Play together, stay together

by Alina l'Ami
11/8/2018 – Such a strong open with such a unique final result (husband and wife winning, with the main prize decided on Armageddon) deserves a second look. Radoslaw Wojtaszek and Alina Kashlinskaya won the event, but there were so many side-stories that it is hard to cover all of it in daily reports. ALINA l'AMI brings us a behind-the-scenes look into one of the most exciting tournaments of the year. Luckily, a laptop mishap only delayed but did not prevent her from filing her (semi-traditional) photo retrospective. | Photos: Alina l'Ami

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Not for the faint of heart

Cherishing the little moments in life is essential for a happy, healthy existence. But it is often the case that big events yield memories that last a lifetime and give us something to plan for and look ahead to. For many of us, attending the world's strongest chess open is such an occasion.

Click or tap any photo to enlarge!

The familiar tournament was once again hosted by Villa Marina, the island's premier scene for business, social and entertainment events

Making a trip across the globe to be a part of the iconic Isle of Man chess tournament can be, from a chess perspective, a life-changing experience. It is an awe-inspiring opportunity to meet — and contend against — the best of the best, where the top-ten alone mirror the famed Rotarian society: by invitation only! It does look like a round-robin event, where players with a more modest rating stand no chance of coming in from the cold.

Altibox, Tata Steel, Sinquefield Cup, Gashimov Memorial, Grenke Classic? No, it is the Isle of Man Open!

The betters bet it's to better their bets

At a closer look, the 2700+ club continues up to and including the 20th player on the list, followed by former world title challengers, young stars, leading women contenders... 

Caruana and Carlsen absent?! Beyond doubt, the match is quite a good excuse for declining the Isle of Man's manly challenge. For the other 165 participants though the prize fund is a strong incentive, and the generous time control speaks to the imagination of those seeking the truth.

Since it is wiser to find out than to suppose, heart-rate monitors have been used on volunteer players to measure the effects of the seven-hours-plus chess sessions

Besides the fact that playing this game is good for your waistline, the heartaches of the time scramble are getting close to the maximum safe heart-rate. During the Blitz playoff, for example, Wojtaszek came within a whisker of 170 beats per minute, which according to the specialists is in the vicinity of a level he should not cross.

The final handshake of the Blitz playoff which sealed Wojtaszek's victory over Naiditsch

Since both players were not too happy with their overall blitz performance, you can find in the following selection some key games that decided the podium, and a couple of chess questions for you:


Two chess players, one family

The love for chess is a lot like a backache — it doesn't show up on those heart-rate devices but we know it's there. And that's what morphed the hip couple into a train with no breaks — Alina and Radek became unstoppable! To describe just how amazing this chess couple is, three words are needed: 1.d4. Advantage. Point.

Happiness is...winning the tournament, the playoff, the ladies prize, a GM norm and having each other: Alina Kashlinskaya and Radek Wojtaszek, seconds after the playoff clocks stopped

Forget date night or a romantic weekend away, the key to a long-lasting and happy relationship is to work on chess together, as proven by the tandem win. But in the world of chess and success, there is little time to enjoy victory.

There is a thin line between laughter and pain, comedy and tragedy, humour and hurt

Alina went more or less straight to Khanty-Mansiysk and has been eliminated from the Women's World Championship, while her husband is already playing another tough event, the double round robin Masters in Shenzhen. But nothing and nobody will take away their enormous success.

To my surprise, little has been analysed, if anything, from Alina's incredible tournament. Sure, her name was mentioned and the double family triumph made the headlines, but mostly as a coincidence rather than appraisal for her play. This is my take on it:


We don't know what the future will bring but right now the game is on for all the chess couples out there. Winning a tournament, a board medal, a beauty prize is great yet 'nothing spectacular'. The golden family raised our sights, since winning together IS!

Playing and laughing together — and next time winning together — the lovely young couple: Sopiko Guramishvili and Anish Giri

But "the tournament finished before it started" — claimed some voices on the account that out of 45 possible pairings between the top ten players, only one was pulled out of a hat: the last round encounter between Grischuk and MVL. For your author this aspect is irrelevant. Every game is a fight and every player in the field is ambitious, particularly the Indian Championship section (no less than 35 players represented India!) 

A low rating doesn't necessarily translate into low chess knowledge

Besides, some players are luckier than others. The new FIDE Vice-president Nigel Short said: 

…and confessed that 

Nakamura escaped while on a short leash and finished in fifth position

Nigel Short did play very well though and despite his tongue-in-cheek assertions he didn't take, like many others, the strategic or relaxing day off that comes with a half-point bye (neither did Nakamura). But after the rough long games, he succumbed in the final round against a lower rated opponent. 

"Chess is unforgiving", Nigel continued...and to that many of us can surely subscribe

Time off is needed — if only we had the time

If that was not hard enough, for other players things can complicate even further: due to spiritual reasons, at certain hours and dates the French GM Anthony Bellaiche cannot touch the electronic clock, hence another person does that for him. I wonder if he ever lost on time or committed a terrible blunder because of it...

And what would happen if by mistake, due to automatism, the French GM would press the clock? Life as a chess player is not easy

Beauty, brains and secret weapons — some never forget the importance of having fun! (That's a pen by the way)

The wonder kids' 'surprises' are no longer a surprise — Nihal Sarin. Praggnanandhaa Rameshbabu, Vincent Keymer and Gukesh D

Excerpts from 13 y.o. diaries:


The tournament in Isle of Man is a beautiful example of how players with less resounding names can create havoc if given the chance. If many top events have their doors closed for mere mortals and opened only for the elite, the strongest Open ever has its windows unlocked for 2000+ rating in the Masters, with an additional Major and Minor sections for the amateurs.

An off-the-board surprise — "I doubt they have Peacock Beer here...oh well, I'll settle for an Okells then" (the bird is real!)

Now we have some good news and some bad news. Good news is that the Isle of Man International Tournament is secured for next year's 6th edition. Bad news is that the current playing venue will not be available for October 2019. But as it often happens in life, a bad thing can be a good one in disguise.* While the organizers are busy finding an alternative, we can sit back & relax and follow the World Championship match. 

Once the dates are cast in stone and the tournament hall settled, one should better hurry — the number of entries for IOM is limited

*Still trying to figure out the positive aspect of destroying the keyboard, the motherboard and a few circuits of my gorgeous laptop, which happened a few days ago...coke is not good for your health, especially when you spill it all over your computer :). Lesson learned, and the reason why this article had to be postponed. Thank you for your understanding!

Always look on the bright side of life :)


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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Petrarlsen Petrarlsen 11/10/2018 03:52
@ WildKid: Without entering into too much details (it would be much too complicated), it must be noted that, in fact, the prohibition to use an electric or electronic apparatus has some sort of a link with "work", but "work" in a religious sense, very different from the common meaning of this word...
Petrarlsen Petrarlsen 11/9/2018 06:31
@ WildKid: It is not because to press the button is to "work"; it is because the clock is an electronic clock and because a very practising Jew cannot use electric or electronic apparatus for the Shabbat, schematically. When the clocks were mechanical clocks, this couldn't be a problem for Jewish players...
WildKid WildKid 11/9/2018 12:21
It's interesting that in Judaism, playing in a professional chess tournament does not count as 'working' for purposes of Sabbath observance, but pressing a button on a clock does.
John Smalec John Smalec 11/9/2018 12:37
Alina, Thanks for publishing this great report. The photo of the Villa Marina is superb. It was also nice meeting you at this event.
CMPonCB CMPonCB 11/8/2018 11:53
Only one word needed to describe an Alina l'Ami report ... Lovely!

However, I now need to know what Pia Cramling just said to Jovanka Houska (see the "Happiness is ..." photo above). Any suggestions should be kept as clean as possible.
AgainAgain AgainAgain 11/8/2018 09:58
great article!!
Lachesis Lachesis 11/8/2018 06:46
For a 31 year old Grandmaster who does not have a medical issue or problem, entering into the red heart rate zone is not inherently a problem. I am a certified personal trainer and the comments in this article are so much hyperbole.
Petrarlsen Petrarlsen 11/8/2018 06:20
@ fgkdjlkag:

I haven't any information on GM Bellaiche's religion, but, for example, this would be quite normal for a Jew who would practice very seriously his religion; they regularly ask non-Jews to help them to do things that they aren't allowed to do: this isn't forbidden in Judaism. There is even a specific word for this: "Shabbos goy" (cf.
fgkdjlkag fgkdjlkag 11/8/2018 05:16
Also strange about GM Anthony Bellaiche not being able to use the clock at certain times. If it is for religious/spiritual reasons, I do not see how it could make sense, because if it is prohibited for him, how does it help to have someone else do it? Eg, a Hindu who could not eat beef or a Muslim who would not eat pork, would not want someone else doing it in his stead.
fgkdjlkag fgkdjlkag 11/8/2018 05:10
170 beats per minute?? I wonder what is the accuracy of these heart rate monitors?