Edouard wins Dubai 2014 in exciting finish

by Sagar Shah
4/16/2014 – He was leading during most of the tournament, clinched it with a victory in the final round: French GM Romain Edouard scored an undefeated 8.0/9 points, a full point ahead of his nearest rival. His performance: a tremendous 2856. Indian GM Abhijeet Gupta, who was in serious contention, collapsed in the final round. Illustrated report with 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, which ran from 7th-15th April, is held in the Dubai Chess and Culture Centre, which is the biggest than most modern dedicated chess club in the world.

The event attracted 148 players from 39 countries, including 79 titled players. There were 38 GMs in the field, and the average rating of the tournament was 2214. The time control was one hour 30 mins + 30 seconds increment per move. The first prize for the event was US $10,000, with the total prize fund of $50,000.

Romain Edouard wins Dubai 2014

It promised to be a thrilling last round. The protagonist, GM Edouard Romain (2670), was half point ahead of his nearest rival, Indian GM Abhijeet Gupta (2630) with 7/8. But the Frenchman had a formidable opponent in the form top seeded Anton Korobov (2698) from Ukraine, while Abhijeet (6.5/8) faced GM Iturrizaga (2635) from Venezuela. The other four players on six points faced off against each other: Stevic Hrovje against Gawain Jones and Yuriy Kuzubov against Aleksandr Rakhmanov.

The best part about Dubai Open is that even the final round begins at the normal time of 17.30 in the evening. In almost all the other open tournaments the world over, the final game is played a few hours earlier than the previous rounds, so that the organizers can fit in the prize distribution ceremony on the same day. This results in the entire schedule of the players being disrupted. Many come to the board tired and half asleep. No wonder there are so many quick agreed draws in the last rounds of many tournaments.

But nothing of that sort happens at Dubai Open. Starting the last round at usual time and having the prize distribution ceremony on the next day, ensures great fighting chess. The organizers must be applauded for keeping up this tradition.

The top board game Korobov vs Edouard was going to be a bloody affair. After all, the aggressive Ukranian player was trailing by a full point and had the white pieces. He made his intentions clear from the start: to play for a complicated and tense struggle by going for the London System. Both players played logically until Romain made the very brave decision of sacrificing a pawn for his strong dark squared bishop as compensation. From that point onwards the course of the game was decided. White was trying to quell the black initiative, while Black tried to find creative ways to keep up his compensation. The game wasn’t flawless yet it was highly entertaining. Finally, Romain sacrificed an exchange and reached the below position. The following position just sums up the tournament Romain has been having.

At the end of the game White is an exchange up but has a weak king. Here he has his task cut out. Of all the possible moves only one move saves his position, and not only saves it but gives White a very tangible advantage. But Korobov, in time trouble, played the atrocious 32.Qe4?? one move later had to simply resign!

[Event "16th Dubai Open"] [Site "Dubai"] [Date "2014.04.15"] [Round "9"] [White "Korobov, Anton"] [Black "Edouard, Romain"] [Result "0-1"] [WhiteElo "2698"] [BlackElo "2670"] [Annotator "Shah,Sagar"] [PlyCount "64"] [EventDate "2014.??.??"] [EventCountry "UAE"] 1. d4 d5 2. Bf4 $5 {Korobov plays the London System. It is as if he wants to impress the fact upon his opponent that he is the superior player and he wants to play a position that is not analysed deeply.} Nf6 3. Nf3 g6 {Romain chooses the Grunfeld setup. It suits him as he is a regular Grunfeld player.} 4. e3 Bg7 5. h3 O-O 6. Nbd2 c5 7. c3 (7. dxc5 Nbd7 8. Nb3 (8. b4 a5 $15) 8... Nh5 $1 $15) 7... b6 8. a4 Nc6 (8... Ba6 9. Bb5 $14) 9. Be2 Nd7 {Black is aiming to break in the center with e5.} 10. Qb3 e5 $5 {This is too risky, but maybe its playable as the white king is still in the center.} (10... c4 {might have been a safer choice.} 11. Qa3 e5 12. dxe5 Ndxe5 13. Rd1 Nd3+ 14. Bxd3 cxd3 15. Nb3 Ba6 {The d3 pawn will be lost, but the bishop on a6 will be pretty strong.}) 11. Qxd5 {White must take up the challenge.} (11. dxe5 Ndxe5 {Black has nothing to complain about.}) 11... exf4 12. Qxc6 fxe3 $5 13. fxe3 $1 (13. Qxa8 $6 exd2+ 14. Nxd2 cxd4 15. cxd4 Bxd4 {The white king is in the center and the b2 pawn is attacked. This should give Black certain compensation. Besides the white queen is offside.} 16. O-O Qc7 $44 {defending a7. Black has compensation because the b2 pawn is going to be lost.} 17. Rac1 Nc5 18. b4 Bb7 19. Qxa7 (19. Qxf8+ Kxf8 20. bxc5 bxc5 $17) 19... Ra8 20. Qxa8+ Bxa8 21. bxc5 Bxc5 $11) 13... Rb8 14. O-O {Both sides have finished their development to a certain extent. Black seems to have good compensation because: (1) he has the strong dark squared bishop, and (2) the e3 pawn is weak on the open file.} Nf6 (14... Bb7 15. Qd6) 15. Rae1 $1 {White defends accurately.} Qe7 16. Bd3 (16. Bc4 Bb7 17. Qb5 a6 18. Qb3 b5 19. axb5 axb5 20. Bxb5 Bc6 21. c4 $14) 16... Bb7 17. Qb5 Nh5 {The black knight tries to look at the dark squared weaknesses in the opponent's camp.} 18. Qb3 Kh8 19. d5 (19. e4 $5 cxd4 20. cxd4 Rbd8 {[%csl Gb7, Rd4,Re4,Gg7] The two bishops attack the white center like snipers.}) 19... Ng3 20. Rf2 f5 {Edouard plays very well, maintaining his initiative and posing now problems for White.} 21. e4 $1 {For the time being Korobov too is up to the task.} fxe4 22. Nxe4 Nxe4 23. Rxe4 Qf7 24. Bc4 {To a certain extent White has co-ordinated himself well and retained his extra pawn. Korobov should have a small advantage here.} Rbd8 25. Rfe2 Bxd5 26. Bxd5 Rxd5 27. Re7 Qf5 28. Rxa7 Qd3 $2 {This gives White a serious chance to play for a win once again. True Black again threatens to sacrifice on f3, but the back rank problems will haunt him.} (28... Rd3 $1 {would have given Black an instant draw because he has the idea of sacrificing on f3.} 29. Rf2 {is met with a very nice pinning tactic.} (29. Rae7 Rxf3 30. gxf3 Qxf3 {White cannot avoid the perpetual, and Romain would have been happy as the draw would have most probably sealed his top spot at that point.}) 29... Bd4 $1 $19 {So many pins! The c3 pawn is pinned, the f3 knight is pinned, and now the rook on f2 is pinned!}) 29. Qc2 c4 (29... Rxf3 $2 30. Qxd3 Rdxd3 (30... Rfxd3 31. Re8+ Bf8 32. Rxf8#) 31. gxf3 $18 ) 30. Rae7 (30. Qxd3 {It's difficulto to calculate the lines following this capture. The pawn on d3 is dangerous, but White has his counterplay on the seventh rank.} cxd3 31. Ree7 $1 (31. Rd2 Bh6 32. Rd1 d2 {is not something you want.}) 31... Bf6 (31... d2 32. Nxd2 $1 Rxd2 33. Rxg7 $18) 32. Rad7 $1 {so that the e rook can go back.} (32. Rxh7+ Kg8 33. Rhd7 Rd8 $132) (32. Red7 Rd8 ( 32... Rxd7 33. Rxd7 Ra8 34. Rxd3 Rxa4 35. Kf2 $16) 33. Rf7 R5d6 $132) 32... Rd8 33. Rxd8+ Rxd8 34. Re1 $16) 30... Rxf3 $1 31. gxf3 Qxf3 {White is under time pressure – how else would you explain his next move:} 32. Qe4 $4 {Romain's star keeps shining brightly at the Dubai Open!} (32. Rd2 $1 {was a defense, and a very good one.} Rg5+ (32... Qg3+ 33. Rg2 Qd6 34. Re1 $16) 33. Rg2 $16) 32... Rg5+ $19 {with mate to follow!} 0-1

What would you call this? Champion's luck? It was some sort of a recurring theme for Edouard in this tournament that he had worse positions and he fought back and won them. But when something happens frequently we cannot take it as plain luck. The positions that Edouard created were quite messy. Combined with his fighting spirit and resourcefulness he was able to set up problems for his opponents which they couldn’t solve:

  • Against Gupta he was totally lost, but when his opponent made a mistake and gave him a chance, he finished off the game.

  • The same happened against Anuar Ismagembetov. The position was equal, but when the Kazakh player went wrong Romain delivered the coup de grace.

  • With Akopian, he was on the backfoot but when he had a choice to accept a draw or to keep playing on, he chose the latter and was rewarded with the full point!

Calling it as plain luck might be just too naïve. High level of ‘practical play’ was on show by this year’s Dubai Open winner, who remained undefeated and scored 8.0/9, with a 2856 performance.

Once the final round game was won by Edouard, nothing else mattered. He was the champion irrespective of other results. But while the game was going on there was one player who had a very good chance of catching up with the leader. Abhijeet Gupta who was on 6.5/8.

Abhijeet Gupta vs Eduardo Iturrizaga was the other crucial last round encounter

Something went terribly wrong for the Indian GM, who was totally outplayed by his opponent. After 14 moves Black’s position looked cramped. He had to destroy the white centre. The right choice was to break it with 14…e5 but Abhijit chose 14…c5 and in the symmetrical position that arose on the board, he was simply run over by the white pieces. A perfect positional game by the Dubai blitz winner Iturrizaga, who will go back from Dubai with lot of fond memories!

[Event "16th Dubai Open"] [Site "Dubai"] [Date "2014.04.15"] [Round "9"] [White "Iturrizaga Bonelli, Eduardo"] [Black "Gupta, Abhijeet"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "D90"] [WhiteElo "2635"] [BlackElo "2630"] [Annotator "Shah,Sagar"] [PlyCount "101"] [EventDate "2014.??.??"] [EventCountry "UAE"] 1. Nf3 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 d5 4. cxd5 Nxd5 5. Qb3 Nb6 6. d4 Bg7 7. Bf4 Be6 8. Qa3 O-O 9. e4 c6 10. Be2 Bg4 11. Ng5 Bxe2 12. Nxe2 h6 13. Nf3 N8d7 14. O-O { out of the opening, the problems faced by Black are quite unique. How should he generate counterplay is the question?} c5 $2 (14... e5 $1 {seemed like the right way to play} 15. dxe5 Re8 16. Rad1 Qe7 17. Qb3 Rad8 18. a4 $5 Nxe5 19. Nxe5 Bxe5 20. Bxh6 (20. Bxe5 Qxe5 $15) 20... Rxd1 21. Rxd1 Qh4 22. f4 Bf6 $132) 15. Rac1 {This is also good. But very strong was} (15. dxc5 $1 {could have been a strong reply} Nc4 16. Qb3 Nxb2 (16... Nce5 17. Nxe5 Nxe5 18. Rfd1 $16 { simply a pawn up}) 17. e5 $18) 15... cxd4 16. Bc7 Qe8 17. Nexd4 e5 $2 {weakens the d6 square.} 18. Nb5 $1 {In a symmetrical structure Black is completely lost because he has just no counterplay and all of White's forces are better positioned.} Nf6 19. Qb3 $1 {To find a move for Black is difficult here.} Nxe4 (19... Qe6 20. Qxe6 fxe6 21. Bxe5 Nbd7 22. Nc7 Nxe5 23. Nxe5 Rac8 24. Nxg6 $18) 20. Rfe1 Nf6 21. Nxe5 {[%csl Gb5,Gc1,Gc7,Ge1,Ge5] White's position is a picture of harmony, while Black is just doomed.} Qe6 {There is nothing better.} 22. Qxe6 fxe6 23. Nxg6 {White wins the first pawn.} Rf7 24. Ne5 Rff8 25. Ng6 Rf7 26. Rxe6 $18 {... and the second. He takes home the point quite easily. Something went wrong with Gupta's opening, but one must commend Iturrizaga for his simple and excellent play.} Nbd5 27. Bg3 Nh5 28. Be5 Nhf4 29. Nxf4 Nxf4 30. Bxf4 Rxf4 31. b3 Rd8 32. g3 Rf3 33. Rc2 a6 34. Nd6 Rd7 35. Kg2 Rf8 36. f4 Kh7 37. Ne8 Ba1 38. Kf3 Rd3+ 39. Kg4 Rf7 40. Nd6 Rg7+ 41. Kh3 Rd5 42. Ne4 Rf7 43. Rc5 Rxc5 44. Nxc5 Rc7 45. b4 a5 46. Rb6 axb4 47. Rxb7 Rxb7 48. Nxb7 Kg6 49. Kg4 h5+ 50. Kf3 Kf5 51. h3 1-0

Cool and composed, the Venezuelan GM Eduardo Iturrizaga Bonelli played
an excellent game in the final round

The pictures from the prize distribution and also the final standings will follow in the next article. But as of now we leave you with the information that GM Romain Edouard from France just got richer by US $10,000!

Picture from the tournament we site

Top final ranking (after nine rounds)

Rk. SNo   Name FED Rtg Pts.  TB2   TB3 
1 3 GM Edouard Romain FRA 2670 8.0 51.5 47.0
2 10 GM Iturrizaga Bonelli Eduardo VEN 2635 7.0 48.5 44.5
3 8 GM Kuzubov Yuriy UKR 2639 7.0 48.0 44.5
4 12 GM Gupta Abhijeet IND 2630 6.5 52.0 48.5
5 17 GM Andriasian Zaven ARM 2603 6.5 52.0 48.0
6 16 GM Stevic Hrvoje CRO 2607 6.5 50.0 45.5
7 14 GM Petrosian Tigran L. ARM 2627 6.5 47.5 43.0
8 4 GM Istratescu Andrei FRA 2667 6.5 47.0 43.0
9 7 GM Jones Gawain C B ENG 2650 6.5 46.5 42.5
10 1 GM Korobov Anton UKR 2698 6.0 54.0 49.0
11 15 GM Rakhmanov Aleksandr RUS 2610 6.0 51.0 46.5
12 2 GM Akopian Vladimir ARM 2674 6.0 51.0 46.5
13 26 GM Kotsur Pavel KAZ 2557 6.0 50.0 46.5
14 6 GM Balogh Csaba HUN 2656 6.0 49.0 45.0
15 31 GM Rahman Ziaur BAN 2513 6.0 49.0 45.0
16 24 GM Brkic Ante CRO 2568 6.0 48.5 45.5
17 27 GM Ghaem Maghami Ehsan IRI 2556 6.0 48.5 45.0
  28 GM Jankovic Alojzije CRO 2554 6.0 48.5 45.0
19 11 GM Solak Dragan TUR 2635 6.0 48.0 44.0
20 39 GM Shyam Sundar M. IND 2481 6.0 47.5 45.0
21 47 IM Georgiadis Nico SUI 2421 6.0 47.0 43.5
22 22 GM Bogner Sebastian SUI 2587 6.0 47.0 43.5
23 9 GM Amin Bassem EGY 2637 6.0 47.0 43.0
24 18 GM Iordachescu Viorel MDA 2601 6.0 47.0 42.5
25 13 GM Mchedlishvili Mikheil GEO 2628 6.0 46.5 42.0
26 21 GM Lalith Babu M.R. IND 2594 6.0 46.0 43.0
27 25 GM Stojanovic Mihajlo SRB 2568 6.0 45.5 41.5
28 33 GM Kostenko Petr KAZ 2506 6.0 45.0 41.5

Video reports by Vijay Kumar

Round nine of the Dubai Open 2014 – a brief interview with Romain Edouard begins at 7:10 min


The games were 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 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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