The Best Chess Of 2014

The Best Chess Of 2014

| 26 | Fun & Trivia

As 2014 draws to a close, it’s a natural time to look back at the best chess of the year.

The past year was a good one for fans of the world’s most popular board game. There was an exciting world championship match, several amazing tournaments, and substantial advancements in computer chess.

Magnus Carlsen played a simul on, beating the actor who played Dwight in The Office in a brutal miniature.

Fabiano Caruana brought back memories of Bobby Fischer with an incredible win streak this summer.

Hikaru Nakamura became a cyborg to play Stockfish.

And 2015 will start off strongly, too. On January 3, Nakamura will face GM Wesley So in the biggest Death Match ever.

But back to 2014. Now that the year is at an end, let’s recognize some superlative chess from the last 12 months.

Let us know your own chess awards in the comments and on Facebook.

Up-and-Coming Player of the Year

Winner: Yu Yangyi

image via wikipedia

What a year it's been for the 20-year-old Chinese grandmaster Yu Yangyi. Early in 2014, Yu won both the Chinese and Asian championships.  In September, he cracked the 2700-club for his FIDE rating.

To wrap up the year, Yu won the super-strong Qatar Masters, beating both Kramnik and Giri. Yu was seeded 13th but scored an impressive 7.5/9 for clear first. 

Yu also won the individual gold on his board for the gold-winning Chinese team at the 2014 Olympiad.

Keep an eye on this newly minted super GM as a major threat for years to come.

Honorable mention: Aravindh Chithambaram

image via drinksbreak

This 15-year-old Indian prodigy earned his grandmaster title at the just-concluded under-16 World Youth Olympiad, and received a nice congratulations from India's all-time best, Vishy Anand:

Opening of the Year

Winner: Berlin Defense

Denounced as boring by some, and fiercely defended by others, the Berlin Defense is nothing if not controversial.

While the opening was played throughout the year at super grandmaster tournaments around the world, the Berlin Defense was on its biggest stage at the 2014 World Championship.

In round two, Carlsen and Anand avoided the immediate Berlin endgame, and Magnus Carlsen came out on top to score his first win of the match:

Anand used the Berlin Defense in rounds seven and nine to secure draws with Black.

In round 11, the players did opt for the early Berlin Wall endgame. But Carlsen won the game anyway, clinching the championship. 

Honorable mention: Larsen’s Opening (1. b3)

This opening was described by CM Peter Doggers as "one of the most popular ways to avoid theory these days." 

FM Mike Klein calls it “all the rage.”

Here's a nice win by Nakamura in the 2014 Chess Olympiad with the  Nimzo-Larsen Attack:

Chess Engine of the Year

Winner: Komodo 8

A computer program couldn't ask for a better year than 2014 for Komodo 8. The engine now tops the "big three" computer ratings lists: the CCRL, the IPON, and the CEGT.

Earlier this month, Komodo won its biggest achievement of the year: first place in one of the strongest computer tournaments in the world, the TCEC. 

Komodo won the seventh season of the TCEC by defeating its main rival, Stockfish 5, in the superfinal by a score of 33.5-30.5.

One of Komodo’s biggest strengths is the ability to find winning chances in positions where other engines would give up.

"In positions that most engines would likely struggle or find it impossible to make progress, Komodo quietly prepares a break and ends up with the victory,” said the late Komodo author Don Dailey.

Honorable mention: Stockfish 5

Stockfish 5 is just barely behind Komodo in playing strength, but it's still by far the best bang for your buck with its $0 price tag. 

It also won the unbelievable game featured in the next award.   

Craziest Game of the Year

Winner: Stockfish vs. Jonny (TCEC Season 7)

This game is full of high-level tactical maneuvering beyond the understanding of mere humans.

Honorable mention: Tiger Hillarp Persson vs Jonny Hector (Denmark 2014)

Just play through the moves to see the insanity!

Move of the Year

Winner: 27...Rb4 (Vishy Anand, 2014 World Championship, game 11)

The most important chess move of the year has to be this ill-fated exchange sacrifice by Anand, which eventually sealed Magnus Carlsen's world title defense.

Although the move was objectively a blunder, Rb4 was a courageous try by the Indian GM to keep his world title hopes alive.   

Honorable mention: 26. Kd2 (Magnus Carlsen, 2014 World Championship, game 6)

Another blunder in the world championship match is also worth mentioning. 

When Carlsen played 26. Kd2, players following the game across the globe assumed it had been a transmission error. How could the world champion play such an obvious mistake, allowing 26...Nxe5, which wins instantly?

To compound the shock, Anand also missed the blunder, and played 26...a4 instead! Although GM Gregory Serper ranked the sequence as #10 in his list of the most amazing world championship blunder of all time, 26. Kd2?? a4?? was definitely the most shocking mistake of the year 2014. Event of the Year

Winner: Magnus Carlsen Simul

image via

How often do mortal chess players get to face the world champion and one of the greatest chess players of all time? 

Well, it happened for 11 lucky members this year, when Carlsen logged on for a simultaneous exhibition against against a group of nine qualifiers, one contest winner, and a wildcard entrant, the actor Rainn Wilson. 

IM Daniel Rensch and GM Irina Krush provided live commentary.

image via

Carlsen demolished Wilson in a very fun game:

Amazingly, one member was able to get the better of Carlsen and score a win.  

CM Stepan Osinovsky managed to defeat Carlsen, who admitted he might have been playing a bit too quickly:

Honorable mention: Cyborg Nakamura vs. Stockfish

image via

In August, staged a unique man-vs.-machine match featuring the best chess player in the United States and (at the time) the best chess engine in the world.

GM Hikaru Nakamura played a 4-game match against the computer engine Stockfish. Two of the games were one-on-one, with Nakamura receiving pawn odds against the machine.

The other two games, though, were unique.

Nakamura teamed up with an older version of the weaker Rybka engine to play Stockfish at full throttle, becoming a chess "cyborg," or "Rybkamura" as Peter Doggers dubbed it.

Stockfish scored 1.5-0.5 in both sections to win the match, but it was still a fun event for human chess players everywhere.  

Tournament of the Year

Winner: 2014 Sinquefield Cup

This was the strongest chess tournament not only of the year 2014, but in history, with an average rating of 2802.

Despite this unbelievable field, GM Fabiano Caruana racked up seven straight wins to start the tournament, earning a clear first place and the best performance of the year. 

Honorable mention: 2014 Gashimov Memorial

image via

Magnus Carlsen won the first edition of the Shamkir chess tournament, beating a super-strong 6-player field in this impeccably staged event.

Game of the Year

Winner: Carlsen vs. Caruana (2014 Sinquefield Cup, Round 3)

Caruana started off the 2014 Sinquefield Cup with two wins, but not many were expecting him to win again in round three against Carlsen, by far the world's strongest player.

But that's why they play the games. Caruana put on a magnificent show with his sparkling win by Black to seize the maximum possible 1.5-point lead going into round four. 

Honorable mention: Hikaru Nakamura vs. Magnus Carlsen (Zurich Chess Challenge 2014, Round 3)

Carlsen pulled a "Houdini act," according to reporter Peter Doggers, to win this shocking game in the 2014 Zurich Chess Challenge.

Nakamura's attack should have been decisive in this game, but Carlsen weathered the storm and went on to win. 

Player of the Year

Winner: Magnus Carlsen

image via

Another year, another tour de force for the young world champion.

To start out the year, Carlsen won both the blitz and classical sections of the above-mentioned Zurich Chess Challenge.

In the spring, Carlsen topped the strong Shamkir chess tournament.

Carlsen won both the FIDE World Rapid Championship and the FIDE World Blitz Championship in June, and now holds the world championship at the three major time controls.

Oh, and in November, Carlsen defended his world championship title, winning 6.5-4.5 against GM Vishy Anand in Sochi, Russia.  

Honorable mention: Fabiano Caruana

image via

The Italian super GM is now solidly in place as the second-best chess player in the world, and is seen as a threat to Carlsen's hegemony for years to come.

Caruana had his best chess year ever in 2014. 

In July, he won the Dortmund super-GM event, cracking the 2800 rating barrier. 

We already discussed his sparkling 8.5/10 performance in the Sinquefield Cup.

Caruana rounded out his year with a strong shared first place (with Boris Gelfand) at the FIDE Grand Prix in Baku.

What were your favorite chess moments in 2014?

Let us know in the comments. 


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