It's not quite "Groundhog Day" yet in Doha, but we're getting closer. Today followed yesterday's opening script to some degree. Another underdog drew as Black on board one, although this time around the degree of upset was much more minor.

Out of the 132-players in the field, merely nine remain perfect after two days in the 2015 Qatar Masters Open.

GM Vladimir Kramnik actually drew two grandmasters today. How is that possible? His opponent, Polish GM Kacper Piorun, is also a grandmaster of chess puzzle solving (Poland has "Soviet-style dominance" in the team competition, having won the last seven world team titles). In fact Piorun won the world individual title in 2011, meaning that he became a GM in puzzle solving before over-the-board chess.

GM Vladimir Kramnik trying to solve the "puzzle" that was GM Kacper Piorun.

(Photo: Katerina Savina for Qatar Masters Open)

The battle of former world champions didn't require any knowledge of compositions. Piorun traded a pawn deficit for a better bishop and ably held the ending, knocking another leader from the perch of undefeateds. For Kramnik, his start is still better than last year, where he endured two draws to open play.


Also unable to move to 2.0/2 was fifth-seed GM Sergey Karjakin, who needed his opponent's oversight to even get the half point. GM A.R. Saleh Salem from nearby U.A.E. could have ripped open Black with a timely knight sac, but the Emirati missed the move twice on consecutive turns.

After a series of further inaccuracies his advantage disappeared altogether. The players shook hands in nearly the exact same ending that GM Magnus Carlsen gave up in the fight in round one -- knight and wing pawn versus knight and other wing pawn.

Carlsen was gone from top boards but not forgotten. Way back on board 23 he took Black against someone even lower rated than in round one -- GM Aravindh Chithambaram.

Amazingly, the two had played before, and the youngster earned a draw! There's a catch of course -- the game was a simul. In this article Aravindh was quoted as saying he "didn't want to beat his idol" but today we can assume that was not the case.

The young Indian prodigy tries to keep up his strong lifetime score against the world champ. (Photo: Alla Oborina for Qatar Masters Open)

After a suspicious opening by White, Carlsen gave back his advantage and needed his opponent's time mismanagement to earn the win. It could be argued though that 2. b3 is "mainstream" as this grandmaster pointed out:

"Aravindh is the guy that played the infamous 1.Nf3 Nf6 2.Rg1.Now he plays some shady b3 Sicilian against the WC and tanks for 30min at move4"

Cristian Chirila (@CristianChirila)

Aravindh was below one minute and playing mostly on increment after move 26. He didn't make all 14 required moves before the secondary time control. He erred on move 35 and then three moves shy of the 30-minute bonus the Indian overstepped the time limit.


After the game, Carlsen had no qualms about playing off camera and on board 23.

"You get what you deserve," he said. Carlsen added that it was equally "weird" to have board one reserved for him at all times at the World Blitz and Rapid in Berlin earlier this year, despite suffering several losses in blitz.

Now that he's a world champion and an action hero, Carlsen is playing his first open tournament in nearly a decade. "It's a different kind of challenge," he said. "So far it's not going so smooth...If you do well the opposition will be pretty relevant later on."

He's previously been to the Middle East to play chess, although his 2014 training session in Oman is looking especially relaxing after his opening two games. What does he like best about the Arabian peninsula? "It's hot!" Carlsen responded, but said that Norway is not too bad this time of the year (today's high was 75F in Doha, 47F in Oslo).

Tournament Director and four-time Arab Champion GM Mohamed Al-Modiahki (right).

(Photo: Katerina Savina for Qatar Masters Open)

Readers who play open tournaments often and who have knowledge of the Swiss System already know that with an odd number of players in the top score group, the lowest-rated will play Carlsen, who is the high player on 1.5/2. That overperformer would be IM Daniil Yuffa, who created one of the big upsets of the second day.

Today the teenage Yuffa beat GM Viktor Bologan, a player 25 years his senior who was 2730 a few years ago. Bologan also has some local ties -- he spends much time here coaching local players and the Qatari National Team.


Commentator GM Peter Svidler was impressed at how seamlessly the youngster's pieces "flowed" on the board.

"I just played normally, didn't play any surprising moves," Yuffa said. When told Carlsen would be his opponent tomorrow, Yuffa didn't mind. "That's why I'm here," he said.

GM Anish Giri, only a few years older than Yuffa, said he grew up playing in some of the same junior events as him. Giri said he was surprised Yuffa is not a grandmaster yet.

"I want to become a grandmaster as soon as possible," Yuffa said. "This is a game I would say was played by a grandmaster," Svidler replied.

IM Daniil Yuffa (right) got high praise from GM Peter Svidler as they analyzed together.

Giri now has the bullseye on his king as the new highest-rated perfect score. He outlasted a pawn storm today to beat Swedish GM Nils Grandelius (the "Groundhog Day" repetition of upsets ends tomorrow, as regardless of the result against GM Radoslaw Wojtaszek, it's the first all-Super-GM matchup of the tournament).

The Dutch world number three admitted he didn't know all the intricacies of his Najdorf today.

"It doesn't come naturally to me, this stuff," he said. "I was thinking, 'I don't know what to do here, and he probably does, so I'll play something second rate here!'"


Grandelius thought for a while before allowing the pretty finishing tactic, but not the mate itself. Giri guessed it was intentional, as sometimes players allow the sporting and aesthetic elements of chess to shine (although not fully in this case!).

Svidler didn't have to think long for another example of this. He actually allowed a checkmate on board earlier this year in the Russian Superfinal, to another man who's playing in Doha, GM Denis Khismatullin.

The only other top-five tournament seed to move to 2-0 was American GM Wesley So, who went through countryman GM Daniel Naroditsky to get there. He's now 3-0 lifetime against the Stanford University freshman, who played a Dutch Stonewall structure despite never having played the Dutch in his life.

GM Daniel Naroditsky ponders the personal enigma that is GM Wesley So. (Photo: David Llada for Qatar Masters Open)

In round one two unheralded Chinese juniors stole the show, but in round two their usual leaders showed they are on form too. GM Li Chao, the top Chinese player, beat former World Junior Champion GM Alexander Ipatov to also get to 2-0. Inaugural Qatar Masters Champion GM Yu Yangyi is on pace for a possible title defense as he beat last week's FIDE Open winner GM Benjamin Bok.

The others with two wins not mentioned yet include GMs David Howell, S.P. Sethuraman, and Dariusz Swiercz.

Other odds and ends from day two:

  • Qatari number one active player GM Mohammed AL-Sayed drew the higher-rated GM Maxim Matlakov; both are on 1.5/2.
  • Yesterday's storyline, IM Nino Batsiashvili, again played up several hundred points. She lost as White to GM Pentala Harikrishna after 1. d4 Nc6?!
  • The world's highest-rated player under 12, FM Nodirbek Abdusattorov, drew another 2600 today (GM Ngoc Truong Son Nguyen).

Finally, today was a great day for the wandering king. Actually, both of the fleeing monarchs were lost at some point, but both players ran back to safety and earned a draw.

First there was GM Vladimir Fedoseev whose white king reached d4 with queens still on the board, then backed up, then advanced to a6! He lived to tell the tale against future St. Louis University Billiken IM Cemil Can Ali Marandi, who will be a part of that school's first-ever chess team.

Turkish IM Cemil Can Ali Marandi will have to learn what a Billiken is. (Photo: David Llada for Qatar Masters Open)

Then there was GM Daniil Dubov, who "only" chased Black's king to the sixth rank but failed to cash in despite four long-range pieces coordinating the attack.

Standings After Round Two (Top 20)

Rk. SNo Name Rtg Pts.
1 4 GM So Wesley 2775 2.0
3 GM Giri Anish 2784 2.0
11 GM Yu Yangyi 2736 2.0
14 GM Wojtaszek Radoslaw 2723 2.0
66 IM Yuffa Daniil 2504 2.0
6 GM Li Chao 2750 2.0
20 GM Howell David 2688 2.0
34 GM Swiercz Dariusz 2646 2.0
37 GM Sethuraman S.P. 2639 2.0
10 7 GM Mamedyarov Shakhriyar 2748 1.5
15 GM Korobov Anton 2713 1.5
17 GM Ponomariov Ruslan 2710 1.5
21 GM Matlakov Maxim 2684 1.5
26 GM Dubov Daniil 2655 1.5
35 GM Vidit Santosh Gujrathi 2644 1.5
39 GM Piorun Kacper 2637 1.5
43 GM Salem A.R. Saleh 2622 1.5
78 IM Gagare Shardul 2470 1.5
79 Xu Yinglun 2470 1.5
(29 Other Players) 1.5

(Full standings can be found here)