Whatever doubts and controversy may have surrounded the tiebreaks and playoffs of the London Chess Classic and the Grand Chess Tour, there aren't any questions of that sort when it comes to Magnus Carlsen's victory in the 2015 Qatar Masters. After being held to a draw in the first round by an IM, Carlsen played great chess the rest of the way, finishing with 7/9. Remarkably, last year's winner, Yu Yangyi, managed to match that score after a gritty last round win over Wesley So, and they went to a blitz playoff. Carlsen was a convincing 2-0 winner, and while 2015 wasn't the best year of Carlsen's career it wasn't bad either. He won this, London, the Tour, the World Rapid championship and Shamkir.
Entries in Qatar Masters 2015 (2)
The second edition of the Qatar Masters, the strongest open tournament of the year (and probably ever) starts tomorrow - Sunday - and features a fantastically strong lineup. There are 18 players rated over 2700, including Magnus Carlsen, Vladimir Kramnik, Anish Giri, Wesley So, Sergey Karjakin and, skipping down several spots, the Chinese super-prodigy Wei Yi. The action begins at 3 p.m. local time (=7 a.m. ET).
Seeing as it's the holiday season, however, I'm going to take a little vacation from blogging until the new year, and will enjoy the tournament purely as a fan, just like the rest of you. It's not impossible that I'll jump on here between now and 2016 (as a heads-up for my next column, for instance), but that aside, this might be it until next year. So Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and best wishes for a blessed 2016!