Qatar Masters To Start Sunday; 'Action Hero' Magnus Carlsen Tops Field

Qatar Masters To Start Sunday; 'Action Hero' Magnus Carlsen Tops Field

| 38 | Chess Event Coverage

On Sunday the first round of the Qatar Masters will be played in the Aspire Zone in Doha. The top seeds are the top three in the live ratings: Magnus Carlsen, Vladimir Kramnik and Anish Giri.

Usually the year is kind of over for top chess after the London Chess Classic, but not this time.

Moved forward one month, the second edition of the Qatar Masters will run December 20-29. It promises to be even better than last year.

You'll surely remember the tournament as “the one where Giri and Kramnik played,” which was kind of rare: absolute top GMs in an open tournament — even an ex-world champion!

This year it's even crazier: the reigning world champion is playing. In an open. In Doha, Qatar.

The organizer, GM Mohamed Al-Modiahki, announced last year that he wanted the tournament to grow. Carlsen stated that he would consider participating if the offer was really good. Both kept their word.

Earlier this year Carlsen got into trouble against a few lower-rated players (with e.g. losses against Jon Ludvig Hammer and Yannick Pelletier), so it's rather courageous of him to play a tournament where he might face several of those, risking further Elo damage.

So yes, Carlsen is some kind of action hero, like he is in yet another advertisement which was released this week. Earlier we reported on this Porsche campaign; now he is also part of a new campaign by Norwegian broadband provider Altibox.

As Tarjei Svensen reports on Sjakkbloggen, Altibox will be the new main sponsor of the Norway Chess tournament for the coming three years. Yes, chess is rather hot in Norway!

Carlsen's closest rivals will be two top GMs who made the trip to Doha last year as well: Vladimir Kramnik and Anish Giri. Thus the organizer can nicely advertise his event as having the world's top 3 (in the live ratings).

You'll probably also remember that it wasn't Kramnik and it wasn't Giri who took the 2014 trophy home. That was Yu Yangyi. Seeded 13th, he beat these two gentlemen in the last two rounds.

Yu will be back to defend his title, and this time he is 11th seeded. There is one more top-10 player in the field: Wesley So. The next names are Sergey Karjakin, Li Chao, Shakhriyar Mamedyarov*, Evgeny Tomashevsky, Pentala Harikrishna and Dmitry Jakovenko.

The Chinese super talent Wei Yi is also present, so he might be facing Carlsen at this tournament before they will meet at the Tata Steel Chess Tournament next month.

Here's the top 20 participants as taken from Chess-Results. (Note that Teimour Radjabov and Pavel Eljanov had to withdraw only days ago.)

2015 Qatar Masters | Participants (Top 20)

No. Title Name FED Rtg
1 GM Carlsen Magnus NOR 2834
2 GM Kramnik Vladimir RUS 2796
3 GM Giri Anish NED 2784
4 GM So Wesley USA 2775
5 GM Karjakin Sergey RUS 2766
6 GM Li Chao CHN 2750
7 GM Mamedyarov Shakhriyar AZE 2748
8 GM Tomashevsky Evgeny RUS 2744
9 GM Harikrishna P. IND 2743
10 GM Jakovenko Dmitry RUS 2737
11 GM Yu Yangyi CHN 2736
12 GM Wei Yi CHN 2730
13 GM Vitiugov Nikita RUS 2724
14 GM Wojtaszek Radoslaw POL 2723
15 GM Korobov Anton UKR 2713
16 GM Ivanchuk Vassily UKR 2710
17 GM Ponomariov Ruslan UKR 2710
18 GM Ni Hua CHN 2693
19 GM Moiseenko Alexander UKR 2689
20 GM Howell David W L ENG 2688

*Update: Unfortunately on Saturday night Shakhriyar Mamedyarov had to be removed from the participants list as well.

**Second update: This was due to travel problems, but there is a small chance Mamedyarov might still make it in time anyway.

It's definitely one of the strongest opens ever held, although not everyone would agree that it is a real open: only players rated 2300 FIDE or higher can participate.

The playing hall is in the Ladies Club, one of many sports buildings in what is called the Aspire Zone or Doha Sports City. It is a 250-hectare (2.5 square kilometers) sporting complex located in the Al Waab district of Doha.

The Ladies Club offers indoor and outdoor sport facilities for women, but the chess tournament is using a separate segment of the building. Like last year, the playing hall is rather grand and spacious with 900 square meters available.

A number of players will be staying in the spectacular five-star hotel The Torch which is a stone's throw away from the playing hall. Other players will be staying at the Grand Heritage, also five stars but about a twenty-minute walk from the venue.

The total prize fund is $130,000 with a first prize of $27,000. This prize won't be shared; in case of a tie there will be a playoff. The best female player receives $8,000, the best Arab player $2,500 and the best junior player $1,500.

The time control for each tournament game will be 90 minutes for the first 40 moves, plus 30 minutes for the rest of the game with an increment of 30 seconds per move starting from move one.

The tournament is a nine-round Swiss with one round each day between Sunday, December 20 and Tuesday, December 29. December 25 is a rest day. 

The rounds start at 3 p.m. local time which is 1 p.m. Amsterdam, noon London, 7 a.m. New York and 4 a.m. Pacific and 11 p.m. Sydney. (The final round starts three hours earlier.)

Note that is producing the live broadcast with commentary by GMs Alejandro Ramirez and Peter Svidler. So tune in at, for lots of action by lots of heroes.

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