Carlsen Can't Crack Giri, Now Has Company At Top

Carlsen Can't Crack Giri, Now Has Company At Top

| 22 | Chess Event Coverage

You can throw out the old book on GM Anish Giri. He's writing a new one here at the 2015 Qatar Masters Open.

"So far here with Black I'm playing like I like as White," Giri said after the game between the top two players in the world.

(Photo right: Katerina Savina for Qatar Masters Open)

For those that wondered if his first two trips with the Najdorf were just a sideshow against lower-rated players, today the answer came: he will use his new weapon against anybody. Giri neutralized World Champion Magnus Carlsen's turn with White, and while the draw didn't get the Dutchman closer, it did keep him within striking distance and allowed two members of the chase group to climb atop the tables.

GM Magnus Carlsen tries to break through his Dutch nemesis. (Photo: David Llada for Qatar Masters Open)

"I played the Berlin for I don't know how long," Giri said. "I never played the Najdorf in my life...I think I'm playing it quite well in the games that I've played here, which is very surprising. I have no idea why."

He's explained that he's been sitting on the opening knowledge for a while, waiting for the opportunity to use it.

"I've done of course a lot of work on it throughout the years. I've just never gotten to play it. Whenever I wanted to play Nadorf people would go 1. d4 and that would happen 20 times."

GM Anish Giri has been keeping a surprise opening in his hoodie. (Photo: Katerina Savina for Qatar Masters Open)

Despite the recent success, he still holds fondness for his bread-and-butter defense: "Najdorf is a great opening, when it works. Other times you pay for it. The Berlin is always a great opening."

Giri also joined Alejandro Ramirez in our studio during the live broadcast to go through his game:

Of the 13 players chasing Carlsen going in to the day, two took full advantage of Giri's subborn play. GM Shakhriyar Mamedyarov played like GM Shakhriyar Mamedyarov! His inventive play continued and was rewarded again, this time over GM Surya Ganguly. The other name has yet to be mention in these reports -- GM Sanan Sjugirov won with similar pinache against GM Dmitry Jakovenko.

Back to the top board, observers got their "wish" not only by the avoidance of a Berlin, but also Carlsen's refusal of a few tacit repetition offers. Carlsen played 1. e4 for only third time in his career versus Giri. He may have run up against the Najdorf earlier this year at Norway Chess, his last previous turn as White versus Giri, but instead deferred to the Rossolimo.

"He plays all possible moves and I had to pick an antidote to each one," Giri said.

GM Anish Giri got back to board one today. (Photo: Alla Oborina for Qatar Masters Open)

Giri made the most of a pairing that he thought he had avoided. By botching a winning position yesterday, Giri assumed there would at least be a silver lining.

"Since I screwed up I thought I would get somebody nice...some juicy opponent with White. Not only did I mess up that game, I still get Magnus with Black!" He assumed that someone else would play Black against the top seed since his colors did not line up.

Chief Arbiter Panagiotis Nikolopoulos explained that "Kramnik was upfloated two rounds before" and thus the next player in line for an upfloat (playing up one score group) was Giri. The pairings do not skip over him simply to align with color choice.

Once the game began, Giri never seemed under duress. "Today I liked my position. At some point he started avoiding the repetition and I thought, 'Okay this is where he's going to be punished.' His pieces are not very well placed and mine are."

In particular, Giri referenced the knight on b3 as misplaced "as he showed on his game with [GM Jan-Krzysztof] Duda when you don't have the d5 square."

The world number two said that Carlsen didn't go for the most active system, which is needed against the Najdorf if one is to achieve an advantage.

"He chose the most un-Najdorfy Najdorf."

Giri thought that after the queen trade he was better, due mostly to the rook on h3's awkward placement, "But somehow I couldn't see how to stop the rook from coming back."

His personal scorecard against Carlsen remains perfect -- no bogeys, lots of pars, and one birdie. Giri won their first-ever matchup back in 2011, then all draws since then. Does this make him well suited to a possible world championship match?

"To be honest, winning the Candidates’ is tougher than beating [Carlsen] in a match. I'm pretty sure about that." Giri explained that in the round-robin, you might run up against somebody in good form, and in a match, you only have to win one game.

Giri said that in their short post-mortem, both players thought they were better today. (Photo: Alla Oborina for Qatar Masters Open)

On board two, GM Vladimir Kramnik couldn't exact any revenge from last year's final-round shock loss to GM Yu Yangyi that cost him the title. He said the 2014 game wasn't on his mind, except for the due diligence of checking it in the database before today.

"He played a very drawish line, but I was playing for a win still," Kramnik said. "I'm trying to take all chances possible, even in today's sterile position...Since I got certain pressure I'm disappointed at the result."

The next batsmen swinging for the fences were GMs Ruslan Ponomariov and Wesley So, playing for the first time on board three. They drew, as did GMs Sergey Karajkin and Ni Hua one board lower. Of course, you might call this a moral victory for the Chinese player after Karjakin dismantled the entire national team earlier this year (Ni Hua included)!

GM Ruslan Ponomariov, one of the best ever in knockout tournaments, tries to figure out how to win an open tournament. (Photo: Alla Oborina for Qatar Masters Open)

Fans fixating only on decisive results can thank a "usual" grandmaster for providing the first win of the large 4.5 score group: Mamedyarov. The Azeri played yet another scintillating game today, though he got some help from his opponent's opening choice. While not unsound per se, placing one's king on d8 voluntarily against "Shak" is not usually met with a calm day.

Mamedyarov's 8. f4 was a novelty, and set the tone for the mutual weakening of kings:

GM Pentala Harikrishna and GM Dariusz Swiercz played a dead-equal game on board six, leaving only one other pair with the ability to get to the magical 5.5/7 mark. In a minor upset, several time World Youth Champion GM Sanan Sjugirov took out yesterday's theoretician, GM Dmitry Jakovenko, in a rout.

"I managed to surprise my opponent in the opening," Sjugirov said.

White was completely winning by the first score of moves, but make sure you play all the way until the end. How often do you see a game completed in the first time control with a black knight on a8 and a white knight on b8?

Analysis by GM Dejan Bojkov:

Sjugirov said he almost didn't make it to Doha. He was in transit in Istanbul but was unable to continue on due to a lack of visa. He returned to Moscow, only to have the organizers buy him a ticket later on to make the tournament. Sjugirov finished in a tie for fourth in Qatar last year, but it looks like visas aren't usable for multiple entries!

After the travel hassles, GM Sanan Sjugirov has had a smooth event upon arrival. (Photo: Katerina Savina for Qatar Masters Open)

Mamedyarov's novelty 8. f4 wasn't the only one of the day. GM Viktor Bologan, coach of the Qatari National Team, also played 8. f4, and it was also a novelty! The difference? Bologan was improving upon his own play (previously against GM Etienne Bacrot he chose 8. 0-0 in Biel, 2012). 

GM Mohammed AL-Sayed, leader of the local squad and therefore Bologan's student, didn't handle it well and resigned one of the shortest decisive games of the tournament. The final position had symmetrical tactics of sorts:

Also playing true to his style was Swedish Champion GM Nils Grandelius, who channeled his inner Bronstein and offered his queen for two bishops as Black. The resulting game became completely unclear, but the computer suggested that White's decisive mistake came much later when he went pawn grabbing instead of blockading the c-pawn with 34. Nc2.

GM Nils Grandelius -- Swedes don't need queens to win chess games. (Photo: Alla Oborina for Qatar Masters Open)

"First he surprised me when he sacrificed a pawn," Grandelius said. "Then I sacrificed the exchange back, which he didn't take, then I gave him the queen for two pieces, which unfortunately he had to take!"

Grandelius was a winner earlier this year in Abu Dhabi, UAE and has also played before in Dubai. He said he likes the organization of tournaments in this area of the world.

Besides his own inability to win, Giri remarked that in today's results, "somehow the wrong people won today." He explained that Kramnik keeps avoiding matching with Carlsen, and indeed that will happen again in round eight.

GM Vladimir Kramnik, happily avoiding Carlsen? (Photo: David Llada for Qatar Masters Open)

The machine spit out these pairings for the leaders in the penultimate round: Mamedyarov-Carlsen (both on 5.5/7) and Kramnik-Sjugirov (5.0 versus 5.5). Then we have no less than 15 additional players on 5.0/7 that will be hoping for a draw on board one and a Kramnik win. In that scenario, there could be as many as 11 players tied for the lead going into the last day.

You can see all of the pairings here.

Lastly, of note is the dream tournament of the Indian player IM N.R. Vignesh. All six opponents up until today have been 2600 or 2700, and he's held his own with a +2 score and no losses. Today he got another tough pairing, the legendary GM Vassily Ivanchuk, who finally derailed the teenager after a long fight.

IM N.R. Vignesh was born the same week in 1998 that the movie "Great Expectations" was released. Coincidence? (Photo: David Llada for Qatar Masters Open)

"I outplayed him after the opening," Ivanchuk said. "His knights were in a strange position, but [the win] was extremely difficult to realize."

No rest for Vignesh -- he gets yet another 2600 tomorrow, but that GM norm is still looking attainable.

GM Peter Svidler said that if GM Vassily Ivanchuk had better nerves, he would have won several world titles by now. (Photo: David Llada for Qatar Masters Open)

Round eight begins Monday at 3 p.m. local time (GMT+3). You can follow the games live at either or at the official site. Round seven was the most watched round thus far -- at the peak more than 22,000 people were watching the live commentary simultaneously.

Mike Klein is on-site reporting for the official tournament and for This report was cross-posted in its entirety from

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

The full standings can be found here.

Rk. SNo Title Name FED Rtg Pts. TB1 TB2 TB3
1 7 GM Mamedyarov, Shakhriyar AZE 2748 5,5 2871 25,5 28,5
2 1 GM Carlsen, Magnus NOR 2834 5,5 2867 26,5 28,5
3 33 GM Sjugirov, Sanan RUS 2646 5,5 2813 26 29
4 3 GM Giri, Anish NED 2784 5 2852 28,5 31,5
5 4 GM So, Wesley USA 2775 5 2842 29,5 33
6 79 Xu, Yinglun CHN 2470 5 2826 28 32
7 2 GM Kramnik, Vladimir RUS 2796 5 2805 26,5 30
8 34 GM Swiercz, Dariusz POL 2646 5 2793 27 30
9 11 GM Yu, Yangyi CHN 2736 5 2784 28 31
10 5 GM Karjakin, Sergey RUS 2766 5 2784 25,5 27,5
11 9 GM Harikrishna, Pentala IND 2743 5 2753 26,5 28,5
12 17 GM Ponomariov, Ruslan UKR 2710 5 2744 25 28,5
13 18 GM Ni, Hua CHN 2693 5 2742 26 28,5
14 40 GM Grandelius, Nils SWE 2632 5 2701 24 27
15 29 GM Akopian, Vladimir ARM 2648 5 2701 22,5 24,5
16 13 GM Vitiugov, Nikita RUS 2724 5 2696 25 27
17 36 GM Nguyen, Ngoc Truong Son VIE 2642 5 2670 22,5 24,5
18 16 GM Ivanchuk, Vassily UKR 2710 5 2660 22 24
19 57 IM Lin, Chen CHN 2532 5 2658 20,5 22,5
20 6 GM Li, Chao CHN 2750 4,5 2778 28 31,5

More from FM MikeKlein
Ian Nepomniachtchi On The World Chess Championship

Ian Nepomniachtchi On The World Chess Championship

New ChessKid Adventure App Released

New ChessKid Adventure App Released