2016: The Year In Review

2016: The Year In Review

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For many, 2016 was a year to be forgotten. Political division and turmoil, the passing of many beloved persons, and acts of violence often dominated the news.

However, in terms of chess, 2016 was a banner year. It was packed with innovation, fresh faces, daring play, classical, rapid, and blitz world championships, an olympiad, and the Carlsen vs Nakamura Blitz Battle showdown that every one wanted.

In celebration of chess, here's our Year In Review article, where we look back at the biggest news stories. For starters, we look at the "most popular" events, as reflected by news report views.

Top 10 Events Of The Year

10. Norway Chess

He failed in the first three editions, but Magnus Carlsen finally managed to please the local fans in Stavanger. As the only winner on the last day, the world champion clinched his first Altibox Norway Chess title by beating Pavel Eljanov.

9. The Women's World Championship: Hou Yifan vs Mariya Muzychuk

She only needed a draw, but she won the final game to regain her world championship title. Hou Yifan defeated Mariya Muzychuk 6-3 in the 2016 Women's World Championship Match in Lviv, Ukraine. Later the Chinese grandmaster would announce that she wouldn't play in the next women's world championship cycle.

8. Bilbao Chess

Magnus Carlsen won the 2016 Bilbao Masters with a round to spare. In the penultimate round, he finally managed to beat Anish Giri in a classical game. 

At the start of the tournament, Carlsen lost his first ever classical game to Nakamura, so he must have thought: Let's set that other record straight as well. He lost his first encounter with Giri in 2011 in Wijk aan Zee. Then he drew the next 14 games.

7. Tata Steel Chess Tournament
Magnus Carlsen won the Tata Steel Masters, for the fifth time. He is now tied with Vishy Anand on that number. The Indian played 16 times; Carlsen has played nine so far. On the day that Carlsen won, Novak Djokovic became the winner of the Australian Open. Djokovic will need many more years to break Federer's Grand Slam record; Carlsen can surpass Anand next year in Wijk aan Zee.

Baskaran Adhiban edged out Alexey Dreev and Eltaj Safarli on tiebreaks to win the Challengers' group and promote to the 2017 masters.

6. Olympiad

The United States won this year's Baku Olympiad after edging out Ukraine on tiebreak. As always, rating-wise Russia was the top seed, but again they failed to win. With three top-10 players on the team (Hikaru Nakamura, Fabiano Caruana and Wesley So), the U.S. team won by scoring 20 match points from 11 rounds and not losing a single match.

5. World Rapid And Blitz Championship

The World Rapid and Blitz Championships in Doha, Qatar have only just finished, but the event was definitely among the most popular in 2016. Despite being hooked on draughts these days, Vassily Ivanchuk won the rapid tournament on tiebreak. He beat Magnus Carlsen convincingly and would do the same in the blitz tournament. That was won by Sergey Karjakin, who edged out Carlsen on tiebreak.

4. GM Blitz Battle

Magnus Carlsen became the first winner of the Chess.com Grandmaster Blitz Battle Championship. By virtue of winning the first two segments convincingly, he defeated Hikaru Nakamura in the finals by an overall score of 14.5-10.5.

The first season of our online championship was very successful. The other participants were Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, Fabiano Caruana, Alexander Grischuk, Levon Aronian, Pentala Harikrishna, and Tigran Petrosian.

3. London Chess Classic

The London Chess Classic was the final leg of the 2016 Grand Chess Tour. With a phenomenal debut in the UK capital, Wesley So won the tour convincingly as he clinched both the London tournament and the Sinquefield Cup.

2. Candidates'

Classical chess is still considered the most important "variant" of our game. Therefore, the Candidates is expectedly at number two, and you won't be surprised about the number one either.

Sergey Karjakin defeated Fabiano Caruana in a crucial final-round game which made him the new challenger for the world championship. 

1. World Championship: Carlsen vs Karjakin

The biggest event of the year was obviously the FIDE World Championship in New York. Sergey Karjakin managed to put up an excellent fight, was even leading for a while, but eventually he had to admit that Magnus Carlsen was the superior player. After two draws, the Norwegian won rapid games three and four to retain his title.


Top 12 Moves Of The Year (video recap)

12: Kramnik vs. Buhmann, Dortmund, 26.Qxf8+

11: Grischuk vs. Volokitin, Olympiad, 13...dxc4

10: Dominguez vs. Adhiban, Spanish Championship, 24.Qh6

9: Giri vs. Vachier-Lagrave, Norway Chess, 24...Nxf2

8: Carlsen vs. Karjakin, World Championship, 50.Qh6+

7: Caruana vs. Radjabov, Gashimov Memorial, 34.e6

6: Ragger vs. Maze, Olympiad, 37.Rc5

5: Wen Yang vs. Artemiev, Aeroflot Open, 13.Rxf7

4: So vs. Akobian, U.S. Championship, 20. Nxf7

3: Aronian vs. Rapport, European Club Cup, 27.Rh1+

2: Jobava vs. Ponomariov, Olympiad, 17.Bh6

1: Aronian vs. Giri, Tal Memorial, 30.Qf4

(Random Bonus) Craziest Game of the Year: Xiong vs. Aravindh, World Junior Championship

Top Chess.com Videos

What were Chess.com members clicking to watch in 2016? The top video in all the land was a ChessCenter episode! The March 5 episode of ChessCenter, which announced that Magnus Carlsen would play in the Chess.com Grandmaster Blitz Battle Championship was watched more than 36,000 times.

The announcement of GM Magnus Carlsen playing in the Blitz Battle Championship was Chess.com's most-watched video of 2016.

The second place video was also in the ChessCenter series. Chess.com produced daily ChessCenters from the 2016 World Championship. Which round "won"? No, it wasn't Karjakin's or Carlsen's win in the classical. Nor was it the final day's rapid play. Viewers had such anticipation over the end of the match that round 11 eclipsed 32,000 views.

Of the "regular" Chess.com videos, top honors goes to GM Simon Williams's video. You might think a January video would have the advantage but not so! "Nakamura Teaches The KID: 4 Pawns Attacked" was released in mid-December but already has north of 25,000 views. The "Ginger GM" takes second place too with a more historic effort. "H-Pawn Decided Karpov vs Korchnoi" is about to crest 23,000 views.

Fan-favorite GM Simon Williams.

Just behind is staff member FM Mike Klein's "How Magnus Carlsen Won 2 World Championship Matches" and then less than a hundred views lower is newcomer IM Teddy Coleman's "Capablanca's Greatest Chess Endgame." 

A few other videos in the 16,000-20,000 range were Williams's "Bobby Fischer's Amazing Knight Move" and his "Spicy Gambits: Opening For Lazy Players: Belgrade Gambit." GM Jon Ludvig Hammer did well with "The Power Of The Bishop Pair" as did GM Max Dlugy with "Secrets Of A Blitz Master" and GM Ivan Sokolov with "Karjakin's Winning Strategy: Opening Approach."

Notable Deaths

The chess world said goodbye to several chess personalities and players in 2016. Some died after full careers while others died much too young.

Swiss GM Viktor Korchnoi was the strongest player to pass. He was within a whisker of the world title several times in the 1970s and played excellent chess into his 80s. The annual tournament in Zurich will be graced with his name beginning this year. He was 85.

Russian GM Mark Taimanov died during the world championship. He lost to Bobby Fischer during the American's run-up to the 1972 World Championship, but he was also known for his piano skills. Indeed, how many players can say they were top 10 in the world in two disparate disciplines? He was 90.

Russian IM Mark Dvorestsky died in September. The most reknown trainer/writer of our time, he taught a litany of top grandmasters in his storied career. That included GM Artur Jussupow, who made it to world number-three and credited Dvoretsky. The trainer's books are nearly universally praised for their lucidity and depth. He was 68.

Spanish GM Arturo Pomar was the first from his country to earn the title. He died at the end of May. One of the last people alive to have played (and drawn) Alexander Alekhine; he was even trained by the world champion. At 14, Pomar also played Savielly Tartokower. The Spaniard would win seven national championships. Current top Spanish GM Paco Vallejo said he was "the one who inspired us all." He was 84.

U.S. Chess lost four influential figures. IA Sevan Muradian died suddenly in February at his home. He was one of the most prolific organizers in the Chicago area, and his events were responsible for many players getting their FIDE ratings or FIDE titles. He was 40.

In June, three more prominent Americans passed. IA/IO Frank Berry was responsible for organizing two U.S. Championships last decade. Berry was an instrumental figure in the Oklahoma chess community. He was 70. Bill Hall, the former executive director of U.S. Chess (then USCF) died the next day. Hall stewarded the organization through difficult financial times and also won many events in Tennessee, his home. He was 46. IM Danny Kopec died later the same week. Kopec won the Scottish Championships twice and helped gauge computer-chess strength in the early days of chess computing. He was a professor and wrote many books and even got an opening system named for him. He was 62.

Russia lost two young grandmasters, both aged 20. Early in the year, GM Ivan Bukavshin passed He had been on the rise and had made it to the mid-2600s. In November, GM Urii Eliseev died after falling from a building while apparently practicing parkour. He had won the Moscow Open this year. 

Romanian WGM Elisabeta Polihroniade died in January. She won the Romanian Women's Championship seven times and played in 10 Olympiads. Polihroniade also became a successful arbiter and organizer of top-level events in her country. She was 80.

Just a few days ago, GM Ashot Anastasian died. He was the eight-time champion of his native Armenia, with his titles spanning three decades. The first came in 1983 and the last in 2005. Anastasian played in six consecutive Olympiads from 1992-2002, which were the first that an independent Armenia competed. He won two team bronzes and one individual gold in 2000. Anastasian's latest national team event came this past summer where he helped Armenia finish second place in the world senior team championship. He was 52.

This report was compiled by the Chess.com news team of NM Sam Copeland, Peter Doggers, GM Robert Hess, FM Mike Klein, and (IM-elect!) Kostya Kavutskiy.

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