Top world chess stars head to Dubai; 5 in Sharjah lead - GulfToday

Top world chess stars head to Dubai; 5 in Sharjah lead


Dubai Chess and Culture Club officials at the press meet on Monday. Right: Nihal Sarin of India in action in Sharjah. Supplied photo

DUBAI: Established as one of the top tournaments in the world, the 21st edition of the Dubai Open Chess Championship will see the participation of top players from across the globe. The event will be held at the Dubai Chess and Culture Club from April 1-10, 2019.

This year’s edition of the region’s longest-running premier chess tournament will be attended by grandmasters and other elite players from 34 countries, including entries from countries that will be represented for the first time such as Nigeria and Sweden.

Of the 141 players who have confirmed so far, 36 are international Grandmasters, led by former champion Grandmaster (GM) Wang Hao of China, who created a sensation when he won the 2005 event as a teenager ahead of several grandmasters.

Now firmly established as an elite professional player, Wang is the tournament’s highest-rated player with an international rating of 2718. Just three rating points adrift is second-seed GM Le Quang Liem (2715), the Vietnamese 2013 World Blitz Champion.

The tournament will also feature four woman grandmasters (WGM) and 25 international masters (IM) from countries such as Russia, Serbia, Venezuela, Norway, Spain, Turkey, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Armenia, Kazakhstan, the Ukraine, Argentina, India, Iran and Egypt. Organizers expect the number of participants to increase to up to 170.

WGM Gulrukhbegim Tokhirjonova of Uzbekistan, the tournament’s highest-rated woman player, will lead 13 other women participants at the championship to be played on the nine-round Swiss system.

India is once again sending the largest contingent of 85 players.

Ibrahim Mohamed Al Bannai, Chairman of the Dubai Chess and Culture Club, expects another fierce competition for the championship this year with strong players from powerhouse chess countries such as Armenia, Russia, Ukraine, China and Georgia.

The Arab region is also well-represented with players such as former world junior champion GM Ahmed Adly of Egypt and top players from Morocco, Algeria, Libya, Palestine and Syria.

Bannai said the organising committee has left no stone unturned to maintain the event’s status as one of the best-organised elite open tournaments in the world and one of the largest and most prestigious in the Middle East.

The tournament’s cash purse of $50,000 has also made it one of the most competitive in the international chess circuit.

Bannai also explained that the event provides a very good opportunity for up-and-coming UAE players to compete with world-class players and that Dubai Chess Club will always strive to organise such events that will support the training and development of local athletes.

The Dubai Open Chess Tournament 2019 champion will get the Sheikh Rashid Bin Hamdan Al Maktoum Cup and a $13,000 cash prize.

The rest of the top 15 finishers will also receive cash prizes. As part of its efforts to encourage exciting matches throughout the event, the Organising Committee has also set aside special awards for Arab players and women, as well as various rating categories.

Meanwhile, in the 3rd Sharjah Masters International Chess Championship at the Sharjah Chess Club in Sharjah, sixteen year old GM Nihal Sarin of India and four others share the lead with three points each after 3 rounds.

Nihal, one of the youngest grandmasters in the world, shares the lead with GMs Le Quang Liem of Vietnam , Ernest Inarkiev of Russia, Alexander Fier of Brazil and Iturrizaga Bonelli Eduardo of Venezuela.

In Sunday’s third round, Nihal crushed the Sicilian defense of IM Mokhas El Adnani of Morocco, threatening unstoppable mate in 34 moves. Nihal was the 2014 World Under-10 Champion, winning the title in Durban, South Africa.

Le Quang Liem, 28, beat GM Venkatesh MR of India in 57 moves of a Ruy Lopez by pawn promotion in a Rook and pawn endgame. Inarkiev, 33, used the Sicilian Najdorf to turn back IM Kuybokarov Temur of Australia in 86 moves. Fier, 31, used the Gruenfeld defense and sacrificed a Bishop on the 49th move to beat Aditya Mittal of India in 73 moves. Iturrizaga Bonelli Eduardo, 29, used the Caro Kann defense and weaved a mating net to force GM Karthik Venkataraman of India to resign after 43 moves. Thirty players are tied with 2.5 points each.

Amir Naqvi, Sports Editor