Welcome to Qatar Masters Open 2015

by Sagar Shah
9/24/2015 – When top players like Anish Giri, Vladimir Kramnik, Wesley So, Sergey Karjakin and other 2700+ giants play in a tournament, the best we can do is watch them in action. If on the other hand you have always wished to play in the same event and cross swords with them, then Qatar Masters Open 2015 is your big chance. It is world’s strongest Open with a total prize sum of $130,000!

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The second edition of world’s strongest open tournament, Qatar Masters Open 2015, will be held in the capital city of Qatar-Doha from the 19th to 30th of December 2015. 17 players above 2700 have already confirmed their participation. Let’s have a look at the top seeds in the event:

World number six and one of the most solid grandmasters in the world,
Anish Giri (2793), will be the top seed. And he is not coming alone.

Anish will be in Qatar with his beautiful wife IM Sopiko Guramashivili, who is also one of the participants in the tournament. The number Anish is holding in his hand are the number of days since this couple have tied the knot!

Vladimir Kramnik! That’s a big name there. When was the last time you saw an undisputed ex-World Champion playing in an open tournament? Well, it was Kramnik in Qatar Masters 2014. He is coming back to play in the 2015 edition and would be looking to improve on the third position that he won last year.

One of the world’s strongest grandmasters, Wesley So, has confirmed his participation

The youngest grandmaster ever in the history of the game and the
2014 Candidates runner-up Sergey Karjakin is the fourth seed

The winner of the first edition of the Qatar Masters in 2014,
Yu Yangyi from China, will be back to defend his title

Wei Yi, the talented young phenom who is dubbed to be the future World Champion,
will try to make sure that the Qatar Masters trophy stays in China!

The unpredictable Vasily Ivanchuk is the twelfth seed

Bela Khotenashvili, who was best women player in last year’s competition, will try her best to repeat her success and take back home the first prize in women’s section of US $8,000. But she will face stiff competition from…

… the strongest female player and ex-Women’s World Champion Hou Yifan and…

… the second highest rated female player in the world Humpy Koneru

Ex-World Champion Alexandra Kosteniuk will also be present

Apart from the ones mentioned above, there are many more strong players, like the reigning Russian Champion Evgeny Tomashevsky, Li Chao, Radoslaw Wojtaszek, Pentala Harikrishna, Teimour Radjabov, Shakhriyar Mamedyarov and also the recently crowned World Junior Champion Mikhail Antipov. Only players above the rating of 2300 will be allowed to participate. As of now there are 106 players who have confirmed their participation.

Top 20 participants

Full list of participants (so far)

What attracts such great players to an event like Qatar Masters Open? Well, the prize money is a big motivator! In all twenty prizes, with the top one being a mammoth US $27,000, and even the last one is a decent US $1,000. The six prizes for women players are also very attractive (right column).


Apart from the above, there are three prizes for the best Arabic players ($2500, $1500 and $1000), two for best Juniors under the age of 18 ($1500, $1000) and special rating group prizes for 2300-2399, 2400-2499 and 2500-2599. Two prizes in all these three rating categories are $1000 and $500.

But it’s not just about the prize money. The tournament is being held in the Aspire Zone which is one of the most technologically advanced sporting stadiums in the world.

The Aspire Zone has the Khalifa International Stadium, a 50,000 capacity sporting complex, which is the reason why Qatar could make the bid for the 2022 FIFA World Cup. The Qatar Masters Open 2015 will be held in the ladies sports hall of the Aspire Zone. This video will help you to get a better feel of the Aspire Zone

The schedule of the tournament is extremely relaxed with one round every day and a rest day after five rounds. The tournament is a nine round Swiss event with time controls of one hour thirty minutes plus thirty minutes after forty moves and an increment of thirty seconds from move one.

The Torch, Doha, which is one of the two official hotels. The other one is…

Grand Heritage Hotel and Spa

The hotels are located 40 minutes drive from Hamad International Airport (DOH) and just 20 minutes away from the city center. They have convenient walking access to the playing venue as well as to...

... the Villaggio shopping mall, through the Aspire Park.

The Qatar Masters Open held a lucky draw at the recently concluded World Junior Championships in Khanty Mansiysk for four Juniors (two boys and two girls) to get free accommodation at one of the two five star hotels mentioned above. The winners were Filiz Osmanodja (GER), Zhanat Saiyn (KAZ), Alina Bivol (RUS) and Daniil Yuffa (RUS).

Mohamed Al-Mediakhi, who is the chief organizer of this event,
was the first grandmaster from Qatar and has a current Elo of 2550

Places worth visiting in Doha

The Doha Corniche is a waterfront promenade extending for several kilometers along Doha Bay in the capital city of Doha. It has become a special retreat amidst the locals as well as the expats. A common sight that one would see in the evenings is the many joggers sweating it out around the Corniche and people enjoying a leisurely stroll.

The Katara Cultural Village [photo Nonbillable Hours] is the focal point for arts and culture in Doha and has art galleries, an amphitheater for opera, drama and concerts performance as well as restaurants and a beach and water sports facilities.

A trip to the ancient 18th century Fort Zubarah in the North of the country
is a must for visitors wanting to explore Qatar’s historical landmarks [photo: Wiki]

The stunning Museum of Islamic Art, designed by I.M. Pei, famed for his modern wing of the Louvre in Paris, is an icon for art, culture and heritage, housing precious works from more than 200 years of Islamic civilization.

On a parting note we would like to remind you about what happened in the Qatar Masters 2014. Anish Giri began with an amazing 6.0/6 start. He was beaten by Vladimir Kramnik in round seven when the Russian employed the Catalan setup against the Meran. It was after that game that we saw a surge in the popularity of that opening. Kramnik won his eighth round game against Salem Saleh and was all set to clinch the title when in the last round he was defeated by the talented Chinese youngster Yu Yangyi. With 7.5/9 Yu Yangyi became the undisputed champion of the first edition of the Qatar Masters. We extensively covered this tournament and you can relive the 2014 action through the ChessBase reports. We leave you with this final game, Yu Yangyi-Vladimir Kramnik. The annotations were done by Yu Yangyi and published in ChessBase Magazine 164.

Start of the critical encounter between Kramnik and Yu Yangyi – with Anish Giri kibitzing

[Event "Qatar Masters op"] [Site "Doha"] [Date "2014.12.04"] [Round "9"] [White "Yu, Yangyi"] [Black "Kramnik, Vladimir"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "C65"] [WhiteElo "2705"] [BlackElo "2760"] [Annotator "Yu Yangyi"] [PlyCount "65"] [EventDate "2014.11.26"] [EventType "swiss"] [EventRounds "9"] [EventCountry "QAT"] [Source "ChessBase"] [SourceDate "2015.01.15"] {Before the final round Kramnik, the second seed in this tournament (behind Giri), was leading the field with 7.0/8, followed by me with 6.5/8. I felt a bit exhausted after my lucky but deserved five hour victory in round eight against Giri. Playing the former World Champion, whose games I had studied extensively ever since I began playing chess, was of course a great event for me. I approached the last round with excitement and was eager to learn from one of the most renowned personalities in chess history.} 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 Nf6 {Not a big surprise - I was expecting either the Berlin or the Petroff.} 4. d3 {I chose a line that avoids the exchange of too many pieces. Kramnik is one of the leading experts of the Berlin, and he is particularly strong in quiet endgames without queens. Thus, I was eager to get a more open and combative type of position, which suits my strengths much more.} Bc5 5. Bxc6 $5 {I was happy to exchange my bishop for his knight to create an unbalanced position with a doubled pawns for Black. I know there are three other main moves but with this one White avoids simplifications.} dxc6 6. Nbd2 Be6 {I had prepared mainly against 6...0-0.} 7. O-O Nd7 8. Nb3 Bb6 $5 {To my knowledge 8...Be7 is played more frequently. I then wanted to continue with 9. Na5 or 9.d4. I didn't spend much time analysing 8...Bb6 during my preparations and now had to improvise.} (8... Be7 $5 9. d4 (9. Na5 $5)) 9. Ng5 Bxb3 10. axb3 f6 11. Nf3 Nf8 12. Nd2 {My intuition told me that White was slightly better here.} Ne6 13. Qh5+ {The idea is to provoke ...g6. Later, after f4 from White, the f6-square would be weak. As Black still has the doubled c-pawns, I felt the closer we get to an endgame the more superior White's position would become.} g6 14. Qd1 Bc5 15. Nc4 b5 $6 {Maybe not a good move. It weakens the queenside and allows my knight to entrench itself on a5, effectively tying up Black's c-pawns on c6 and c7.} (15... Qe7 16. Kh1 a6 17. f4 exf4 18. Bxf4 Nxf4 19. Rxf4 O-O-O 20. c3 $14) 16. Na5 Qd7 17. Be3 Bb6 (17... Bd6 18. g3 c5 19. f4 exf4 20. gxf4 O-O 21. Kh1 $14) 18. b4 O-O (18... c5 19. bxc5 Bxc5 20. Bxc5 Nxc5 21. b4 Ne6 22. Nb3 $14) 19. Qd2 f5 $6 (19... c5 20. bxc5 Nxc5 21. b4 Ne6 22. Nb3 $14) 20. exf5 gxf5 21. Qc3 $1 {I had calculated for a very long time before deciding to play this move. Black obviously wants to launch a kingside attack, so White must quickly aim for counterplay on the queenside. As the saying goes, "attack is the best defence". Here my impression was that I was the one who spent time calculating, while my opponent was relying more on his feeling. In hindsight I have to say that I was luckier because this position really called for precise calculations.} f4 ({I was expecting} 21... Bxa5 22. Rxa5 f4 (22... Qd5 23. f3 $16) {after which I intended to play} 23. Bxa7 {. I had calculated up to 25.Qg5+ leading to a draw, but then 26.Be3 secures a huge advantage for White.} f3 24. Qxe5 Nf4 25. Qg5+ Kh8 26. Be3 $1 $16 (26. Qe5+ $11 )) 22. Bxb6 cxb6 (22... axb6 23. Nxc6 $16 (23. Qxc6 Rad8 24. Qxd7 Rxd7)) 23. Nxc6 $1 (23. Qxc6 Qc8 $1) 23... Qd6 {I had not considered this move. But after thinking for five minutes I saw that after 24.Rxa7 Rxa7 25.Nxa7 Nd4, I could play 26.Nb5!. I think my opponent must have missed this tactical resource.} ( 23... f3 24. Nxe5 Qd5 25. Nxf3 (25. Qb3 Qxb3 26. cxb3 fxg2 27. Kxg2 Nd4 28. Rae1) 25... Rxf3 26. gxf3 Nd4 27. Qc7 $1 $18 Kh8 28. Rfe1) 24. Rxa7 Rxa7 (24... f3 25. Ne7+ Kh8 26. Nf5) 25. Nxa7 f3 (25... Nd4 26. Nxb5) 26. Qc6 {The right and safest choice, avoiding any attempts to fork my queen after ...Nd4. White's advantage is already very obvious.} Qe7 27. Nxb5 Kh8 $6 {I think Black should have played 27...fxg2 to attain a bit of counterplay.} (27... fxg2 28. Kxg2 (28. Qxg2+ Kh8 29. Kh1 Qxb4 30. Qd5 Qf4 31. Qe4 $16) 28... Kh8 29. Kh1 $18 ) 28. g3 {Now I think White's advantage is decisive. After Ra1-a8 and an exchange of rooks White is simply three pawns up.} Qf7 29. Ra1 Ng5 30. Ra8 Qe7 31. h4 Nh3+ 32. Kf1 e4 (32... Qxb4 33. Qf6+ $18) 33. Qxe4 {I felt happy and very honoured to win this important game and with it the tournament! But when euphoria and happiness subsided, I felt terribly exhausted and was longing for a good rest!} 1-0

Pictures by Dmitry Rukhletskiy and Maria Emilianova and from World Cup 2015 website


The games will be broadcast live on the official web site and on the chess server Playchess.com. If you are not a member you can download a free Playchess client and get immediate access. You can also use ChessBase 12 or any of our Fritz compatible chess programs.

Sagar Shah is an International Master from India with two GM norms. He is also a chartered accountant and would like to become the first CA+GM of India. He loves to cover chess tournaments, as that helps him understand and improve at the game he loves so much. He is the co-founder of the ChessBase India website.
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lloydp57 lloydp57 12/21/2015 06:35

Wesley So, will conquer them all on this Qatar Masters chess tournament.
ff2017 ff2017 9/24/2015 07:21
Nice, Hou Yifan and Humpy in this event too!
gmwdim gmwdim 9/24/2015 04:01
Comic Sans. It burns my eyes!
Denix Denix 9/24/2015 02:09
Qatar Masters Open 2015 is one of the most exciting chess events in the Gulf! The pictures and entire article are superb! ' Couldn't wait ...