Upset Alert: Tarjan Defeats Kramnik in Isle of Man

Grandmaster James Tarjan, Photo Maria Emelianova /

The Isle of Man International (September 23-October 1)  started with a bang for American chess fans, as Fabiano Caruana defeated Former World Champ Vladimir Kramnik in the first round.

The two elite Grandmasters and Candidate hopefuls were paired due to an innovative system, which randomized first round pairings. Frequent US Chess contributor Greg Shahade blogged about that topic here, while we also asked for your opinions in our own twitter poll.

Things got far more intriguing for US Chess in round three, as American Grandmaster James Tarjan, 65, defeated Vladimir Kramnik in a sensational upset. The key moment came when Kramnik played 30…Bf3

Now after 31. Bxf3! Qxf1 seems to fail to Be2, trapping the queen!  Instead Kramnik tried …Nxg3 but got a lost endgame after 32. fxg3 Qxf1 33.Bf2. Black did have a cool defense after 31. Bxf3 Qxf1 32. Be2 Nxg3, which would have led to a draw by perpetual.

Tarjan unretired from competitive chess just a few years ago, and the sensational upset captured everyone’s attention, including Hikaru Nakamura:

International Arbiter Chris Bird pointed out how Tarjan’s win knocks down Kramnik’s rating, helping Wesley So and Caruana to qualify for the Candidates (set for Berlin, March 10-28, 2018).

Although Tarjan naturally captured all the headlines, US Open Champion Aleksander Lenderman also had an amazing day, scoring an upset victory over Spanish GM Francisco Pons Vallejo. After emerging victorious from the famous rook and bishop vs. rook endgame, Lenderman is now tied for the lead with a perfect 3-0, along with  Pavel Eljanov, Rustam Kasimshanov and World Champion Magnus Carlsen.

Jeffery Xiong also had an exciting day in IOM, though he was unable to score an upset of his own against Magnus Carlsen. Magnus got a great opening, and played aggressively in Jeffery’s time pressure to take down the American World Junior Champ.

Nakamura and Caruana both stand on 2.5/3. Find full results after 3 rounds here.

Follow the Isle of Man Chess International on the official website, along with live commentary.


    • There are actually a couple cool variations that lead to perpetual after 31…Qxf1 32.Be2 Nxg3 33.Bxf1 Nxf1+34.Kg2 Rxe1, one with the knight (after 35.Qb2) and one with the rook (after 35.Qf4). I added a few more sub-variations to the play through diagram above so you can play through them yourself!

Leave a Comment

  • Categories

  • Archives

  • Announcements

  • US Chess Press