Edouard leads alone in the 16th Dubai Open

by Sagar Shah
4/14/2014 – This very strong tournament has attracted 148 players from 39 countries, including 38 GMs, in a field that averages 2214 rating points. After six rounds of play the young French GM Romain Edouard is in the sole lead, with 5.5 points. There has been some exciting action, with promises of more to come. We have a big report with pictures and detailed game analysis.

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16th Dubai Open Chess Championship

It is the strongest Open tournament in the Middle East and one of the most popular chess events on the world calendar. The tournament is in its 16th year and has a special place in chess history. Magnus Carlsen, the current World Champion and highest rated player in the world, played in the Dubai Open in 2004. Carlsen was already rated 2552 but had only two GM norms. He scored his final norm in this tournament, thus becoming a GM at the age of 13 years and five months.

There are many strong players playing in this tournament this year – no one above 2700, but even the tenth seed has a healthy rating of 2635.

The 16th Dubai Open 2014 (7th-17th April) like every year is held in the Dubai Chess and Culture Centre, which is the biggest than most modern dedicated chess club in the world. The building is quite exquisite and is built in the shape of a chess rook. Here are some panorama pictures:

Click on the images and hold the right button down to scroll left or right

This year the main tournament has attracted 148 players from 39 countries, including 79 titled players. There are 38 GMs in the field and the average rating of the tournament is 2214. The time control is one hour 30 mins + 30 seconds increment per move. As there is only a single time control, you can see a lot of mistakes being made even by the best players. The schedule of the tournament is quite puzzling. While there is a rest day, immediately after it they have two games in one day! Many strong players are deterred from taking part in the tournament for this reason, I guess, but on the other hand the prize money is a strong incentive. The first prize for the event is US $10,000, with the total prize fund of $50,000. That’s a quite a lot of money!

The tournament has nine rounds with a rest day after four rounds. On the rest day there is a very nice tradition of holding a blitz tournament. This year it was won by GM Eduardo Itturizaga Bonelli (above) from Venezuela.

Video of the Dubai Open International Blitz by Vijay Kumar (see below)

Anton Korobov (2698) from Ukraine is the top seed for the event

Second seed Armenian GM Vladimir Akopian, rated 2674

Third seed, the very talented French GM Romain Edouard,
rated 2670, who was born in the same year as Magnus (1990).

Fourth seed: French GM Andrei Istratescu (2667), who crossed
swords with the world’s elite in London Chess Classic 2013

Fifth seed: top Romanian GM Constantin Lupulescu (2660)

Sixth seed: Hungarian GM Csaba Balogh (2656)

Seventh seed: a theory expert and after Adams, McShane and Short,
the fourth highest rated player from England: GM Gawain Jones (2650)

One of Ukraine’s big talents: Yuri Kuzubov (2639)

The tournament witnessed a lot of upsets in the initial rounds but one player was able to emerge unscathed after four rounds.

GM Abhijeet Gupta from India made a scintillating start with 4.0/4. The talented Indian, who at one point in his career had an rating of 2667, witnessed a slump in form when he reached 2583 in July 2013. But since then he has been regaining the lost ground and is now on 2630. Abhijeet was in full flow, but he met his match in round five.

Round five: Abhijit Gupta vs Romain Edouard

The game was a Queen’s Gambit Accepted. Abhijeet played the opening wonderfully and sacrificed a pawn to get substantial compensation in the form of a weak black king. Edouard was completely on the back foot and at one point it seemed the game was already over in White’s favour. But Abhijeet kept missing his chances and in the end he needed to make a draw by finding only moves. With the roles reversed Abhijeet was not able to to this new situation, blundered and promptly resigned.

[Event "16th Dubai Open"] [Site "Dubai"] [Date "2014.04.12"] [Round "5"] [White "Gupta, Abhijeet"] [Black "Edouard, Romain"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "D20"] [WhiteElo "2630"] [BlackElo "2670"] [Annotator "Shah,Sagar"] [PlyCount "89"] [EventDate "2014.??.??"] [EventCountry "UAE"] 1. d4 d5 2. c4 dxc4 3. e4 e5 4. Nf3 (4. dxe5 $6 Qxd1+ 5. Kxd1 Nc6 6. f4 Bg4+ 7. Nf3 Nd4 {Black is doing very well.}) 4... Bb4+ 5. Nc3 exd4 6. Nxd4 Nd7 7. Bxc4 Ngf6 8. O-O (8. Bxf7+ Kxf7 9. Qb3+ Ke8 10. Qxb4 {might seem like a trap, but its the trapper who gets trapped after} c5 $1 {White is not losing and has his chances after} 11. Qa3 $1 cxd4 12. Nb5 {But it's a messy position and I am not sure how to assess it.}) 8... O-O 9. Bg5 Ne5 $146 {A novelty which gives Black a very fine position. It is possible that Romain had prepared it beforehand.} ( 9... c6 {was played previously}) 10. Be2 c6 {Preventing Nd5.} 11. a3 Be7 12. h3 (12. Be3 {threatening f4 was Abhijeets idea, but he wanted to prevent Black from playing Ng4. Hence he first played h3.}) 12... Qc7 13. Be3 $14 {White has an excellent position, with a strong kingside majority, ready to be mobilised with f4.} Rd8 14. Qe1 (14. Qc2 $1) 14... Ng6 15. f4 {slowly and steadily Black is being pushed back.} Bc5 16. Rd1 Bxd4 17. Bxd4 Nxf4 18. Bxf6 Nxe2+ 19. Nxe2 $1 {The knight will be useful on f4} Rxd1 (19... gxf6 $2 20. Qg3+ $1) 20. Qxd1 gxf6 21. Nf4 $1 {Even though White is a pawn down, he retains good compensation for it.} Kh8 22. Nh5 Be6 23. Nxf6 $16 {At this point I am sure that Abhijeet must have been dreaming of victory} Qe5 24. Qd2 Kg7 25. Rf3 (25. Nd7 $1 Bxd7 (25... Rd8 {is met with the extremely unusual move} 26. Rf5 $3 Bxf5 27. Qg5+ $18 {and the queen is lost}) 26. Qxd7 Rf8 27. Qxb7 $16 {White is in control and should win this.}) 25... c5 {Planning Qd4.} 26. Kh1 c4 27. a4 (27. Nh5+ $3 Kh8 (27... Qxh5 28. Qd4+ Kh6 (28... Kf8 29. Qh8+ $18) 29. Rf6+ $18) ( 27... Kf8 28. Qb4+ $18) 28. Qh6 Rg8 29. Nf6 Rg7 30. Qd2 $3 Qc7 31. Qc3 {Black is busted. These lines are very difficult to calculate if you have less time. But the truth remains: Abhijeet had a lot of winning chances.}) 27... b6 28. Rf4 (28. Nh5+ Kf8 29. Qb4+ Qc5 {is the subtle difference.}) 28... Rc8 29. Qf2 h6 30. Nd7 $1 Qd6 31. Qg3+ Kh8 32. Qc3+ Kg8 33. Qg3+ Kh8 34. Qc3+ Kg8 35. Nf6+ {Of course White must decline the draw, but there is no clear win now and hence it could have been possible to take a draw. As events develop, White's advantage keeps reducing and Black comes out on top.} Kf8 36. Rf3 Rd8 37. Rg3 Qc5 38. Kh2 Rd3 {Black has fought back} 39. Rg8+ Ke7 40. e5 $1 {Abhijeet is playing well. But now it is he who is on the defensive.} Bd7 41. Qe1 Ke6 42. Ng4 $2 (42. Nxd7 Rxd7 43. Re8+ Re7 44. Rxe7+ Kxe7 {would mostly end in a draw}) 42... h5 $1 {Romain takes his chance!} 43. Rh8 hxg4 44. Rh6+ f6 $1 (44... Ke7 $2 45. Qh4+ $1 Ke8 46. Rh8+ Qf8 47. Rxf8+ $18) 45. -- {Amazing fighting spirit by Romain. White held the advantage for a majority of the game – he pressed well but couldn't land the final blow. And when roles were reversed, White immediately collapsed.} (45. exf6+ Re3 $19) (45. Rxf6+ Ke7 $19) 0-1

It was now Romain’s turn to be the sole leader of the tournament after five rounds, with 4.5/5. However he had very strong opposition in the form of GM Vladimir Akopian in round six.

Round six: Romain Edouard vs Vladimir Akopian

This one was a colossal fight. Edouard opened the game with his king pawn and Akopian replied with the Paulsen. A Maroczy Bind was set up by White and as is usual in such structures quite some manoeuvring went on. However, suddenly the position became very tense and sharp after Black’s move 24…f5. Akopian had set a devilish trap, into which Romain fell. At this point Black held the advantage. But, over the board it was extremely difficult to find the best moves. Add to that time pressure and a lot of errors were made by Akopian. When the tide was turning, the young Frenchmen had a chance to either force a draw or to continue to playing. He chose the latter and was rewarded with the full point.

[Event "16th Dubai Open"] [Site "Dubai"] [Date "2014.04.12"] [Round "6"] [White "Edouard, Romain"] [Black "Akopian, Vladimir"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "B42"] [WhiteElo "2670"] [BlackElo "2674"] [Annotator "Shah,Sagar"] [PlyCount "147"] [EventDate "2014.??.??"] [EventCountry "UAE"] 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 e6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 a6 5. Bd3 Nf6 6. O-O Qc7 7. Qe2 d6 8. c4 g6 $5 {This is a very interesting way of developing in the Paulsen. Most of the time in the Maroczy we develop our bishop on e7, and then later after 0-0, Re8, we relocate it to f8 and then g6-Bg7. Here Black saves the time in doing it.} 9. Nc3 Bg7 10. Rd1 (10. Be3 {can be the other natural option.}) 10... O-O 11. Nf3 Nbd7 {preventing e5} (11... Nc6 {is the more usual way to play.} 12. h3 {Preventing Ng4-e5.} Nd7 {Persisting with the idea of Nde5.} 13. Be3 Nde5 14. Rac1 Bd7 {Almasi-Anand 1997. Black has a good position.}) 12. h3 b6 (12... Ne5 13. Nxe5 dxe5 {is also quite a common structure in this opening, but Black would have preferred his knight to be on c6 instead of f6.}) 13. Be3 (13. Bf4 { looked more natural, but after} Nh5 14. Bh2 Bb7 15. Bc2 Ne5 $11 {Black is doing fine.}) 13... Bb7 14. Rac1 Nc5 {Black seems extremely comfortable out of the opening.} 15. Bf4 Nh5 16. Bg5 h6 17. Be3 Kh7 $6 {Maybe this was unneccesary } (17... Nf6 $11) 18. b4 Nxd3 19. Qxd3 Rad8 (19... Rfd8 {It would seem more normal to put this rook on d8 so that the other rook can be used on the c8 square but after} 20. Na4 Qc6 21. Nxb6 $16 {the a8 rook is attacked.}) (19... Bxc3 {seemed necessary now. But I guess such moves can only be made by a computer.} 20. Rxc3 Nf6 $14) 20. Na4 Qc6 {A shrewd move attacking both a4 and e4} 21. Nc3 $6 (21. b5 $1 Qxe4 22. Qxe4 Bxe4 23. Nxb6 $16 {White's queenside initiative is more important here after} (23. Bxb6 Ra8 $15) 23... Bb2 24. Rb1 $1 Bxb1 25. Rxb1 axb5 (25... Bg7 26. bxa6 $18) 26. Rxb2 bxc4 27. Nxc4 d5 28. Nb6 $16 {white will be better due to his two minor pieces.}) 21... Nf6 22. Nd4 Qc7 23. Nde2 Nd7 24. f4 (24. Qxd6 Qxc4 {and the fact that the knights defend each other prevent White from giving an effective discovered attack.} 25. Bxb6 $2 Nxb6 (25... Be5 26. Qe7 $18) 26. Qxb6 Rxd1+ 27. Rxd1 Bxe4 $17) 24... f5 25. Nd4 $6 fxe4 26. Qd2 (26. Nxe4 {must have been Edouard's idea but I guess he missed} Nc5 $3 27. bxc5 dxc5 $19 {and the white position is in ruins}) (26. Nxe6 exd3 27. Nxc7 Bxc3 28. Rxc3 Rc8 29. Ne6 Rfe8 30. Rcxd3 Rxe6 31. Rxd6 Rxd6 32. Rxd6 Bc6 33. Bd4 $44) 26... Rfe8 $15 {Black is a pawn up and clearly better.} 27. Na4 e5 $1 28. Ne2 Qc6 29. Nb2 exf4 30. Nxf4 Ne5 31. Nd5 b5 { Unlike computers humans always need something to do in a position. Here this active plan loses Black's advantage, but it's difficult to make a move like Qd7.} 32. cxb5 Qxd5 33. Qxd5 Bxd5 34. Rxd5 axb5 35. Rxb5 $11 {The position's evaluation is equal but it is highly imbalanced and any result is possible.} d5 {blacks position looks more threatening as all his pieces are better co-ordinated but Romain plays a strong move.} 36. Rc7 $1 Kg8 37. Rbb7 { Suddenly it's the white rooks that look super menacing!} Bh8 38. Bxh6 d4 (38... e3 {could have been stronger, but it is difficult to caculate the following lines.} 39. Bxe3 (39. Kf1 Nf7 $3 40. Bxe3 (40. Rxf7 e2+ 41. Ke1 Bc3+ $19) 40... Bxb2 41. Bc1 (41. Rxf7 Rxe3 $19) 41... Bxc1 42. Rxc1 Nd6 $17) 39... Ng4 $1 40. Rc6 $3 (40. hxg4 Rxe3 41. Na4 Bd4 $17) 40... Nxe3 41. Rxg6+ Kf8 42. Nd3 {Black has some advantage, but White is holding on. Who can play chess this way? I think only Houdini and Carlsen!!}) 39. Bg7 $1 {Accurate play} e3 40. Bxh8 e2 ( 40... Kxh8 41. Rh7+ Kg8 42. Rhg7+ Kf8 43. Rh7 Kg8 44. Rhg7+ $11 {would have been a logical result.}) 41. Kf2 $1 {Immediately understanding that the position was in his favour and Black had more chances to play for a draw, Romain declines the draw with a perpetual check and plays for a win. Strong nerves are required for that though.} d3 $2 {Maybe its the result of time pressure and over-ambition.} (41... Kxh8 42. Kxe2 Nc4+ 43. Kf3 Nxb2 44. Rh7+ Kg8 45. Rbg7+ $11) 42. Bxe5 $1 Rf8+ (42... Rxe5 43. Nxd3 $1 $18) 43. Rf7 $1 { White is on the edge, but he is surviving!} Rxf7+ 44. Rxf7 Kxf7 45. Bg3 (45. Ke1 $6 d2+ 46. Kxe2 d1=Q+ 47. Nxd1 Re8 {would give Black some drawing chances.} ) 45... Rd5 46. a4 Ke6 47. a5 (47. b5 $18 {would not have let the black king to be activated.}) 47... Kf5 48. a6 (48. Ke1 $1 Ke4 49. Kd2 $18 {everything under control.}) 48... Ke4 49. a7 Rf5+ 50. Ke1 Rf1+ 51. Kd2 Ra1 52. Nxd3 Ra2+ 53. Kc3 Rxa7 54. Nf2+ Ke3 55. Ng4+ Ke4 56. Nf2+ Ke3 57. Ng4+ Ke4 58. Kd2 Ra2+ 59. Ke1 Kd3 60. Ne5+ Ke3 61. Bf2+ Ke4 62. Nd7 Kd3 63. Nc5+ Kc4 64. b5 Kxb5 65. Ne6 Kc4 66. Nf4 g5 67. Nxe2 {The smoke has cleared and White is winning once again.} Rb2 68. Kf1 Kd3 69. Ng1 Rb1+ 70. Be1 Ke3 71. Nf3 Kf4 72. Kf2 g4 73. Bd2+ Kf5 74. Nh4+ {An amazing game which ended in a victory for the young French player. There were many mistakes but also a lot of things we could learn about chess calculations, psychology and also traps!} 1-0

After six rounds the tournament is being solely lead by GM Romain Edouard from France with a rating performance of 2919. His play can be described as being very tenacious. His never-say-die attitude has given him two wins from bad positions against extremely strong players. While against Akopian he fought back from a slightly inferior position, against Gupta he was completely lost. Usually when players survive such scares they go on to win the tournament. Romain has been holding his nerves marvellously. Only three rounds remain. GM Bogner Sebastian and GM Abhijeet Gupta are right on his heels with 5/6.

Top final ranking after six rounds

Rk. Sd   Name FED Rtg Pts.  TB2   TB3 
1 3 GM Edouard Romain FRA 2670 5.5 25.0 21.5
2 12 GM Gupta Abhijeet IND 2630 5.0 22.5 20.5
3 22 GM Bogner Sebastian SUI 2587 5.0 19.0 17.0
4 20 GM Bachmann Axel PAR 2598 4.5 23.5 21.0
5 10 GM Iturrizaga Eduardo VEN 2635 4.5 23.0 20.5
6 16 GM Stevic Hrvoje CRO 2607 4.5 23.0 20.0
7 17 GM Andriasian Zaven ARM 2603 4.5 23.0 20.0
8 35 GM Ismagambetov Anuar KAZ 2493 4.5 22.5 19.5
9 1 GM Korobov Anton UKR 2698 4.5 22.5 19.5
10 24 GM Brkic Ante CRO 2568 4.5 21.5 19.0
11 27 GM Ghaem Maghami Ehsan IRI 2556 4.5 21.5 19.0
12 15 GM Rakhmanov Aleksandr RUS 2610 4.5 21.5 18.5
13 8 GM Kuzubov Yuriy UKR 2639 4.5 20.5 18.5
14 18 GM Iordachescu Viorel MDA 2601 4.5 20.5 18.5
15 14 GM Petrosian Tigran L. ARM 2627 4.5 20.5 17.5
16 31 GM Rahman Ziaur BAN 2513 4.5 18.5 16.5

The author of these lines, Sagar Shah with the winner of 2013
Dubai Open Alexander Rakhmanov, who is currently on 4.5/6.

Video reports by Vijay Kumar

Indian TV journalist Vijay Kumar's reports can be seen by litereally hundreds of millions of viewers.

16th Dubai Open Chess Championship 2014 round one

16th Dubai Open Chess Championship 2014 round two

16th Dubai Open Chess Championship 2014 round three

16th Dubai Open Chess Championship 2014 round four

16th Dubai Open Chess Championship 2014 round five

16th Dubai Open Chess Championship 2014 round six


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 there and get immediate access. You can also use ChessBase 12 or any of our Fritz compatible chess programs.

Sagar is an International Master from India with two GM norms. 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 and CEO of ChessBase India, the biggest chess news portal in the country. His YouTube channel has over a million subscribers, and to date close to a billion views. ChessBase India is the sole distributor of ChessBase products in India and seven adjoining countries, where the software is available at a 60% discount. compared to International prices.


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