Isle Of Man 2018

The open of Isle of Man cannot be stronger than it already is. Last year it had Carlsen and Caruana and everybody else, while this year it “only” had everybody else.

Apart from the appearance fees, I can see only one reason why the elite players would play an open event. That reason is the absence of pressure on them to win. We all know that a win in an open depends on many factors, luck not being among the less important ones, so even the public doesn’t expect the absolute favourite to win. So the elite players take it easy, not caring so much whether they win the tournament or not, though definitely caring about their rating points.

Last year I wrote of Kramnik’s nightmare on the Isle. It was a typical case of a player not being able to motivate himself to beat an almost 400-point weaker player. I perfectly know the feeling, you are expected to win, but you don’t want to play the game, because you get nothing from it, neither creatively nor materially. The win is a meagre 1 raing point (or less) and a loss is such a disaster you don’t even want to contemplate it.

The following position is from Kramnik’s second-round game.

Ah, finally, I thought, Kramnik is doing his magic of positionally dominating an opponent, showing infinite difference in class and understanding. White can barely move here, probably should just resign and marvel at Kramnik’s artistic superiority.

Now comes the shocker – in the position above, Kramnik was playing with White!

He was being stuffed by IM and WGM Alina Kashlinskaya, modestly rated at 2447.

Kramnik would never allow himself to be humilated like this against a fellow elite player. So why did he allow it to happen against Kashlinskaya? (And he was also lost in Round 1 against Indian GM Sundararajan Kidambi, rated 2445.)

The answer is what I wrote above – he couldn’t motivate himself, he didn’t care enough in order to play at full capacity. Luckily for him, he “showed infinite difference in class” and “confidently” drew.

When Kramnik started playing opponents with higher rating his level also rose and he confidently beat L’Ami (2639) and Shirov (2636). The latter is a curious case of a former elite player who dropped considerably, but Kramnik definitely needed no extra motivation to play against him.

OK, enough of Kramnik and his motivation. Here is one of the most exciting games of late, not only from the tournament, but also generally:

The tournament was very interesting because of the fact that we saw only 1 (!) game between the top 10 players – in the last round Grischuk beat Vachier. And seeing the less common pairings of elite players against “lesser” GMs, where the “lesser” ones were more often than not on the brink of winning, is a novel experience after witnessing so many elite all-play-alls.

Chess is fun after all.

Alex Colovic
A professional player, coach and blogger. Grandmaster since 2013.
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