Sharjah Masters 1-2: Prodigy watch by Colin McGourty

Mar 26, 2017, 4:36 AM |

The inaugural Sharjah Masters got off to a bumpy start on Thursday with no shows and forfeits, but it’s a fascinating event to watch. In Shakhriyar Mamedyarov’s absence Radek Wojtaszek is the top seed, but the main focus may be on a group of kids likely to transform the chess world by the middle of the 2020s. India’s 11-year-old Praggnanandhaa and 12-year-old Nihal Sarin and Uzbekistan’s 11-year-old Javokhir Sindarov and 12-year-old Nodirbek Abdusattorov have already claimed some GM scalps and impressive draws.



Radek Wojtaszek is top seed, while Arkadij Naiditsch stands by his Round 1 opponent - 11-year-old Praggnanandhaa | photo: Maria Emelianova, official website


The 1st Sharjah Masters is a 200+ player 9-round open taking place in the world’s biggest dedicated chess club, the Sharjah Cultural and Chess Club – the same United Arab Emirates venue that saw the recent Sharjah Grand Prix. The top seed at the event looked set to be Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, but when the delayed pairings finally appeared it turned out that he was missing alongside some other top players who had been listed such as Etienne Bacrot. There was worse to come, since it soon became clear the paired players including many more absentees, leading to multiple forfeits, including three on the top five boards!



Gawain Jones was one of the few top players to both play and win in Round 1 - earlier this year the Englishman won the Tata Steel Challengers, while last year he won the nearby Dubai Masters | photo: Maria Emelianova, official website 


An accelerated pairing system that meant the top players immediately faced strong opposition in the 2450-2500 rating range, led to a very unusual set of results for the first round of a big open – on the top 13 boards only Adhiban and Gawain Jones managed to win without a forfeit. Only in Round 2 was normal service restored, with the favourites winning on 7 of the top 8 boards. You can replay all the games from all rounds of the tournament using the selector below – hover over a player’s name to see all their results: