Please check my latest article on the World's Strongest Open Tournament - The Qatar Masters 2014 - on Chessbase. Some of it is below:
The Middle East is rapidly emerging as the host of several high profile tournaments. Over the last two years the region has hosted prestigious tournaments such as the World FIDE Blitz/Rapid 2014, World Youth 2013, Asian Continental 2014, Abu Dhabi Masters, and Al Ain Classic. These tournaments were all held in the UAE. But now Qatar has announced its entry into the high-profile chess circuit with what appears to be the strongest Open tournament in chess history.
The Qatar Masters Open 2014 is being held from November 25 to December 5 at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Doha, Qatar. The country with a population of about two million people is located on the Qatar Peninsula, which protrudes out like a thumb into the Arabian Gulf.
About an hour away from the sand dunes, the Qatar Chess Association is hosting the Open, which will capture the attention of the chess community for the next ten days. There are 92 grandmasters participating, or 60% of the 154 total players. Out of these 92 GMs, 56 are over 2600, and an incredible 14 over 2700. Let those numbers sink in for a moment! This tournament truly is a convention of brilliant chess minds.
The tournament is anchored by some of the world’s elite players including top seed Anish Giri, rated 2776, the highest rated junior in the world, and former World Champion Vladimir Kramnik, 2760, who dethroned the mighty Garry Kasparov.
Other strong players: Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, Azerbaijan’s highest rated player; Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, France’s highest rated player; Ding Liren, China’s highest rated player; and Pentala Harikrishna, India’s second highest rated player after Anand.
The top three in the front row: Anish Giri, Vladimir Kramnik, Shakhriyar Mamedyarov
I decided to do a little analysis to determine how the Qatar Masters Open compares to other significant high level open tournaments. To compare, I took the average rating of the top 20 players from each tournament.
• Qatar Masters 2014 – The average rating of the Qatar Master’s top 20 players is a staggering 2713. If the tournament was between those 20 players only, it would be a Category 19.
• Tradewise Gibraltar Chess Masters – One of the most respected open tournaments in the world, the average of the top 20 players in the 2014 edition was 2699. If the tournament was just between those 20 players only, it would be a Category 18 tournament. It's likely the Top 20 average would inch higher to 2701 or more next year, which would be a Category 19 tier.
• Aeroflot Open 2012 A Group – The only other tournament besides Gibraltar Masters, which would stand tall next to the Qatar Masters. In its last edition in 2012, the average rating of the top 20 players was a hefty 2690. If the tournament was between those 20 players only, it would be a Category 18.
• Moscow Open A 2014 – Another prominent and strong tournament held in Russia. The top 20 players in this year’s edition had an average rating of 2637.
• Millionaire Chess Open 2014 – The recently concluded Millionaire Chess saw the top 20 players averaging a 2636 rating. Not a bad start for the tournament’s first edition.
A review of some notable tournaments indicates that the Qatar Masters Open is indeed decisively the strongest Open ever! A historic moment indeed for the chess world. Here are the top 40, every single one a GM (in fact you have to go down to place 76 to encounter the first IM).