The Irish Sea will play host once again to the top-flight open event Chess.com Isle of Man International from October 20-28. This year’s edition will be the strongest open tournament ever held.
While the top four players in the world have decided to skip the turboprop flight, numbers 5-11 are all there along with about 170 other masters for this fifth edition. Headlining this year will be a field normally worthy of an elite round-robin event: Anish Giri, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, Vladimir Kramnik, Wesley So, Viswanathan Anand, Levon Aronian and Alexander Grischuk (Grischuk’s participation is not certain due to visa issues).
Aronian and Grischuk are making their tournament debuts, while Vachier-Lagrave only played in 2014.
Neither Magnus Carlsen nor his now ex-girlfriend will be vacationing on the island this year. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.
At one point even more of the top 10 were signed up, but Fabiano Caruana withdrew back in August, ostensibly to focus on next month’s world championship match in London. Magnus Carlsen will not return to defend his title, and while Hikaru Nakamura and Sergey Karjakin are still playing (the latter also making his debut!), both have recently fallen but are still inside the top 20.
You can see a full list of players in the masters section here.
GM James Tarjan (left) receives his prize last year from organizer Alan Ormsby. Tarjan, a 1976 Olympiad gold medalist, famously beat Kramnik in 2017. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.
Besides the well-known elites, many promising juniors are once again attending, although some that needed norms last year don’t anymore! As John Saunders reports, both Nihal Sarin and Rameshbabu Praggnanandhaa are chasing ratings thresholds now instead of the GM title.
They are part of the once-again sizable contingent from India (at 35 strong, it appears to be the largest federation represented; England has 22 coming). Luckily there’s more than a dozen Indian restaurants in the sleepy capital city of Douglas. Strong junior American grandmasters include both Sam Sevian and Jeffery Xiong. And don’t sleep on Vladislav Artemiev, still only 20 but on the north side of 2700.
Just can’t get enough: The tournament was over last year but IM Lawrence Trent needed more chess, as did Hikaru Nakamura. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.
Two players are having most of the expenses paid by virtue of winning the Chess.com Titled Tuesday Qualifier: the two Iranians, GM Pouria Darini and WGM Mitra Hejazipour.
If you just love both random and useful numbers alike, check out last year’s preview, where much of the research is still valid! Yes, 5,742 Isles of Man could fit inside India. Now you can sleep tonight.
But the number that most top players care about it simple and round: 50,000, as in the number of Manx Pounds to the winner. That’s the same top prize as last year, and quite a sizable increase from the £15,000 offered just two years ago. The generous support of the Scheinberg family makes the increased prize fund possible, which totals £133,000.
The event also offers some of the highest women’s prizes in open-tournament chess. In total £15,750 will be awarded to women, with £7,000 being fought over by the likes of GMs Alexandra Kosteniuk, Nino Batsiashvili, the legendary Pia Cramling, and others.
The Isle of Man International will be nine consecutive rounds with no rest days. It will be held once again at the 100-year-old Villa Marina, but one younger “institution” is gone. Organizers have scrapped the randomization of round-one pairings that amazingly matched Caruana and Kramnik in round one last year. Sorry conspiracy theorists, you’ll have to find something else to latch on to for this edition.
At last year’s prize ceremony, an informal vote was taken about the preference for round-one randomization of pairings. Norway seems to have voted in lockstep. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.
Many Chess.com staff members will be on site, including a rare appearance by IM Danny Rensch. He will add color commentary, interviews, instructional segments, and skittles-room voyeurism to the studio hosts GM Danny King and IM Anna Rudolf. WIM Fiona Steil-Antoni will be part of the broadcast as well.
The live show begins daily from October 20-28 at 2:30 p.m. (GMT+1) local time (6:30 a.m. PDT, 9:30 a.m. EDT), except the final round, which begins earlier, at 1:00 p.m. local time. You can watch at either Twitch.tv/Chess or Chess.com/TV.
You can follow the event even when the playing day is done with post-round news reports on Chess.com/news and also John Saunders’ reports here.