Djerba Masters: Dardha edges Niemann on tiebreaks to win event

by Diana Mihajlova
3/3/2024 – The Djerba Masters was an 8-player single round-robin featuring a mix of rising stars and experienced grandmasters. In the end, Daniel Dardha and Hans Niemann tied for first place with 4½ points each. Dardha was declared tournament winner thanks to his better tiebreak score. World junior champion Marc’Andria Maurizzi tied for third place with fan favourite Vasyl Ivanchuk. | All photos by Diana Mihajlova

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The final rounds of a tense competition

Find here a report on the tournament’s organization and the first rounds of play

In the penultimate round of the Djerba Masters, players already seemed to have lost pace and instead of fighting for a win turned to quick draws. It was particularly surprising for Daniel Dardha, the leader of the tournament, not to be inspired to continue the fight for a win. In his game against Aryan Tari he offered a draw on the 16th move, which Tari accepted.

Daniel Dardha, Aryan Tari

Daniel Dardha v. Aryan Tari, ½-½

The game between Vasyl Ivanchuk and Divya Deshmukh ended in a draw on the 17th move, in a slightly better position for Deshmukh, according to the engines.

Divya Deshmukh, Vasyl Ivanchuk

Divya Deshmukh vs Vasyl Ivanchuk, ½-½

The game between Bilel Bellahcene and Jules Moussard was a hard-fought draw that was agreed on the 67th move.

Jules Moussard, Bilel Bellahcene

Joules Moussard v. Bilel Bellahcene, ½-½

The game of the day and the highlight of the tournament was the sixth-round confrontation between Hans Niemann and Marc’Andria Maurizzi. Niemann not only had a clear advantage throughout the game, but he had also managed his time better than his opponent.

Starting on move 30, Maurizzi was precariously low on time, blitzing his moves while using only increments, while Niemann counted with more than 25 minutes left on his clock. But the Frenchman was tenaciously holding on, which eventually paid off.

Hans Niemann, Marc'Andria Maurizzi

Hans Niemann v. Marc’Andria Maurizzi, round 6

When Maurizzi committed a blunder with 53...a3 instead of 53...Be5, Niemann had a clearly winning position.

But within only a couple of moves, the tables turned in Maurizzi’s favour in most unexpected fashion: Niemann committed four blunders in a row in over just three minutes, and resigned the game on move 63.

On his YouTube channel, he did not analyse this game, but in a heartfelt speech, he apologised to his fans for having made ‘childlike blunders’.

The game has been analysed by IM Robert Ris: ‘Is the Chess Still Speaking for Itself?’

Only three weeks earlier, the two players had faced each other in the Tata Steel Challengers. There, Hans also suffered a loss against Maurizzi, who was also playing with the black pieces. So, the 16-year-old reigning World Junior Champion is presently Niemann’s nemesis. They have played only two games against each other.

Marc'Andria Maurizzi, Hans Niemann

Two games, two wins with the black pieces for Maurizzi

Before the last round, the standings looked as follows: Dardha (4 points), Maurizzi, Ivanchuk and Niemann (), Tari and Bellahcene (3), Moussard (), Divya (1).

The seventh and final round started at 9 am, not the most propitious time of the day for chess players. Deshmukh and Maurizzi were the only ones to start their game on time. The other ones barely made it to the board before the default time (30 minutes).

Marc'Andria Maurizzi, Divya Deshmukh

Disciplined — Marc’Andria Maurizzi and Divya Deshmukh start their round-7 game

If the previous round had seen quick draws, the seventh round was even more inclined to the customary last-round draws. Boards 1 and 4, Ivanchuk v. Dardha and Tari v. Moussard were agreed drawn within a half an hour into the round. Maurizzi v. Deshmukh followed, but not before a valiant opposition by Deshmukh, who got her third draw against her much higher rated and experienced colleagues.

The last game to finish was Bellahcene v. Niemann. They battled it out, alone on the stage, while all other masters and most of the players in the lower sections had left the playing hall.

Bilel Bellahcene, Hans Niemann

Bilel Bellahcene v. Hans Niemann, round 7

It was to be expected that Niemann would not let off Bellahcene lightly. It was his last chance to grab a point and equalize with Dardha. Bellahcene had no intention of giving up easily, either. In our conversation over dinner the previous night, he told me: “When Niemann loses a game in such a disastrous way as against Maurizzi, he tends to get disheartened, so it is quite possible that he will not be in his best form”.

While the battle was raging on Bellahcene vs Niemann’s solitary board on the stage, the tournament leader, Dardha, was happily blitzing away with Maurizzi on the sunny terrace of the hotel. His victory was secured: if Niemann lost or drew, he would be the sole winner. If Nieman won, he would equalize with Dardha, but Dardha had a better tiebreak score.

Daniel Dardha, Marc'Andria Maurizzi

Dardha and Maurizzi lapping up the sunshine over blitz, with Divya kibitzing

The Bellahcene v. Niemann game lasted more than four hours with a balanced position until Bellahcene’s 51.b5 when engines screamed 'blunder'. Even though within a couple of more moves they both queened, Niemann was quicker and Bellahcene resigned on the 55th move.

Daniel Dardha

A reason to smile: Daniel Dardha is crowned the 2024 Djerba Masters winner

Djerba Chess Masters 2024

Masters podium: Daniel Dardha (1st), Hans Niemann (2nd), Marc’Andria Maurizzi (3rd)

Tied with for third placed, at 4/7, was Ivanchuk. Unbeaten, with six draws and an impressive win over Tari, Ivanchuk had a successful tournament with a plus*one score. As someone pointed out, the combined age of the top three finishers is the same as Ivancuk’s: 54. He was also second in the blitz tournament, only half a point behind the winner, Tari.

Vasyl Ivanchuk

The star of the event, Vasyl Ivanchuk

Aryan Tari finished fifth with 3½/7. Probably not his best result in the classical event, but he did win the blitz tournament.

Aryan Tari

Aryan Tari with his trophy after winnnig the blitz

This would not be the most memorable event for Moussard, the defending champion and former French national champion (2022). After the wasted winning chance against Niemann and a loss against Maurizzi, he drew all his remaining games and, with 3/7, finished in sixth place, tied with the Algerian and African champion, Bilel Bellahcene.

Jules Moussard

Jules Moussard

Indian IM Divya Deshmukh was the lowest-rated player and the only non-GM in the event. She had replaced, at a short notice, GM Vaishali Rameshbabu, who was originally lined-up but had to cancel her participation. Divya’s 1½/7 result placed her in the last position, but the three half points should boost her confidence and enrich her experience.

Divya Deshmukh

Divya Deshmukh

Final standings

All games


A former university lecturer in Romance philology, she is currently a painter as well as a chess journalist, and reports regularly from the international tournament scene.
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