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 Yu Yangyi (6)
And decisively, too, though he cooled off from his blazing start of 4.5/5. In round 6 he lost to Dmitry Andreikin, drew a long game with Pavel Eljanov in round 7 and beat Leinier Dominguez in round 8 before finishing with a couple of quick draws. His final score of 7/10 put him a point and a half ahead of Eljanov and Andreikin and helped move him up to #21 in the world after picking up 20 rating points. Not bad at all, and there are now three Chinese players in the top 21.
The Capablanca Memorial is a six player, double round robin tournament in Havana, Cuba, and after the first cycle Chinese grandmaster Yu Yangyi leads with a blistering 4.5/5, two points ahead of Pavel Eljanov, Dmitry and Andreikin and Cuban #1 Leinier Dominguez. It's a great performance so far and has netted him more than 21 rating points thus far, but to be fair he was quite lost to Ian Nepomniachtchi in round 5 before winning a wild game. As they say, it's better to be lucky and good!
The last three rounds of the Qatar Masters Open were exceptionally dramatic, with each leader falling to the next. After six rounds Anish Giri led with a perfect 6/6 a point ahead of Vladimir Kramnik who had won his last four games after drawing his first two. Kramnik played Giri and won in impressive fashion (aside from an immediately forgiven fingerfehler in the opening) to catch him at 6/7. In the penultimate round Kramnik defeated the overperforming Saleh Salem with the black pieces, while Giri lost again, with White, to Yu Yangyi.
In round six Yu could have been out of the first place hunt, as he was a bit worse out of the opening against Alex Lenderman and for quite a while had nothing, but a bit at a time he outplayed the American GM and won that game. After the win against Giri he entered the round half a point behind Kramnik, and here he had a little bit of luck that arose because of Kramnik's prior good luck. When Kramnik played Giri in round 7 he was due for Black, but because Giri was too and his color equalization took priority (due to his higher score at the time) Kramnik got a second straight white for that crucial game. When the last round rolled around Kramnik was due for the white pieces, but so was Yu, and although Kramnik had the higher score entering the round his excess white game earlier flipped it around.
So Yu got the advantage of the first move, and pretty decisively manhandled Kramnik in a 4.d3 Berlin. Kramnik's 13...g6, 15...b5, 19...f5 and especially and finally 20...gxf5 created a large number of potential weaknesses, and the 20-year-old Chinese talent harvested just about all of them. When Kramnik resigned on move 33 he was down four pawns and likely to lose his stranded knight as well. It was an amazingly one-sided victory - I wouldn't be surprised to lose like that to a 2700, but it's remarkable to see it happen to Kramnik.
Meanwhile, Giri bounced back with a wild last-round win over Vladimir Akopian, and he and Kramnik split the 2nd-3rd place money, with Giri officially taking second on tiebreaks. A great result for Yu Yangyi, who also had the best performance rating at the Olympiad and made it to "Millionaire Monday" in Las Vegas as well. The young guys (quite a few of whom are from China) are taking over!
1. World Junior Championships: Alexander Ipatov's attempt to follow Shakhriyar Mamedyarov as the only two-time World Junior Champion was unsuccessful, but he gave it a good run. 10.5/13 is an excellent score; in fact, it's half a point more than he scored last year, when he won! This year, it wasn't enough, as Yu Yangyi scored 11/13, coasting in with a short draw by repetition with the white pieces to clinch clear first. Congratulations to both of them, and to Vidit Santosh Gujrathi as well, who came out ahead of Jorge Cori on tiebreaks; both players scored 9.5 points.
A somewhat similar story played out in the girls' division. Aleksandra Goryachkina won in the last round to clinch first with 10.5 points out of 13. Her closest pursuer, Zhansaya Abdumalik, only managed to draw her final game, but as it turned out the key for her was not to lose. She finished in second with 9.5 points, half a point ahead of Alina Kashlinskaya (the bronze medalist) and Mitra Hejazipour (no medals, but a very nice achievement by the 14th seeded player). Deysi Cori finished in the tie for 5th-9th, coming sixth on tiebreaks. This must be a double disappointment; first because she was the second seed (Kashlinskaya was the top seed, by a point) but also because she won this event two years ago. She's only 20, but her rating hasn't moved in two and a half years. I don't know if she has been putting chess on a back burner the last couple of years in pursuit of other activities (e.g. university), but if she's still serious about her chess it looks as if she should try something new.
2. Women's Grand Prix. Humpy Koneru is showing the field who is boss, winning again to push her score to 6.5/8. She leads the field by a point, and is very close to overtaking Hou Yifan in second place on the women's rating list. (Both are still well behind Judit Polgar, but what was once a seemingly unbridgeable chasm is now "merely" a large gap.) Harika Dronavalli and Kateryna Lagno remain in striking distance a point back, but as all three women have played each other (all draws) their fate is no longer in their own hands over the last three rounds.