Some parts of Qatar received up to 25mm of rainfall on Friday's rest day, but that didn't lead to many storms on the top boards when action resumed at the 2015 Qatar Masters Open.

After a draw between GM Wesley So and tournament leader GM Magnus Carlsen on board one, eight players on boards two through five had a chance to erase the margin with the world champion. All failed to do so, with each of the games ending drawn. Of that octet, GM Anish Giri came the closest.

Let's start by looking at the super-GM matchup at the top of the tables. So played Carlsen for the fourth time in 2015, after never having played him before this year began.

A bird's-eye (or should it be "falcon's-eye"?) view of board one. (Photo: David Llada for Qatar Masters Open)

The American held his own in the first two contests before falling victim to a very Carlsen-esque squeeze at the Sinquefield Cup. Today the Berlin airlifted somewhere else -- the now-dominant system against the Ruy Lopez took a backseat in several games to variations of the Closed Spanish.

Once the center pawns traded, the players didn't strive for much and agreed to terms in a level position. On the final move, Carlsen can even trade off his only "weakness" with 39...d5 if he had so desired.


On board three, GM Anish Giri tried to keep perfect his brief career record against GM Surya Ganguly (1-0). He very nearly did so.

If Giri's Berlin became his main weapon in the 2015 Grand Chess Tour, here at the Qatar Masters Open out of his scabbard he's been unsheathing the Najdorf. The world number two has been nearly perfect in the opening, achieving winning positions once as White and twice as Black. Unfortunately for him, his record is not 3-0, as today he ran too low on time to figure out the correct finishing sequence.

GM Anish Giri thinks about his Najdorf. (Photo: Katerina Savina for Qatar Masters Open)

"It's maybe one of the most winning positions that I haven't won in a while," he said. "It's a pity." Giri said these lapses sometimes happen when there are so many winning moves that the tendency to relax afflicts the advantaged player.

"I was completely winning at some point when he also dropped low on time before time control," Giri said. "After he gave check on f6 (move 34), I could go ...Kd8 I think and mated him. Instead I took on f6 thinking I have a forced win, but it wasn't forced, and that was a bit frustrating.

"I was trying to find a win, but I thought, 'He can never draw anyway. Whatever happens I will always win, either fast or slow.' But suddenly he got the queen in and it was really hard to make progress and the clock was ticking."

Giri (left) had to admit he missed the win against GM Surya Ganguly.
(Photo: Katerina Savina for Qatar Masters Open)

Giri said he thought he was winning the ending if his king could scoot to e6 but "somehow I could never get it there."

Analysis by GM Dejan Bojkov:

The Dutchman said he was pleased with the opening and called 19. b4 "desperate" with so many pieces remaining on the board. He added that White was "just completely lost" after 32...Qc7.

The top boards are perpendicular to the others in Doha. (Photo: Alla Oborina for Qatar Masters Open)

A win would have guaranteed a matchup with Carlsen on the top board. As it turns out, that same matchup will happen anyway. The computer program skipped over the two-seed GM Vladimir Kramnik even though he was "due" Black, in favor of Giri who will get his second Black in a row. There are other rules being considered, including "floats" and overall color preference (which is zero for both Kramnik and Giri -- they've each had three of each color).

There is some "justice" for Carlsen's and Giri's recent encounters -- Giri's had the first move in four of their five classical games thus far 2015.

Giri's unbeaten career scorecard against Carlsen will be put to the test once again. A solitary win from a famous blunder is all the separates the two men from an all-draw head-to-head history.

Here's the entire pairing list for round seven.

GM Daniil Dubov is lost in thought in a rook-and-pawn ending. (Photo: David Llada for Qatar Masters Open)

Kramnik and GM Shakhriyar Mamedyarov kept stasis throughout on board two, while GM Dariusz Swiercz's minor pull against GM Sergey Karjakin didn't lead to anything special. The two were both GM before the age of 15, as were the pugilists in the So-Carlsen matchup. Overall, 10 of the 22 youngest grandmasters in history are playing here in Qatar!

An all-Chinese matchup on board five (GMs Li Chao and Yu Yangyi) also resulted in a half-point for each.

Commentator GM Peter Svidler and 'Qatar Hero' IM/WGM Nino Batsiashvili stroll through the desert on their day off.

The status quo on the top five boards allowed more players to join the peloton chasing Carlsen. There are now 13(!) players in that group, all hoping Giri's "solution" to Carlsen will not be challenged tomorrow.

The first win on the pairings list from GM Pentala Harikrishna on board six. GM Vladimir Fedoseev's wayward queen cost him, and even his four pawns weren't enough for a rook.


One spot farther down GM Dmitry Jakovenko also had a cluster of pawns for a piece. The difference? His position was theoretical, and he only offered a minor piece.

His opponent, GM Viktor Bologan, wrote "The Chebanenko Slav According to Viktor Bologan" but that didn't scare off Jakovenko from creating some fresh material! It's not often you get to checkmate an opponent who authored a book on the opening you used against him:

Continuing the sacked piece theme, GM Mateusz Bartel offered one against GM David Howell. This one shouldn't have worked out, and in a way it didn't. Bartel still got his half point after some inaccuracies by Howell, but he had to suffer more than six hours to get it:

Carlsen's preferred football teammate, GM Samy Shoker, also is pretty good at chess!
(Photo: Alla Oborina for Qatar Masters Open)

We'll close with three quick note. First, a young phenom partially made up for a below-average tournament with a well-calculated queen sacrifice that left his opponent completely stifled. Pick your endgame composer: GM Wei Yi's idea could be in a book:


Second, GM Benjamin Bok's tactic ensured his win. We offer it as a puzzle:

Lastly, some fun came of GM Daniel Naroditsky's win. In the final position, the white rook can't go after the queenside pawns due to ...Nf5#!

You think things are rough now? Wait until GM Daniel Naroditsky plays his cute tactic later!
(Photo: David Llada for Qatar Masters Open)

Round seven begins Sunday at 3 p.m. local time (GMT+3). Follow the games live at official website page. More than 100,000 viewers have registered so far across all platforms.

Mike Klein for the official website.

2015 Qatar Masters Open | Standings After Round Six (Top 20)

The full standings can be found here.


Rk. SNo Title Name FED Rtg Pts. TB1 TB2 TB3
1 1 GM Carlsen, Magnus NOR 2834 5 2886 19 20,5
2 4 GM So, Wesley USA 2775 4,5 2872 21 24
3 3 GM Giri, Anish NED 2784 4,5 2863 20,5 23
4 7 GM Mamedyarov, Shakhriyar AZE 2748 4,5 2833 18 20,5
5 2 GM Kramnik, Vladimir RUS 2796 4,5 2825 18,5 21
6 34 GM Swiercz, Dariusz POL 2646 4,5 2810 19,5 22
7 5 GM Karjakin, Sergey RUS 2766 4,5 2808 18 19,5
8 11 GM Yu, Yangyi CHN 2736 4,5 2790 20,5 22,5
9 9 GM Harikrishna, Pentala IND 2743 4,5 2780 17,5 19
10 30 GM Ganguly, Surya Shekhar IND 2648 4,5 2772 18,5 21
11 33 GM Sjugirov, Sanan RUS 2646 4,5 2750 19 21
12 17 GM Ponomariov, Ruslan UKR 2710 4,5 2748 16,5 19,5
13 10 GM Jakovenko, Dmitry RUS 2737 4,5 2748 15 17
14 18 GM Ni, Hua CHN 2693 4,5 2746 16,5 19
15 6 GM Li, Chao CHN 2750 4 2809 20,5 23,5
16 79 Xu, Yinglun CHN 2470 4 2796 19,5 22,5
17 102 IM Vignesh, N R IND 2422 4 2789 18,5 21,5
18 66 IM Yuffa, Daniil RUS 2504 4 2738 19 21
19 15 GM Korobov, Anton UKR 2713 4 2710 18 20,5
20 21 GM Matlakov, Maxim RUS 2684 4 2701 18 20