Qatar Masters: Narayanan beats Gukesh to grab the lead

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
10/15/2023 – The first sole leader of the Qatar Masters emerged after round 5, as Narayanan S.L., the thirteenth seed in Doha, obtained an upset win over Gukesh D. to become the only participant with 4½ points. Going into the one rest day of the event, twelve players stand a half point behind the leader, including Hikaru Nakamura, Nodirbek Abdusattorov and Arjun Erigaisi. Magnus Carlsen and Anish Giri stand on 3½/5 scores — the latter lost to 19-year-old IM Rudik Makarian in round 5. | Photo: Aditya Sur Roy

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Upsets on boards 3 and 6

For the first time in this edition of the Qatar Masters, a player has taken the sole lead at the top of the standings. Narayanan S.L., a 25-year-old Indian grandmaster from Kerala, defeated his compatriot Gukesh D. to go into the one rest day of the competition as the only player with a 4½/5 score.

Narayanan did not shy away from pushing his kingside pawns once Gukesh decided to exchange his light-squared bishop for a knight — i.e. doing what the position called for despite queens being still on the board.

While trying to untangle his position, Gukesh gave up a pawn in a messy middlegame. Giving up his remaining bishop was a mistake by the prodigious 17-year-old.

Gukesh used 3 out of the 4 remaining minutes he had on the clock before playing 36...Bf4, as he rejected the correct 36...Qg4, creating threats that would have led to a dynamic balance.

All minor pieces left the board before the time control, as White kept his extra pawn in the ensuing queen endgame.

Given the complicated nature of queen endgames, both players made inaccuracies in the final stage of the game (according to the engines), but it was Gukesh who made the last mistake with 52...Qh4+. A few moves later, Narayanan found the subtle king move that secured him the full point.

55.Kh3 prevents Black from giving more checks, and allows White to reply to play 56.Qe8 on the next move, winning. A third queen soon appeared on the board.

Gukesh continued fighting until move 58, but to no avail — Narayanan’s king was ready to escape the checks and get protection by the powerful pair of queens.

Dommaraju Gukesh

Gukesh is likely to recover lost ground in the last four rounds of the very demanding open tournament | Photo: Aditya Sur Roy

Meanwhile, on board 6, Anish Giri erred decisively on move 34 while facing 19-year-old Rudik Makarian. A Georgian-born Russian player, Makarian is playing under the FIDE flag in Qatar.

Although White is the one calling the shots in this position, Giri would have kept the balance with natural moves like 34...Qe6 or 34...Rge8 here. His 34...Qa7, on the other hand, allowed White to get a clear advantage with 35.d5 — grabbing the pawn fails to Rc1-c7, while 35...c5, the best move in the position, gives up a pawn.

Makarian’s handling of his advantage was exemplary, as he got to play another good-looking (and winning) pawn push later on.

After 42.d6, Black cannot capture the bishop on f5 due to 43.Qxf5, and saving the black knight would lead to a quick mate.

Giri went for 42...Qa8, and saw his young opponent continuing to find precise manoeuvres until forcing Black’s resignation on move 50.

As pointed out in the post below, another youngster who is having a great run in Qatar is Vaishali Rameshbabu (Pragg’s sister), who beat Shamsiddin Vokhidov and has 4/5 points!

Carlsen’s study-like escape from round 4

Sharing second place a half point behind Narayanan are twelve players, including elite grandmasters Hikaru Nakamura, Nodirbek Abdusattorov and Arjun Erigaisi. Magnus Carlsen, who was defeated by Alisher Suleymenov in round 2, does not belong to this group.

After the upset loss that prompted the organizers to put forth more security measures, Carlsen defeated Al Muthaiah and Bharath Subramaniyam in rounds 3 and 5, and was held to a draw by 17-year-old Pranesh M. in Saturday’s fourth round.

Moreover, only a study-like escape allowed Carlsen to save a half point against Pranesh — as demonstrated by our in-house expert, GM Karsten Müller, below!

Interview with Magnus Carlsen after round 5 (by ChessBase India)

Standings after round 5

Rk. Name Pts.  TB1 
1 Narayanan.S.L, 4,5 13
2 Nakamura, Hikaru 4 2
3 Abdusattorov, Nodirbek 4 5
4 Erigaisi, Arjun 4 6
5 Maghsoodloo, Parham 4 7
6 Sindarov, Javokhir 4 12
7 Yakubboev, Nodirbek 4 19
8 Karthikeyan, Murali 4 20
9 Paravyan, David 4 23
10 Jumabayev, Rinat 4 25
11 Aditya, Mittal 4 30
12 Makarian, Rudik 4 37
13 Vaishali, Rameshbabu 4 75
14 Carlsen, Magnus 3,5 1
15 Gukesh, D 3,5 4
16 Van Foreest, Jorden 3,5 8
17 Aryan, Chopra 3,5 15
18 Salem, A.R. Saleh 3,5 16
19 Puranik, Abhimanyu 3,5 18
20 Vakhidov, Jakhongir 3,5 22

...158 players

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Carlos Colodro is a Hispanic Philologist from Bolivia. He works as a freelance translator and writer since 2012. A lot of his work is done in chess-related texts, as the game is one of his biggest interests, along with literature and music.
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