by André Schulz
10/9/2019 – The annual Isle of Man Open has become a top tournament in recent years and has now been “promoted” by FIDE into the “Grand Swiss”, a tournament that is now one of the qualification routes for the 2020 Candidates Tournament. The elite field is led by World Champion Magnus Carlsen. Today is the opening ceremony, while Round 1 starts Thursday.
The Candidates is 11 games away
The Isle of Man Open this year is officially re-named FIDE chess.com Grand Swiss. Whether the tournament title is also understood outside the well-informed chess tournament scene, is rather uncertain: why “Grand Swiss”, when it is played on an island at “Grand Bretagne”, may ask some sports journalist, oblivious to the history of the format of chess tournaments. Of course “Swiss” means the Swiss pairing system. And yet, rather unusually for a Swiss it is also correct to omit the term “Open” in the tournament name, because the tournament is no longer open to all but has become quite selective.
Incidentally, apart from its geographical proximity, the Isle of Man has a rather loose relationship with Great Britain. The island belongs to the English queen personally, not to Great Britain and certainly not to the EU. If she wanted, the English crown could probably sell the island anytime. Maybe a suggestion for Donald Trump, who we hear would like to buy some land in Europe. It can’t hurt to ask, right? Since the Isle of Man is completely autonomous, many special rules are possible, especially with regard to taxes. Companies, and even private individuals, who do not like to pay high taxes, can take up residence here.
Once the annual Isle of Man motorcycle race was the ultimate sporting event; now it’s the chess tournament. With the “Grand Swiss” FIDE has created a new and quite direct way to qualify for the Candidates Tournament. After a little more than two weeks and eleven games you could have made it…if you had a rating of more than 2600 or so. The World Cup and the Grand Prix are marathons by comparison. On the flip side, since the path is so “easy”, the competition is fierce — almost all world-class players have registered. The list of those with an Elo rating of more than 2700 goes down to number 21.
There would be funny consolation that a second place finish might be enough if, and only if, World Champion Magnus Carlsen wins. Yes, the World Champion plays on the Isle of Man, but he can’t play a World Championship match with himself, so he’s not going to be participating in the Candidates Tournament. But he would be content with the lion’s share of the prize money; the total price fund is a whopping USD $432,500, and the winner takes $70,000. Prize money extends down to 30th place plus a few extra awards for women.
If Carlsen and Caruana take the first two places, you can even qualify as third best, since Caruana is already destined for his third Candidates next year.
Players starting rank
|Norway||2876||Rating Qualifier 1|
|United States||2812||Rating Qualifier 2|
|United States||2767||Rating Qualifier 11|
|India||2765||Rating Qualifier 7|
|China||2763||Rating Qualifier 13|
|Russia||2760||Rating Qualifier 15|
|Russia||2759||Rating Qualifier 8|
|Armenia||2758||Rating Qualifier 12|
|Poland||2748||Rating Qualifier 24|
|Russia||2746||Rating Qualifier 30|
|India||2746||Rating Qualifier 22|
|United States||2745||Rating Qualifier 14|
|Russia||2732||Rating Qualifier 27|
|Russia||2729||Rating Qualifier 17|
|China||2726||Rating Qualifier 29|
|China||2721||Rating Qualifier 28|
|India||2718||Rating Qualifier 34|
|Russia||2716||Rating Qualifier 44|
|Vietnam||2708||Rating Qualifier 32|
|United States||2708||Rating Qualifier 77|
|United States||2705||Rating Qualifier 26|
A total of 119 players are in the starting list and had to qualify for participation, with 100 spots awarded on the basis of Elo.
John Saunders has penned an in-depth preview, in which he asks, “who’s going to win”?
…Carlsen. Next question. Well, OK, he’s at least the hot favourite, particularly over a gruelling 11 rounds but of course you cannot discount Fabiano Caruana who is a class act and due some success in 2019 after a lean year by his standards. Besides those two, I look at the other names, distinguished as they are, and don’t quite see anyone going toe to toe with them in the hurly-burly of a Swiss-paired event. The extra two rounds compared with the usual Isle of Man Masters’ schedule could make quite a difference. One recalls Alexander Grischuk’s comment last year that the tournament came to an end just as it seemed to start, with his game in the ninth and last round against MVL (which he won) being the tournament’s only pairing amongst the top ten rated participants. With eleven rounds to play, that surely can’t happen this time, but high finishers will need to maximise their scores in earlier rounds against players in the 2600-2700 bracket, which will require something more incisive than the cagey strategy often employed in closed events.
Officially, the tournament starts today, October 9th with an opening ceremony. On Thursday (October 10th) the first round will be played.
Wednesday, the 16th is the single rest day, and the last round takes place on Monday, the 21st .
All rounds start at 14:00 UTC (16:00 CEST), except the last round which starts at 12.30 UTC (14:30 CEST).
Translation from German: Macauley Peterson