Carlsen Wins Qatar Masters in Blitz Playoff

r_20151227_qatar_masters_r7_0040_magnus_carlsen World Champion Magnus Carlsen, Photo David Llada
  The final round of Qatar Masters started rather uneventfully: Vladimir Kramnik, who needed a win against Magnus Carlsen to be in contention for first place, played the solid Berlin Defense and accepted draw by repetition in 30 moves in less than an hour. On board two, however, Grandmaster Yu Yangyi, the only other person who could tie for first place, and his opponent, Wesley So, were ready for a battle. Both players contributed to a very double-edged middlegame, which commentator Peter Svidler called, "a very strange set of decisions". With only four minutes left on his clock, Yu, who had sacrificed a bishop and left his king to fend for himself against So's queen and knight, had an opportunity for a draw by perpetual check. The commentators, certain that Yu would accept the peaceful result, congratulated Carlsen as the outright winner of the tournament. Meanwhile, Wesley So, who spent the first two moves of the repetition looking away from the board, also seemed to believe that a draw was a foregone conclusion. Despite this, Yu calculated until the very last minute and decided to play on. In the end, Yu grinded down a rook ending with three pawns vs. a knight and, after 77 moves and over 5 hours, he secured victory.
[White "Yu Yangyi"]
[Black "Wesley So"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "E21"]
[WhiteElo "2736"]
[BlackElo "2775"]
[PlyCount "153"]
1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. Nf3 c5 5. g3 cxd4 6. Nxd4 O-O 7. Bg2 d5 8. Nc2
Bxc3+ 9. bxc3 Qc7 10. cxd5 Nxd5 11. Nb4 Nxb4 12. cxb4 Rd8 13. Qb3 Nc6 14. O-O
Nd4 15. Qb2 e5 16. Be3 Bg4 17. Rac1 Qd7 18. f3 Bh3 19. Rfd1 Bxg2 20. Kxg2 Qe6
21. Rc7 b6 22. a4 Nf5 23. Rxd8+ Rxd8 24. Bf2 e4 25. Qc2 e3 26. Be1 h5 27. Rxa7
Nd4 28. Qe4 Qc4 29. Qxe3 Nc2 30. Qe7 Nxe1+ 31. Kf2 Qd4+ 32. Kf1 Nc2 33. Qxf7+
Kh8 34. Qxh5+ Kg8 35. Qf7+ Kh8 36. Qh5+ Kg8 37. Qf7+ Kh8 38. Kg2 Ne3+ 39. Kh3
Kh7 40. Qh5+ Kg8 41. Re7 Rf8 42. a5 bxa5 43. bxa5 Nd5 44. Qe5 Qxe5 45. Rxe5 Nb4
46. Re4 Nd5 47. Rc4 Rf6 48. Rc5 Rf5 49. Rc8+ Kf7 50. a6 Ne3 51. g4 Ra5 52. Rc7+
Kf6 53. Rc6+ Kf7 54. Kg3 g5 55. h4 gxh4+ 56. Kxh4 Nd5 57. e4 Ne7 58. Rb6 Ng6+
59. Kg3 Ra3 60. g5 Ne5 61. Rf6+ Ke7 62. Kg2 Nd3 63. Rh6 Ra5 64. a7 Rxg5+ 65.
Kf1 Rg8 66. Ke2 Ne5 67. f4 Nd7 68. Ra6 Ra8 69. Ke3 Nc5 70. Ra1 Nb7 71. e5 Nd8
72. Ra6 Kd7 73. f5 Nc6 74. e6+ Kc7 75. f6 Nb4 76. f7 Kb7 77. Rd6 1-0[/pgn]
This earned Yu a blitz playoff match against Carlsen for the championship. In the first tiebreak game, Carlsen sacrificed material for an overwhelming king attack.

Tactic #1

How did Carlsen continue?

Magnus Carlsen vs. Yu Yangyi

White to move.

Show Solution

[pgn][Event "Playoff Match Round 1"]
[Site "?"]
[Round "?"]
[White "Carlsen, Magnus"]
[Black "Yu, Yangyi"]
[Result "1-0"]
[SetUp "1"]
[FEN "b1rq3r/5pk1/1p1bp1p1/p2p2P1/P2P2QP/2PB1N2/1P2R3/5RK1 w - - 0 33"]
[PlyCount "19"]33. Rxe6 $1 fxe6 34. Qxe6 Qe8 35. Qxd6 {when all of White's pieces are ready
to add pressure to Black's weakened king. The game finish was:} Rc6 36. Qe5+
Qxe5 37. Nxe5 Rxh4 38. Rf7+ Kg8 39. Ra7 Rc8 40. Bxg6 Bc6 41. Bf7+ Kf8 42. Ng6+
In the second game, Yu blundered in the opening, allowing Carlsen a simple, but difficult to notice tactic.

Tactic #2

How did Carlsen win material so early in the game?

Yu Yangyi vs. Magnus Carlsen

Black to move.

Show Solution

[pgn][Event "Playoff Match Round 2"]
[Site "?"]
[Round "?"]
[White "Yu, Yangyi"]
[Black "Carlsen, Magnus"]
[Result "0-1"]
[SetUp "1"]
[FEN "r2qrbk1/p2p1ppp/1p3n2/3Pn3/N4B2/P2B4/1P3PPP/R2Q1RK1 b - - 0 15"]
[PlyCount "3"]15... Nxd3 16. Qxd3 Re4 0-1[/pgn]
With this victory, Carlsen became the 2015 Qatar Masters Champion, achieving a 2887 performance rating in the process. After the match, Carlsen was delighted to end on a high note: "I’m very happy to win here. In such a strong open tournament, you can be the favorite, but no matter how good you are, you can never be guaranteed to win.” When asked about his personal review of the ups and downs of his performances this year, Carlsen said, “I think the reason people have been calling it a bad year is because they hold me to a higher standard than everyone else, and I take that as a compliment.” See Vanessa West's earlier report on the Qatar Masters here. 

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