2015 Al Ain Classic starts

by Prathamesh Mokal
12/24/2015 – The Al Ain Chess Classic has begun on an enthusiastic note. Fifty-two Grandmasters turned up, adding to the strength of the event, with most of them enjoying smooth sailing in the first round except for a few draws that caused minor upsets. Among the top seeds are Wang Hao, Alexei Shirov, and Yuriy Kryvoruchko. Here is a first illustrated report.

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The Al Ain Chess Classic has begun on an enthusiastic note. Fifty-two Grandmasters turned up, adding to the strength of the event, with most of them enjoying smooth sailing in the first round except for a few draws that caused minor upsets. Sergei Zhigalko and Alexander Motylev were among those who conceded half a point in the early round to lower rated players. Star players of the tournament, Wang Hao and Alexei Shirov, both with considerable experience at a high level, won their games, although in Shirov’s case, not without a few hiccups.

The top ten of the tournament

Yuriy Kryvoruchko (2711) in the above file picture is the top seed of the event.
He capitalised on an error by his opponent, Hesham Abdelrahman of Egypt.

Hesham Abdelrahman - Yuriy Kryvoruchko

[Event "Al Ain Classic 2015"] [Site "Al Ain"] [Date "2015.12.23"] [Round "1.1"] [White "Hesham, Abdelrahman"] [Black "Kryvoruchko, Yuriy"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "E16"] [WhiteElo "2398"] [BlackElo "2711"] [Annotator "Prathamesh Mokal"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "r1r3k1/1b3ppp/3p2q1/p1nP4/1p1B4/1P4P1/R3PPBP/3Q1RK1 w - - 0 22"] [PlyCount "28"] [EventDate "2015.12.23"] [EventRounds "9"] [EventCountry "UAE"] 22. Qb1 $2 {The top seed easily spotted the tactic that followed. Can you?} Qxb1 $1 23. Rxb1 Nxb3 24. Rxb3 Rc1+ 25. Bf1 Bxd5 {and Black is winning.} 26. Rxa5 (26. Rab2 Bxb3 27. Rxb3 Rb8 $19 {and the pawns will soon roll over.}) 26... Rxa5 27. Rxb4 {The rest was easy.} h5 28. f3 Ra2 29. Rb5 Rxe2 30. Rxd5 Ree1 31. Rxd6 Rxf1+ 32. Kg2 Rfd1 33. Be5 Rc2+ 34. Kh3 Rxd6 35. Bxd6 Rf2 0-1

Chinese prodigy Wang Hao, the second seed of the event comfortably beat the author of this article

Alexei Shirov (right) had dropped enough rating points prior to the start to arrive as the
sixth seed in the tournament. His struggles continued as the Sicilian Kalashnikov landed
him in trouble against Peter Kokol (2363).

Peter Kokol - Alexei Shirov

[Event "Al Ain Classic 2015"] [Site "Al Ain"] [Date "2015.12.23"] [Round "1.5"] [White "Kokol, Peter"] [Black "Shirov, Alexei"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "B32"] [WhiteElo "2363"] [BlackElo "2676"] [PlyCount "94"] [EventDate "2015.12.23"] [EventRounds "9"] [EventCountry "UAE"] {Shirov started with an enterprising Sicilain Kalashnikov but at one point was facing deep trouble.} 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 e5 5. Nb5 d6 6. c4 Be7 7. b3 Nf6 8. Bd3 Nd7 9. O-O Nc5 10. N1c3 a6 11. Na3 O-O 12. Nc2 Bg5 13. Ba3 Bf4 14. Nd5 Qg5 15. Kh1 Qh6 16. g3 Bg5 17. f4 exf4 18. gxf4 Bh4 19. Rg1 f5 20. e5 b6 21. exd6 Bb7 22. Nce3 Nd4 23. Bb2 Bf6 24. Rg2 Rae8 25. Nxf6+ Rxf6 26. Nd5 Bxd5 27. cxd5 Qxf4 {In this position Peter Kokol missed a tactic that could have brought trouble for Shirov.} 28. Bc4 $6 {This allows Black to complicate matters.} ({White should have played -} 28. d7 Nxd7 (28... Rd8 29. Bc4 $18 { There are too many pieces hanging on that a1-h8 diagonal.}) 29. Qg1 $18 { Black is loosing material here.}) 28... Re4 29. Qg1 Rg6 30. Rf1 Qh4 31. Rxg6 hxg6 32. Qxg6 Rg4 33. Qe8+ Kh7 34. Bxd4 Ne4 35. Qxe4 $2 {Probably time pressure.} ({Better was} 35. Rg1) 35... Rxe4 $19 36. Bxb6 Rxc4 37. bxc4 Qxc4 38. Kg1 Qxd5 39. Bc7 g5 40. Re1 f4 41. Kf2 Kg6 42. h3 Qxa2+ 43. Re2 Qb3 44. Ke1 Qxh3 45. Rd2 Qd7 46. Bb6 g4 47. Kf2 Qc6 0-1

Seventh seed Sergei Zhigalko (2655) before start of round one, pleasant and focused...

… and then during the round, he (right) was pretty intense. Abdulov Orkhan of Azerbaijan held
him to a draw. On the board just beside them eighth seed Alexander Motylev (left) was let off the
hook by WGM Mammadzada Gunay after she missed a tactical shot in a completely winning position.

Alexander Motylev - WGM Mammadzada Gunay

[Event "Al Ain Classic 2015"] [Site "Al Ain"] [Date "2015.12.23"] [Round "1.8"] [White "Motylev, Alexander"] [Black "Mammadzada, Gunay"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "B94"] [WhiteElo "2653"] [BlackElo "2341"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "8/1p3kr1/p1b1q1p1/P3b3/2Q1ppN1/4B3/1PP3K1/7R b - - 0 40"] [PlyCount "44"] [EventDate "2015.12.23"] [EventRounds "9"] [EventCountry "UAE"] {Black has a completely winning position but ...} 40... Bd5 $6 {spoils it.} ( 40... Bd6 41. Nh6+ Ke7 $19 {and Black will end up with material enough to win more than one game.}) 41. Nxe5+ Qxe5 42. Bxf4 $1 {The shot that was missed.} Bxc4 (42... Qxf4 43. Qxd5+ {would be worse.}) (42... e3+ {does not help to win. } 43. Kg3 $11) 43. Bxe5 Rg8 44. Rh8 $1 {The easiest way to equalise. The opposite coloured Bishop ending is an easy draw as the distance between Black's passed pawns is just one file.} Rxh8 45. Bxh8 Ke6 46. Kf2 Kf5 47. Bd4 Kf4 48. Bb6 g5 49. Bc7+ Kg4 50. Bd8 Ba2 51. b4 Bb1 52. c3 Bd3 53. Ke3 Kf5 54. Be7 g4 55. Bh4 Ke5 56. Be1 Kd5 57. Kd2 Kc4 58. Bg3 Kb3 59. Be1 Kc4 60. Bg3 e3+ 61. Kxe3 Kxc3 62. Bd6 1/2-1/2

The seven upset draws of day one included the 2013 Al Ain Classic winner, Abhijeet Gupta

Here is an interesting position for the readers to solve. It seems like
White is creating play with the passed pawn and the Queen on the
seventh rank although it does not look very dangerous, but Kovalenko
found a nice counterattacking tactic. Black to play and win.


WGM Bhakti Kulkarni, WFM Rucha Pujari and WGM Gulnar Mammadova tried hard but were
unable to hold their higher rated opponents.

Standings after two rounds

Rk. SNo     Name FED Rtg Pts.
1 5
GM Shirov Alexei LAT 2676 2,0
GM Kuzubov Yuriy UKR 2640 2,0
GM Rakhmanov Aleksandr RUS 2640 2,0
GM Mchedlishvili Mikheil GEO 2635 2,0
GM Hovhannisyan Robert ARM 2624 2,0
GM Pashikian Arman ARM 2606 2,0
GM Gabuzyan Hovhannes ARM 2585 2,0
GM Kovchan Alexander UKR 2583 2,0
GM Lalith Babu M.R. IND 2553 2,0
GM Vaibhav Suri IND 2552 2,0
GM Bajarani Ulvi AZE 2551 2,0
IM Swayams Mishra IND 2477 2,0
13 19
GM Onischuk Vladimir UKR 2612 2,0
14 2
GM Wang Hao CHN 2707 2,0
GM Amin Bassem EGY 2665 2,0
GM Efimenko Zahar UKR 2647 2,0
GM Andriasian Zaven ARM 2594 2,0
IM Petrosyan Manuel ARM 2466 2,0
19 4
GM Areshchenko Alexander UKR 2677 1,5
GM Edouard Romain FRA 2627 1,5
GM Adly Ahmed EGY 2598 1,5
GM Pantsulaia Levan GEO 2598 1,5
GM Parligras Mircea-Emilian ROU 2586 1,5
GM Kulaots Kaido EST 2574 1,5
GM Zeng Chongsheng CHN 2530 1,5
GM Ankit R. Rajpara IND 2489 1,5
GM Babujian Levon ARM 2465 1,5
28 3
GM Kovalenko Igor LAT 2680 1,5
GM Zhigalko Sergei BLR 2655 1,5
GM Anton Guijarro David ESP 2640 1,5
GM Malakhatko Vadim BEL 2531 1,5
GM Mammadov Zaur AZE 2467 1,5
IM Abdulov Orkhan AZE 2356 1,5
34 16
GM Kravtsiv Martyn UKR 2623 1,5
GM Volkov Sergey RUS 2612 1,5
GM Kunte Abhijit IND 2507 1,5
GM Gasanov Eldar UKR 2485 1,5
IM Petrosyan Tigran S. ARM 2469 1,5
GM Hossain Enamul BAN 2450 1,5
IM Das Sayantan IND 2411 1,5
41 18
GM Gupta Abhijeet IND 2613 1,5
GM Iordachescu Viorel MDA 2600 1,5
GM Sengupta Deep IND 2563 1,5
GM Vishnu Prasanna. V IND 2514 1,5
45 17
GM Oleksiyenko Mykhaylo UKR 2616 1,0

... 127 players (Source: chess-results.com)



Opening Ceremony

A glittering opening ceremony was held at the poolside. Interestingly, it was scheduled only after the first round was finished.  In the 2014 edition of the Classic, the opening ceremony and the first round had been severely delayed due to the late arrival of the guests. The organisers took care to avoid repeating this inconvenience to the players this year, and now we know why players return to the Al Ain Chess Classic!

Opening ceremony speech by Dr.Saif Salem Lekhraibani Alnuaimi, the Secretary General of the Al Ain Chess and Culture Club

A traditional Arabian dance performance at the opening ceremony

Some of the performers with the chief guests. The dignitaries standing behind (left to right)
are Miss Maria Ashamsi board member of Al Ain Chess Club, Dr.Saif is third from left, sponsor
of the tournament from Adib Bank Rashid Al Mazuroy, Tournament Director Tarik Al Taher,
Dr.Hesham Aljindi - President of Egyptian Chess Federation.

The Perfect setting?

It is often a problem to buy your everyday stuff when staying in a five star Hotel such as the Hotel Hili Raayhan by Rotana, but this one is different: There is a mall right beside it connected from the inside as well.

On the right is the official hotel of the tournament, the five-star Hili Raayhan by Rotana and
beside it is the Hili Mall. A very convenient setting!

Indian Grandmaster Deep Sengupta cited ‘excellent conditions’ (lodging, boarding, hospitality,
venue et al) as his reason to be back at the Al Ain Chess Classic and also enthusiastically led
the author of this article to the supermarket in the Hili Mall.

The remaining schedule of the tournament

Stay tuned for more updates!

Prathamesh Mokal is an International Master and FIDE Trainer from India. He won bronze in the Commonwealth Junior Championships 2003 and was joint Asian Junior Champion in the same year. He got his first Grandmaster norm in 2009 and scored an unprecedented 100% in the FIDE Trainer’s exam in 2012. He is a renowned coach based in Pune, India and he is also a Martial Arts enthusiast with a Black Belt 1st Dan in Isshinryu Karate as well as Matayoshi Kobudo.
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