The first round of any big open tournament usually goes on as per one scenario used for many years: favorites beat outsiders and this monotonous scenery is slightly tempered by draws. Of course sometimes Grandmasters misfire at the start, but rarely, very rarely… Qatar Masters Open has different picture: this open tournament is special as there is no chess amateurs here and just a little of participants without international titles.

The World Champion himself heads the list, and he played against the World Women's Team Champion in the first round. And here we have the first sensation.


Carlsen, Magnus (2834) – Batsiashvili, Nino (2498) [A07]

Qatar Masters Open 2015 Doha QAT (1.1), 20.12.2015


1.Nf3 d5 2.g3 Nf6 3.Bg2 c5 4.c4 d4 5.b4 cxb4 6.a3 b3 7.Qxb3 Nc6 8.0–0 e5 9.e3 Be7 10.exd4 exd4 11.Bb2 0–0 12.Re1 Re8 13.a4 Na5 14.Qd3 Be6 15.Na3

The opening line which was chosen by the World Champion can be named as "Benco Gambit in the first hand". The Georgian chess player declined a pawn sacrifice and had got a comparatively good playing position. But later on she was too quick with further simplifying.


After having provided an advantage of two bishops to Carlsen, Batsiashvili invited herself for a long boring defence. The next part of the game Norwegian played like a clockwork.

16.Bxa3 Bxc4 17.Qxd4!

Magnus is never confused by exchanges - he is brilliant in endgames, always managing to find slightest chances.

17…Qxd4 18.Nxd4 Bd5 19.Rxe8+ Rxe8 20.Rc1 b6 21.Bf1 Bb7


Using the weakening of black squares (as a result of an exchange on a3), Carlsen moved his knight on d6 where the latter would become a pain in the neck in the opponent's camp.

22…Rd8 23.d4 Nd5 24.Bg2 g6 25.Nd6 Ba8



An important moment: why not now or the next move the Champion did not play 26.Rc8, to win a pawn? Most probably he was confused by the line 26…Rxc8 27.Nxc8 Bb7 28.Nxa7 Nc3 29.Bxb7 Nxb7 30.Nb5 Nxb5! (not good position 30...Nxa4 31.Kf1 - a black knight cannot get out from a4, white king would just take it) 31.axb5 Kg7 32.Kf1 Kf6 33.Ke2 Ke6 34.Kd3 Kd5. 

Most probably that this was a fortress. 

Carlsen found another way, obviously a stronger one: white could manage to win pawns and save rooks on board. 

26...h5 27.Re1

And here the 27.Rc8 was also possible, almost with the same consequences which were analysed before.

27...Bc6 28.Re5 Nf6 29.Rxa5! Bxg2 30.Rxa7 Bd5 31.Ra6 Nd7

White has a dream position: a pawn up, active pieces, whereas an opponent's strength is concentrated on its weaknesses, a rook cannot leave the eighth line... But no sooner the World Champion lost his concentration - the picture on board has sharply changed. One should keep an eye open with Georgian girls!


To start with, King should be moved to the center - 32.Kf1, and only after that one should seek a chance for a decisive attack.


Perhaps it seemed to Carlsen that this move is impossible because of c7, but there is a threat of a checkmate in two. White had to start defending.

33.Bb4 Re2 34.Ra7 Nf6 35.Kf1


More of the problem to white was the move 35...Bf3!, which was limiting an opponent’s King. Now it's bad to move 36.Re7? because of 36…Ne4 37.Be1 Nxg3+, that is why one has to trick: 36.Rc7! 36...Ng4 (the following 36...Ne4 37.Be1) 37.Re7 Rxf2+ 38.Ke1 doesn’t give anything good, and white managed to save it’s King from a dangerous zone.

36.Bc3 Rc2 37.Rc7 Ng4 38.Ke1!

White King successfully escaped from an attack.

38…Rxf2 39.Rc8+ Kh7 40.Rd8 Bf3 41.Re8 f6 42.Re7+ Kg8 43.Re8+ Kh7 44.Re7+ Kg8


And here it is -  a famous will to win of Magnus. He blundered big time, luckily escaped from a danger, but he wouldn't want a draw by repetition of the moves, trying to find any possibility to continue a fight.

45…Rg2 46.Bf4 g5

But this time he would not have enough resources, material was inevitably disappearing.

47.hxg5 fxg5 48.Bxg5 Rxg3 49.Nc3 Bc6 50.Kd2 Rg2+ 51.Re2 Nf2

Both 51...Kf7 and 51...Rxe2+ were good as well.

Photo: Katerina Savina

In case of 52.Bd8 Ne4+ 53.Nxe4 Bxe4 54.Bxb6 Kf7 white has a pawn up, but there is dead draw on the board: rooks are exchanged, black king moves on a8 and bishop can be given for d pawn.

52...Bxd5 53.Nxd5 Ne4+ 54.Ke3 Rxe2+ 55.Kxe2 Nxg5 56.Nxb6 Ne6 57.a5 Nc7

A draw as a result of no strength left. A very tense game, both opponents put a lot of energy and fantasy to it.

Gagare, Shardul (2470) – Wei Yi (2730) [E10]

Qatar Masters Open 2015 Doha QAT (1.12), 20.12.2015

The Chinese wunderkind tried as Carlsen to sacrifice a “b” pawn in the opening and that is why he chose the Blumenfeld Gambit. Though his opponent from India (who is just two years older than him, not an oldie as well) declined a sacrifice and got quite a comfortable position of the blockade type. According to the computer’s estimation, the position was quite equal. Though white has more pleasant position, having a space advantage. White becomes stronger and finds way to breakthrough. Whereas black bishops have no room to develop.


It was in vain to move a knight to a better square. Better 24...Bh6 25.Bc2 Qe7 and patiently wait what white would plan.

Shardul Gagare (India)

Photo: Alla Oborina

25.Na7 Rc7 26.Nc6 Bh6 27.Qf2 Bc8 28.Kh1 Qg7 29.Qg3 Bb7 30.Nxa5

It is always pleasant to say in these cases that white won a pawn, securing all the advantages of its position.

30…Ba8 31.Bf3 Kh8 32.Bg2 Qd4 33.Rd1 Qa7

A peculiar zigzag of luck of a black queen would let Chinese fellow to win back a pawn. But he blunders the classical center attack. 

34.Nc6 Bxc6 35.dxc6 Rxc6



A typical breakthrough, after that the black position became worse.

36…Ra6 37.exd6 Re3 38.Qf2

Probably the Indian chess player decided to exchange the queens

Вероятно, индийский шахматист решил разменять ферзей regard to a famous tactical talent of his opponent. On the opposite he could have organised an attack: 38.Qh4! Rxb3 39.Qd8+ Kh7 40.f5!, and black is worse, for instance: 40…Rxa4 41.fxg6+ fxg6 42.Rf7+ Bg7 43.Qe7 with a win.


38...Rxb3 39.Qxa7 Rxa7 40.Bc6 Nb8 41.Bb5 Ra3 42.Rfe1 Kg7 43.Re8 Rb7




It is enough to win, though it is more energetic 44.f5 gxf5 (even 44...Rxb5 45.f6+! Kxf6 46.cxb5 Nd7 47.Re7) 45.Rg1+ Kf6 46.Nc5 doesn’t save. Perhaps 44.Nc5, though after 44…Rb6 45.d7 Nxd7 46.Nxd7 Re6 47.Rxe6 fxe6 white has technical difficulties.  

44...Rxb5 45.cxb5 Rxa4 46.Rb7 Ra8 47.d7 Nxd7 48.Rbxd7 Rb8 49.R7d5 Kf6 50.R1d4 Bf8 51.Rd8 Bc5 52.Rxb8 Bxd4 53.Rd8


Black resigned though at that moment it had an interesting psychological trap. One could have blundered a Bishop 53...Bb6 and then 54.Rd6+ to move a king - 54...Ke7 and just wait. The thing is that after 55.Rxb6 b3! Rook has no “lift” to jump on the first horizontal line: “a” and “c” are not good, and there is no possibility to reach “d” – black king is on the way: in this way the game would have finished with the perpetual check.

It is obvious that Gagare did not have to fall into a trap after an accurate 54.Rc8 white should have led it to a victory, though there were still some nabs left.



Vitiugov, Nikita (2724) – Xu Yinglun (2470) [B90]

Qatar Masters Open 2015 Doha QAT (1.13), 20.12.2015


One of the leading Russian Grandmasters lost with white to less famous so far Chinese chess player. Nikita had played an unsuccessful opening and on move 20 black had conducted a thematic center attack.

20...d5! 21.Rxf6


Sacrificing an advantage, white was trying to retrieve an escaping initiative, but the only thing it managed to do – to bring back the material balance.

21…Bxf6 22.exd5 Bg4 23.Nde4 Be7 24.Bxg4 Qxg4 25.Qxg4 Nxg4 26.d6 Bf8

Stronger than 26...f5 27.dxe7 fxe4 28.h3, and white is close to equality.


The following 27.Rd1 Rad8 28.d7 Re7 29.Nc5 was worth to pay attention – white did not play an exchange yet, but their pieces were active.


Tournament Arbiter Carlos Dias watching the game Vitiugov - Xu Yinglun

Photo: Alla Oborina

27...f5! 28.d7 Red8 29.Bxd8 Rxd8 30.Nd2 Bb4

Better also 30...Ne3. Chinese chess player acts very pragmatically – he demolishes the pawn structure of his opponent.

31.Nc4 Bxc3 32.bxc3 Rxd7 33.Re1 Nf2+ 34.Kg1 Ne4 35.Ne3 g6 36.c4 Nc3  


Vitiugov gives up a pawn, hoping for a draw tendency of a rook endgame. But his hope did not come true – Chinese Grandmaster played a very technical endgame.  

37…Nxd5 38.cxd5 Rxd5 39.Re8+ Kf7 40.Rh8 Kg7 41.Rb8 Rd7 42.Kf2 Rc7 43.Ke3 Rxc2 44.Rxb7+ Kh6 45.Kf3 Rc3+ 46.Kf4 Ra3 47.g3 Rxa5 48.h4 Ra3 49.Ra7 a5 50.Rb7 Ra1 51.Kf3 a4 52.Ra7 a3 53.Kg2 a2 54.Kh2


To win a game, black should have found a second pass pawn, where “g” and “h” pawns on “f” line were not good in this situation.

55.Ra6+ Kh5 56.hxg5 Kxg5 57.Ra7 h5 58.Ra4 h4! 59.gxh4+ Kh5 60.Kh3 Rh1+ White resigned.



Giri, Anish (2784) - Sunilduth Lyna, Narayanan (2494) [A28]

Qatar Masters Open 2015 Doha QAT (1.3), 20.12.2015


Intriguing things happened in the game of one of the rating favorites.


22...Nxf2! 23.Bxh7+ Kg7 24.0–0!

You cannot take a knight, but you can make a castle, rook is under attack.


Not this way! After 24...Ng4! 25.Rf3 Nxe3 26.Bxf6+ Qxf6 27.Rg3+ Kh6 28.Rh3+ a game could have finished in a draw with a perpetual check. But now Anish is regrouping to make a decisive attack.  

25.Bxd3 Qxe3+ 26.Kh1 Rxd3 27.Rxf6 Kg8 28.Rcf1 Qe2 29.Qc4 Rd7


30.Rg6+! Black resigned because of 30..Kh7 31.Qh4+ Kxg6 32.Rf6+ Kg7 33.Rh6+



R. Vaishali (2313) - Al-Sayed, Mohammed (2520) [B12]

Qatar Masters Open 2015 Doha QAT (1.62), 20.12.2015


A confident victory was gained by one of the leading chess players of Qatar. His opponent, having lost an opening battle, was trying to start the combinational complications. Though Al Sayed reflected all threats and then showed that he is also good at making the combinations himself.


Knight is fighting but it doesn’t want to step back.

24...Qd7! 25.Qxd7 Nxd7 26.Bxd3 Rxf3! 27.gxf3 Ne5 28.Be4

This is what was better to play, for 28.Rc3 Nxf3+ was even worse.

28...Nxc6 29.Bxc6 Rd8 30.Ne4 Bxa2 31.Be3 Bd5 32.Ba4 Bxe4 33.fxe4 Bd4 34.Bc1 Rf8 35.Kg2 Rxf2+ 36.Kg3 Ra2 37.Bd7


37...Rc2! To cap the misery, a bishop was trapped. White resigned.


 IM Barsky Vladimir for Qatar Masters Open 2015