Magnus Carlsen wins Isle of Man Open

by Alex Yermolinsky
10/2/2017 – It was a much awaited return to form for Magnus Carlsen, who dominated the Isle of Man Open from start to finish, defeating his nearest challengers one after the other. His final game against Hikaru Nakamura was expected to be a quick draw, and it was. Among the challengers who might join Nakamura for a share of second was none other than Vishy Anand who played a superb game to beat Hou Yifan in the last round. | Photo: John Saunders

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'Bored' one

The top game, Carlsen-Nakamura, as many had suspected, was anticlimactic. Magnus only needed a draw to seal the tournament, and one shouldn't expect Hikaru to go hog-wild with the black pieces. In the past two years of their personal encounters Nakamura has done more than a decent job righting his ship, and this was not the time to risk a setback.

The final game on board one between Hikaru Nakamura and Magnus Carlsen might seem disappointing, but it was a predictable and logical result | Photo: / Maria Emelianova

Three boards were filled with players hoping to catch Hikaru for a share of second place, but only one managed to ascend. The great Vishy Anand put up a clinic on how to handle a last round money game. First, a quiet opening, then a slow build-up culminating in a sudden tactical shot. It is hard to blame Hou Yifan for succumbing, as Vishy's play was absolutely perfect. See for yourself.

Hou Yifan succumbed to Vishy Anand in the final round, but cannot blame herself: not only did she have a great tournament overall, but her opponent produced a masterpiece, which is what it took to beat her | Photo: / Maria Emelianova

Viswanathan Anand vs Hou Yifan (annotated by Alex Yermolinsky)

[Event "IOM Open-Masters 2017"] [Site "Douglas"] [Date "2017.10.01"] [Round "9"] [White "Anand, Viswanathan"] [Black "Hou, Yifan"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "C01"] [WhiteElo "2794"] [BlackElo "2670"] [Annotator "Alex Yermolinsky"] [PlyCount "105"] [EventDate "2017.??.??"] 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nf6 3. Nxe5 d6 4. Nf3 Nxe4 5. d3 Nf6 6. d4 d5 7. Bd3 Be7 8. O-O O-O 9. Re1 Bg4 10. Bg5 Nbd7 11. Nbd2 Re8 12. c3 c6 {Up to this point the game has the looks of a pre-arranged draw, but looks can be deceptive.} 13. Qc2 { On top of the extra tempo White has a more active Bd3 vs. Be7.} h6 ({The path to equality is wrought with hidden dangers.} 13... Nf8 {allows a standard build-up:} 14. Ne5 Bh5 15. f4 $1 {where} h6 16. Bxf6 Bxf6 17. Nf1 Bxe5 18. fxe5 f6 19. Ng3 Bf7 20. Nf5 fxe5 21. dxe5 $16 {hardly brings any relief.}) 14. Bf4 $1 ({Balck would make a big step towards safety in case of} 14. Bh4 Nh5 $1) 14... Nh5 (14... Nf8 15. Ne5 Be6 16. Re2 $14) 15. Be5 Bg5 $6 ({On} 15... Bf6 16. g3 $1 {cuts off the black knight on h5, as in} Bxe5 17. Nxe5 Nxe5 ({ a better try is} 17... Nhf6 {but White still keep a nagging pressure after} 18. Nxg4 Nxg4 19. Rxe8+ Qxe8 20. Nf3 Ngf6 21. Re1) 18. dxe5 Qc7 19. f4 g6 20. Nf1 Ng7 21. Ne3 $14) 16. h3 Bxf3 {This one is a bigger concession than it might seem from the casual glance.} (16... Be6 17. Nxg5 Qxg5 (17... hxg5 18. Qd1 $1 Nxe5 19. Bh7+ Kxh7 20. Qxh5+ Kg8 21. dxe5 {is a brilliant computer line designed to isolate and eventually win the g5-pawn.}) 18. Nf3 Qe7 19. Bh2 $16) 17. Nxf3 Bf4 18. Bh7+ $1 {The point of this seemingly useless check is to drive the black king away from the center, which makes a world of difference in many lines, including the one given in the notes to Black's 23rd move.} Kh8 19. Bxf4 Nxf4 20. Bf5 $1 {This move isolates Black's only active piece, Nf4 from the rest of his forces.} Qc7 21. Bxd7 Qxd7 22. Ne5 Qe6 23. Re3 {[#]} Kg8 ( 23... Ng6 24. Nxg6+ Qxg6 25. Qxg6 fxg6 26. Rae1 Rxe3 27. Rxe3 $16 {Had the black king been on g8, he would have been able to stop the white rook's invasion. Not here.}) 24. Rae1 Qc8 {This blunders away a pawn, but Black was in a dire need of good advice.} (24... Qd6 25. Qf5 Qf6 26. Qxf6 gxf6 27. Ng4 Rxe3 28. fxe3 Nd3 29. Re2 {trapping the black knight.}) (24... Rf8 25. Qd1 Ng6 26. Nxg6 Qxg6 27. Re7) 25. Nxf7 $1 {A cobra-like strike!} Rxe3 26. Rxe3 Kxf7 27. Rf3 Kg8 {No choice,} ({since} 27... g5 28. Qh7+ {loses everything.}) 28. Rxf4 Qe6 29. Qf5 Re8 30. Qxe6+ Rxe6 31. Kf1 {The rest is, as they say, a matter of technique, and Vishy has plenty left in that department.} a5 32. Rf3 Rg6 (32... Rd6 33. Ke2 h5 34. Kd3 g6 35. a4 Kg7 {seems a slightly better defensive formation.}) 33. a4 Rd6 34. Ke2 Rd8 35. Kd3 Rb8 36. Rf5 b5 37. axb5 Rxb5 38. Kc2 Rb7 39. f4 Rb8 40. g4 a4 41. Re5 Kf7 42. f5 Ra8 43. Re6 Rc8 44. Re5 Ra8 45. h4 a3 46. bxa3 Rxa3 47. Kb2 Ra8 48. g5 hxg5 49. hxg5 Rb8+ 50. Kc2 Rh8 51. Re6 Rh5 52. g6+ Kf8 53. f6 1-0

A World champion's guide to the Petroff

The great popularity of the Petroff Defence at the highest level has attracted general attention as strong players employ this opening with great success and with both colours. Unfortunately, the opinion of the Petroff as a sterile drawish opening seems to be firmly implanted in many minds. The author tries to dispel these myths and examines the most popular lines and provides a large number of ideas that will enable you to play Petroff successfully, with either colour.

Former rivals Vishy Anand and Boris Gelfand who played for the world title in 2012 have friendly chat. Anand's last win brought him a share of second-third with Nakamura. | Photo: / Maria Emelianova

Not to be outdone was another former Champ and Anand's long-time adversary, Vladimir Kramnik. He had Black against a dangerous opponent, Gawain Jones. Once again, we witness a calm professional approach to such situations. Kramnik simply played his kind of game, and once an opportunity presented itself he was there to capitalize.

In spite of a catastrophic first half of a tournament, Vladimir Kramnik dug 'oh so deep' and put himself together to finish on 6½/9 | Photo: / Maria Emelianova

Gawain Jones vs Vladimir Kramnik (annotated by Alex Yermolinsky)

[Event "IOM Open-Masters 2017"] [Site "Douglas"] [Date "2017.10.01"] [Round "9"] [White "Jones, Gawain C B"] [Black "Kramnik, Vladimir"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "C45"] [WhiteElo "2668"] [BlackElo "2803"] [Annotator "Alex Yermolinsky"] [PlyCount "64"] [EventDate "2017.??.??"] 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. d4 exd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nxc6 bxc6 6. e5 Qe7 7. Qe2 Nd5 8. c4 Ba6 9. Nd2 ({Of course, the main line begins with} 9. b3 {and Kramnik must have done his homework on it before the Kasparov match.}) 9... g6 10. Nf3 Qb4+ 11. Kd1 Ne7 $5 {This must have been Kramnik's preparation.} ({He avoided misplacing his knight with the standard retreat} 11... Nb6 {where} 12. b3 Bg7 13. Qd2 {has been Black some headache, e.g.} Qxd2+ (13... Qe7 14. Bb2 O-O 15. Kc2 {Nepomniatchtchi-Svidler, Ch-RUS 2010}) 14. Bxd2 O-O 15. c5 { Caruana-Jakovenko, 2013}) 12. Qc2 ({Another important point of not occupying the b6-square with the knight is seen in} 12. Qd2 Qb6 $1) 12... c5 13. Bd3 Bg7 14. Re1 O-O 15. Qb3 Nc6 16. Bd2 Qb6 17. Qxb6 axb6 $15 18. Kc2 Rad8 19. a3 d6 20. exd6 Rxd6 21. Bc3 ({It was hardly anything wrong with} 21. Bf4 Rd7 22. Rad1 Rfd8 23. Be4) 21... Na5 22. Bxg7 Kxg7 {[#] Black has a pleasant endgame, but it would have been harder for him to press on if it wasn't for the following mistake.} 23. Nd2 $2 {Overloading the open file with minor pieces is never a good idea.} ({Instead,} 23. Kc3 Rfd8 24. Be2 Nc6 25. Rad1 Nd4 26. Nxd4 cxd4+ 27. Kd2 {holding comfortably, as} d3 28. Bf3 Bxc4 {fails to accomplish much after} 29. Rc1 Rd4 30. Re4 Rxe4 31. Bxe4 Rd4 32. Ke3 c5 33. Rd1 {winning back the pawn.}) 23... Rfd8 24. Re3 Bc8 $1 {Kramnik is in his element.} 25. Kc3 Bf5 26. Bxf5 Rxd2 {This looked obvious when Vladimir played it.} ({Messing up his own pawns is not in Kramnik's rulebook, but in this case} 26... gxf5 27. Nb3 Nxb3 28. Kxb3 Rd2 29. Rf3 Re2 {deserved attention.}) 27. Be4 R8d4 28. b3 $2 { Gawain goes down like a stone. Hard to blame him, as the game had gone wrong for him from the outset.} ({There was a lot of fight left in} 28. Rf3 $1 Nxc4 29. Bd3 {I wonder if Kramnik saw that one.} Ne5 (29... b5 $2 30. Bxc4 bxc4 31. a4 {and suddenly White's Ra1 is very much in place.}) 30. Kxd2 Nxf3+ 31. gxf3 c4 32. Kc3 Rxd3+ 33. Kxc4 Rxf3 34. b4 {White's active king and the threat of a4-a5 may be enough to draw.}) 28... Rxf2 29. Rf3 Re2 30. Bd5 {There comes an elegant finish.} c6 $1 31. Bxf7 (31. Rxf7+ Kh6 32. Bf3 Re3+ 33. Kc2 Nxb3 34. Rd1 Rxc4+ 35. Kb2 Nd4) 31... Nb7 $1 32. b4 Nd6 {Jones resigned, not wanting to see} (32... Nd6 33. Raf1 Ne4+ 34. Kb3 Nd2+ {played on the board.}) 0-1

Among the unexpected results was that of 27-year-old GM Swapnil Dhopade who had the tournament of his life with a 2768 performance against elite players and finished with 6.0/9, tied for 4th-12th

GM Swapnil Dhopade had the tournament of his life | Photo: / Maria Emelianova

Looking at the final standings we can see a total reversal of the World Cup turmoil. The higher-rated players ended up occupying all the top spots. I guess, ratings do mean something.

A good example of “muscling” the otherwise even game to his favor was given by Fabiano Caruana in the battle against his compatriot, Varuzhan Akobian.

Fabiano Caruana bounced back from his disappointing loss to Carlsen in round eight, and outplayed his compatiot Varuzhan Akobian in the last round | Photo: / Maria Emelianova

Varuazhan Akobian vs Fabiano Caruana (annotated by Alex Yermolinsky)

[Event "IOM Open-Masters 2017"] [Site "Douglas"] [Date "2017.10.01"] [Round "9"] [White "Akobian, Varuzhan"] [Black "Caruana, Fabiano"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "E61"] [WhiteElo "2662"] [BlackElo "2799"] [Annotator "Alex Yermolinsky"] [PlyCount "86"] [EventDate "2017.??.??"] 1. d4 d6 2. Nf3 Nf6 3. c4 g6 4. Nc3 Bf5 {Caruana doesn't have a good track record in this sideline: losses to Kramnik, Ragger and Lenic, draws with Gelfand and Onischuk. One has to admire Fabiano's "never quit" fighting spirit. } 5. d5 ({Among White's other numerous options there's} 5. h3 $5 Bg7 6. g4 Bd7 7. Bg2 {was played by Korobov.}) 5... Bg7 6. Nd4 Bd7 7. e4 O-O 8. Be2 e6 { Actually it makes sense. Unlike some lines with Nc6 and back to b8, losing two moves after White pushes d4-d5, here Black gained a tempo by having his bishop on d7 (only one tempo loss on Bc8-f5-d7).} 9. Bg5 h6 10. Be3 ({More principled is to try for a superior pawn structure with} 10. Bh4 exd5 11. cxd5 Re8 12. f3 c5 13. Nb3 {Polugaevsky-Gurgenidze, 1961(!)}) 10... exd5 11. exd5 Re8 12. Qd2 Kh7 13. O-O-O $5 {Of course, it's risky, but Varuzhan wanted a big fight.} Na6 {The availability of the c5-square makes this position radically different from what we get in ...c5 lines of the Averbakh KID.} 14. h4 Nc5 15. h5 g5 16. f3 Kg8 17. g4 {[#]} Rb8 $5 {A classic "mysterious rook move".} ({The immediate } 17... c6 {gets hit by} 18. dxc6 bxc6 19. Nc2 {although even there Black can drum up something after} Qb6) 18. Rhe1 ({It would be ideal for Whte to transfer his LSB on the now open b1-h7 diagonal, but} 18. Rde1 c6 19. Bd1 cxd5 20. cxd5 Qc7 21. Bc2 b5 {gives Black speedy counterplay.}) 18... c6 19. Kb1 ( 19. dxc6 bxc6 20. Nc2 Qb6 ({or even} 20... Nfe4 21. fxe4 Nxe4 22. Qd3 Bxc3 23. bxc3 Qa5)) 19... cxd5 20. cxd5 ({Very intruguing was the surprising} 20. Ndb5 $5) 20... a6 21. Bd3 {With this trade White concedes a large part of his (potential) advantage.} (21. Bf2 Rc8 22. Bg3 Na4 23. Nxa4 Bxa4 24. Nf5 Bc2+) 21... Nxd3 22. Qxd3 Rc8 23. Nde2 (23. Nf5 {runs into a tactic after} Bxf5 24. Qxf5 Rxc3 $1 25. bxc3 Rxe3 26. Rxe3 Qb6+ {How annoying.}) 23... b5 24. Ng3 Rc4 25. Bd2 {[#]} Rf8 $5 {Shocking.} ({A semi-forced line} 25... Rxe1 26. Rxe1 Nxd5 27. Nxd5 Rd4 28. Ne7+ Qxe7 29. Rxe7 Rxd3 30. Rxd7 Rxd2 31. b3 Rb2+ 32. Kc1 Rxa2 {gives Black some extra pawns, but White's counterplay connected with} 33. Nf5 {should not be underestimated.}) 26. Nf5 Bxf5 27. Qxf5 b4 28. Ne2 Nd7 29. Rc1 $2 {I suspect Akobian was low on time.} ({Otherwise, why exchange anything when } 29. b3 Rc8 30. f4 {was there? In the endgame after} Qf6 31. Qxf6 Nxf6 32. fxg5 hxg5 33. Bxb4 {White is the only one playing for a win.}) 29... Rxc1+ 30. Rxc1 a5 31. Ng3 ({Now} 31. f4 Re8 $1 32. Ng3 Qf6 {is OK for Black.}) 31... Re8 32. Re1 $6 {Continuing the same faulty strategy.} Nc5 33. Rxe8+ Qxe8 34. b3 a4 $5 {Sensing his opponent's shaky state, Fabiano cranks it up.} ({Simple enough was} 34... Be5 35. Ne4 Nxe4 36. Qxe4 Qb5 37. Qc4 Qb6 {Once the black queen gets in White would have to switch to the defensive, the main problem being the waek a2-pawn.}) 35. Bxb4 $2 ({Best was} 35. Ne4 $1 axb3 36. axb3 Nxe4 ( 36... Qa8 37. Nxd6) 37. Qxe4 Qa8 38. Qc4 {There can be no mate here.}) 35... axb3 36. axb3 Qb8 37. Bxc5 dxc5 38. Ne4 Qxb3+ 39. Kc1 Bd4 {[#]} 40. Kd2 $4 { Oh, that fateful 40th move.} ({Unfortunately, in order to be be able to play} 40. Nd2 {one has to see} Be3 41. Qc8+ Kg7 42. Qxc5 $3 {which is next to impossible when low on time.}) 40... c4 $19 41. Qc8+ Kg7 42. d6 Qd3+ 43. Kc1 Be3+ 0-1

There were a lot of wins for the experienced players today. Michael Adams, Alexei Shirov, Emil Sutovsky and James Tarjan were able to overcome their much younger opposition. In Tarjan's case we have one of the best performances of the 21st Century by a player in his 60's. Congrats!

James Tarjan, 65 years old, finished in beauty by beating Alexandra Kosteniuk in the last round. Just out of retirement (in chess) with a modest 2412 rating, his final performance was an impressive 2671 | Photo: John Saunders

American IM Michael Brown was also rewarded for his play with a grandmaster norm | Photo: John Saunders

In conclusion, I'd like to thank all the participants of the Isle of man event for giving us great games.

At the table with his trophies, Magnus Carlsen enjoys some relaxation with his girlfriend Synne Christin Larsen | Photo: / Maria Emelianova

Results for round nine (top 20)

Name Pts. Result Pts. Name
Carlsen Magnus 7 ½ - ½ Nakamura Hikaru
Anand Viswanathan 6 1 - 0 6 Hou Yifan
Eljanov Pavel 6 ½ - ½ 6 Swapnil S. Dhopade
Rapport Richard 6 ½ - ½ 6 Vidit Santosh Gujrathi
Jones Gawain C B 0 - 1 Kramnik Vladimir
Akobian Varuzhan 0 - 1 Caruana Fabiano
Adams Michael 1 - 0 Xiong Jeffery
Shirov Alexei 1 - 0 Howell David W L
Sutovsky Emil 1 - 0 Grandelius Nils
Lenderman Aleksandr ½ - ½ Leko Peter
Kasimdzhanov Rustam ½ - ½ Bindrich Falko
Movsesian Sergei ½ - ½ L'ami Erwin
Vallejo Pons Francisco 5 ½ - ½ Sunilduth Lyna Narayanan
Huschenbeth Niclas 5 ½ - ½ 5 Naiditsch Arkadij
Svane Rasmus 5 0 - 1 5 Rodshtein Maxim
Tari Aryan 5 ½ - ½ 5 Fressinet Laurent
Granda Zuniga Julio E 5 1 - 0 5 Harsha Bharathakoti
Sargissian Gabriel 5 1 - 0 5 Nihal Sarin
Wagner Dennis 5 1 - 0 5 Sokolov Ivan
Bogner Sebastian 5 ½ - ½ 5 Donchenko Alexander

Final standings (top 25)

Rk. Name  TB1 
1 Carlsen Magnus 7,5
2 Anand Viswanathan 7,0
  Nakamura Hikaru 7,0
4 Kramnik Vladimir 6,5
  Caruana Fabiano 6,5
  Adams Michael 6,5
  Eljanov Pavel 6,5
  Vidit Santosh Gujrathi 6,5
  Sutovsky Emil 6,5
  Rapport Richard 6,5
  Shirov Alexei 6,5
  Swapnil S. Dhopade 6,5
13 Rodshtein Maxim 6,0
  Leko Peter 6,0
  Kasimdzhanov Rustam 6,0
  Movsesian Sergei 6,0
  Hou Yifan 6,0
  Granda Zuniga Julio E 6,0
  Sargissian Gabriel 6,0
  L'ami Erwin 6,0
  Bindrich Falko 6,0
  Sunilduth Lyna Narayanan 6,0
  Lenderman Aleksandr 6,0
  Wagner Dennis 6,0
25 Vallejo Pons Francisco 5,5


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Yermo is enjoying his fifties. Lives in South Dakota, 600 miles way from the nearest grandmaster. Between his chess work online he plays snooker and spends time outdoors - happy as a clam.


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