The lead pack has been narrowed down to three after four gruelling rounds, even as English Grandmaster (GM) David Howell, the highest-ranked player, continued to stamp his class in the 17th Dubai Open Chess Tournament – Sheikh Rashid Bin Hamdan Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Cup Thursday night at the Dubai Chess and Culture Club.
In a game that saw both players leaving their king in the centre, Howell showcased his mastery in handling the white side of the Slav Defence’s Chebanenko variation, beating Russia’s GM Sergey Volkov in 28 moves. Volkov deviated from an old game he played in 1999, but Howell was well-prepared to meet the Russian’s new move, quickly building a kingside space advantage as Volkov’s position eventually collapsed shortly after Howell’s powerful rook invaded black’s seventh rank.
Sweden’s GM Nils Grandelius was equally impressive in dispatching of Georgia’s GM Gaioz Nigalidze’s Sicilian Defence also in 28 moves. The 17th-seeded Swede pressured Nigalidze’s kingside with his queen and minor pieces, eventually winning a pawn before forcing the Georgian to commit serious mistakes that led to more material loss.
The rest of the matches between the third-round co-leaders ended in a draw, including Russian second-seed GM Vladimir Fedoseev’s game against Turkey’s GM Dragan Solak. Both players trail the leaders half a point behind along with GM Gabor Papp of Hungary, GM Sergei Zhigalko of Belarus, GM Andrei Istratescu of France, GM Mikheil Mchedlishvili of Georgia, GM Alexander Shabalov of the US, GM Alexander Ipatov of Turkey and GM Igor Kovalenko of Latvia.
Grandelius and Fedoseev will have the white pieces against Howell and Solodovnichenko, respectively, in the fifth round – the first of two games to be played on Saturday. Round five will start at 10 am, while round six will start at 5:30 pm. Friday is a free day during which a blitz chess tournament has been organised with a total cash purse of US$4,000.
GM R.R Laxman of India halted Fide Maser (FM) Saeed Ishaq’s giant-killing spree with a 38-move win in a Benoni opening. FM Sultan Ibrahim of the UAE, the reigning Arab Under-18 champion, held Russian International Master Ernest Kharous to a draw to join Ishaq with two points. Also with two points are UAE junior players Marshool Hamdan, who defeated Armenian Woman Fide Master Maria Gevorgyan, and Ahmed Fareed, who won over Khalil Reem.
Saleh Nabil missed a chance to become the top scorer among Arab players after he dropped his game against Indian GM Arun Prasad to stay at two points.
Egypt’s International Master (IM) Mohamed Ezat remains the top Arab in the tournament with 2.5 points despite a loss to Ukraine’s GM Yuriy Kuzubov.
The Dubai Open Chess Championship – Sheikh Rashid Bin Hamdan Al Maktoum Cup offers a total cash purse of US$50,000 to the winners, with US$12,000 going to the champion.
The tournament is a nine-round Swiss system event with each player allotted 90 minutes plus a 30-second increment for each move to complete a game. The event is being managed by tournament director Yahya Mohammed Saleh and International Arbiter (IA) Mahdi Abdul Rahim, the chief arbiter, and assisted by deputy chief arbiter IA Saeed Yousuf Shakari, IA Jamal Qasim, IA Sheikha Ali Rashid, IA Walid Abu Obeid and IA Marcel Augusto.