Pavel Eljanov from the Ukraine won the third Isle of Man Masters on tiebreak from Fabiano Caruana, who also had an excellent tournament and moved up in rating to clear world number two behind Mighty Magnus. In fact their scores were tied, but Eljanov had the better tie break which was done on progressive scores.
I am apparently not alone in finding this antiquated rule completely ridiculous. Even the mild-mannered Harry Potter lookalike Caruana expressed irritation that he wasn’t given a chance to win the tournament in a tie break. It’s time these ridiculous tie-break rules were scrapped. It’s another way that chess needs to get up to date.
Imagine a situation where Rory Mcilroy and Jordan Spieth are tied on the same score at the end of the 2017 masters, and the public is denied a play-off as Rory made slightly more birdies at the start of the event. Sounds ridiculous but it’s exactly the same as what happened in the Isle of Man. Sort it out people.
Now I’ve got that off my chest, let’s move on the games.
The great German philosopher Frederich Neitzsche once said a person should strive to “Become what you are” , and I was reminded of that quotation when watching the Isle of Man commentary in the last round.
Simon Williams was interviewing Lawrence Trent, who is the manager of Fabiano. Lawrence suggested that one of his client’s strongest attributes is the ability to stay true to what he believes in. To stay true to his chess philosophy.
One thing I would say all the great chess players of the past have in common is an inherent stubborness. They don’t get easily panicked and upset. It’s possible to lose many chess games that way, because at some point your opponent will put some resistance to your idea or plan, and it’s easy to back down.
Caruana’s style is clearly greatly influenced by his work with chess engines. In that respect he is a true child of the “computer era”. This work has inspired a style which could be described as “aggressive materialistic stubborness”.
One of the drawbacks of working with engines is that it can get a little bit overwhelming at times. You get hit by an avalance of moves and variations, with evaluations suggesting there is nothing to differentiate one from another. What difference does it make whether you move there or there, the evaluation drops by .3 or something like that. The human mind doesn’t work like this, it understands plans or strategy. That’s why I found the following game so instructive.
In the very next round So demonstrated that his ability to use his pieces in the most optimum way wasn’t confined to his minor pieces, as he found an imaginative way to use his rook in the middlegame.
One of the most attractive games played in the tournament was by the Dutch player Bok. Simon in his commentary rightly pointed out that this was not as much of an “upset” as perhaps it looked on paper, as there are a lot of good players around now who are very capable of playing high-class chess on their day. Although Caruana gained points in this tournament, it was a difficult one for Nakamura, showing the danger of playing in Open events where you are often playing hungry young players like Bok who are eager for your rating points and might be considerably lower rated, meaning you can’t just bail out and take a draw like you might be able to do in stronger events.
Leko also struggled, and indicated afterwards that he was struggling with adjusting to opens. His style is more set up for Supergrandmaster tournaments. To do well in opens I think suits the more gambling, risky type of player.
What I found interesting about listening to Leko was when he talked about still working hard even though he’s not getting the invites. Apparently he still works for 10 hours (!) a day on chess, just that he becomes frustrated when the novelties he finds are being used by players in other tournaments while he’s sat at home.
Ten hours a day on chess just sounds like a normal working day, but I don’t think it is. Just try doing ten hours of chess study. It’s extremely difficult to focus for that long. I’m lucky if I do ten minutes.
There was a limited English challenge in the Isle of Man. I played the first two years of this event but didn’t get invited this time. Neither did stalwarts like Mark Hebden, Keith Arkell etc. Simon Williams was there but as the commentator. Gawain Jones made a sensible decision to go to the Millionaire tournament and finished second, winning 15,000 dollars.
The weaker GMs weren’t invited because the organizers wanted to put the money into the 2700 plus players. That’s fair enough. Actually I wonder why players of my level get invited to events at all these days, because we’re nothing special, I mean 2500 type players (In fact I’m 2498) are two a penny these days. Even cab drivers in Russia are around 2500.
Still, it is somewhat depressing as it’s a reminder that it’s becoming increasingly difficult to even play chess tournaments now if you’re 2500 let alone make money from them. I could have tried to play anyway but expenses would have been around £700-800. Last year I got £900 but hardly made a profit once I paid for travel and accomodation.
It’s tough to win anything but a rating prize if you’re around about 2500 so from a financial point of view you’re going to be losing money over time if you play tournaments like IoM and Gibraltar. I have an invitation to the FIDE Open at the London Classic but it’s far from certain if I’ll make It. Although the fee is quite reasonable they don’t pay you until two weeks after the event and I lack the funds to pay the £500-600 towards the hotel, no doubt a flea pit in Earls court, not to mention all the other costs of playing in the event.
From a slightly sunnier perspective David Howell did well and went away with a decent prize His quickest win came in round six.
There was a slightly odd occurrence in round five when clear leader Alexei Shirov decided to take a bye. I personally think this was an odd decision to make as it destroyed all the momentum that Shirov had built up. I’ve always felt it’s a strange rule anyway, that players are allowed to take a bye at all.
Once again I’d make the comparison with sports and suggest that it’s another rule that just seems to take place in chess and nowhere else. In what other competitive actvity do you have a situation where someone can just miss a round? Maybe the readers can fill me in.
Apparently the reason why Shirov took a bye was plain superstition. He had missed eating in his lucky restuarant the night before and that was enough to convince him to take the day off. I wonder though if fatigue also plays a part. Shirov is well into his forties, and it’s extremely difficult for a player of that age to play nine days in a row without a break, and all against tough opponents. Shirov, as is well known, also has a very sharp style of play, and remaining true to his beliefs he is still playing cutting-edge theory. Such an approach demands huge reserves of energy.
When I played in the Isle of Man a couple of years ago, I was preparing for Jonathan Hawkins in round eight and realized I had just run out of energy. I had completely hit the wall and had nothing more to give. So once again you could imagine that if this were to take place in other sports, then players would be up in arms. Imagine if a tennis player had to play nine days in a row. By the end they’d be completely knackered.
You could say “well, you’re only playing chess” but it’s a pretty exhausting activity. After chess tournaments I sleep for days on end because I’m so whacked out. So I think rest days should be made compulsory which would avoid these sort of situations arising in the future.
The problem is organizers don’t like rest days as it adds to the cost of the tournament. It’s an extra day to pay for the hire of the hall, for example. Simon in his commentary rightly pointed out that Shirov is underestimated as a technical player which is certainly true, but it remains the case that his real strength is still in positions which are highly volatile and require immense efforts of calculation.
There was a strong female presence in the Isle of man this year. Not only Donrika, who we have already seen, but Hou Yifan and other strong female players make it a more interesting and varied event. One player who has been improving of late is the Israeli player Yuliya Shvayger, the wife of Arkadi Naiditsch. When preparing for her I noticed she was a very good attacking player and resolved to stay clear of any kind of situations where she might demonstrate this ability. A good example of this attacking prowess was shown in her game against Tiger in round seven:
Danny Gormally is a talented English Grandmaster. He lives in the bustling market town of Alnwick, somewhere near Scotland.
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