Al Ain Chess Festival begins

by Sagar Shah
12/19/2014 – The Middle East is currently becoming one of the hubs of world chess. Just a fortnight after the super-strong Qatar Open another powerful tournament begins on the 19th of December in Al Ain, UAE, with 44 GMs (17 above Elo 2600) and 19 IMs. The event was kicked off with a one-day rapid which was won by UAE GM Salem A. R. Saleh. Big pictorial report by Sagar Shah.

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The Chess Festival begins!

Report from Al Ain by Sagar Shah

Recently, we reported extensively from the Qatar Open, which was one of the strongest opens ever to be held in the history of the game. It has not even been a fortnight since that event ended when another powerful tournament is due to begin in Al Ain, UAE from the 19th of December 2014. The tournament has 44 grandmasters and 19 International Masters, making it to be an event worthy of grabbing world-wide attention. As many as 17 players have an Elo of more than 2600.

I started my journey from the Mumbai airport which has been
recently renovated and is one of the best airports in the world

A three hour flight from Mumbai would take me to Dubai. Not to mention that I was
extremely excited to travel in Emirates Airlines, which is known for its splendid hospitality.

The wonderfully decorated Dubai Airport is approximately 150 kms away from Al Ain…

... but with roads like these it takes you only over an hour to reach!

The five star Hili Rayhaan by Rotana group is the official hotel

Festive atmosphere and a Christmas tree welcome you in the hotel lobby

The rooms are luxurious and comfortable

The coffee lounge

The dining area is huge and vast and has space for all the players

Not to forget, the chefs are the making players happy by preparing some delicious dishes

When I went to see the tournament hall, I realised that a rapid tournament was due to begin in an hour. Even though I was tired from the journey, the strength of the tournament convinced me that it would give me some good practise before the main event.

The rapid tournament had seven rounds and was played with a time control of ten minutes plus five seconds increment. The special part being, all the games were played on the digital board and were shown live.

Strong Ukrainians: Alexander Kovchan, Vladimir Onischuk, Mihailo Oleksienko,
Martyn Kravtsiv and Yuriy Kryvoruchko

The smiling Indians: Abhijit Gupta, Vishnu Prasanna and Shyam Sundar

Cheerful: Viorel Iordachescu from Moldova

Ashot Vardepetyan was the chief arbiter of the event. He was
chief arbiter of the Anand-Carlsen match of 2013 in Chennai.

The top seed was Rauf Mamedov (2707) from Azerbaijan

The Armenians too have sent their best guys – one of them is Tigran Petrosian ...

... the other is Arman Pashikian.

But it was the third Armenian, Samvel Ter-Sahakyan who finished a one of the runners-up
with an impressive score of 6.0/7. His only loss came to the eventual winner…

... GM Salem A. R. Saleh from UAE who played some fantastic
games to score 6.0/7 with five wins and one draw

Untitled Document Final Ranking after 7 Rounds

Rk. SNo Name FED Rtg Pts.  TB1   TB2   TB3 
1 15 GM Salem A.R. Saleh UAE 2562 6.0 29.00 34.5 26.5
2 13 GM Ter-Sahakyan Samvel ARM 2580 6.0 24.50 30.5 24.0
3 2 GM Kryvoruchko Yuriy UKR 2687 5.5 26.00 34.0 22.0
4 14 GM Mchedlishvili Mikheil GEO 2578 5.5 21.50 28.5 23.5
5 21 GM Babujian Levon ARM 2471 5.5 17.75 25.5 22.0
6 11 GM Oleksienko Mikhailo UKR 2598 5.0 19.00 26.0 18.5
7 12 GM Kravtsiv Martyn UKR 2582 5.0 18.75 27.5 20.5
8 16 GM Moskalenko Viktor ESP 2534 5.0 18.00 26.5 20.0
9 17 GM Kovchan Alexander UKR 2520 5.0 18.00 26.5 20.0
10 8 GM Pashikian Arman ARM 2617 5.0 17.75 28.0 20.0
11 23 IM Pourramezanali Amirreza IRI 2461 5.0 17.75 27.5 19.0
12 4 GM Onischuk Vladimir UKR 2648 5.0 17.50 27.5 20.0
13 6 GM Iordachescu Viorel MDA 2634 4.5 20.50 32.0 20.5
14 3 GM Petrosian Tigran L. ARM 2655 4.5 18.75 30.5 20.0
15 5 GM Gupta Abhijeet IND 2640 4.5 16.75 29.0 19.5
16 22 GM Bajarani Ulvi AZE 2465 4.5 16.25 27.0 19.0
17 26 GM Hayrapetyan Hovik ARM 2441 4.5 15.75 27.5 19.5
18 34 FM Petrosyan Manuel ARM 2287 4.5 13.75 26.0 16.5
19 1 GM Mamedov Rauf AZE 2707 4.0 19.00 36.5 22.0
20 10 GM Miroshnichenko Evgenij UKR 2598 4.0 15.50 30.5 19.5
21 24 GM Lazarev Vladimir FRA 2449 4.0 14.75 29.5 19.5
22 30 IM Sagar Shah IND 2302 4.0 14.75 29.5 17.5
23 41 Firouzja Alireza IRI 2085 4.0 14.00 29.0 17.0
24 52 CM Asadli Vugar AZE 1959 4.0 12.25 27.5 16.0
25 37 CM Puranik Abhimanyu IND 2190 4.0 12.00 26.5 15.0
26 27 Hilwani Talal SYR 2375 4.0 12.00 25.0 16.0
27 38 FM Soozankar A.M. IRI 2183 4.0 11.50 27.0 16.0
28 47 Abtini Hasan SYR 2024 4.0 11.00 23.5 13.0
29 40 Safarov Zirva AZE 2104 4.0 11.00 23.0 14.0
30 46 Mokal Amruta Sunil IND 2041 4.0 11.00 22.5 14.0
31 43 FM Tagelsir Abubaker SUD 2064 4.0 10.50 25.0 13.0
32 29 WGM Soumya Swaminathan IND 2309 4.0 10.00 24.5 18.0
33 50 Rafee Mohd Hayel SYR 1986 4.0 10.00 24.0 13.0

For this effort Salem A. R. Saleh was rewarded with a trophy and a cash prize of $1000.
On the right is one of the chief co-ordinators of the event, Tarek Al Taher.

Key games played by the winner

[Event "Al Ain Rapid 2014"] [Site "Al Ain (UAE)"] [Date "2014.12.18"] [Round "3.2"] [White "Pashikian, Arman"] [Black "Salem, A.R. Saleh"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "D91"] [WhiteElo "2617"] [BlackElo "2562"] [Annotator "Sagar Shah"] [PlyCount "140"] [EventDate "2014.12.18"] [EventRounds "7"] [EventCountry "UAE"] [WhiteClock "0:00:13"] [BlackClock "0:00:34"] 1. d4 Nf6 2. Nf3 g6 3. c4 Bg7 4. Nc3 d5 {Salem is a big adherent of the Grunfeld Defense and has played this opening with good results in the past.} 5. Bg5 dxc4 (5... Ne4 {is by far the main move but this dxc4 is becoming popular these days and definitely worth playing in rapid and blitz time controls.}) 6. e4 c5 7. d5 b5 8. e5 b4 9. exf6 exf6 {This might all seem really complex stuff but it has been played on 84 occasions already.} 10. Qe2+ Kf8 11. Bd2 (11. Be3 {is the main move.}) 11... bxc3 12. Bxc3 Ba6 13. O-O-O Nd7 14. d6 Bh6+ 15. Kc2 $6 (15. Kb1 {was better.}) 15... Kg7 16. Qe4 Re8 {Black has perfect co-ordination and already stands much better.} 17. Qh4 Bb7 18. Bxc4 $2 {A bad blunder which loses a piece.} Re4 $1 19. Qh3 Rxc4 {White could have resigned with a clear conscience in a classical game. But this is rapid and in time pressure anything is possible.} 20. Nd2 Bxd2 21. Rxd2 Be4+ 22. Kd1 Rb8 23. Re1 Bf5 24. Qg3 Rg4 25. Qf3 Ra4 26. h3 Rxa2 27. Re7 Ne5 $2 {Salem had been milking his advantage really well but now goes wrong and gives White the chance to come back in the game.} (27... Be6 $19 {was simple and would have kept the advantage.}) 28. Bxe5 fxe5 29. Qd5 {This suddenly starts becoming difficult for Black. There is an attack on the f7 point and the d6 pawn is quite a monster.} Ra1+ 30. Ke2 Kh6 $1 {Salem makes the best defensive move.} (30... Be6 $2 31. Qxe6 $18) 31. g4 (31. Qxf7 {is met with the amazing shot} Rxb2 $1 32. Qxh7+ Kg5 33. h4+ Kg4 34. Rxb2 Qa5 $1 $19) 31... Qa5 $1 32. gxf5 Rxb2 $1 {What tactical awareness shown with little time on clock.} 33. d7 (33. Rxb2 Qe1+ 34. Kf3 Qh1+ $19) 33... Qa6+ 34. Kf3 Qf1 35. d8=Q {What a game! White is a queen up now, but his king is in grave danger.} Qxh3+ 36. Ke2 Qf1+ 37. Kf3 Ra3+ 38. Qd3 Rxd3+ $2 (38... Rxd2 $1 39. Qf8+ Kg5 40. Qxa3 Qxf2+ 41. Ke4 Qf4# {would have been the logical conclusion of the game.}) 39. Qxd3 Rb3 $1 {The good thing about Salem's play is that his mistakes do not follow one after the other. After a bad move he is able to regroup and find the best chances.} 40. Qxb3 Qh3+ 41. Ke2 Qxb3 {With four extra pawns the rest should be a matter of technique, which is not so easy with less time on the clock but it is easier to play with a queen than two rooks.} 42. Rxe5 c4 43. fxg6 hxg6 44. Re3 c3 45. Rd1 Qc4+ 46. Ke1 a5 47. Rc1 c2 48. Kd2 Qf4 49. Ke2 Qf5 50. Rd3 a4 51. Rxc2 a3 52. Rdd2 Qe4+ 53. Kf1 Kg5 54. Ra2 Qb4 55. Kg2 Qg4+ 56. Kh2 Qf3 57. Kg1 Kg4 58. Re2 Qb3 59. Rad2 f5 60. Kg2 f4 61. Kg1 g5 62. Rc2 Kh3 63. f3 Qb1+ 64. Kf2 Kh2 65. Red2 Qg1+ 66. Ke2 Kg3 67. Ra2 Qe3+ 68. Kd1 Kxf3 69. Kc2 Ke4 70. Kd1 f3 {A tense and exciting struggle!} 0-1

[Event "Al Ain Rapid 2014"] [Site "Al Ain (UAE)"] [Date "2014.12.18"] [Round "5.1"] [White "Salem, A.R. Saleh"] [Black "Mamedov, Rauf"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "E81"] [WhiteElo "2562"] [BlackElo "2707"] [Annotator "Sagar Shah"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "4B2k/7p/1p1p4/p2P1p2/2P1nP2/8/P5PP/7K b - - 0 36"] [PlyCount "84"] [EventDate "2014.12.18"] [EventRounds "7"] [EventCountry "UAE"] [WhiteClock "0:00:34"] [BlackClock "0:00:19"] {White is a pawn up in this endgame but the black knight is pretty strong. It is very interesting to see how Salem shows the superiority of a bishop over the knight in the endgame by combining his play on both the flanks.} 36... Kg7 37. g3 Kf6 38. Kg2 Nc3 39. a4 Ne4 40. Bb5 Nd2 41. Kf2 Ne4+ 42. Ke3 Nc5 43. Bc6 Nb3 44. h3 $1 {The first plan is to create a passer on the kingside.} h6 (44... h5 45. Be8 Nc5 46. Bxh5 Nxa4 {might have given black good drawing chances.}) 45. g4 Nc5 46. Bb5 Nb3 47. Bd7 fxg4 48. hxg4 {The first goal is achieved. The black king is tied down on the kingside because of the threat to create a passed pawn. Now it is time to create some damage on the queenside in adherence with the principle of two weaknesses.} Nc5 49. Bb5 Nb3 50. Bc6 Nc5 51. Kf3 Nd3 52. Kg3 Kg6 53. Bd7 Kf6 54. Be8 Nb2 55. Bb5 Nd3 56. Kf3 Nc5 57. Bc6 Nd3 58. Bd7 Nb2 $2 {A bad mistake by Mamedov. White could have trapped the knight with Ke2!} (58... Nc5 {It would have been interesting to see how White would have broken through if Mamedov would have kept the fortress.} 59. Be8 Nd3 60. Bb5 Nc5 61. Kg3 (61. Ke3 Kf7 62. Kd4 Kf6 {It is not possible to win.}) 61... Nd3 62. Bc6 Nc5 (62... Kg6 63. Bd7 Kf6 64. Bf5 Nb2 65. Bc2 Nxc4 66. Kf3 { Would be similar to the main game.}) 63. Kh4 Nb3 64. g5+ hxg5+ 65. fxg5+ Kg6 66. Be8+ Kg7 (66... Kf5 67. Kh5 $18) 67. Kg4 {White has made great progress and should win the game.}) 59. Ke3 $2 {Practically a nice decision. White realises that giving up the c4 pawn is going to help him to find a way for his king to the queenside.} (59. Ke2 $1 Nxc4 60. Bb5 Na3 61. Bd3 {[%csl Ra3]}) 59... Nxc4+ 60. Kd3 Nb2+ 61. Kd4 Nd1 62. Bb5 Nb2 63. Be8 Ke7 64. Bc6 Kf6 65. Bb5 Nd1 66. Bd3 Kg7 67. g5 hxg5 68. fxg5 {Now the black king is tied up and the white king is free to go the queenside.} Nf2 69. Bf5 Nd1 70. Bc2 Nf2 71. Kc4 Ng4 72. Kb5 Ne3 73. Bb3 Kg6 74. Kxb6 Kxg5 75. Kxa5 Kf6 76. Kb6 Ng4 77. a5 Ne5 78. a6 {A fine display of endgame technique by Salem. Usually it is very difficult to show the superiority of the bishop over the knight is less time because the knight is a tricky piece. But this ability to keep control is the sign of a strong player!} 1-0

All the prize winners captured in one frame

Amruta Mokal won the prize of the best woman player at the event.
She is also the photographer who took all the pictures in this report.

The main tournament will begin from the 19th of December – here is the starting list, and here, just in, the round one results.


Links

The games are being broadcast live on the official web site and on the chess server Playchess.com. If you are not a member you can download a free Playchess client and get immediate access. You can also use ChessBase 12 or any of our Fritz compatible chess programs.

Topics: Al Ain

Sagar Shah is an International Master from India with two GM norms. He is also a chartered accountant and would like to become the first CA+GM of India. He loves to cover chess tournaments, as that helps him understand and improve at the game he loves so much. He is the co-founder of the ChessBase India website.
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GalacticKing GalacticKing 12/20/2014 12:24
Wow, this has been a truly fantastic, fantastic report. Great editorial and great pictures! Thank you!
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