bxc1 38. Nxd5 $18) 37. Nd5 Qa7 38. Rxc8 (38. Nf6+ Kf8 39. Rxc8 Rxc8 40. Kh1 Kg7 { black is fine now.}) 38... Nxd5+ 39. Kh1 Rxc8 40. Qxd5 Qb6 41. Qe4 Bd2 42. Rb1 {White is still a piece up but his advantage is not absolute due to his poorly placed knight and bishop. Nevertheless, White has the better perspective.} ) 35. Qd3 Bh6 36. Kh1 $2 (36. Nd1 Qxb4 37. Nec3 {was a must with a good advantage for White.}) 36... e4 $2 {A big blunder.} (36... Qxe3 37. Qxe3 Bxe3 38. Red1 (38. Rxa6 $4 Bd2 $19) 38... Rc6 {should be completely ok.}) 37. Qxa6 Qxe3 38. Qxd6 Qf2 39. Nd5 Nxd5 40. Qxd5 Rcd8 41. Qc4 Rc8 42. Qb3 Be3 43. Red1 Re6 {White's knight and bishop are now excellently placed and defends everything in White's camp. However, just by the look of the position and the hard task of improving the position, Pichot takes drastic measures to solve his problems.} 44. g4 $2 {The active approach. White gives up a pawn to activate his pieces. I would not have done that!} hxg3 (44... Rec6 45. Ra2 Rc3 46. Qa4 Rd3 47. Bg2 Bf4 48. Nxf4 Rxd1+ 49. Qxd1 Qxa2 50. Bxe4 Qb2 {and I prefer to be black in this position!}) 45. Bg2 Qxe2 46. Re1 Qf2 47. Rxe3 Rc2 48. Rg1 Qd2 49. Ree1 e3 50. b5 Kg7 51. Rb1 {I cannot spot an exact moment but it seems White's position has worsened very fast.} Rf6 (51... Qf2 $1 52. b6 (52. Rbf1 e2 53. Re1 Rc5 {same token!}) 52... Re5 53. b7 Rh5 {mates!}) (51... Re5 52. Qb4 {does not work.}) 52. Qb4 Qd7 $4 {Almasi does not believe that he is winning!} (52... Qd3 53. Rgd1 (53. b6 {[#]} Rxg2 54. Rxg2 (54. Kxg2 Qe2+ 55. Kxg3 Qf2+ 56. Kg4 Qf3+ 57. Kh4 Qh5+ 58. Kg3 Rf3+ 59. Kh2 Qxh3#) 54... Rf1+ 55. Rg1 Qd5+ 56. Qe4 Qxe4#) 53... Rd2 54. Rxd2 exd2 55. Rd1 Rf2 56. b6 Re2 57. b7 Qe3 $19) 53. Qh4 Qc7 $4 { This now loses.} (53... Qd3 54. Qxg3 Rxg2 $3 55. Qxg2 e2 {still draws!} 56. Rge1 Re6 57. b6 Re3 58. Kh2 Qd6+ 59. Kg1 Rg3 60. Rxe2 Rxg2+ 61. Rxg2 Qd4+ 62. Kh1 Qd3 63. Rbb2 Qxh3+ 64. Kg1 Qf3 65. b7 Qe3+ 66. Kh2 Qf4+ 67. Kg1 Qe3+ 68. Kh1 Qc1+ $11) 54. Qd4 $1 {Now white dominates! The b-pawn is unstoppable.} Qb6 55. Qxb6 Rxb6 56. Rge1 Rc3 57. Bf1 {Black's pawns do not get anywhere. White wraps things up nicely!} f5 58. Kg2 f4 59. Be2 Rc2 60. Kf3 g5 61. Rec1 Rxc1 62. Rxc1 Kf6 63. Ra1 Rb8 64. Ra6+ Kg7 65. Rc6 Rd8 66. Rc5 1-0

Hou sits out fifth round

Speaking of controversies, it was with considerable surprise that we saw Hou Yifan paired against her fourth consecutive female player in the Isle of Man Open. This stands out for a variety of reasons, not least of which is Hou Yifan's very public protest in Gibraltar earlier this year, when she refused to play her last round after being paired against no fewer than seven female players. She already refused to take part in the latest Women World Champion cycle, effectively leaving the title open to any and all other colleagues, in order to focus on honing her skills against the best male players in the world. Her campaign and ambitions met with unprecedented success when she took clear first at the Biel GM tournament, but here once more, the pairings gods seem to have conspired against her.

Frustrated by the pairings, Hou has opted to skip round five, receiving instead a half point bye.

"It is difficult to imagine that the organisers are doing this on purpose," she said, reached for cooment via Skype. "There is no reason for that." 

Results for round four (top 30)

Name Pts. Result Pts. Name
Kasimdzhanov Rustam 3 ½ - ½ 3 Carlsen Magnus
Lenderman Aleksandr 3 ½ - ½ 3 Eljanov Pavel
Grandelius Nils ½ - ½ Caruana Fabiano
Shirov Alexei ½ - ½ Anand Viswanathan
Nakamura Hikaru ½ - ½ Sethuraman S.P.
Tari Aryan ½ - ½ Adams Michael
Bok Benjamin 0 - 1 Vidit Santosh Gujrathi
Deac Bogdan-Daniel ½ - ½ Short Nigel D
Swapnil S. Dhopade ½ - ½ Movsesian Sergei
Fressinet Laurent 1 - 0 Harika Dronavalli
Houska Jovanka 0 - 1 Granda Zuniga Julio E
Vallejo Pons Francisco 2 ½ - ½ Batsiashvili Nino
Gelfand Boris 2 1 - 0 2 Sunilduth Lyna Narayanan
Pichot Alan 2 1 - 0 2 Almasi Zoltan
Naiditsch Arkadij 2 ½ - ½ 2 Donchenko Alexander
Howell David W L 2 ½ - ½ 2 Mekhitarian Krikor Sevag
Rodshtein Maxim 2 1 - 0 2 Brunello Sabino
Lampert Jonas 2 0 - 1 2 Sutovsky Emil
Leko Peter 2 1 - 0 2 Panchanathan Magesh Chandran
Rapport Richard 2 1 - 0 2 Khmelniker Ilya
Nihal Sarin 2 0 - 1 2 Adhiban B.
Esserman Marc 2 0 - 1 2 Jones Gawain C B
Riazantsev Alexander 2 1 - 0 2 Christiansen Johan-Sebastian
Gaponenko Inna 2 0 - 1 2 Sargissian Gabriel
Xiong Jeffery 2 1 - 0 2 Kjartansson Gudmundur
L'ami Erwin 2 1 - 0 2 Neelotpal Das
Sokolov Ivan 2 1 - 0 2 Trent Lawrence
Harsha Bharathakoti 2 1 - 0 2 Bogner Sebastian
Bindrich Falko 2 ½ - ½ 2 Zatonskih Anna
Huschenbeth Niclas 2 1 - 0 2 Tarjan James

Top pairings for round five

Name Pts. Name
Carlsen Magnus Granda Zuniga Julio E
Eljanov Pavel Kasimdzhanov Rustam
Vidit Santosh Gujrathi Lenderman Aleksandr
Caruana Fabiano 3 Xiong Jeffery
Anand Viswanathan 3 Grandelius Nils
Sargissian Gabriel 3 Nakamura Hikaru
Adams Michael 3 Shirov Alexei
Sethuraman S.P. 3 Gelfand Boris
Short Nigel D 3 L'ami Erwin
Sokolov Ivan 3 Rodshtein Maxim
Sutovsky Emil 3 Huschenbeth Niclas
Tari Aryan 3 Leko Peter
Pichot Alan 3 Rapport Richard
Movsesian Sergei 3 Deac Bogdan-Daniel
Adhiban B. 3 Harsha Bharathakoti
Jones Gawain C B 3 Swapnil S. Dhopade
Batsiashvili Nino 3 Riazantsev Alexander
Perelshteyn Eugene Vallejo Pons Francisco
Praggnanandhaa R Howell David W L
Brown Michael William Bok Benjamin

Update 12:30: We reached Hou Yifan for comment who informed that she is not considering withdrawing at this time, but did request a ½ bye due to her frustration with her pairings thus far. Initially the bye was recorded as a zero point bye, but it was later updated to ½ point along with byes for Arkadij Naiditsch, Laurent Fressinet and FM Michael Babar.

Update 16:00: We received the following information on pairing procedures from the Chief Arbiter, IA Peter Purland:

I can confirm we are using Swiss Manager version (21 June 2017) and Swiss Master version 5.6 (build 12). These programmes do not use the same pairing programme.
Our procedures are that I input results and make pairings with Swiss Manager, Deputy Chief Arbiter IA Arno Eliens does this in Swiss Master independently. Then we compare full pairings of both programmes and only if these are exactly the same do we publish the pairings.

Swiss Manager is based on the JaVaFo algorithm which is standard for Dutch Swiss pairings. See FIDE pairing rules, for details.


Born in the US, he grew up in Paris, France, where he completed his Baccalaureat, and after college moved to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He had a peak rating of 2240 FIDE, and was a key designer of Chess Assistant 6. In 2010 he joined the ChessBase family as an editor and writer at ChessBase News. He is also a passionate photographer with work appearing in numerous publications, and the content creator of the YouTube channel, Chess & Tech.


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