The Chess.com Isle of Man International took off this Saturday. The tournament has been growing in recent years and is now approaching the level of elite open events like the Gibraltar and Qatar Masters. In this edition, the organisers have attracted the trio that led the US team to gold in the recent Baku Olympiad: Caruana, Nakamura and So. After two rounds, not all the favourites have been able to maintain a perfect score.
The Isle of Man is a self-governing British Crown dependency in the Irish Sea between England and Northern Ireland. The territory, with a population of just over 80.000 inhabitants, is a popular tourist destination, but at the same time strives to maintain the original culture of the island.
The event has three sections, with the Masters tournament boasting a total of 133 participants, including 48 grandmasters. The top seeds are Caruana, So, Nakamura, Adams, Eljanov and Leko. The current Women's World Champion, Hou Yifan, is also participating.
The first round saw only a couple of surprises on the top boards. Peter Leko was one of the notable absentees at the Olympiad in Baku, and his lack of activity took its toll in the opening round when he could only get a draw against India's Harsha Bharathakoti. That small setback was nothing compared to what happened to Wang Hao, who lost against German GM Thomas Paehtz in a game where the Chinese player had the initiative virtually from start to finish.
Wang Hao blundered with 56.Kg2, falling into a mating net that exploited the excellent coordination of the black queen, rook and bishop. Paehtz, who had defended tenaciously for hours, didn't miss his chance and took the full point.
The biggest international delegation at the event comes from India, with 26 players. Their best representative, S. G. Vidit, beat the Dutchman Lucas van Foorest (not to be confused with his brother Jorden), despite having left his king in the centre. We present the final position after Vidit's 28.Qd7, although you shouldn't miss the chance to replay the full game:
In the second round, oddly enough, the first three boards saw a USA versus India face-off. Caruana and Nakamura won convincingly, but Wesley So could only get half a point against the world's 10th best female player, Harika Dronavalli.
Other favourites who failed to achieve a perfect 2/2 score were Michael Adams and Pavel Eljanov. We can add Laurent Fressinet to that list, who couldn't beat Elisabeth Paehtz, completing two memorable days for the Paehtz family - Thomas is Elisabeth's father.
Nakamura needed only 22 moves to beat his second-round opponent, and finished the game with a thematic sacrifice:
Black has just employed one of the best known exchange sacrifices in chess - 22...Rxc3. India's Vishnu Prasanna resigned immediately, since he cannot avoid the double attack of the queen from e4.
The pairings are getting serious for Monday's third round. Fabiano Caruana will face the highly creative Nils Grandelius, while Hikaru Nakamura has White against the talented 17-year-old Dutch Champion Jorden van Foorest. Hou Yifan plays on third board against Israel's Maxim Rodshtein, and Harika Dronavalli will try to keep surprising everybody in her game with White against Michael Adams.
You can see all the pairings and results below - click a game to watch it with computer analysis, or hover over a player's name to see their results so far:
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