There are few open tournaments where the chances to score GM or IM norms are better than in the Qatar Masters Open. Last year, a total of 13 players scored norms in the event.
There are certainly good chances that this number will be exceeded this year.
With an unbelievably strong field and a total of 71 Grandmasters and 36 International Masters, it means there will not be the common problem of facing an insufficient amount of titled opponents or too an average opposition that is too low. In any case, the job still has to be done on the board!
After seven rounds in this year’s event, we have several players who have already made the impressive achievement of scoring a norm two rounds to go provided they get a strong enough opponent in the final round.
Let’s take a look at them.
Looking at the list of candidates, it seems clear that Indians are doing something right. That is perhaps not so surprising, knowing they are the largest group taking part with 28 players in total.
But one of the most impressive performances of this year’s Qatar Masters Open, comes from China. Xu Yinglun (2470) is currently 6th in the tournament scoring a fantastic 5 points. His average opposition is as high as 2670, exactly 200 points higher than his own rating.
After beating strong players such as GM Nikita Vitiugov (2724) in round 1, the 19-year-old has now scored an unbelievable 3,26 points higher than expected. That clearly secures him a GM norm, regardless of how he performs in the last two rounds.
Another relatively unknown player that has caught everyone’s attention in Qatar, is 17-year-old IM N. R. Vignesh (2422). Beating Mateusz Bartel and Wei Yi on the way, the Indian has scored 4 points facing an opposition average of 2666.
Vignesh may have secured a GM norm already, regardless of his result in the final two rounds, but needs to face a player rated higher than 2450. If not, he would need at least half a point in either of the two rounds.
Among other strong candidates are 18-year-old Russian IM Daniil Yuffa, who despite losing to World Champion Magnus Carlsen, is very close to score a GM norm and Indian IM Shardul Gagare, who beat Wei Yi in the first round.
Young and strong teenagers
While the untitled Xu Yinglun apparently intends to “do a Kramnik” and go directly for the GM title, the list of players chasing the IM title is long. I am not going to go into detail with them all, but what they have in common is that they are all very young.
Untitled Indian Harshit Raja is 14 years old and has already secured an IM norm beating IM Rasmus Svane and GM Natalia Zhukova on the way.
Another one is Alireza Firouzja of Iran, 12 years old, who is also guaranteed an IM norm regardless of result in the final two rounds scoring 3,5 points. His most notable result was his 1st round win against GM Pavel Tregubov.
Roy Prantik is not a teen, but clearly a strong player, also scoring 3,5 points with a rating performance of above 2500 so far. He likely needs at least half a point to be sure to secure a norm.
15-year-old Zhansaya Abdumalik of Kazakhstan has beaten one Grandmaster and one International Master so far and will be rewarded by an IM norm regardless of her result in the final two rounds. The super-talented girl may even have the chance for a GM norm if she manages to win both her two final games.
Last, but not the least, this is surely a name that you will need to learn how to spell before it’s too late. Nodirbek Abdusattorov of Uzbekistan, only 11 years old, but already rated 2429 meaning he tops the world’s ranking list of players under 13 years old.
It is unknown whether the kid has any norms from before, but with 3 points he may be well on his way to get one here provided he scores at least a draw in the last two rounds.
Unofficial list of GM norm candidates:
Disclaimer: The information below is not complete and has not been verified for errors. Therefore, it should not be taken as final. If you want a verification of your norm chances, please contact an arbiter directly.
Xu Yinglun (CHN 2470): 5 points.
GM norm already secured.
IM Chen Lin (CHN 2532): 5 points.
Needs 0,5 out of 2 provided his opponent in round 9 is rated higher than 2403. If not, 1 out of 2 is required.
IM N. R. Vignesh (IND 2422): 4 points.
Norm already secured provided his final round opponent is rated at least 2450. If not, 0,5 out of 2 is required.
IM Daniil Yuffa (RUS 2504): 4 points.
Needs 0,5/2, unless he in the unlikely case faces someone below 2337 in round 9, when 1 out of 2 is needed.
FM Di Li (CHN 2389): 4 points.
Needs 1 out of 2, provided his opponent in round 9 is higher than 2586.
IM Moulthun Ly (AUS 2462): 4 points.
Needs 1,5 out of 2, provided his opponent in round 9 is higher than 2545. If not, 2 out of 2 is required.
IM Shardul Gagare (IND 2470): 3,5 points.
Needs 0,5 out of 2, provided his opponent in round 9 is rated higher than 2460. If not, 1 out of 2 is required.
Harshit Raja (IND 2325): 3,5 points
Likely needs 2 out of 2, unless the opponent in the final round is rated higher than 2599, in which only 1,5 is enough.
FM Ahuja Rojan (IND 2426): 3,5 points
Likely needs 2 out of 2, unless his opponent in round 9 is rated higher than 2610 in which 1,5 2 is enough.
IM Eesha Karavade (IND 2379): 3,5 points
Likely needs 2 out of 2, unless her opponent in round 9 is rated higher than 2635, in which 1,5 out of 2 is enough.
Alireza Firouzja (IRI 2372): 3,5 points
Likely needs 2 out of 2, unless the opponent in round 9 is rated higher than 2675, in which 1,5 out of 2 is enough.
Remaining players on 3,5 not listed are likely to need 2 out of 2 in order to score a norm.