Chess fans spoilt for choice in 2016

Is there any other sport or game with as much activity as chess in terms of games and tournaments that take place across the world?  Chess fans were truly spoilt for choice in terms of events in the year 2016.

Tata Steel Masters to start of things in January 2016
The year kicked off with the super strong Tata Steel Masters which Magnus Carlsen of Norway won in January. That event is one of the most anticipated in every year. In March there was the World Championship Candidates tournament which was won by Sergey Karjakin of Russia. Sergey would then narrowly lose in a match for the crown against Magnus Carlsen in November 2016.

Second quarter of 2016 – Carlsen wins on home turf
Getting into the second quarter of 2016, Magnus Carlsen won the NorwayChess Blitz in April with a convincing 7.5 out of 9 points. Gawain Jones of England won the Dubai Open in April with 7.5 points of 9 points. Fabiano Caruana showed that why he is regarded as one of the best players in the world winning the USA championship in April. That title probably help to offset the disappointment of not winning the Candidates Tournament. Caruana had been one of the favourites to win that event and unfortunately had a must-win game against Karjakin in the very last round of the tournament. Magnus Carlsen was able to do something that he has been struggling with for a very long time, showing good form in a local event. He won the NorwayChess event in April with 6 out of 9 points.

Moving on to June – Nakamura, Mamedyarov, Anand and Carlsen shine
It came as no surprise when the super fast American Grandmaster Hikaru Nakamura won the Ultimate Blitz Challenge with 11 out of 18 points. June was a very busy month with many high profile chess tournaments. Shakhriyar Mamedyarov won Shamkir 2016 beating Fabiano Caruana 2.5 – 1.5 in tie breaks. Both players were on 6 points after 9 rounds. The evergreen Vishwanathan Anand showed why he is one the best players in the history of the game, beating Wei 2.5 -1.5 in the Leon Masters. Russia had a match against China which featured many of their top players. Russian came out winners in that match. Vassily Ivanchuk reminded the world that he can still play chess winning the Capablanca Memoriam with 6.5 out of 10 points. Magnus Carlsen continued his winning ways in an usually busy year for a World Champion defending his title winning Your Next Move with 23 out of 27 points. Your Next Move is one the Grand Chess Tour events. During the years when World Championships defend their titles, they tend to have a relatively quiet year as much of their time is spent preparing for the match.

July – MVL sets the pace
Maxime Vachier-Lagrave of France, popularly known as MVL in the chess community won Dortmund with 5.5 out of 7 points in July. Magnus Carlsen continued his dominance at the 9th Bilbao Masters winning the event with 17 points. MVL won his second event in July coming tops in the Biel Masters Challenge with 8.5 points. 2016 was a great year for Maxime and rating is now above 2800, one of the very few grandmasters to achieve this feat.

August, September – Wesley So makes his mark! The Chess Olympiad!!
Wesley So won the Sinquefield Cup in August with 5.5 points. Wesley has mounted a spirited challenge to become not only one of the best players in the US but in the World. The biggest event of September was the Baku Chess Olympiad which from what I have heard is probably the best organised Olympiad in the history of chess. There were several glowing comments about this tournament from many players. Baku really pulled out the stops to host a memorable tournament. The open was won by the USA (Finally!). In second place was Ukraine followed by Russia. China took first place in the Women’s event followed by Poland and Ukraine. There was still time for more chess in September with Shakhriyar Mamedyarov of Azerberzhan winning the Tal Memorial Blitz with 7.5 out of 9 points. Stanislav Bogdanovich of Ukraine won the Baku OPen to round off September.

A busy October – the rise of Ian, Millionaire Chess Open. Veterans beat off youth!
Ian Nepomniachtschi of Russia won the Tal Memorial in October with 6 out of 9 points. The Tal Memorial was played soon after the blitz tournament. Pavel Elijnov of Ukraine on the Chess.com Isle of Man coming first on tie breaks after finishing off with 7.5 points, the same as Fabiano Caruana. Jan Timman turned the tables on old rival Anatoly Karpov winnning their match with 2.5 out of 4 points. One of the most anticipated tournaments of the year, Millionaire Chess Open, was one by Dariusz Swiercz of Poland. Abhijeet Gupta of India won the Hoogeveen Open while veterans Ivan Sokolov of the Netherlands and Nigel Short of England won their respective matches against much younger opposition Jorden Van Foreest and Hou Yifan. Alexander Riazentsev won the 69th Russian Championship with 7 out of 11 points. To round off October there was there was the Karpov Trophy Rapid that was claimed by former prodigy Etienne Bacrot. He won his match 1.5 – 0.5 against Edouard Romain. Anatoly Karpov took part in the tournament as well and did not do too badly. Maxime Vachier-Lagrave beat Vishwanathan Anand 1-5-0.5 in the Corsica Masters.

It did not take Anand too long to make amends for the disappointment of losing the Corsica Masters. He won the Champions Showdown with an in impressive 15 out of 24 points. Anand had to fend off challengers from the likes of Hikaru Nakamura, Fabiano Caruana and Veselin Topalov. Anatoly Vaisser of France is still going strong. He won the World Senior 65+ championships with 8.5 out of 11 points while Giorgi Bagaturov of Georgia won the World Senior 50+ with an an dominant 9.5 out of possible maximum of 11 points. Hou Yifan played a match against Vladimir Kramnik where she lost 4.5 of 11.5.

The World Chess Championship in November!
Of course the most eagerly anticipated match of the year was the World Chess Championship between Magnus Carlsen and Sergey Karjakin. The favourite Magnus Carlsen won the match 9.0 -7.0 after a great deal of drama. The match was tied after the classical games and Carlsen decided matters in the rapid games.

After the high point of the World Chess Championship in November, most chess fans would probably have been content with no more chess events for the year.

December 2016
The year ended on a high in December with a huge number of chess events. There is no rest for the wicked. December was jam-packed with so many chess tournaments from start to the end. Shanghai won the Chinese League with 36 points. Vishy Anand and Chapman won the Pro Biz Cup with a perfect 3 points. The Pro Biz Cup where a Super GM teamed up with someone from business and played against other teams in a competition with 3 rounds. Anastasia Bodnaruk won the Russian Final Cup ladies. Nigel Short won the British Knockout beating of David Howell in the Final. Etienne Bacrot and Sebastien Maze, both from France won the 8th LCC FIDE Open with 7,5 points out of a possible 9.  Alexander Riazantsev of Russia on the Euro Rapid Cup with 9.5/11, while Dmitry Andreikin of Russia won with 22 points. Valentina Gunina had a sensational LCC Super Rapid where she beat much much higher rated players to win with 9 points.

Wesley So, who was one of the hottest players in 2016, won the London Chess Classic with 6/9 points. There was a battle of huge talents in China when Wei Yu of China faced off against Richard Rapport of Hungary.Rapport won the match 4 out of 7 and the match had very interesting games.  The World Rapid Chess Championships – Ladies were won by Anna Muzychuk of Ukraine with 9.5/12 points while  Vassily Ivanchuk won the Open with 11/15 points.  Muzychuk showed her domaine in the World Blitz as well which she won with 13/17 while World Title Challenger made amends for his disappointment in the match by winning the World Blitz with 16.5/21. On the route to winning the title was a fine victory over World Chess Champion Magnus Carlsen.

The hottest player in 2016 was Wesley So of the US.  Since 2016 Wesley has been on an incredible streak. At the time of writing this article, Wesley had not lost in at least 56 games and was now second on the live rating list.

What can we expect in 2017?
It should be more of the same in 2017 with several chess tournaments in any given month to give chess fans and players a healthy collection of games.

Follow Chess the go-to app for following chess tournaments
We used the chess app Follow Chess for a quick run-down of the events for the year. We have found the app to be extremely handy in following chess events. In our opinion it is the easiest app to use, the most intuitive and we highly recommend. The app developers are very quick to fix any issues and bugs that come up and very responsive as well to comments and suggestions from users.

Can we expect any African players to start making their presence felt in the big tournaments in the world? Are we going to get African players who become Super Grandmasters? It remains to be seen but as the game of chess has shown us there are so many possibilities!

Bruce Mubayiwa

I am the founder and editor of Africa Chess Net. I have been playing chess for over 25 years and love writing about the game. Our goal is simple, to get more people playing chess in Africa! The game of chess is not only absorbing but a great deal of fun.

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