Qatar 2015 Rd4: Five stars and one dark horse

by Albert Silver
12/23/2015 – It is no surprise to see stars such as Magnus Carlsen, who won a brilliant game today, Anish Giri, Li Chao, Wesley So, and even Maxim Matlakov in the lead with 3.5/4, but in sixth place leading an all-star group with 3.0/4 is the complete unknown and untitled Xu Yinglun with a fantastic 2856 performance. That is what opens are all about. Illustrated report with commented games.

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Qatar Masters 2015

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While the sheer strength of the Qatar Open is staggering in many ways, it is the sheer diversity of players and player strength that has helped to make it such a fun event to follow. Naturally, the foremost example of this is the presence of Magnus Carlsen, the world no. 1, facing players he would normally only face in a simul or exhibition event at best. It also leads to dream-come-true opportunities for those fortunate enough to play opposite him.

The wet dream of each player is of course to read the next day “Magnus Carlsen loses in incredible upset!” The harsh reality is usually closer to what the talented 17-year-old Jan-Krzysztof Duda experienced, being on the receiving end of a master class in chess.

It is not often that one had the privilege of playing the World Champion face-to-face

Jan-Krzysztof Duda - Magnus Carlsen (annotations by IM Sagar Shah)

[Event "Qatar Masters Open 2015"] [Site "Doha QAT"] [Date "2015.12.23"] [Round "4.2"] [White "Duda, Jan-Krzysztof"] [Black "Carlsen, Magnus"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "B92"] [WhiteElo "2663"] [BlackElo "2834"] [Annotator "Sagar Shah"] [PlyCount "84"] [EventDate "2015.12.20"] 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 a6 6. Be2 e5 7. Nb3 Be7 8. Bg5 Nc6 9. Qd3 Nb4 $5 $146 {This move was made quite quickly by Magnus and hence he was clearly prepared.} 10. Qd2 h6 11. Bxf6 Bxf6 12. Nd5 $6 (12. a3 {is met by} Bg5 13. Qd1 Nc6 14. O-O Be6 15. Qd3 O-O 16. Rad1 $11 {And White has a much better position than what happened in the game.}) 12... Nxd5 13. Qxd5 Qc7 14. O-O-O Be7 15. Kb1 Be6 16. Qd3 O-O $15 {Black has a very pleasant position due to the following reasons: 1. He has the bishop pair. Although the bishop on e7 is not particularly great it can be activated either on g5 or after White plays f4 it can be strong on the a1-h8 diagonal. 2. The d5 square is weak, however the knight on b3 is at least three moves away from it and cannot really take advantage of it. 3. And last but not the least Black has a clear plan of attack on the queenside with b5-b4, a5-a4. White also can push his pawns down the board but somehow he lacks the firepower in that zone.} 17. f4 exf4 18. Nd4 Bd7 19. Rhf1 Bf6 20. Rxf4 Be5 {The bishop on e5 is really strong now.} 21. Rff1 Rac8 22. c3 b5 23. Nf3 Be6 24. Nd4 Bc4 25. Qf3 b4 $1 {White's king position is slowly but surely getting ripped open where as White has not yet started his play on the kingside.} 26. cxb4 Qb6 $1 27. Bxc4 Rxc4 28. Nc2 Rfc8 {The f7 pawn is not really so important as the king can hide safely on f7. Yet it made sense to take the pawn and then play Rd2.} 29. Rd2 (29. Qxf7+ Kh8 30. Rd2 Qc6 31. Qf2 Qxe4 (31... a5 {was played by Magnus in the game.}) 32. Re2 $14 {And White should defend this position and might well be slightly better.}) 29... Qc6 (29... Qc7 $1) 30. Qxf7+ Kh8 31. Qf2 a5 32. a3 $2 (32. bxa5 {is a computer move but it looks extremely scary and I won't be surprised if there is a mate somewhere around the corner.} Rb8 33. b3 Rc3 $40) 32... axb4 33. Nxb4 Qxe4+ 34. Ka2 Rxb4 $1 35. axb4 Ra8+ 36. Kb3 Rb8 37. Ka2 Qxb4 {The queen, rook and bishop combine to launch a winning attack against the White king.} 38. Rc1 Qa4+ 39. Kb1 Qe4+ 40. Rcc2 Bxb2 41. Qf3 Qe1+ 42. Rd1 Bd4+ (42... Bd4+ 43. Kc1 Be3+ {with a winning position. A fine game by Magnus Carlsen who had very little difficulty in crushing his talented young opponent.}) 0-1

Magnus Carlsen has been growing with each round, and today was his best game so far

One might wonder what a player such as Carlsen gets out of this, other than an undoubtedly hefty appearance fee, and this game may answer that question. How often does one see a player such as Magnus play the black side of a notoriously sharp opening such as the Najdorf? Here he may be forced into oddball openings by his opponents, such as Yuffa with 1.e4 c5 2.b3, but it also allows him leeway to experiment outside his comfort zone without needing to fear the uber-preparation (and expertise) of Top Ten specialists.

On board one were Anish Giri and Li Chao

The leaders entering the round were Anish Giri and Li Chao, and though anything could happen, the game never really got out of hand and a draw was the logical result. This also meant that several other players could now rejoin them at 3.5/4. The World Champion was one of course, but he was not the only one. Wesley So and Maxim Matlakov also added their hats to the circle, defeating Akopian and Kosteniuk respectively, to complete the group.

Vladimir Akopian found himself in a dead lost opposite colored bishop ending that Wesley So
made no mistakes in. With this, the young American is tied for he lead and also within five Elo
of his rival compatriots Hikaru Nakamura and Fabiano Caruana.

Leading the group of 19 players on 3.0/4 is the complete unknown Chinese player Xu Yinglun, rated 2470 FIDE, but untitled. He made waves as one of the upsets in round one when he defeated Nikita Vitiugov (2724 FIDE), but never really left the sun as he drew Sjugirov and Vidit, both over 2640, and now in round four gunned down Indian GM Sethuraman, when the latter missed a tactic that he never recovered from.

After watching Wei Yi sacrifice a knight right in front of his king, Indian IM Vignish had to
have feared the worst, but his stars all lined up today, and he left the board the victor.

It hasn’t been all roses for the Chinese though, with Wei Yi suffering from rather extreme irregularity in his games. Today he lost to the young Indian IM Vignesh, but contrary to round one, the Chinese prodigy went from winning, to dead lost, to dead winning, to much better to dead lost as he blundered horribly on move 67. Just one of those days where one regrets ever having gotten out of bed.

In that mix of players at 3.0/4 is Vladimir Kramnik who played a fascinating game against
American GM Daniel Naroditsky, who fought very well, but in the end failed to keep pace.

Vladimir Kramink - Daniel Naroditsky

[Event "Qatar Masters Open 2015"] [Site "Doha QAT"] [Date "2015.12.23"] [Round "4.9"] [White "Kramnik, Vladimir"] [Black "Naroditsky, Daniel"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "D77"] [WhiteElo "2796"] [BlackElo "2628"] [Annotator "Sagar Shah"] [PlyCount "81"] [EventDate "2015.12.20"] 1. Nf3 d5 2. g3 g6 3. Bg2 Bg7 4. d4 Nf6 5. O-O O-O 6. c4 {It is surprising to see Vladimir playing something mainstream.} dxc4 7. Na3 c3 8. bxc3 c5 9. Ne5 Nc6 $1 {Daniel is well prepared. Giving up this pawn is quite well known.} 10. Nac4 $1 (10. Nxc6 bxc6 11. Bxc6 Bh3 $44 {Gives Black excellent compensation.}) 10... Nd5 11. Nxc6 bxc6 12. Bd2 Ba6 13. Ne5 Qd6 14. Re1 cxd4 (14... Bxe5 15. dxe5 Qxe5 {is similar to the game but here having the c3 and c5 pawns means that the White queen can go to a3 and try to put pressure on the c5 pawn. White has the pleasant position here too.} 16. Qc1 $1 $14) 15. cxd4 Bxe5 16. dxe5 Qxe5 17. Rc1 {What is White's compensation for the missing pawn? First of all he has the bishop pair, which is a huge asset in this open position. Secondly the knight on d5 is not stable as e4 will be coming soon. And lastly the c6 pawn is quite weak and will most probably fall.} Rfd8 18. Qc2 Rac8 19. Qc5 Qd6 20. Qa5 (20. Qxa7 c5 {lands the white queen in a precarious situation on a7.}) 20... c5 21. Bh3 e6 22. Bg5 Re8 (22... Rd7 {was maybe a tad better.}) 23. Rcd1 Qe5 24. Bd2 Qh5 25. Bf1 Bb7 26. Qxa7 Rc7 27. Qa4 Ra8 28. Qc4 Nb6 29. Qc1 c4 30. Bg5 {Until this point both the players have been matching blow for blow and playing pretty well. However, here Daniel goes completely wrong and lands up in a lost position.} Qg4 $2 31. Bd8 $1 (31. e4 $1 {was even stronger. The threat is to play h3 and Bg2 and trap the queen.}) 31... Rc6 32. h3 Qh5 33. Bg5 {g4 with the threat of winning the queen is not so easy to parry.} Rc5 34. Bf6 Qf5 35. Bd4 Rb5 36. e4 Qf3 37. Bg2 Qa3 38. Qxa3 Rxa3 39. Rb1 $1 {A simple move that wins the house.} Rxb1 40. Rxb1 {The knight on b6 and the bishop on b7 are so awkwardly placed that one of them will fall.} c3 41. Bxb6 {A nice win for Kramnik after surviving a scare against Vocaturo yesterday. Daniel Naroditsky played quite well and can be happy at giving the World Champion quite a tough fight.} 1-0

The ladies had reason to cheer as well, as 15-year-old WGM Zhansaya Abdumalik scored again in round four with an impressive win over German IM Rasmus Svane (2529 FIDE). It should be noted that even in round three, when she lost to Indian GM Ganguly, she had started with a spectacular and powerful bishop sac, but had failed to find the best continuation. All the same, her fearlessness, and instincts cannot be faulted.

For the youth, 12-year-old Iranian FM Alireza Firouzja (left) continues his superb run, drawing
comfortably against Indian GM Harika Dronavalli, as he stands at 2.0/4 against a 2569 average.
In th photo above, he is together with his 14-year-old compatriot FM Aryan Gholami.

His colleague in years, 11-year-old Nodirbek Abdusattorov fared less well, as he failed to find the best continuation in a difficult rook endgame against Bartel Mateusz, against whom he might have draw, but he did get some slight moral compensation as that night he got to play alongside Magnus Carlsen in football.

A late night game of football after the round is over?

You can count on Magnus! And not just him needless to say...

The World Champion was extremely sporting passing the ball regularly to the 11-year-old
Nodirbek Abdusattorov, who would always promptly send it right back. It was very cute.

One of the movie extras from Mad Max: Ruslan Ponomariov

Hou Yifan has played to her strength, and stands at 3.0/4 with a 2691 performance

ChessBase author Alejandro Ramirez alongside Hou Yifan


Interview with Hou Yifan by IM Sagar Shah

Indian GM Ganguly with Mahdi Abdul Rahman, the arbiter

Replay games of round four (with times per move)


Pairings/Results of Round 4 on 2015/12/23 at 15:00

Bo. Ti. Name Rtg
Ti. Name Rtg
1 GM Li Chao B 2750 ½-½ GM Giri Anish 2784
2 GM Duda Jan-Krzysztof 2663 0-1 GM Carlsen Magnus 2834
3 GM So Wesley 2775 1-0 GM Akopian Vladimir 2648
4 GM Dubov Daniil 2655 ½-½ GM Mamedyarov Shakhriyar 2748
5 GM Ganguly Surya Shekhar 2648 ½-½ GM Yu Yangyi 2736
6 GM Ni Hua 2693 ½-½ GM Sjugirov Sanan 2646
7 GM Swiercz Dariusz 2646 ½-½ GM Howell David W L 2688
8 GM Kosteniuk Alexandra 2542 0-1 GM Matlakov Maxim 2684
9 GM Kramnik Vladimir 2796 1-0 GM Naroditsky Daniel 2628
10 GM Piorun Kacper 2637 0-1 GM Karjakin Sergey 2766
11 GM Tomashevsky Evgeny 2744 0-1 GM Salem A.R. Saleh 2622
12 GM Grandelius Nils 2632 ½-½ GM Harikrishna P. 2743
13 GM Jakovenko Dmitry 2737 ½-½ GM Ipatov Alexander 2619
14 GM Wojtaszek Radoslaw 2723 1-0 GM Vocaturo Daniele 2597
15 GM Hamdouchi Hicham 2597 0-1 GM Korobov Anton 2713
16 GM Ivanchuk Vassily 2710 ½-½ GM Bluebaum Matthias 2590
17 GM Zhang Zhong 2619 ½-½ GM Ponomariov Ruslan 2710
18 GM Hou Yifan 2683 1-0 GM Esen Baris 2562
19 GM Fedoseev Vladimir 2664 1-0 GM Xu Jun 2526
20 GM Bok Benjamin 2594 0-1 GM Bologan Viktor 2654
21 GM Khismatullin Denis 2654 1-0 GM Stefanova Antoaneta 2521
22 IM Yuffa Daniil 2504 ½-½ GM Vidit Santosh Gujrathi 2644
23 GM Nguyen Ngoc Truong Son 2642 ½-½ IM Gagare Shardul 2470
24   Xu Yinglun 2470 1-0 GM Sethuraman S.P. 2639
25 GM Sasikiran Krishnan 2638 ½-½ IM Wang Yiye 2438
26 GM Wei Yi 2730 0-1 IM Vignesh N R 2422
27 IM Tabatabaei M.Amin 2482 0-1 GM Vitiugov Nikita 2724
28 IM Ma Zhonghan 2463 0-1 GM Moiseenko Alexander 2689
29 FM Moroni Luca Jr 2466 0-1 GM Adhiban B. 2669
30 IM Firat Burak 2446 0-1 GM Khairullin Ildar 2647
31 GM Lenderman Aleksandr 2626 ½-½ IM Sagar Shah 2441
32 IM Puranik Abhimanyu 2442 ½-½ GM Lu Shanglei 2618
33 GM Tregubov Pavel V. 2589 1-0   Fang Yuxiang 2438
34 GM Rambaldi Francesco 2560 ½-½ WGM Saduakassova Dinara 2407
35 IM Abhishek Kelkar 2393 ½-½ IM Lin Chen 2532
36 IM Svane Rasmus 2529 0-1 WGM Abdumalik Zhansaya 2390
37 IM Christiansen Johan-Sebastian 2385 0-1 GM Bromberger Stefan 2521
38 GM Al-Sayed Mohammed 2520 1-0 IM Khademalsharieh Sarasadat 2380
39   Firouzja Alireza 2372 ½-½ GM Harika Dronavalli 2513
40 GM Sundararajan Kidambi 2513 1-0 IM Guramishvili Sopiko 2368
41 IM Tissir Mohamed 2346 ½-½ GM Schroeder Jan-Christian 2511
42   Roy Prantik 2370 ½-½ WGM Goryachkina Aleksandra 2493
43 GM Zhukova Natalia 2488 0-1   Raja Harshit 2325
44 GM Aravindh Chithambaram Vr. 2486 0-1 IM Pham Le Thao Nguyen 2319
45 GM Shankland Samuel L 2646 1-0 WIM Pratyusha Bodda 2260
46 GM Bartel Mateusz 2620 1-0 FM Abdusattorov Nodirbek 2429
47 IM Batsiashvili Nino 2498 0-1 FM Rohan Ahuja 2426
48 IM Sunilduth Lyna Narayanan 2494 1-0 FM Haria Ravi 2416
49 IM Seyb Alexander 2425 0-1 GM Shoker Samy 2489
50   Mohammad Nubairshah Shaikh 2414 1-0 IM Ly Moulthun 2462
51 IM Karavade Eesha 2379 ½-½ IM Ali Marandi Cemil Can 2454
52 IM Kashlinskaya Alina 2448 ½-½ IM Saiyn Zhanat 2394
53 FM Basso Pier Luigi 2438 ½-½ FM Li Di 2389
54   Dai Changren 2328 ½-½ IM Padmini Rout 2437
55 WGM Pourkashiyan Atousa 2322 0-1 IM Aryan Chopra 2436
56 GM Carlsson Pontus 2433 ½-½ GM Dzagnidze Nana 2559
57 GM Khotenashvili Bela 2496 1-0 IM Slavin Alexey 2388
58 IM Nezad Husein Aziz 2425 ½-½ IM Ezat Mohamed 2490
59 FM Gholami Aryan 2422 ½-½ IM Sanal Vahap 2487
60 IM Konguvel Ponnuswamy 2377 ½-½ GM Neelotpal Das 2475
61 WIM Bivol Alina 2344 0-1 GM Krush Irina 2468
62 IM Lorparizangeneh Shahin 2454 1-0 IM Li Ruofan 2372
63 FM Goriatchkin Jouri 2318 1-0 GM Venkatesh M.R. 2451
64 IM Vogel Roven 2439 1-0 WGM Bartel Marta 2271
65   Siva Mahadevan 2400 ½-½ WIM Derakhshani Dorsa 2307
66 WFM Vaishali R 2313 1-0 IM Piasetski Leon 2287

Schedule for Playchess Commentary

Day Round Time English German
Wed 23 December  Round 4 3 PM Daniel King Thomas Luther
Thu 24 December  Round 5 3 PM Simon Williams Thomas Luther
Fri 25 December  Rest day      
Sat 26 December  Round 6 3 PM Mihail Marin Thomas Luther
Sun 27 December  Round 7 3 PM Simon Williams Sebastian Siebrecht
Mon 28 December  Round 8 3 PM Daniel King Sebastian Siebrecht
Tue 29 December  Round 9 12 PM Yasser Seirawan Sebastian Siebrecht


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Born in the US, he grew up in Paris, France, where he completed his Baccalaureat, and after college moved to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He had a peak rating of 2240 FIDE, and was a key designer of Chess Assistant 6. In 2010 he joined the ChessBase family as an editor and writer at ChessBase News. He is also a passionate photographer with work appearing in numerous publications.
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diegoami diegoami 12/25/2015 12:40
Duda is actually only 150 rating points under Carlsen...
Bertman Bertman 12/24/2015 04:49
@Pentium I think you are exaggerating. In my four reports on Qatar, Rd1 had him with Nino, who drew him, so that thumbnail was as much about her as it was him. Rd2 was Giri. Rd3 was Mamedyarov, and Rd4 (jointly with Sagar Shah) was him, since this was the game of the day in the opinion of the authors.

The let's look at the reports by Sagar Shah: Rd1 was 12-year-old Firouzja, Rd2 was him and some other guy playing football, though in the thumbnail I'll be darned if one can really make out the faces (IMO). Rd3 did indeed have him, but the real news was Xavi Hernandez, who certainly was not merely 'passing through'.
Relentless007 Relentless007 12/24/2015 04:58
Xu and Vignesh both are on equal scores. The report says Xu gave a brilliant performance and For Vignesh his stars lined up?! Really?? Come one guys give the player his due credit.
idratherplay960 idratherplay960 12/24/2015 04:19
Agreed. Yifan is the best ambassador and a much needed breath of fresh air. Well spoken, gracious, charming, enchanting and an entertaining player. Here's to her continued success.
KrushonIrina KrushonIrina 12/24/2015 03:43
Hou Yifan is the best ambassador this game has now.

Class act, going out of her way (like to Antarctica!) to promote the game.
ubernomics ubernomics 12/24/2015 01:55
I was not insinuating cheating. Obviously the Chinese GMs have less international experience due to location. The Far East, along with South America, are probably the two least favorable places to attain one's potential as chessplayer.

That said, they are still relative unknowns and someone such as Wei Yi will probably have more holes in his game at age 16 than someone such as Karjakin or MVL at a similar age.

And Li Chao may be 2750 player in open tournaments, but how to interpret that? - OOH, probably more difficult to achieve elite rating. OTOH, how does that translate to supertournament, where holes in one's game are exposed by thorough preparation? Ding Liren's KID is not battle-tested in that sense (of course, I'm thinking of Kasparov and Nakamura having given up the KID except as surprise weapon.)
KevinC KevinC 12/24/2015 01:01
It is, clearly, time for those women in the 2015 European Women Chess Championship to break out their pens. Someone is having too good a tournament for their MUST be cheating.

(To be clear, if you have no detector, yes, that is all sarcasm).
ubernomics ubernomics 12/23/2015 10:43
As to relatively unknown Chinese GMs, Ding Liren is the most internationally inexperienced top 10 player I've ever seen. Am wondering how long his King's Indian hold up in supertournament.

Also, Wei Yi seems tactically gifted but raw in other aspects of his game (not unexpected for youth).

The Qatari tournament is definitely Corus-like for youthful talent and rising unknowns. And very surprising so many top GMs have shown up (I wonder what the appearance fees or conditions, because the prizes seem relatively modest.)
go magnus*
+ :)
ubernomics ubernomics 12/23/2015 10:40
Li Chao himself is another dark horse who somehow managed to sneak up to 2750 very quietly. While playing in open tournaments and none of the national teams or few national tournaments. And no supertournament. And at a relatively late age of 26.

IIRC, he was a "B+ or A- level prodigy" who was always playing in miscellaneous overseas tournaments since age 16, but did not reach 2700 and 2750 until recently. Curious as to his true baseline, and how he would hold up in a supertournament against superGMs.