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Isle of Man Rd 03: Kramnik suffers a shocking loss

by Aditya pai - 27/09/2017

The third round at the Isle of Man Chess witnessed a major upset: Vladimir Kramnik lost on board 28 to the 65-year-old American GM James Tarjan! This is serious not only because of the rating difference between the two players but also because this might just ruin Kramnik's chances of qualifying for the Candidates by rating. On the top board, Magnus Carlsen demolished Jeffery Xiong, while the Indian star, Viswanathan Anand, won in fine style against the German IM Nikolas Lubbe in a Sicilian Najdorf. Five Indians are now trailing half a point behind the leaders who've scored a perfect 3.0/3. We have a report with games, pictures and analysis.

Round three of the Isle of Man Open witnessed what was perhaps the biggest upset of not only the tournament, but the year. In the third round, former world champion, Vladimir Kramnik was playing on board 28 (which in itself is remarkable given that he is the second seed in the tournament) against veteran American GM James Tarjan. There was every reason to put your money on Big Vlad in this matchup. After all, he is a former world champion, the second seed in the tournament and the third-highest player in the world. His opponent, James Tarjan, on the other hand, is a 65-year-old Grandmaster rated around 400 points below Kramnik. Of course, Tarjan is a good player in his own right but expecting him to beat one of the legends of the game is way too far-fetched.

The big game in action | Photo by John Saunders

With the white pieces in hand, Tarjan went for the English Opening. In response, Kramnik went for the c6-d5 structure and expanded in the centre with his pawns. As play progressed, the former world champion broke in the centre and tried generating an attack on Tarjan’s king. As per the computers, Kramnik had the better position by move 30. But just then something spectacular happened. In an attempt to force things immediately, Kramnik went all in and tried penetrating into the white camp with his queen while collecting an exchange along the way. But this was simply overextension. The queen was now exposed to all kinds of traps. Had it not been for a bail-out variation that led to a draw, his position was busted. But Kramnik was perhaps too determined to win. Instead of going for a draw, he chose to continue with a position in which he had a rook and two pawns against Tarjan’s two bishops. Soon, there was a mass exchange of pieces after which the white bishops easily overpowered the black rook. By move 56, Tarjan’s queen-knight pawn was about to queen and Kramnik was forced to resign.

World champion, Magnus Carlsen threw all but the kitchen sink at the young American teenager Jeffery Xiong | Photo by John Saunders

On the top board, Magnus Carlsen played a magnificent attacking game to beat the American prodigy, Jeffery Xiong.  Kicking off with a Torre Attack like structure, Carlsen went all guns blazing at the American teenager. After the latter castled on the kingside, Magnus flung his pawns forward and ripped open the floodgates to the black king. The position was objectively equal as per the computers, but to the human eye, the attack looked monstrous. In fact, until the 31st move, Xiong’s position was well within the realms of defensibility. However, Xiong blundered at this point and the game ended within merely a couple of moves.

Vishy Anand made a strong comeback after his draw in round 2 | Photo by / Maria Emelianova  

After a draw against Jonas Lampert in the previous round, the Madras Tiger, Vishy Anand, came back with a roar. In the third round, he had the white pieces. His opponent, Nikolas Lubbe, another German International Master with a 2500 plus tax rating, essayed the Sicilian Najdorf. On the 18th move, Vishy created an outpost for his knight on the b6 square. In return, his opponent got the d5 break, a move considered highly desirable for black in the Najdorf Sicilian. The position was still objectively equal though. As play progressed, Anand gave his queen up for two rooks and tried landing one of them on the seventh rank. It was around here that the German IM fumbled. On his 34th move, he brought his king to the f6 square which allowed the Indian an opportunity to weave mating nets. Perhaps, Lubbe was in time pressure at this point given that players were nearing the fortieth move (i.e. the first time control). 


Once the black king was out in the open, the Indian ace generated a strong attack on it with his rooks, bishop and pawns.  By the 42nd move, Lubbe’s king was in dire straits. In order to avoid being mated, he would have had to sacrifice his queen. He decided to throw in the towel at this point.

Vidit Gujrathi won his second game in a row | Photo by / Maria Emelianova

The game between Vidit Gujrathi and Michael Brown featured the delayed Steinitz Variation of the Ruy Lopez. Although the Indian ace had good play throughout the game, he never really could have boasted of an advantage in until the 35th move when his opponent faltered and allowed Gujrathi’s queen to penetrate into black’s camp. This just spelt disaster for the American youngster as not only did Vidit breakthrough on the queenside and win a pawn, but he also was able to generate a strong attack on his opponent’s king with his knight and queen. With his position under tremendous pressure, Brown cracked once again and mistakes on the 41st and 42nd moves allowed Vidit to catch Brown’s king in a mating net.

After three rounds, four players are leading with a perfect score, namely:  Magnus Carlsen, Pavel Eljanov, Rustam Kasimdzhanov, and Alexander Lendermann. Five Indians – Anand Viswanathan, Vidit Gujrathi, SP Sethuraman, Swapnil Dhopade and Dronavalli Harika – are half a point behind in a 19-way-tie for the second place. Some of the top Indian pairings for round four are Anand Viswanathan vs Alexei Shirov; Hikaru Nakamura vs SP Sethuraman; Benjamin Bok vs Vidit Gujrathi; Swapnil Dhopade vs Sergei Movsesian; and Laurent Fressinet vs Harika Dronavalli.


Rank after round 3



Round 4 Pairing

Previous reports

Random pairings adorn round one with interesting matchups

Top seeds feel the heat

Coverage on Firstpost

Viswanathan Anand, Magnus Carlsen too strong for opponents, Vidit Gujrathi held

Magnus Carlsen digs deep to eke out win, Viswanathan Anand forces a draw

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