GM Joel’s Chess Week Recap - Episode 40
Opening: D36, B21, E32, B11, A15:
Player(s): Caruana, Kramnik, Harari, Rodshtein, L'Ami, Sokolov, Short, Tari, Tarjan
this week we have the early going from the popular and quirky Isle of Man tournament. IOM has a cool mix of elite grandmasters, strong women players, and pesky chess tourists, a number of them from the United States. But this year is particularly newsworthy because of a controversial experiment to shake up the first round. The experiment was to dispense with the Swiss System for the first round. Instead, the high ranked players drew names out of a hat to establish their matchups. Random pairings are fair in the sense that everyone has an equal chance of getting a better or worse pairing than with Swiss pairings. But they also guarantee that some players will profit from it while others will have a tougher pairing. You had some guys having tough pairings, like Gelfand having to take on Adhiban (draw), and some guys getting easy pairings, like Carlsen picking a 2160 Icelander. Then there was Kramnik's unfortunate grasping of Fabiano Caruana's name slip. He laugherd it off, and how could you not - the two are locked in a battle to get the higher rating, and thus a seed into the Candidates tournament (Wesley So, who just missed an automatic berth from the World Cup, is also in that race). But Fabiano laughed best as he ground out a win a rook ending. But not every mismatch played out according to script. Israeli GM Maxim Rodshtein, hovering around 2700, the guy who advanced to the 4th round in the World Cup by not wearing shorts to his game, had all he could handle from 2000 ish Zaki Harari. Harari will either turn or has already turned 70 this year, and he was basically one move away from a historic upset. Another human interest story is Nigel Short's summit of the 2700 barrier. Now 52, he is the oldest player to achieve a rating that high. He nearly saw it plummet back down the next day against a Norwegian up and comer. We conclude with one more feel good story, although that depends on your point of view. Vlad Kramnik's bad weekend continued with a shock loss to a blast from the past, American GM James Tarjan. Tarjan was a powerful grandmaster in the 70s and early 80s, but quit chess after the 1984 US Championship to find a more reliable profession. After many years as a librarian, Tarjan came back to chess a few years ago. Now in his 60s, he has pulled off a signature win.