Magnus at the Qatar Masters Open 2015

by Sagar Shah
10/8/2015 – The Qatar Masters Open 2015 just got bigger, better and stronger. The reason: reigning World Champion and world number one Magnus Carlsen confirmed he'll play in what is going to be one of the most amazing open events in chess history. We have inputs from the tournament director Mohamed-Al-Modiahki, and also a brief recollection of the last open tournament played by Magnus Carlsen.

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Magnus at the Qatar Masters Open 2015

On 4th of October, the official twitter account of Qatar Masters Open made the following tweet:

And that is when the world came to know about this astonishing news that the reigning World Champion Magnus Carlsen would take part in an open tournament – the Qatar Masters Open 2015.

Any player with a rating of 2300 and above can participate in the Open that will be held from the 19th to 29th of December 2015 in Doha. You can find all the information with regards to the tournament in this article that was published a few days ago on our news page. With the inclusion of Magnus Carlsen, this is how the players list looks like:

The top 20 seeds – all above 2700!

As soon as this news of Magnus Carlsen playing in an open event came to light, the Twittersphere was filled with awe and excitement. Here are some of the tweets for you:

Tournament director Mohamed Al-Mediakhi built up the suspense

In an interview with WIM Fiona Steil-Antoni, which is mentioned later in this article, Magnus said that it is always a challenge to play against the young and talented 2600s who are ambitious and very well prepared

Maria Emilianova did some wonderful work last year behind the lens at the Qatar Masters Open 2014

Magnus will be flying to Qatar after playing the London Chess Classic
where Malcolm Pein is the tournament director

This is the feeling chess fans all around world would be having

So, when was the last time we saw Magnus Carlsen playing in an open tournament? It was the fourth of August 2007 – Magnus Carlsen sat down as the top seed of the Arctic Chess Challenge in Tromso. At an age of 16 years and eight months and a rating of 2710, he was the youngest 2700+ player in the history of the game at that point (this record was recently broken by Wei Yi). One can only imagine the excitement created by Magnus’ participation in an open event. In the first round he faced Brede Hagen who at 2034 was nearly 700 points below Magnus. Brede played the entire game with great accuracy, showing ideas and plans that you wouldn’t really expect from a 2034 player. Add to this Magnus’ tiredness of travelling to Tromso directly from Biel, and the game ended in a draw with the 2700+ GM defending throughout. Check out articles related to Arctic Chess Challenge 2007 from our archives

[Event "Arctic Chess Challenge"] [Site "Tromsoe"] [Date "2007.08.04"] [Round "1"] [White "Larsen Hagen, Brede Andre"] [Black "Carlsen, Magnus"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "B91"] [WhiteElo "2034"] [BlackElo "2710"] [Annotator "Sagar Shah"] [PlyCount "72"] [EventDate "2007.08.04"] [EventType "swiss"] [EventRounds "9"] [EventCountry "NOR"] [Source "ChessBase"] [SourceDate "2007.09.04"] 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 a6 6. g3 e5 7. Nde2 Be7 8. Bg2 Nbd7 {Magnus tries to play this in ambitious fashion, delaying 0-0 for quite some time.} 9. O-O b5 10. h3 Bb7 11. g4 b4 {Black is in time to push the knight from c3 before White could do something similar with g5.} 12. Nd5 Nxd5 13. exd5 O-O 14. Ng3 Re8 (14... g6 {was also possible.} 15. a3 a5 16. Be3 Bg5 { and we can see that the move g6 has been much more useful than ...Re8}) 15. a3 $1 {A very strong move by Brede Hagen which breaks up Black's queenside.} a5 16. Be3 Qc7 17. Qd2 Nb6 18. b3 {Preventing the knight from coming to c4. As can be seen White does nothing spectacular, but calmly strengthens his position.} Bf8 19. Rfd1 bxa3 20. Rxa3 {The a5 pawn is a huge weakness.} a4 21. Qb4 $1 Qxc2 {Magnus decides to muddy the waters. Practically that is the best solution in this given position.} 22. Rc1 Qb2 23. Rca1 Bxd5 24. Qxb6 Rab8 25. Qxb8 $5 (25. Qa5 Bxb3 26. Bd5 $16 {would have given White a clear advantage.}) 25... Rxb8 26. Bxd5 $16 {Here too White is just better. He has two pieces and a rook for a queen and three pawns. But the pieces are very well placed.} axb3 27. Ra7 Qc2 28. Rc1 $6 (28. Rxf7 $1 {with a deadly threat of discovered check would have just ended the game.} b2 (28... Kh8 29. Rc1 $18) 29. Rb7+ $1 Kh8 30. Rxb8 $1 bxa1=Q+ 31. Kh2 (31. Kg2 $2 h6 32. Rxf8+ Kh7 33. Bg8+ Kg6 34. h4 Qa8+ $3 35. Rxa8 Qc6+ $13) 31... h6 32. Rxf8+ Kh7 33. Bg8+ $1 Kg6 (33... Kh8 34. Bb3+ Kh7 35. Bxc2+ $18) 34. h4 $1 {The threat of h5 forces Black to give up his queens. At this point if the king we on g2 then Qa8+ Rxa8 Qc6+ would have been possible with an unclear position.}) 28... Qg6 29. Bxf7+ {After this move the game peters out into a draw.} (29. Nf5 b2 30. Rb1 $14 {And White can still keep trying.}) 29... Qxf7 30. Rxf7 Kxf7 31. Rb1 b2 32. Bd2 d5 33. Bc3 Rc8 34. Bxb2 Rb8 35. Rd1 Rxb2 36. Rxd5 Ke6 {A very well played game by Brede Hagen.} 1/2-1/2

In round two Magnus ground out a win against the experienced GM Nick De Firmian

This was followed by another disappointing result in the third round – a draw with Karsten Larsen (2307). He won his fourth game against a 2231 player.

At 3.0/4, Magnus faced his former trainer Simen Agdestein (2582) and the game ended in a draw

The sixth round had a very peculiar pairing. The two Carlsen’s were up against each other.
Magnus showed little mercy on his father as he won the game quite easily.

[Event "Arctic Chess Challenge"] [Site "Tromsoe"] [Date "2007.08.09"] [Round "6"] [White "Carlsen, Magnus"] [Black "Carlsen, Henrik"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "D36"] [WhiteElo "2710"] [BlackElo "2089"] [Annotator "Sagar Shah"] [PlyCount "73"] [EventDate "2007.08.04"] [EventType "swiss"] [EventRounds "9"] [EventCountry "NOR"] [Source "ChessBase"] [SourceDate "2007.09.04"] 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 d5 4. cxd5 exd5 5. Bg5 Be7 6. e3 c6 7. Qc2 h6 8. Bh4 O-O 9. Bd3 Re8 10. Nge2 Ne4 (10... Nbd7 11. O-O Ne4 {is more common as after} 12. Bxe7 Qxe7 13. Bxe4 dxe4 14. Ng3 Nf6 {Black defends his pawn with his knight and unlike the game he doesn't have to weaken his position with f5.}) 11. Bxe7 Qxe7 12. Bxe4 $1 {A very nice and thematic exchange by Magnus.} dxe4 13. Ng3 f5 14. O-O Na6 15. a3 Nc7 16. f3 $1 {The key idea behind exchanging on e4. Black is forced to take on f3 and his f5 pawn would be weak and exposed.} exf3 17. Rxf3 f4 {Henrik goes for a practical decision of giving up the pawn for some activity. But it is hardly enough.} (17... g6 18. e4 {would lead to open lines against the black king.}) 18. exf4 Bg4 19. Rff1 $6 (19. Rf2 $16 { would have been much better leaving the f1 square for the a1 rook.}) 19... Rad8 20. f5 Rxd4 21. Qf2 Qe3 (21... Rdd8 22. Rae1 $18 {followed by h3 traps the bishop on g4.}) 22. h3 Rd2 $2 (22... Rd3 $5 {After this move White has to find} 23. Kh2 $1 $18 {which would not have been too difficult for Magnus.}) 23. Qxe3 Rxe3 24. Rf2 (24. Nge4 {was also winning.}) 24... Rxg3 (24... Rd8 25. Nf1 $18) 25. Rxd2 {White is an exchange up and confidently went on to win the game.} Bxf5 26. Re1 Kf7 27. Rf1 Kg6 28. Rd6+ Be6 29. Re1 Kf7 30. Ne4 Rg6 31. Nc5 b6 32. Rxc6 bxc5 33. Rxc7+ Kg8 34. Rc6 Rxg2+ 35. Kxg2 Bd5+ 36. Kg3 Bxc6 37. Rc1 1-0

In the last three rounds, Magnus picked up pace and scored 2.5/3, winning against Vladimir Burmakin and Vladimir Epishin and drawing against Kjetil Lie. This performance was good enough to get him fourth place in the standings. The tournament was won by Alexander Moiseenko.

This was the last time that Magnus Carlsen had played in an open classical event till date. After eight years of trying to find that perfect open tournament he has finally decided that Qatar Masters Open 2015 is where he would be heading to play!

Qatar Masters Open 2015 might be the tournament where Magnus Carlsen
and Wei Yi will face each other for the first time

In March 2015, Magnus visited the Reykjavik Open and made his way to the commentary during the sixth round after winning the pub quiz. In an interview with WIM Fiona Steil-Antoni the topic of playing in open events cropped up. Would he ever play in an open tournament? To which Magnus replied, “It will have to be something special!” You can see the portion related to playing in open events at 14 minutes and 15 seconds

So what exactly is special about Qatar Masters Open 2015 that Magnus decided to play here? We contacted the tournament director Mohamed-Al-Modiahki to get his views on this. Here are excerpts:

SS: Magnus Carlsen was asked in interview whether he would participate in an open and he replied, "It would have to be something special." How did you make it special for him?

MAM: I think the Qatar Masters Open itself is very special. We added a rest day this year, better venue, and the officials hotels are very high in standard. We are always trying to improve something to make this event special. I only can say that Qatar Masters Open is becoming one of the best tournaments within just two years!

The man who made it all possible - GM Mohamed Al-Modiahki

SS: Magnus had a training camp in 2015 before the Shamkir tournament in Qatar and now he is coming back again. What is the special bond between Magnus and your country?

MAM: About the camp, I think it was a successful one for Magnus as he won the Shamkir tournament. He is used to having camps before his tournaments and I think he chose Qatar because of the weather similarity to Azerbaijan and the convenient flight connections.

His Excellency Sheikh Saoud Bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani, Secretary General of the
Qatar Olympic Committee (QOC) met Magnus Carlsen at the QOC Headquarters in April 2015

SS: Now you have Magnus Carlsen, Vladimir Kramnik, Anish Giri, Wesley So and Sergey Karjakin in the line-up. Any plans of getting Caruana, Nakamura or Vishy Anand on the list?

MAM: This is the list for now! Don't forget that we have four women players with the World Champion’s title: Hou Yifan, Anna Ushenina, Antanoeta Stefanova and Alexandra Kosteniuk which is also important for our tournament.

Four former World Champions will be playing in the Qatar Masters

SS: You have a hefty prize fund and now the World Champion is playing – you could very well have conducted a closed round robin event with the best players in the world. What exactly are you trying to achieve through the Qatar Masters being an open tournament?

MAM: Yes, we could have a closed round-robin tournament instead which will be much easier to organize! But we want to give a chance to more chess players to compete in a high level tournament with good prize money. I think this will help the game of chess. Open tournament means more players, more countries, more fans and more media coverage. Chess is a great game, but not popular! With the right method and right planning we would attract a lot of sponsors. With Magnus playing this year, it proves that we are in the right direction, and I would really like to express my gratitude to him. For us this is a brilliant move that will help Qatar Masters to run for many years to come.

We would like to know from our readers about when was the last time that a World Champion played in an open tournament. Do write your answers in the comments section below.

ChessBase will be present in Doha for the round by round coverage of the Qatar Masters 2015.


The games will be broadcast live on the official web site and on the chess server 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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ChrisNorton ChrisNorton 10/9/2015 02:57
He looks like arnold schwarzenegger in this picture.
AzYz AzYz 10/8/2015 11:24
He's already got a paycheck bigger than the First Price Win. Quatar $$$ can't lose !
Exabachay Exabachay 10/8/2015 07:04
Qatar has zero weather similarities to Azerbaijan; I can assure you of that: just compare these two pages any time of year and you'd get the idea

mozartiano123 mozartiano123 10/8/2015 04:42
Moreover, the tournament in Brazil did not compute FIDE rating points so it cannot be compared to the Qatar Masters. Nonetheless, it was an amazing opportunity to play soccer with the world chess champion :)

Chessbaser Chessbaser 10/8/2015 01:55
@jose fabio we are talking about classical time control open events here. That event in Caxias do Sul, Brazil had a rapid format at the start and then last few games had an hour each for both players.
jose fabio jose fabio 10/8/2015 12:50
This information is mistaken, the last time Magnus Carlsen played an open tournament was in Brazil in 2014, the grape festival in the city of Caxias do Sul / Brazil