John Saunders reports:
Four months might seem a long advance time to be running a trailer for a chess tournament but when the line-up is as special as the one for the Chess.com Isle of Man International (23 September - 1 October 2017), chess fans are going to want to know about it. You may be used to the Isle of Man line-up being very strong, but this year’s event could be very special indeed.
Georgia on Their Mind - or £50,000?
Note, I write "could be" as the final line-up is partly dependent on what happens in the FIDE World Cup, which is being held in Tbilisi, Georgia, from 1 to 25 September 2017. That's a three-day overlap between the two events but the World Cup is run on a knock-out format, so it should only affect the finalists. Other players eliminated from the final could still hot-foot it from Georgia to Douglas and compete for the £50,000 first prize. Note that number in bold. £50,000 was the total prize fund in 2016 – this year it is the first prize (which had been £12,000 in 2016).
So, with that in mind (and I expect the magnitude of the first prize is on a number of players’ minds), here are the stellar names who have confirmed, subject to the World Cup proviso, for the tournament start on 23 September, alongside their current (23 May) unofficial live ratings...
- Wesley So (USA) 2812
- Vladimir Kramnik (Russia) 2807
- Fabiano Caruana (USA) 2807
That's not a bad start, is it? Three of the five players in the world who currently sport a stratospheric 2800+ rating. Only Magnus and Shak missing (and I guess they could be found a board should they wish to join the fun).
Moving on to the 2700+ players, there are three more of the current world top ten, plus six more major names.
- Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (France) 2794
- Vishy Anand (India) 2785
- Hikaru Nakamura (USA) 2784
- Pavel Eljanov (Ukraine) 2738 - last year’s winner
- Mickey Adams (England) 2736
- Boris Gelfand (Israel) 2727
- Paco Vallejo Pons (Spain) 2717
- Baadur Jobava (Georgia) 2709
- Arkady Naiditsch (Azerbaijan) 2700
The star names still keep coming...
- David Howell (England) 2692
- Peter Leko (Hungary) 2690
- Nigel Short (England) 2688
- Maxim Rodshtein (Israel) 2684
- Richard Rapport (Hungary) 2684
- Sergei Movsesian (Armenia) 2674
- Hou Yifan (China) 2666
- Alexei Shirov (Latvia) 2655
... and on and on. There are 64 grandmasters in the field in total.
Tournament chess has been transformed over the past few years. Until very recently, the elite players confined their classical chess activities to exclusive all-play-alls, perhaps fearing to risk their ratings against all-comers in Swiss format tournaments. But now pretty well everyone can be expected to accept invitations to play in open tournaments such as Isle of Man and Gibraltar. The young American super-GMs probably get a lot of credit for changing the culture, particularly Hikaru Nakamura, who has shown time and time again that he’s prepared to duke it out with anyone in a Swiss tournament, and his huge rating usually emerges undamaged from the scrap, if not enhanced. He’s also dispelled the myth about Swisses being a lottery: three straight triumphs in Gibraltar cannot be attributed to luck. And, when it comes to accepting invitations to Swiss tournaments, I guess the size of the prize has had something to do with it.
On a personal note, I’m thrilled to be coming to this year’s tournament in the role of writer/photographer. It will be a nostalgic return for me as I used perform a similar service for the Monarch Assurance Isle of Man tournament for the last seven instalments of its existence, up to 2007. In the run-up to the tournament I shall be writing a bit more about the good old Monarch tournament as it was a particularly happy memory for me, as I’m sure it was for those of you looking forward to following the action in the 2017 Chess.com event. More of that here very soon.
John Saunders @johnchess