Diego Flores first in Dubai

by Macauley Peterson
4/12/2018 – The 2018 Dubai Open was played between April 2nd and 10th. In a field stacked with 2600+ grandmasters, the Argentinian Diego Flores (pictured with the Sheik Rashid Bin Hamdan Al Maktoum Cup) was crowned champion with 7½ / 9 points. In the last round, he beat the Indian Surya Ganguly on the top table. The runner-up was Eduardo Iturrizaga (Venezuela) who drew with Ahmed Adly (Egypt). S.P. Sethuraman (India) and Adly also scored 7/9 points to take the third and fourth spots, respectively. | Photo: (trophy) Dubai Culture Club on Facebook; (Flores) Carlos Ilardo / Graciela Manteiga (ChessBase archive)

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Eclectic field in the UAE

Scanning the starting list of the 2018 Dubai open, one is struck by the incredibly diverse turnout. The top ten players hail from Ukraine, Egypt, England, Armenia, Spain, Azerbaijan, Russia, Belarus, Argentina, India — ten different countries and four different continents! When one recognises that the winner came from Argentina, the first look would be at 2645-rated Sandro Mareco, but it was instead the 21st seed, Argentinian Champion Diego Flores who took the top spot after a key last round victory.

Award ceremony

Flores apparently had his cake and ate it too! |Dubai Chess and Culture Club on Facebook

Top results of round nine

Name Pkt. Ergebnis Pkt. Name
Flores Diego 1 - 0 Ganguly Surya Shekhar
Iturrizaga Bonelli Eduardo ½ - ½ Adly Ahmed
Sethuraman S.P. ½ - ½ 6 Jones Gawain C B
Kryvoruchko Yuriy 6 ½ - ½ 6 Kovalev Vladislav
Can Emre 1 - 0 Amin Bassem
Akopian Vladimir ½ - ½ Debashis Das
Anton Guijarro David ½ - ½ Ghaem Maghami Ehsan
Narayanan.S.L 0 - 1 Safarli Eltaj
Deepan Chakkravarthy J. 0 - 1 Efimenko Zahar
Gupta Abhijeet ½ - ½ Karthikeyan P.

It was an improbable come-from-behind win for Flores, who was undefeated throughout and scored 5½ out of his last six games. In the final round with the white pieces, he played a double-fianchetto English opening and in the transition to the middle-game seems to have decided that he was serious about winning the bishop pair: 


You can move the pieces on the live diagram

12...Nxc4 13.Rxc4 Rad8 14.Rxg4!? A bold decision! The long-term positional sacrifice looks to gain counterplay on the light squares, and forcibly grabs the initiative, but it's extremely risky. After bashing out 14...fxg4 15.Nd2, Ganguly thought for over 10 minutes on 15...Qd7 and Flores then took nearly a half an hour to continue with 16.Nc4. Flores soon gained a pair of pawns for the exchange and had full compensation, but Ganguly attacked on the kingside and missed a strong chance to put the game out of reach:


Here the mate threat 30...Rh6! is obvious enough, but the follow up 31.Rf2 Bb4! is a bit harder to spot, aiming to interfere with the defending rook from behind. 32.h4 Qg4 33.Kh2 Rg6 is lights out.

In the game, Ganguly went for 30...Qh3 and handed the advantage to Flores. Now the same plan 31.Rf2 Bb4?! got him nowhere as after 32.a3 the bishop was forced to retreat since Be1 runs into 33.Rxf3+ exploiting Black's weak back rank.

Flores collected the f3 pawn and then came a sequence to remember:


It looks like Black has solved his bank rank issue, but Flores came up with 35.Qc7! Qa8, and now 36.Qxd6 Rxf3 37.e4 Rf8 38.a4 is picturesque, but Flores must have had trouble containing a grin when he played instead 36.Qa5! Qe8 37.Qe5! — three consecutive queen offers that must be refused. The bishop and three pawns proved to be stronger than the Indian's rook. 

A tough blow for Ganguly who failed to capitalise on his full point lead after seven rounds, losing both of his last two games — in the penultimate round to runner-up Eduardo Iturrizaga.

Eduardo Iturrizaga

Eduardo Iturrizaga finished second | Photo: dubaichess.ae

David Antón

David Antón ended in a disappointing 20th place | Photo: dubaichess.ae

Outside of the top echelons, the field was dominated by players from India who counted fully 73 of the 164 players among their ranks. It's just a few hours by air from Mumbai, but this kind of deep bench of talent could be a harbinger of an Indian GM explosion. To wit, IM Tania Sachdev at 2407 Elo was number 21 on the Indian roster! 

Dubai Open

A post shared by taniasachdev (@taniasachdev) on

Indian players won three of the four rating category prizes (under 2300, under 2200 and Under 2000)

The prize for the best Dubai player went to IM Ibrahim Sultan, who got off to a strong start by drawing with Flores in the first round. IM Omar Noaman was the best UAE player and GM Amin Bassem won the Best Arab prize. Iranian star IM Sarasadat Khademalsharieh took the prize for the top performance by a woman. 

All available games

Final standings (top 30)

# Nombre Puntos Des1
1 Flores Diego 7,5 0,0
2 Iturrizaga Bonelli Eduardo 7,0 0,0
3 Sethuraman S.P. 7,0 0,0
4 Adly Ahmed 7,0 0,0
5 Ganguly Surya Shekhar 6,5 0,0
6 Jones Gawain C B 6,5 0,0
7 Kryvoruchko Yuriy 6,5 0,0
8 Kovalev Vladislav 6,5 0,0
9 Safarli Eltaj 6,5 0,0
10 Can Emre 6,5 0,0
11 Efimenko Zahar 6,5 0,0
12 Zubov Alexander 6,0 0,0
13 Vishnu Prasanna. V 6,0 0,0
14 Harsha Bharathakoti 6,0 0,0
15 Tahbaz Arash 6,0 0,0
16 Yilmaz Mustafa 6,0 0,0
17 Gupta Abhijeet 6,0 0,0
18 Venkatesh M.R. 6,0 0,0
19 Rakhmanov Aleksandr 6,0 0,0
20 Anton Guijarro David 6,0 0,0
21 Ghaem Maghami Ehsan 6,0 0,0
22 Debashis Das 6,0 0,0
23 Akopian Vladimir 6,0 0,0
  Volkov Sergey 6,0 0,0
25 Maghsoodloo Parham 6,0 0,0
26 Mareco Sandro 6,0 0,0
27 Gagare Shardul 6,0 0,0
28 Krysa Leandro 6,0 0,0
29 Karthikeyan P. 6,0 0,0
30 Narayanan.S.L 5,5 0,0


Macauley served as the Editor in Chief of ChessBase News from July 2017 to March 2020. He is the producer of The Full English Breakfast chess podcast, and was an Associate Producer of the 2016 feature documentary, Magnus.


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