Pentala Harikrishna succeeds on Isle of Man

by Alina l'Ami
10/15/2015 – Pentala Harikrishna is the winner of the PokerStars Isle Of Man tournament 2015. In the last round Nigel Short tried hard to beat the Indian Grandmaster but finally had to content himself with a draw. The tournament had a strong field and a superb organisation. And the island itself made Alina l'Ami ask some fundamental questions. Report, pictures, analyses...

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I have always wondered what final aim chess players are pursuing in their errant lives? Is it the best move, the most fantastic game or the highest rating ever? But while reading "El paraiso en la otra esquina" (which appeared under the title The Way to Paradise in English but translates roughly as “The happiness in the other corner”), a book of my favourite author Mario Vargas Llosa, I started to think that maybe this “happiness in the other corner” is precisely what we chess players, are looking for!

Not an easy quest: there are many corners to check and they always change. A coincidence of the kind I like and welcome had it that I finished the last chapters of Vargas Llosa’s book while traveling to the Isle of Man, a small island which never looks the same; the shades of its light change from one minute to another and it would take a lifetime to capture its whole beauty and greatness...

So I wondered if the Isle of Man, where I wanted to play the famous PokerStars international chess tournament, was one of those corners?

The Isle of Man is a paradise for nature lovers, photographers, and chess players.

Objective analysis shows that this could be true. The field in this year’s tournament was extremely strong. At the top, in the middle, and even at the end of the seeding list. You had to show good form or you were at risk to go badly astray. But the time control was most generous and one game could last up to nine hours!

The people on the Isle of Man drive on the left and the clocks also work...
the other way around! It took me some time to find out what time it is exactly.

My games frequently were the last to finish last but despite the inevitable exhaustion caused by that I didn't mind at all, not only because I am a "long thinker", but mainly because I believe that the quality and beauty of chess benefit from a slow rhythm of play.

Always an elegant presence: Ketevan Arakhamia-Grant

Nigel and Erwin talking about...chess?!

Coca Cola vs. water. For the long IoM games you might need them both.

You will hear more from the Italian...

...GM Francesco Rambaldi who collected 6.0/10 points in the tournament and gained 10 Elo-points.


The playing hall and general conditions are simply superb, as the main sponsors PokerStars and the Scheinberg family, together with Alan Ormsby's organizing team, which tend to grow into a true family, do not spare any effort to make the players' life as good as possible. On top, all the invited players of 2015 are on the list for next year, and Alan promised in his closing speech to adjust the dates in such a way that the tournament won't clash with the 2016 Olympiad.

What distinguishes a good tournament organiser? A passion for chess!

In deep thought: the players at the top boards.

Clash of titans: Tarjan (with White) vs Timman. The last game they played against each other was in 1983!


But it still takes a minor miracle for a "happy other corner". In our case this could be the effort to combine two completely different games: chess and poker! To my shame, I must admit that I don't even know the rules of poker, but I believe to grasp a bit of its spirit and understand why it is similar to the ancient royal game – despite all differences. In chess and in poker we all tend to consider ourselves geniuses, believing that we can have sensational performances if not for bad luck... But even more important, despite its scientific character chess still retains aspects of gambling. It doesn't really matter which cards you get, but the way you are playing them! The more you practice and the smarter you are, the luckier you become.

Armenian GM Hrant Melkumyan

A true natural of the game: Julio Granda Zuniga

Tournament winner Pentala Harikrishna

Harika Dronavalli (playing with black against Michael Adams)
deserved more from her event but continues to smile and promises to work even harder next time!


Yochanan Afek, who is a grandmaster in study composition,
created a special study for the IoM tournament. He also had a great tournament.

Study by Yochanan Afek. Solution at the end of the article


Once in a while in interviews the question comes up why on earth are we not giving up the spiny chess career? I usually give vague answers, such as that chess is addictive, that it allows me to travel a lot, and I also like to quote Aronian who once said that all chess players are masochists, except those at the top who are sadists... But now I believe that chess is a bit like poker: you cannot retire when you are losing but even less so when winning!

Returning to the concrete world, I find it is a good idea to have the poker tournament the day before the chess event starts. This way chess players can clear their minds and get rid of the pressure, and some might even have hit the big pot already!

The flag of the Isle of Man with its famous triskelion symbol.

Yuri Garrett does a quick scan for electronic devices before the last round - both players came out clean!

When not busy with anti-cheating duties Yuri Garrett is a passionate photographer.

They say that history repeats itself and this could have been the case in the 2015 Isle of Man tournament. Last year Nigel Short won the tournament with a last round win against David Howell. This time, his love for the game transpired again and again, particularly in his game against Alon Greenfeld, in which he played an unusual self-fork. This game was published in a previous CB-report, so I am sure you are all aware of its beauty.

And just like last year, in the final round Nigel was pressing in the endgame against the leader Harikrishna, but the Indian grandmaster defended well and hold tight to his 1st place; and even though Sargissian and Fressinet caught up with him by winning against Rambaldi and Naiditsch respectively, the Indian had the best tie-break and won the tournament.

History did not repeat itself this time: Nigel had pressure but Harikrishna hold the draw.

Laurent Fressinet finished the tournament on a good note:
he won against Arkadij Naiditsch which made him first place
with Sargissian and Harikrishna.


The crucial encounter between Naiditsch and Harikrishna in round seven


Shared first with 7.0/9: Gabriel Sargissian who won against Francesco Rambaldi in the final round.


And the winner is: Pentala Harikrishna!

The winner of the ladies' prize: IM Jovanka Houska

Final Standings

Rg. Snr   Name Land Elo Pkt.
1 2 GM Harikrishna P. IND 2737 7,0
2 4 GM Fressinet Laurent FRA 2702 7,0
  6 GM Sargissian Gabriel ARM 2679 7,0
4 3 GM Howell David W L ENG 2705 6,5
  7 GM Short Nigel D ENG 2678 6,5
6 1 GM Adams Michael ENG 2742 6,0
  5 GM Naiditsch Arkadij AZE 2682 6,0
  8 GM Granda Zuniga Julio E PER 2667 6,0
  9 GM Movsesian Sergei ARM 2658 6,0
  15 GM L'ami Erwin NED 2619 6,0
  18 GM Donchenko Alexander GER 2577 6,0
  20 GM Brunello Sabino ITA 2553 6,0
  21 IM Van Foreest Jorden NED 2548 6,0
  22 GM Rambaldi Francesco ITA 2547 6,0
  23 GM Hillarp Persson Tiger SWE 2546 6,0
  43 IM Swayams Mishra IND 2444 6,0
17 11 GM Grandelius Nils SWE 2647 5,5
  12 GM Kuzubov Yuriy UKR 2641 5,5
  13 GM Jones Gawain C B ENG 2623 5,5
  14 GM Melkumyan Hrant ARM 2622 5,5
  16 GM Tiviakov Sergei NED 2612 5,5
  17 GM Sengupta Deep IND 2580 5,5
  24 GM Boruchovsky Avital ISR 2536 5,5
  25 GM Greenfeld Alon ISR 2534 5,5
  29 GM Arkell Keith C ENG 2505 5,5
  31 GM Gormally Daniel W ENG 2500 5,5
  32 GM Sundararajan Kidambi IND 2497 5,5
  36 IM Nakar Eylon ISR 2463 5,5
  50 IM Zumsande Martin GER 2422 5,5
  56 IM Houska Jovanka ENG 2372 5,5
31 10 GM Fridman Daniel GER 2649 5,0
  19 GM Timman Jan H NED 2562 5,0
  26 IM Illingworth Max AUS 2517 5,0
  28 GM Vaisser Anatoly FRA 2515 5,0
  30 GM Vishnu Prasanna. V IND 2503 5,0
  34 GM Tarjan James E USA 2479 5,0
  37 IM Lampert Jonas GER 2461 5,0
  38 GM Cherniaev Alexander RUS 2458 5,0
  40 IM Pert Richard G ENG 2450 5,0
  41 IM Paehtz Elisabeth GER 2447 5,0
  45 GM Williams Simon K ENG 2429 5,0


The winner takes it all but two cups?

Visibly happy and relieved: Pentala Harikrishna during the winner's speech.

The winners in great spirits. The tournament organizer Alan Ormsby congratulates.
Between Ormsby and Harikrishna is Mr. Scheinberg, who will generously sponsor next
year's edition of the tournament as well.

The winners of the Ladies' prizes.

Alan Ormsby congratulates Jovanka Houska

Pentala Harikrishna and Harika Dronavalli are very good friends; to me it seems fair that Harika has the bigger cup!

I read that winners are not those who never fail but rather those who never quit! Since I cannot be satisfied with my final result, I feel like coming back to the Isle of Man corner forever in a permanent search for happiness and better moves...

Mysterious, yet warm and friendly, the kind of combination
that makes you want to come back again and again.

Solution to Yochanan Afek's study: 1. f7 Qh5+ 2. Bg5 Qxf7 3. Re1+ Kg2 4. Rb2+ f2 5. Rxf2 Kxf2 6. Bh4+ Rxh4
7. Nd3+ Kg3 8. Re3+ Kg2 9. Re2+ 1/2

Photos: 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 13 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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