Sharjah Masters: Prodigies Score Big

Sharjah Masters: Prodigies Score Big

| 6 | Chess Event Coverage

Only a month after the FIDE Grand Prix the Sharjah Cultural and Chess Club is hosting another tournament. The start of the first Sharjah Masters was somewhat chaotic, but the conditions for the players are excellent.

"The first pancake is always spoiled," some say.

The first Sharjah Masters was held March 23-31 in Sharjah, United Arab Emirates. Its opening day was like a first pancake.

The first round of the Sharjah Masters in action.

For starters, the participants were brought to the playing hall (a five-minute ride from the hotel where most players are staying) two hours before the start of the round, but there was no opening ceremony so everyone just had to wait...for two hours.

Then, shortly before the games started, the arbiter suddenly announced a change of the time control (now one hour and 40 minutes for the whole game, plus 30 seconds increment). The starting time of the rounds was also changed, from 5:30 pm to 4:30 pm. And, also at the last minute it was announced that accelerated pairings would be used.

More important, things went wrong with the list of participants. Somehow, a large number of players had ended up on the list at Chess-Results, and before the start of the first round nobody really knew who had travelled to Sharjah, and who had made other plans.

As a result, the first round saw no fewer than 39 "no-shows" with their opponents getting a free point after one hour of waiting. These included boards two and three, and eight among the top 26.

2017 Sharjah Masters, Round 1 | Top 8 No-Shows

Bo. Fed Title Name Rtg Result Fed Title Name Rtg
2 GM Kryvoruchko Yuriy 2708 + - - GM Grover Sahaj 2473
3 IM Narayanan Srinath 2472 + - - GM Matlakov Maxim 2702
5 IM Khademalsharieh Sarasadat 2453 - - + GM Wang Hao 2683
14 GM Sjugirov Sanan 2665 - - + IM Asgarizadeh Ahmad 2410
20 GM Oleksiyenko Mykhaylo 2643 + - - Li Yankai 2389
24 GM Demchenko Anton 2628 - - - IM Abdulov Orkhan 2384
25 IM Kanter Eduard 2383 + - - GM Jumabayev Rinat 2611
26 GM Mchedlishvili Mikheil 2602 - - + IM Rathnakaran K. 2383

Do the players complain? Hardly. The reason is that the tournament is providing conditions that are well above the average.

As said, most of them are staying at the three-star Centro Hotel in Sharjah. It has the ambiance of a four-star hotel, with a nice outdoor swimming pool, gym, sauna and a good buffet with three meals a day. Players rated above 2600 are getting this for free; others are paying $80 a night each, if they're sharing a double room (and many are).

And then there's the playing hall. As you might remember from the FIDE Grand Prix last month, the 34,000-cubic-foot Sharjah Cultural and Chess Club is the biggest chess club in the world. The playing hall is spacious, and for example the chairs are of a quality that would make them suitable for a world championship match. Prices for snacks and drinks are very reasonable.

The tournament, which has a $15,000 first prize, attracted no fewer than 230 players. India, which is relatively close by, delivered a huge contingent of players: 92, a much higher number even than the 28 from the UAE. Unfortunately, among the players who didn't come were some big names, such as GMs Shakhriyar Mamedyarov (the original top seed), Etienne Bacrot and Jon Ludvig Hammer.

GP participant and world #10 Mamedyarov was originally the top seed in Sharjah, but isn't playing.

Now, the top seeds are GMs Radoslaw Wojtaszek (POL, 2745), Yuriy Kryvoruchko (UKR, 2708), Arkadij Naiditsch (AZE, 2702), Wang Hao (CHN, 2683), Baskaran Adhiban (IND, 2682), Alexander Areshchenko (UKR, 2682), Eltaj Safarli (AZE, 2680), David Anton (ESP, 2676), and Gawain Jones (ENG, 2676), and Vladimir Akopian (ARM, 2675).

Because of those accelerated pairings (where in the first round the top quarter plays the second quarter and the third quarter plays the fourth quarter), quite a few strong grandmasters were held to a draw, or even lost in the first round.

Let's begin with IM Antonio Dcunha Viani of India, one of the many young stars hoping to become the next Vishy Anand or Pentala Harikrishna. A sharp tactical eye was definitely present in this game:

An excellent start for IM Antonio Dcunha Viani of India.

FM Sarin Nihal, also from India, took down a grandmaster as well. He managed to beat GM Matthias Bluebaum of Germany, partly due to excellent theoretical knowledge and partly because of better nerves in time trouble.

Nihal was interviewed by GM Danny King, who has been hired by the organizers to do lots of video material. He's doing both analysis (easily accessible from his PowerPlayChess channel) and daily reports, such as this one for round one:

Quite a lot of well known grandmasters drew their first game. This happened in five of the six top boards in fact, for Wojtaszek, Naiditsch, Areshchenko, Safarli and Anton. This is also how the tournament started for Dutch GM Benjamin Bok, who used a well-timed draw offer as he felt uncomfortable with his position. It was even worse than he thought, when he checked it with the computer.

Offering a draw there was Bok's best move in the game.

In round two it was yet another Indian IM who conquered a grandmaster. Even compatriots are getting no mercy! However, it was a big blunder by GM Lalith Babu in an equal position that gave the full point to IM Rathnakaran K.

IM Praggnanandhaa R started with draws against the two strong GMs Arkadij Naiditsch and Eltaj Safarli. These can hardly be called upsets, as Praggnanandhaa (coined "double Anand" during the 2016 Isle of Man tournament) is the already famous for being the youngest IM in the world.

He hasn't scored a GM norm yet, but might just do that in Sharjah. It seems likely that he will beat GM Sergey Karjakin's record for world's youngest ever GM. The Russian player did that aged 12 years and 7 months, which is in a year from now for Praggnanandhaa.

11-year-old IM Praggnanandhaa R.

The second round saw real upsets though. The aforementioned Bok lost (from a winning position) to GM Laxman R.R. and GM Alexandr Fier also went down. "I played somewhat risky, and also too fast," the Brazilian player told

After the initial hiccups, the tournament is now running fairly smoothly. It seems that from the second and third pancake onwards, Sharjah Masters will be a fairly tasty affair.

2017 Sharjah Masters | Pairings Round 3 (Boards 1-20)

Bo. No. Fed Title Name Rtg Pt. Pt. Fed Title Name Rtg No.
1 5 GM Wang Hao 2683 2 2 GM Sethuraman S.P. 2629 23
2 6 GM Adhiban B. 2682 2 2 GM Idani Pouya 2576 35
3 10 GM Jones Gawain C B 2676 2 2 GM Pichot Alan 2556 45
4 16 GM Fressinet Laurent 2662 2 2 FM Saeed Ishaq 2312 104
5 87 IM Rathnakaran K. 2383 2 2 GM Oleksiyenko Mykhaylo 2643 20
6 93 IM Siva Mahadevan 2363 2 2 GM Kravtsiv Martyn 2641 21
7 2 GM Kryvoruchko Yuriy 2708 2 GM Vishnu Prasanna. V 2534 49
8 46 GM Schroeder Jan-Christian 2543 GM Wojtaszek Radoslaw 2745 1
9 4 GM Naiditsch Arkadij 2702 Xu Yinglun 2540 47
10 48 GM Harika Dronavalli 2539 GM Anton Guijarro David 2676 9
11 56 IM Kuybokarov Temur 2491 GM Akopian Vladimir 2675 11
12 12 GM Iturrizaga Bonelli Eduardo 2673 GM Sunilduth Lyna Narayanan 2526 50
13 60 IM Santos Ruiz Miguel 2480 GM Sargissian Gabriel 2666 13
14 80 GM Laxman R.R. 2403 GM Amin Bassem 2660 17
15 91 CM Sindarov Javokhir 2374 GM Kuzubov Yuriy 2643 19
16 28 GM Adly Ahmed 2593 IM Stany G.A. 2495 55
17 112 Saurabh Anand 2284 GM Gledura Benjamin 2588 31
18 36 GM Maghsoodloo Parham 2576 GM Debashis Das 2480 59
19 38 GM Svane Rasmus 2570 Arjun Kalyan 2280 115
20 42 IM Santos Latasa Jaime 2565 WGM Mamedjarova Turkan 2267 118

(Full pairings here.)

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