Best of 2016: Player of the Year

1/2/2017 – 2016 is over - time to review the chess highlights of the year. In the first of five votings we ask: which player impressed you most in 2016? A lot of players stood out through their play and their successes in 2016 but which player left the deepest impression on you? Have a look at our list of candidates and choose your player of the year 2016!

ChessBase 15 - Mega package ChessBase 15 - Mega package

Find the right combination! ChessBase 15 program + new Mega Database 2019 with 7.6 million games and more than 70,000 master analyses. Plus ChessBase Magazine (DVD + magazine) and CB Premium membership for 1 year!



To vote, please log in with your ChessBase Account. The result will be published after the last of the five votings. Here are our candidates for the player of the year 2016 (in alphabetical order). 

Vishy Anand

World Ranking January 2016: 8
Elo Rating January 2016: 2784

World Ranking January 2017: 6
Elo Rating January 2017: 2796

Anand had a rocky start into 2016. Since ages he had not played in an open but then he decided to play Gibraltrar and suffered a lot of setbacks by drawing and losing against lower-rated players. However, in Zurich he shared first in the rapid and in the blitz tournament. At the Candidates Tournament in Moscow he shared second place behind the winner Karjakin, narrowly missing the right to again challenge Magnus Carlsen. In the final of the rapid chess tournament in Leon Anand beat Chinese prodigy Wei Yi and at the Grand Chess Tour tournament in Leuven he also finished among the top, even though he did not win the tournament. At the Sinquefield Cup in St Louis only Wesley So was better than the 15th World Champion. In the Tal Memorial Anand shared third place and in the Corsica Masters he lost the final against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave. He then won the Saint Louis Showdown, a tournament with classical, rapid and blitz games and shared third place at the London Chess Classic. 

Magnus Carlsen

World Ranking January 2016: 1
Elo Rating January 2016: 2844

World Ranking January 2017: 1
Elo Rating January 2017: 2840

Magnus Carlsen is World Champion and the number one in the world, though his lead is not as huge as it used to be. He began the year by winning the Tata Steel Tournament in Wijk aan Zee. Carlsen also won the Norway Chess Tournament, the blitz tournament in Paris and the rapid tournament in Leuven, which were both part of the Grand Chess Tour. In July Carlsen also won the Bilbao Masters but at the Chess Olympiad in Baku he did not fully live up to the (high) expectations. And defending his title against Sergey Karjakin in the World Championship match 2016 in New York also proved to be more difficult than expected though he finally retained his title through a clear 3-1 win in the tie-break.

Fabiano Caruana

World Ranking January 2016: 5
Elo Rating January 2016: 2787

World Ranking January 2017: 2
Elo Rating January 2017: 2827

Fabiano Caruana starts 2017 as the world's number two and in the world's ranking list he is currently only 13 points behind Carlsen. At the Tata Steel Tournament in Wijk aan Zee at the start of 2016 he, too, was second behind Carlsen, having the same number of points as Ding Liren. He also was shared second at the Candidates Tournament in Moscow but in April he won the US Championship ahead of So and Nakamura. Together with Shakriyar Mamedyarov Caruana was shared first at the Gashimov Memorial but then lost the tie-break. At the Sinquefield Cup he again shared second place and at the Chess Olympiad in Baku Caruana significantly helped the American team to win gold. He won the strong Isle of Man Open together with Pavel Eljanov and finished second behind Wesley So at the London Chess Classic.

Sergey Karjakin

World Ranking January 2016: 11
Elo Rating January 2016: 2769

World Ranking January 2017: 8
Elo Rating January 2017: 2785

Sergey Karjakin started 2016 with a moderate place at the Tata Steel Tournament in Wijk aan Zee. But in March he won the Candidates Tournament one point ahead of his rivals and became World Champion Challenger. However, at the Gashimov Memorial and the Bilbao Masters he again finished in the middle and at the Chess Olympiad Karjakin played well though not outstanding. But in November Karjakin was close to winning against Carlsen in the World Championship in New York and only lost in the rapid tie-break.

Vladimir Kramnik

World Ranking January 2016: 2
Elo Rating January 2016: 2801

World Ranking January 2017: 3
Elo Rating January 2017: 2811

Vladimir Kramnik had a quiet start into 2016 and played only 9 games in the first part of the year. In the second part of the year he was much more active and had good and outstanding results. At the Russian Team Championships he scored 4.0/5 and at the Norway Chess Tournament he shared third to fifth place. In Dortmund he shared second to fourth place but at the Chess Olympiad in Baku he was in excellent shape and won the gold medal for the best individual performance on board 2. He finished the year with a solid performance at the London Chess Classic.

Shakhriyar Mamedyarov

World Ranking January 2016: 19
Elo Rating January 2016: 2747

World Ranking January 2017: 13
Elo Rating January 2017: 2766

For Shakhriyar Mamedyarov 2016 began with a less than ideal Open in Reykjavik but then he won the Nakchivan Open and later he also won the Gashimov Memorial in Baku. He won the tie-break against Fabiano Caruana. At the Chess Olympiad in Baku the Azeri team finished less well than they had hoped but Mamedyarov showed a solid performance.

Hikaru Nakamura

World Ranking January 2016: 6
Elo Rating January 2016: 2787

World Ranking January 2017: 7
Elo Rating January 2017: 2785

Hikaru Nakamura started2016 by winning the Gibraltar Open and in Zurich he and Anand were the best players. At the Candidates Tournament he finished with a 50% score and at the US Championship he finished behind Caruana and shared second place with Wesley So. Nakamura won the rapid tournament of the Grand Chess Tour in Paris and finished second in the blitz tournament. At the Bilbao Masters he was second, at the Sinquefield Cup he finished in the field. His solid play helped the US team to win gold at the Chess Olympiad in Baku and he shared third place at the London Chess Classic.

Ian Nepomniachtchi

World Ranking January 2016: 39
Elo Rating January 2016: 2704

World Ranking January 2017: 11
Elo Rating January 2017: 2767

Ian Nepomniachtchi had a good 2016 and several times he had a performance of 2800+, the first one at the Russian Team Championships. In the Russia-China match he also had a clear plus and afterwards he convincingly won the tournament in Danzhou. At the Chess Olympiad the Russian grandmaster again played a 2800+ performance and soon after he won the Tal Memorial.

Wesley So

World Ranking January 2016: 10
Elo Rating January 2016: 2773

World Ranking January 2017: 4
Elo Rating January 2017: 2808

Wesley So starts the year as the world's number four and passed the Elo 2800 mark. He came fourth at the Tata Steel Tournament. At the US Championship he finished second. In the rapid tournaments of the Grand Chess Tour in Paris and Leuven So finished third and second. After a moderate result at the Bilbao Masters So won the Sinquefield Cup and at the Chess Olympiad in Baku he had a 2900+ performance. At the Isle of Man Open he finished third behind Caruana and Eljanov and at the end of the year he won the London Chess Classic thus also winning the Grand Chess Tour.

Maxime Vachier-Lagrave

World Ranking January 2016: 7
Elo Rating January 2016: 2785

World Ranking January 2017: 5
Elo Rating January 2017: 2796

Maxime Vachier-Lagrave's tournament year began in Gibraltar. He shared first with Hikaru Nakamura but lost the play-off match against the American. At the Norway Chess Tournament in Stavanger Vachier-Lagrave finished third and then had a fantastic result in the French Club Championships (7 wins, 3 draws). At the Grand Chess Tournament event in his hometown in Paris the French Grandmaster finished third in the rapid and in the blitz tournament. He won the Grandmaster Tournament in Dortmund with a performance of almost 2950. Soon after he won a match against Peter Svidler in Biel. He then won the Corsica Masters Final against Vishy Anand.


Photos by Alina L'Ami, Amruta Mokal and Pascal Simon

Discussion and Feedback Join the public discussion or submit your feedback to the editors


Rules for reader comments


Not registered yet? Register

mikeguio mikeguio 1/7/2017 03:44
Wesley So is so much deserving as best 2016!
IzrudNezemen IzrudNezemen 1/6/2017 10:10
What kind of parody is this?
Angelo Pardi Angelo Pardi 1/6/2017 03:23
Carlsen had a very good year, but So's performance was both very good and unexpected.
They are equal first for me.
jocelasi jocelasi 1/4/2017 07:35
Wesley So
kamal208 kamal208 1/4/2017 04:18
calvinamari calvinamari 1/4/2017 04:00
Winning more classical super-GM events during the year (Norway Chess, Bilbao, Tata Steel) than any other player, defending the world championship, and grabbing the biggest slice of the speed chess prize fund certainly left a deep impression on me -- and, I reckon, on Magnus's competition. He remains the most feared competitor.
Steven E DuCharm Steven E DuCharm 1/4/2017 02:26
I vote Nakamura.
CaissaBoy CaissaBoy 1/4/2017 01:23
I assume this is the place to cast my vote.

The question is "... which player impressed you most in 2016? ... which player left the deepest impression on you?" (which I interpret to have a much broader scope than merely who won the most events and gained the most elo points.)

Without question in my view, this is Wesley So!
criminsane723 criminsane723 1/4/2017 12:02
Wesley So seem to have improved drastically over the past year after coming from the worst player in 2015 Sinquefield. His achievements in the last quarter of 2016 is nothing short of miraculous. I doubt anyone here would've thought he would win 2 prestigious super-tournaments back-to-back, that in itself proves he truly belongs in the elite class of players.

Wesley's major accomplishments includes the ff:
1. Gold at 3rd Board w/ 2900 rtg performance & Gold overall at Chess Olympiad
2. Sinquefield Cup
3. London Chess Classic
4. Grand Chess Tour (Most points for all 4 events including rapid and blitz)
5. Breached the 2800 Elo rating mark (12th player in history to do so) at only 22 years of age.

Magnus Carlsen was pretty dominating too, however his performance at the World Championship by only winning on rapid tie breaks took major points away from him, at least in my view. He should've snatched it easily considering he didn't play in the GCT and had ample of time for preparation. In addition, he has a winning record against Karjakin all these time. Sergey winning against him with the black pieces was astonishing, I really thought back then that he would win the championship. So for me, I'd say Wesley with his consistency, calm demeanor and positive attitude wins the year 2016 because of the shock factor.
vinniethepooh vinniethepooh 1/4/2017 11:31
My vote is Fabiano Caruana. Slow but steady. He is going up, up, up in the rating list and I can see him beating Carlsen in 2018 World Championship. Happy New Year to all of You.

Please tell me how to take participation in the voting poll. I am logged in, still not able to find from where to vote. Help.
thlai80 thlai80 1/4/2017 07:59
@ BerlinWallDown, two is easy. Magnus has done it many times. Kasparov record is 15 consecutive tournament victories!
BerlinWallDown BerlinWallDown 1/4/2017 05:03
I AGREE. There's NO criteria on which a "Player of the Year" should be based. For example, we can give points to tournaments the player won, performance rating, quality of games, etc. Unfortunately, Chessbase only need you to tell them which player impressed you and who stood out through their play and their successes in 2016.

Indeed, it's not objective. But by achievements alone, I would vote for Wesley So: 1) solid performance in Bilbao Masters and Tata Steel 2) winning GOLD with 2900+ performance in Chess Olympiad 3) Champion in two super tournaments (how often can someone win TWO super tournaments in a year?!) 4) Overall Champion in a Chess Tour 5) becoming the 12th player in history to have 2800 ELO rating 6) 2nd in the strong US Open, despite defaulting on one game.

Carlsen, although not dominant recently, is STILL the strongest player in the earth! But for 2016, Wesley So is the player who impresses me the most, followed by Carlsen of course, Kramnik and Ian Nepomniatchi.
kobemvp kobemvp 1/4/2017 04:38
Wesley So & Magnus Carlsen both deserve it, so I'm fine with Wesley winning it this year. It will only give more fuel to the fire to their promising rivalry.
Jerry8 Jerry8 1/4/2017 01:01
My vote for 2016 player of the year is MAGNUS CARLSEN.
Great comeback in game 10 of world championship.
That takes lot of guts and emotion to find oneself in
hardest situation and winning the world chess championship.
Congrats Magnus!
alyantz alyantz 1/3/2017 11:33
Wesley So will be Best chess player of year 2016.
Boisgilbert Boisgilbert 1/3/2017 11:20
It has to be Magnus, primus inter pares, but he is no longer dominant. Tied for the World Championship, won on tiebreak, tied for the Rapid and blitz championships.
donaldnecesito donaldnecesito 1/3/2017 08:09
Raymond Labelle Raymond Labelle 1/3/2017 05:02
"Depends on what the vote is founded - without clear criteria, it becomes a bit subjective."

Maybe this is what this vote is a about: to know which player left the biggest subjective impression. As asked in the directions to vote ("which player left the deepest impression on you?")

But objectively, the best player is still Magnus Carlsen if you look at the whole performances of the year of all the players. Number of important tournaments won, or close to be won, WCC, etc. True that he has more competition than before and that he is not as dominant as he was, but he is still unquestionably the best, and still by far - just not by as far as before.
Raymond Labelle Raymond Labelle 1/3/2017 04:47
On the rating plan, Ian Nepomniachtchi is the most improved player among the candidates. He passed in one year (from Jam 1 to Jan 1) from 2704 to 2767 - gaining 63 Elo points - which is quite extraordinary. In comparison, Wesley so gained 37 Elo points. We have to consider that the higher you are, the more difficult it is to gain Elo points and ranks and, for that reason, Wesley's improvement may be more significant. Also, being the 12th player of history to pass the 2800s is a big accomplishment.

But still, for Ian, gaining 63 Elo points and passing from rank 39 to rank 11 in one year is very impressive.

Vladimir Kramnik has beaten his highest rating mark in 2016.

And Magnus is still clearly the best, even if the margin narrowed.

And we could go on like that for some other players.

Depends on what the vote is founded - without clear criteria, it becomes a bit subjective.
Angel Oviedo Angel Oviedo 1/3/2017 04:44
Wesley So
geraldsky geraldsky 1/3/2017 03:51
I count on Wesley So
joeyj joeyj 1/3/2017 12:17
Is the voting results already Final ?
paulegaevsky paulegaevsky 1/3/2017 11:24
Wesley So of course my best choice.
boiette boiette 1/3/2017 11:09
Many many will be surprised if we do not choose Magnes Carlsen or Wesley So. It is between Carlsen or So.

But for the year 2016 alone (we do not talk about other years, or cumulative efforts), what easily comes to my mind is Wesley So. The year 2016 belongs to Wesley So. Magnus has done well, too, but what leaves a deep impression in my mind quickly is Wesley's achievements.

For 2016's Player of the Year, my vote goes to Wesley So.

sebq1 sebq1 1/3/2017 10:37
The problem with that vote is that we remember well the end of the year and not the beginning. For that reason, So has a lot of (deserved) votes but mvl has nearly nothing in spite of his amazing first half of the year.
Bright Knight Bright Knight 1/3/2017 09:53
To me, the Player of the Year - like Time's Man of the Year - is the one who made the most impact on chess in 2016. Carlsen may have been the strongest player (as he has been for 5 years), but I think it was So who gave the game its biggest boost. His "Cinderella" win in the Grand Chess Tour was inspiring, and his golden performance in the USA's golden Olympiad rekindled the Fischer era in American chess. On top of these, he carried himself with the most class - articulate, respectful, and constantly cheerful. He certainly provides chess a great model.
indeevar indeevar 1/3/2017 07:52
Clearly Magnus is the best player of 2016. He won almost all tournaments he participated. Retained world championship though he was trailing, in the world rapid and blitz championships he was equal first in terms of points he earned.

For deciding the best player of 2016, one should not compare and confuse about "what we expect of Magnus in 2016 vs. what he did in 2016", instead simply "compare his performance vs. performance of others in 2016". Magnus is clearly the choice for best player of 2016.
calvinamari calvinamari 1/3/2017 04:40
This is a bit like the Oscars, where movies released early in the year rarely win. Maxime Vachier-Lagrave's performance in the first half of the year was roughly equal (or arguably better based on maximum ELO achieved) to Wesley So's last half of the year. Yet look at the vote comparison.
blackdranzer 27 blackdranzer 27 1/3/2017 03:47
Caruana deserved more votes....Much more
thlai80 thlai80 1/3/2017 02:47
This is for best player of the year, not the most improved, which would have been Wesley So. Carlsen still won the most, defended his crown, and tied on points for rapid and blitz world champions. And in all 3 categories, he is still #1. What else can we ask for? So had a tremendous 2H 2016, but not enough.
calvinamari calvinamari 1/3/2017 01:44
...Carlsen also walked out of Doha with the biggest slice of the prize fund.
ChessTalk ChessTalk 1/2/2017 10:54
I voted for Sergei. Not a big fan of Karjakin but getting to the WC and getting to tiebreaks in the WC and then winning the blitz WC is big. Shows me he is ready for the rumble next time around. Hope Caruana or So make it otherwise.
Exabachay Exabachay 1/2/2017 10:15
Mamedyarov for always playing interesting chess, but still managing to beat top players all the time.
Denix Denix 1/2/2017 09:46
Clearly Wesley!
Maturner Maturner 1/2/2017 09:24
Wesley So for this year for sure.
Cajunmaster Cajunmaster 1/2/2017 07:49
Wesley all the way!
amalwa amalwa 1/2/2017 07:41
Anybody not voting for Magnus is pretty stupid I'd say. World number one and defends his title.
Obviously most improved player is Wesley So. Also recall in a couple of events of the grand chess tour Magnus didn't participate for different reasons (Preparing for world champ for instance) and he did not have a chance to compete.
What we also saw was Magnus having a pretty bad year, i.e atleast I didn't see any improvement in his play, it rather got worse, and we don't know where he stands at this moment. With Caruana, So, and still going strong Kramnik we are bound to have a a really intresting chess year 2017!
Magic_Knight Magic_Knight 1/2/2017 06:26
Magnus might have defended his WCC title, but he definitely wasn't the player of 2016.
calvinamari calvinamari 1/2/2017 06:18
Interesting (and likely unfair) standards here: Carlson won every individual classical tournament in which he participated in 2016. Nobody else can claim that. He beat So in the last classical game they played. At one stretch during the year, Magnus beat Kramnick seven times in a row. Nobody was more consistent throughout the three world title formats.
Blackacre Blackacre 1/2/2017 05:59
If you just look at results, Carlsen had the best year. I admit that it doesn't feel that way, because expectations for him are so high. Chess fans like me expect him to win everything and by huge margins. So his narrow victory against Karjakin somehow seems like a failure, but objectively that is ridiculous.

Wesley So made huge strides this year and exceeded expectations, so I understand why he is getting so many votes, but this should not be a contest for most improved or most surprising player of the year.