Sunday, January 28, 2018

Isle of Man Reminiscences Pt 1

About a week ago I posted a picture of the British comedian Norman Wisdom. Wisdom lived on the Isle of Man for nearly 30 years towards the end of his life, and his statue is situated in Douglas, the main city of the Isle of Man.

I went to the Isle of Man to visit the chess tournament held there in October won by Carlsen. I was visiting family, and day tripped over, on a day that was shocking weather wise, strong winds and torrential rain. The previous time I had visited the island was when I played chess in 2004. I had a shocking time then too, suffering from a heavy cold at the start of the event, I think I lost my first 4 or 5 games without putting up much resistance. In the end I scored a couple of draws, and won a game, but it was a poor performance that helped me get my first FIDE rating, a lowly 2050ish (I had scored a 2300ish block before at Blackpool earlier in the year, and was hoping for 2200+ to start with).

Anyway, I was walking down the main pedestrian street of Douglas looking for a cafe (I actually went into a tea room, which is par for the course in England) when who should walk down the street towards me but Vladimir Kramnik, cigarette in hand. Kramnik also didn't have a great time in the Isle of Man, and the day I was visiting he drew his game against Lawrence Trent. Kramnik did manage to win his final 4 games to catch up to equal 4th place, but he still lost rating points.

Kramnik wasn't having the best start.

The tournament had drawn a brilliant international field, with a bunch of super strong players. But I was a little disappointed to see so few British players competing. Adams, Short, Howell, Jones are all great players and were fighting for the home country, but the second string of British players, and the many young, hungry talents around the country were absent. Trent, Arkell, Roberson and Eggleston were the only other English players above 2400. The field was limited to a certain number, but it would be good if more locals could play in a field with such superstars of the game. Of course, it might be that English players couldn't or didn't want to play, but they missed a fantastic opportunity to rub shoulders with the best. (The same can be said of Gibraltar, though it is a bit further for ,any UK residents to travel)

But what a field it was. Besides Carlsen, top 10 players Kramnik, Caruana, Nakamura and Anand were all playing, and legends like Short, Timman and Gelfand as well as prodigious talent like Xiong, Tari, Praggnanandhaa and Sarin Nihal. Even visiting and watching is good for the chess soul, let alone playing in the same hall. I remember a similar feeling when going to watch Kasparov-Karpov in London in 1986. There is a huge buzz around, and it just makes you want to go away and work to become a better player. I was even able to watch and take part in a post-mortem to the game Jones-Swapnil which ended in a draw.

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