Chithambaram keeps slim lead; Kocak, Gavrilov in two-way tie in Open division - GulfToday

Chithambaram keeps slim lead; Kocak, Gavrilov in two-way tie in Open division

Participants in action during their sixth round encounter at the Dubai Open Chess Tournament on Thursday.

Participants in action during their sixth round encounter at the Dubai Open Chess Tournament on Thursday.

Defending champion Grandmaster (GM) Aravindh Chithambaram of India once again came very close to a win that would have further distanced him from the field, but Iran’s GM Amin Tabatabaei came up with some spectacular defensive counterplay to save the day in their sixth round encounter Thursday night at the 23rd Dubai Open Chess Tournament.

Chithambaram and Tabatabaei agreed to a draw after 46 moves in a swashbuckling Queen’s Gambit game that saw the Iranian taking enormous risks after getting nothing out of the opening with the white pieces.

With the result, the defending champion now has five points and remains half a point ahead of his closest pursuers, including Tabatabaei, top-seed GM Yu Yangyi from China and four others.

Tabatabaei’s Nb5 on the 12th move signaled the start of a tactical slugfest, with Chithambaram proving up to the challenge as he parried the Iranian’s aggressive intentions, while launching his own counterattack against the white king.

But just as black seemed to have consolidated his advantage, Tabatabaei unleashed a  stunning exchange sacrifice, giving up his rook for black’s knight on e6 to open the f-file for white’s other rook to join in the attack against the black king on f8.

Under severe time pressure and his king now feeling less secure against white’s major pieces, Chithambaram decided to release the tension by liquidating the queens and entering a rook-and-knight vs rook-and-bishop endgame where neither side had any serious advantage.

The top-seed Yu likewise remains in strong contention for the title after engaging in another thriller game against Uzbekistan’s teenage prodigy GM Javokhir Sindarov on the second board. The game ended in a draw, but not after both players traded blows in a complex King’s Indian Defense (KID) game.

Playing black, Sindarov admitted to being surprised by Yu’s choice of the Makogonov variation against the KID, which eventually transposed into a Marocy Bind-type of position where the Chinese player was in full control for most of the first half of the game.

“It was the first time he played h3 and Be3,” said the 17-year-old Sindarov, a member of the reigning Olympiad champion Uzbek team. “I think he prepared this variation from my game against Parham Maghsoodloo that I played two months ago. He got a good position in the opening, but I was just trying to be patient and waited for a chance to complicate the game.”

Sindarov, who earned the Grandmaster title at age 12 becoming the fourth youngest player in history to earn the distinction, got his chance on move 23 with the pawn push to e5, which led to wild complications and at one point the Uzbek miscalculating what would have been a winning mating attack.

“I had to play e5, otherwise he would just crush me,” said Sindarov, noting that the Chinese started to think long after the e5 push and seemed to have lost his way in the ensuing complications. “I think he didn’t like his position after this move.”

With Yu on the defensive, Sindarov marshaled his major pieces for a massive assault against the white king, but just as he was on the verge of breaking through, the young Uzbek had a serious oversight that allowed the Chinese to get away with a draw.

“I had calculated until the move Re1 and it was just mate, but then I realized later that his queen on h4 was protecting the e1 square,” Sindarov said, referring to his intended 38th move in a stunning position where the white king looked completely helpless surrounded by black’s queen, rook and knight. But remarkably, there was no mate in sight, and Sindarov could do no better than allow Yu to force a draw by perpetual check.

“My problem was I came late,” Sindarov said, adding that he had issues getting a taxi to the venue on that day. “When it came to a point that I had so little time, I told myself, why didn’t I come early?”

“Tomorrow I hope to come early,” he said with a wide grin. “Actually, every day I hope to come early.”

In other notable results, GM Arjun Erigaisi of India, 2019 Dubai Open champion Maxim Matlakov of Russia, and GM Shant Sargsyan of Armenia also moved up to joint second place with 4.5 points after winning over GM Nikolas Theodorou of Greece, GM Mittal Aditya of India, and GM Harsha Bharathakoti of India respectively.

Ediz Kocak of Germany celebrated his 25th birthday with a win Thursday night to claim a share of the lead alongside FM Maxim Gavrilov of Russia.

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