Saturday, 24 March 2007

The Isle of Man International Chess Tournament

The Monarch Assurance International Chess Tournament, at Port Erin on the Isle of Man, has steadily grown in stature and size over the last few years, but still retains a small, close-knit and friendly quaintness.

Just a few years ago, it was the 'hidden gem' of the chess world. At my first visit in '97, there were just 28 players, but 20 of them were titled (Grandmasters, International Masters and FIDE Masters).

The chance to play the very best is why you enter these tournaments, and the '97 event was one of the most difficult but rewarding challenges I've ever faced: having lost a hard fought encounter with Tony Kosten in the 1st round, I was expecting something easier in the 2nd round, but discovered my opponent was an even higher rated Israeli Grandmaster, Eran Liss. I uncorked a sharp line pioneered by Polugayevsky against his Grunfeld Defence, and was promptly blown off the board. It transpired that Eran had analysed the line the month previously for an Israeli magazine.

A good win in the 3rd round was rewarded with a game against Dutch Grandmaster Eric van den Doel, and then the 'relief' in the 5th round of 'just' having to face Andrew Ledger, a strong International Master. Fortunately some good chess in the last 4 rounds, against 2 FIDE Masters and 2 untitled players, allowed me to post a decent score.

If you are looking for a relaxed and beautiful place to play chess against some of the world's top players then you can do far worse than Port Erin in the Autumn.

Two quick wins, that helped me recover my pride at subsequent Isle of Man tournaments:
Roger Coathup - Keith Allen, Monarch Assurance 2001
1 d4 f5 2 e4 fe 3 Nc3 g6 4 f3 ef 5 Nf3 Nf6 6 Bg5 d5 7 Bd3 Bg7 8 0-0 Bg4 9 Qe1 Bf3 10 Rf3 Kf7 11 Qh4 Qd6 12 Re1 Nbd7 13 Bf4 Qb4 14 Bc7 e6 15 Qf4 Qb2 16 Qd6 Rhe8 17 Bb5 Nf8 18 Be8+ Re8 19 Bd8 h6 20 Qc7+ 1-0

Mel Young - Roger Coathup, Monarch Assurance 2003
1 e4 c5 2 c3 Nf6 3 e5 Nd5 4 d4 cd 5 Qd4 e6 6 Nf3 Nc6 7 Qe4 f5 8 Qe2 Qc7 9 g3 b6 10 Bg2 Ncb4 (it's fun to play shock moves like this; it's known to theory, but not that well known) 11 c4 Ba6 12 Na3 Rc8 13 b3 Nc3! (Black's knights lead a merry dance in this game) 14 Qe3 Nbd5! 15 cd Nd5 16 Qd4 Bb4+ 17 Kd1 Ba3 18 Bd2 Qc2+ 19 Ke1 Bd2 0-1

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Chess Tales by Roger Coathup: A collection of online articles about chess and chess players.