Qatar Masters: Karthikeyan stuns Carlsen, joins the lead

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
10/19/2023 – Karthikeyan Murali became the third Indian player to ever beat Magnus Carlsen in a classical chess game, as he defeated the former world champion with the black pieces in round 7 of the Qatar Masters. Thanks to the upset win, Karthikeyan joined a 6-player leading pack with two rounds to go in Doha. Smilarly, David Paravyan became a co-leader by beating one of the rating favourites, as he got the better of Dommaraju Gukesh on board 5. | Photo: Aditya Sur Roy

ChessBase 17 - Mega package - Edition 2024 ChessBase 17 - Mega package - Edition 2024

It is the program of choice for anyone who loves the game and wants to know more about it. Start your personal success story with ChessBase and enjoy the game even more.


The third Indian to beat Carlsen in a slow game

After losing to 2512-rated Alisher Suleymenov in round 2, Magnus Carlsen conceded a second defeat to a much lower-rated player at the Qatar Masters in Doha.

This time around, it was 24-year-old Karthikeyan Murali (rated 2611) who got the better of the Norwegian. Karthikeyan brilliantly took advantage of a middlegame mistake by Carlsen, who played an overly ambitious move while looking for winning chances.

Karthikeyan, who was born in Thanjavur, is a 2-time Indian champion, as he got back-to-back titles in 2015 and 2016. Remarkably, he is now only the third Indian player to ever beat Carlsen in a classical game. Pentala Harikrishna had defeated a 14-year-old Carlsen at the 2005 Lausanne Young Masters tournament, while, of course, the other Indian player to have obtained victories over the strongest player of this era is Vishwanatan Anand.

Out of a sharp Ruy Lopez, Karthikeyan emerged a pawn up in a position with kings castled on opposite sides. Carlsen had plenty of compensation, though, as his pieces were quite active, and he had both the bishop pair and a safer king. On move 23, however, the world number one faltered by entering a forced sequence that only helped his opponent.

Carlsen had a big advantage on the clock when he erred with 23.Bxh6. However, finding the refutation was not trivial, especially while facing such a giant of the game — not to mention the fact that Karthikeyan had less than five minutes on the clock.

The Indian did find 23...Rxe4, though, and entered a position with two minor pieces for a rook after 24.Rxe4 gxh6 24.Ree1.

(In the diagrammed position above, correct is 23.Nxf6 Nxf6, and White can choose to either trade the queens with 24.Qxc6+ or gain space in the centre with 24.d5. In both cases, the strategic battle would continue with even chances for the two contenders.)

Once it became clear that Black had the upper hand, Karthikeyan kept his head cool and slowly increased his advantage with further simplifications.

In the final position, White has passers on both sides of the board, but he is also forced to give up material if he wants to prevent a quick mate with rook, bishop and knight.

Black is attacking the rook on h6 while also threatening to play ...Nc5-d3. Also, 46.Rh7+ does not really gain a tempo, since 46...Kc6 attacks the other rook. Carlsen resigned.

Here's the summary of the game by Sagar Shah of ChessBase India 

Carlsen’s loss was not the only surprise seen on the top 10 boards in round 7.

  • David Paravyan (2599) beat Gukesh (2758) with the white pieces. An out-of-form Gukesh had already drawn with Mohammad Nubairshah Shaikh (2432) and lost to Narayanan S.L. (2651) in previous rounds.
  • Aleksandr Shimanov (2566) beat Vladimir Fedoseev (2699), also with white. Fedoseev had lost twice in a row in the first two rounds, before bouncing back with four consecutive wins.
  • Gregory Kaidanov (2554) beat Jorden van Foreest (2707), also with white. The experienced grandmaster is set to face Magnus Carlsen in Thursday’s penultimate round.

Kaidanov’s was a crushing, 31-move win which featured a well-known bishop sacrifice!

For chess enthusiasts and club players all over the world, it is nice to see strong grandmasters making opening mistakes occasionally — Van Foreest’s 15...Bxg5 (15...Qd8 or 15...Re8 were called for) loses to the familiar 16.Bxh7+ sacrifice.

After 16...Kxh7 17.Nxg5+ Black is forced to play 17...Kg6, and well-known club-level patterns begin to appear: i.e. 18.Qg4 f5 19.Qg3

Likely frustrated at what had just happened, Van Foreest continued with 19...Qxd4, when 19...c5 offered more resistance. Kaidanov, in turn, began the winning onslaught with 20.Ne4+ Kh7 21.Qh4+ Kg6 22.Qg5+

Moreover, after 22...Kf7 Kaidanov found the accurate 23.Rad1 Qxe4 24.Rxd7+ and went on to secure the win seven moves later.

Gregory Kaidanov

Gregory Kaidanov during this year’s U.S. Senior Championship | Photo: Lennart Ootes / Saint Louis Chess Club

While both Karthikeyan and Paravyan joined a 6-player leading group, Kaidanov and Shimanov now belong to a large chasing pack which also includes the likes of Hikaru Nakamura, Anish Giri and Nodirbek Abdusattorov.

Nakamura, by the way, signed a 30-move draw in his game with black against Parham Maghsoodloo. The first confrontation of the tournament featuring two 2700+ players was by no means a ‘grandmaster draw’, however, as both contenders left their kings in the centre and went for sharp continuations while trying to provoke a mistake by their opponent.

In this wild position, engines give 19.0-0-0 as best for White. However, we cannot blame Maghsoodloo for playing the also sharp 19.d6. Nakamura then found 19...Bxd6 20.f6 Be5 to keep the dynamic balance!

Carlsen and Nakamura, who are assigned to fixed boards (1 and 2 respectively), will both play white on Thursday. As mentioned above, Carlsen will face Kaidanov, while Nakamura will play Pranav Venkatesh, who comes from helping Carlsen’s Offerspill to win the European Club Cup in Dürres, Albania.

Standings after round 7

Rk. Name Pts.  TB1 
1 Narayanan.S.L, 5,5 0
2 Sindarov, Javokhir 5,5 0
3 Erigaisi, Arjun 5,5 0
4 Paravyan, David 5,5 0
5 Karthikeyan, Murali 5,5 0
6 Yakubboev, Nodirbek 5,5 0
7 Nakamura, Hikaru 5 0
8 Maghsoodloo, Parham 5 0
9 Giri, Anish 5 0
10 Abdusattorov, Nodirbek 5 0
11 Shimanov, Aleksandr 5 0
12 Vakhidov, Jakhongir 5 0
13 Kaidanov, Gregory 5 0
14 Sethuraman, S.P. 5 0
15 Oparin, Grigoriy 5 0
Puranik, Abhimanyu 5 0
17 Pranav, V 5 0
18 Zou, Chen 4,5 0
19 Vaishali, Rameshbabu 4,5 0
20 Jumabayev, Rinat 4,5 0

...158 players

All available games


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.