Strong lineup for Al Ain Classic in December

by Prathamesh Mokal
10/29/2015 – Open tournaments are getting stronger – and how! The Al Ain Chess Classic is to be held in the United Arab Emirates from 22nd to 31st December. There is still a lot of time for the registration deadline to end, but the tournament has already attracted the interest of fifty-two grandmasters. The top seed is none other than the legendary Latvian GM Alexei Shirov. Expect fire on the board.

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Al Ain Classic

22nd to 30th December

Strong lineup for Al Ain Classic in December

By Prathamesh Mokal

Of all the current and former elite players in the world, the one who has come closest to being the successor of former World Champion Mikhail Tal’s brilliant attacking style of play is Alexei Shirov. It is not a very big surprise, since in his youth Shirov studied under the guidance of fellow Latvian genius Tal.

Shirov has recorded a number of DVDs in the ChessBase studio

You can browse through the excellent Shirov DVDs here

Shirov has been among the elite players since the early 1990’s. He was ranked world number four in 1998. He is the winner of numerous international tournaments: Biel (1991), Ter Apel 1997, Monte Carlo (1998), Mérida (2000), Paul Keres Memorial Tournament in Tallinn (2004, 2005, 2011), M-Tel Masters (2009), Shanghai grand Slam Masters (2010), just to name a few. He has won some of the above tournaments even in the presence of the then World Champions. Shirov is a very well-regarded author and has written two books describing his best (and most brilliant!) games: Fire on Board and Fire on Board – Part 2.

Move of the Century?

Hearing Shirov’s name immediately brought to my mind the following famous position from one of his games. It is said that Shirov’s move inspired the British Chess Magazine to start a search for the 'Most Amazing Move' of all time.

Topalov-Shirov, Linares 1998

Position after 47.Kg1, Black to play, try to find the best plan for Black to convert his
material advantage. Remember the drawing tendencies of opposite coloured bishops.

It is not easy for Black to win this ending in the usual way because the bishop on c3 holds both the a-pawn and the d-pawn on the same diagonal. Moreover one can also note that the a-pawn has the promotion square of the 'wrong' colour. Therefore White will always have the idea of dissolving his two pawns and bishop for Black's d-f-g pawns while he gets his king to a1 to make a theoretical draw.

[Event "Linares"] [Site "?"] [Date "1998.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "Topalov, Veselin"] [Black "Shirov, Alexei"] [Result "0-1"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "8/8/4kpp1/3p1b2/p6P/2B5/6P1/6K1 b - - 0 47"] [PlyCount "13"] [EventDate "1998.??.??"] [Source "Dvoretsky"] [SourceDate "2003.10.29"] 47... Bh3 $3 {Mark Dvoretsky, who analysed this in his famous 'Endgame Manual' says "The bishop is sacrificed for a single tempo - the one needed for the king to get to e4."} ({Dvoretsky - "Normal" play would bring White the draw without too much trouble, for instance:} 47... Kd6 $2 48. Kf2 $1 {Simplest.} ({ Although White also does not lose after} 48. Bxf6 $5 Kc5 49. Kf2 d4 50. Ke2 Kc4 51. Be7 Kc3 52. Kd1 $11) 48... Kc5 49. Ke3 $11) ({Dvoretsky -} 47... Be4 $2 48. Kf2 Kf5 {Idea 49...B:g2!} 49. g3 $1 a3 50. Ke3 Kg4 51. Bxf6 Kxg3 52. Kd2 Kf4 ({ on} 52... d4 53. Bxd4 Kxh4 54. Kc1 g5 55. Bc5 a2 56. Kb2 $11 {White need only give up his bishop for the g-pawn.}) 53. Be7 $1 {(while there's time, it's useful to force the enemy pawn onto the same color square as his bishop)} a2 54. Bf6 Bf5 55. Bg7 Ke4 56. Ba1 d4 57. Bb2 {(with the pawn at a3, White would risk falling into zugzwang here)} d3 58. Bc3 Kf4 59. Bb2 Kg4 60. Bf6 a1=Q 61. Bxa1 Kxh4 $11 {and we have transposed into the Berger - Kotlerman ending. ( a known drawn ending).}) 48. gxh3 (48. Kf2 Kf5 49. Kf3 {would not help in view of } Bxg2+ $1 50. Kxg2 Ke4 $19) 48... Kf5 49. Kf2 Ke4 $1 50. Bxf6 (50. Ke2 f5 $19 {Black has too many passed pawns.}) 50... d4 {[%cal Ga4a3] /\ a3} 51. Be7 (51. Ke2 a3 $19) 51... Kd3 {[%cal Gd3c2,Gd4d3] /\ Kc2, d3} 52. Bc5 Kc4 $1 ({But not } 52... Kc3 $2 53. Ke2) 53. Be7 Kb3 ({Also winning is} 53... Kc3 54. Ke1 Kc2 55. Bc5 d3 56. Bb4 a3 $19) ({The bishop cannot stop both the pawns on different diagonals after} 53... Kb3 54. Bc5 d3 55. Ke3 Kc2 56. Bb4 a3 $19) 0-1

It is not every day that one can find a move like this, but with an inherent romantic style of play one is bound to produce thrilling chess masterpieces every once in a while. There is therefore no doubt, that with the participation of Shirov the excitement in the tournament is bound to increase manifold. Looking forward to some fireworks on the board!

There are many other strong grandmasters playing in Al Ain. Let us make note of a few among them.

Former World Junior Bronze medallist and 2013 Ukrainian champion
Yuriy Kryvoruchko (2710) is second on the list according to the October 2015 ratings

Igor Kovalenko (2700), Latvian Champion in 2013 and 2014, is the third seed.

Alexander Areshchenko of Ukraine (2672) is seeded fourth. He is former World Youth U-14 Champion (2000) and has won the Ukrainian Championship in 2005.

Sergei Zhigalko of Belarus (2656) is fifth on the list. Silver medallist at the
World Junior 2009, he won the 2012 and 2013 Belarusian Championships.

Strong Ukrainian GMs who participated in the 2014 edition will be back this year: Alexander Kovchan (2591), Vladimir Onischuk (2612), Mihailo Oleksienko (2628), Martyn Kravtsiv (2621) and Yuriy Kryvoruchko (2710)

Former World Junior bronze medallist and three times winner of the African Individual Championships
grandmaster Amin Bassem (2636) will lead the Egyptian challenge [photo from World Cup 2015 website]

Aleksandr Rakhmanov (2637), winner of 2013 Dubai Open and
numerous strong blitz tournaments, will lead the Russian challenge.

Armenian grandmaster Tigran Petrosian (2625) has confirmed his entry. Above he is seen receiving the runner-up prize of the 2014 Al Ain Classic from Sheikh Sultan Bin Khalifa Bin Shakbooth Al-Nahyan. On the left is Saif Salem Lekhraibani Alnuaimi, the Secretary general of the Al Ain Chess and Culture Club and Head of the Organising Committee.

Romain Edouard (2636) will lead the French challenge. He has won numerous open
tournaments including the Dubai Open 2014. He tied for first in the 2015 World Open.

Gadir Guseinov (2636) of Azerbaijan will be among the players to watch out for. At the Baku
World Cup 2015 Gadir brought down the strong Czech grandmaster David Navara in the second round.

Young and upcoming grandmasters Diptayan Ghosh (2550)
and Vaibhav Suri (2561) will head the Indian challenge this year

There are many more reputed grandmasters and masters from various nationalities participating, all with superb performances to their name. You can find their names in the players list below.

Sd.  Ti. Name Rtng FED
1 GM Shirov Alexei 2715 LAT
2 GM Kryvoruchko Yuriy 2710 UKR
3 GM Kovalenko Igor 2700 LAT
4 GM Areshchenko Alexander 2672 UKR
5 GM Zhigalko Sergei 2656 BLR
6 GM Efimenko Zahar 2647 UKR
7 GM Kuzubov Yuriy 2641 UKR
8 GM Volokitin Andrei 2639 UKR
9 GM Rakhmanov Aleksandr 2637 RUS
10 GM Amin Bassem 2636 EGY
11 GM Edouard Romain 2636 FRA
12 GM Guseinov Gadir 2634 AZE
13 GM Hovhannisyan Robert 2630 ARM
14 GM Oleksiyenko Mykhaylo 2628 UKR
15 GM Petrosian Tigran L. 2625 ARM
16 GM Melkumyan Hrant 2622 ARM
17 GM Kravtsiv Martyn 2621 UKR
18 GM Vovk Andrey 2619 UKR
19 GM Vovk Yuri 2617 UKR
20 GM Onischuk Vladimir 2612 UKR
21 GM Mchedlishvili Mikheil 2607 GEO
22 GM Pashikian Arman 2603 ARM
23 GM Ter-Sahakyan Samvel 2601 ARM
24 GM Volkov Sergey 2592 RUS
25 GM Bok Benjamin 2591 NED
26 GM Kovchan Alexander 2591 UKR
27 GM Potkin Vladimir 2591 RUS
28 GM Parligras Mircea-Emilian 2586 ROU
29 GM Iordachescu Viorel 2583 MDA
30 GM Sumets Andrey 2583 UKR
31 GM Kulaots Kaido 2575 EST
32 GM Wagner Dennis 2575 GER
33 GM Paichadze Luka 2568 GEO
34 GM Vaibhav Suri 2561 IND
35 IM Ghosh Diptayan 2550 IND
36 GM Bajarani Ulvi 2546 AZE
37 GM Mirzoev Azer 2539 AZE
38 GM Gopal G.N. 2536 IND
39 GM Ehlvest Jaan 2535 USA
40 GM Halkias Stelios 2534 GRE
41 GM Malakhatko Vadim 2527 BEL
42 GM Libiszewski Fabien 2523 FRA
43 GM Pavlidis Antonios 2522 GRE
44 GM Arun Prasad S. 2520 IND
45 GM Zeng Chongsheng 2517 CHN
46 GM Kveinys Aloyzas 2511 LTU
47 GM Kanep Meelis 2508 EST
48 GM Vishnu Prasanna. V 2503 IND
49 GM Debashis Das 2501 IND
50 GM Riff Jean-Noel 2499 FRA
51 GM Hayrapetyan Hovik 2489 ARM
52 IM Petrosyan Tigran S. 2469 ARM
53 GM Ankit R. Rajpara 2467 IND
54 GM Babujian Levon 2465 ARM
55 IM Harutyunian Tigran K. 2459 ARM
56 GM Mammadov Zaur 2458 AZE
57 IM Petrosyan Manuel 2452 ARM
58 IM Baghdasaryan Vahe 2439 ARM
59 GM Bakre Tejas 2438 IND
60 IM Khurtsidze Nino 2426 GEO
61 IM Ladva Ottomar 2423 EST
62 IM Das Sayantan 2411 IND
63   Mu Ke 2404 CHN
64 IM Prathamesh Sunil Mokal 2393 IND
65 IM L'ami Alina 2369 ROU
66 FM Kokol Peter 2363 SLO
67 WGM Mammadzada Gunay 2342 AZE
68 IM Zozulia Anna 2335 BEL
69 IM Morchiashvili Bachana 2331 GEO
70 WGM Abdulla Khayala 2320 AZE
71   Ashwath R. 2253 IND
72 WCM Mammadova Narmin 2223 AZE
73 WGM Gutsko Anastasia 2219 UKR
74   Aradhya Garg 2180 IND
75   Danielyan Vahe 2151 ARM
76 WIM Nandhidhaa Pv 2102 IND
77 WIM Guo Emma 2050 AUS
78   Ghazaryan Narine 1936 ARM
79   Asgharzadeh Mitra 1916 IRI
80   Musallam Salim Al Aamri 1888 OMA
81 FM Mayed Alrashedi 1877 UAE
82   Yagoubi Hassen 1715 TUN
83   Ahmad M Saleh Alzarouni 1668 UAE
84   Nanyan Georgy 1583 ARM
85   Zakaryan Suren 1469 ARM
86   Hareb Nasser Hareb Alshamsi 1458 UAE
87   Abdulla M Hamed Alneyadi 1387 UAE
88   Sultan Fadel Saeed Alshamsi 1363 UAE

Let us have a look at the graphical representation of the entries, Federation wise.

Armenia (15) has so far the highest number of participants for the Al Ain Classic 2015, followed by India (13) and Ukraine (13). Players from twenty-six countries have already registered.

Under the watchful eyes of Chief Arbiter Ashot Var and Tournament Director/International
Organizer Tarek Al Taher the event is likely to be a smooth and pleasant experience


It is always ideal for the players to stay and play in the same place. Better the conditions, higher is the quality of play. The tournament organizers have persisted with the wonderful hotel Hili Raayhan by Rotana for this event.

The five star Hotel Hili Raayhan by Rotana Al-Ain is the venue for the tournament. According to the participants of the previous edition of the Classic, the food and hospitality of this hotel is something to really look forward to!

There are many places to see in Al Ain. My favourite is the winding road
of the second tallest mountain in the United Arab Emirates, Jebel Hafeet!


Most of the pictures above were taken by Amruta Mokal (sister of the author of this article), while some of them are from the Al Ain tournament officials.

Information about the schedule, prizes, entry fees and other details of the tournament can be found in previous invitation report here: Al Ain Classic in December 2015. Here the main points:


  • For all inquiries and requests:
  • Tournament Director: Tariq Al Taher Mobile: +971-50-6437008
  • Transport; Mr. Louie Al Sabbah – Mobile: +971-50-6656644
  • Accountant – Mr. Esam Amer - +971-50-6810075
  • General Coordinator – Ms. Basma Mustafa - +971-50-9973275
  • Alain chess club +971-37633387
  • Follow on YouTube Alain Classics
  • Twitter handle: @alain_classic
  • For more information on the tournament, such as entry fee and the procedure for Visa applications see also the tournament invitation (PDF).


The games will be broadcast live on the official web site and on the chess server If you are not a member you can download a free Playchess client and get immediate access. You can also use ChessBase or any of our Fritz compatible chess programs.

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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