The World Champion beat one of his top rivals in Round 5 in a masterful game, while all the other co-leaders drew.

As a Christmas present to the spectators, the top players went all out in Round 5 of the Qatar Masters Open. There were almost no short draws. Magnus Carlsen of Norway, the World Champion, took the sole lead by continuing to play in dazzling style and throttling Li Chao b of China. At the same time, Shakhriyar Mamedyarov of Azerbaijan produced another beautiful attacking game. 

So far, Carlsen has played the sharp Najdorf Variation of the Sicilian Defense when he has had Black in order to try to win against lower-ranked grandmasters. In Round 5, in which he had White, he stayed with the aggressive approach and chose the sharpest variation against the Grunfeld Defense against Li Chao b of China. 

Li Chao reacted by starting quick counterplay on the queenside, but it turned out to be too slow: 

In the game between Mamedyarov and Denis Khismatullin of Russia, things were far more complicated, and beautiful. Mamedyarov’s creativity knows no bounds, and it sometimes seems unfair to even try to objectively analyse his games or explain them in words.Instead, just enjoy the symphony of his play: 

A slightly better pawn structure wasn’t quite enough for Anish Giri to make any progress against the super solid Wesley So, who plays for the United States. On the next two boards, however, in all Russian matchups, Vladimir Kramnik and Sergey Karjakin pulled out magical wins from equal endgames.

Kramnik, the former World Champion, gave a lesson in queen endgames to his younger countrymen, Maxim Matlakov. Such endgames are often considered to be draws, but with a lot of pawn on boards, having an active king that can chase after the enemy pawns can change the situation drastically: 

On the next board, Daniil Dubov, who had Black against Karjakin, played well in an exciting new line of the Accelerated Dragon. But in a perfectly good endgame, he inexplicably sacrificed a couple of pawns to improve his pawn structure. Karjakin was able to hold on to an extra pawn and converted the point with a little more help from the younger Russian. 

In the land of the prodigies, the fairytale run of Xu Yinglun of China was finally stopped by his star compatriot Yu Yangyi in a methodical game. On the other hand, India’s N.R Vignesh continued to enjoy Caissa’s blessings. In Round 4, he had turned around a bad game on the very last move against Wei Yi of China. In Round 5, he held on for dear life against one of Russia’s best young talents, Vladimir Fedoseev. In the end, he equalized with some pretty moves in a pawn down endgame: 

Shardul Gagare, an Indian international master, has remained unbeaten so far in the tournament. In Round 4, he almost notched his second grandmaster scalp, letting the second best Vietnamese player, Nguyen Ngoc Truong Son, escape with a draw. In Round 5, he played the legendary Vasily Ivanchuk of Ukraine and showed little fear. The game ended in a repetition.

Nikita Vitiugov of Russia, who is usually a very solid positional player, landed an exquisite tactical blow to finish off the Chinese-Singaporean, Zhang Zhong: 

India’s Surya Shekhar Ganguly found a nice tactic to win a pawn against David Howell of England:

The big question heading into Round 6 is: Will Carlsen continue playing in his new daredevil style when he plays against the super solid So?


Parimarjan Negi is an Indian grandmaster who is the second-youngest ever to earn the title (at 13 years 4 months and 22 days). Ranked No. 80 in the world, he is currently a sophmore at Stanford University.