Final Impressions from the Abu Dhabi Masters

by Sagar Shah
9/9/2015 – Do you know who the strongest siblings in the world are? Who is the ten-year-old kid who has already reached 2300? Which GM has beaten an ex-world champion in a match, has played over 600 people in a simul and is soon to finish a PhD? (Hint: he is not from a western nation, India or China). All this and more in form of pictures and stories in our final report from the capital city of the UAE.

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Final Impressions from the Abu Dhabi Masters

Report from the tournament venue by IM Sagar Shah

The Abu Dhabi Masters was held from the 23rd to 31st of August 2015 in the capital city of UAE. 120 players from as many as 35 countries, with 44 grandmasters, participated in this event. 22 players had a rating of more than 2600. It was s a nine round Swiss tournament with the rate of play being one hour 30 minutes + 30 seconds increment per move. There were ten prizes and they were not shared. The winner took home US $12,000. This is the final report. You can read the previous articles on this tournament here.

The Abu Dhabi Masters 2015 was won by Nils Grandelius (2628) from Sweden with a score of 7.0/9. It was one of the strongest international opens of the world and top-notch players like Almasi, Jobava, Akopian, Rapport and many others took part in it. In this final report we share with you some of the interesting pictures and facts behind them.

If you have missed the previous reports, you can catch up on the interview with the winner Nils Grandelius over here, and read about the prize winners at the tournament over here.

The elite brigade

What is common between these six players present at the Abu Dhabi Masters 2015? Upper row – Baadur Jobava, Vladimir Akopian, Richard Rapport; bottom row – Alexander Areshchenko, Zoltan Almasi and Yuri Kryvoruchko.

A tournament’s stature is not always decided by the current rating of the players participating in it. Sometimes it’s necessary to take note of the highest rating that has been reached by a player in his chess career. While there was only one 2700+ player as per the current ratings in the Abu Dhabi Masters, the tournament generated interest because there were six participants who had cracked the 2700 barrier at some point or the other in their life. Here are the peak ratings of the players in the picture above : Jobava – 2734, Almasi – 2726, Rapport – 2720, Areshchenko – 2720, Akopian – 2713 and Kryvoruchko – 2710.

The prayer break

At 6.50 p.m., exactly fifty minutes after the start of the game, the battles would be halted for a ten-minute prayer break. The clocks were stopped and the players had to move outside the playing hall. There were differing opinions with regards to this break – some players loved it because it gave them time to relax, while many hated it because it would break their concentration. Soon everyone started planning for these prayer breaks. If it’s your move and it’s nearing the prayer break time it makes sense not to make the move. Then you would get another ten minutes to think without any time being deducted from your clock!

It’s 6.50 p.m., time for a break! Players file out of the hall.

A good time to catch up with each other: IM Robert Ris (left) and GM Gawain Jones

While some are enjoying their cup of coffee, like Gabor Papp,
others are immersed in their calculations like Harika Dronavalli


Players (Tigran Petrosian and Baadur Jobava) are back on their boards after ten minutes,
but the “break hangover” still exists!

Women power

The quality of prizes were excellent at the tournament – take for example the first prize of US $12,000. However, the quantity was less impressive. Only ten prizes with no separate ones for the women players. In spite of this, many ladies came to participate in the event.

Of course GM Harika Dronavalli, right in the centre, was a cut above the rest, scoring 5.5/9. But all the others scored four points or more in the tournament. Upper row: WGM Swati Ghate, IM Eesha Karavade, IM Padmini Rout; middle row: IM Irina Bulmaga, GM Harika Dronavalli, WIM Narmin Khalafova; bottom row: WGM Soumya Swaminathan, WGM Mona Khaled and WIM Dorsa Derakhshani.

One of Ukraine’s top player, Inna Gaponenko, scored 5.0/9 in the main tournament. She also played the family event with her daughter, 16-year-old Violeta. Together they won it and went back with this glittering trophy and US $500!

My, how time flies: this is an archive photo four-year-old Violeta enchanting the press room
with a song during the 2004 European Women's Championship in Dresedn

Chess couples

Not yet married: WIM Maria Severina with GM Alexander Predke. Alexander didn’t have a great event,
as he lost 14 Elo points, but Maria more than made up for it with a 32 point increase in the tournament.

GM Aleksandr Rakhmanov from Russia came to Abu Dhabi along with his girlfriend Diana Faizutdinova (Elo 1956). Aleksandr finished sixteenth in the main event and second in blitz, while Diana stood twelfth in the open tournament.

The defending champion Yuriy Kuzubov didn’t have a particularly successful tournament,
but he had a firm supporter in the form of his girlfriend at the event.

My how time flies 2: Yuriy (on the left) back in 2001, with club mates you should recognize. Hint: they are all strong grandmasters today, every one of them! [Archive photo ChessBase/Alexsander Martynkov]

Prodigious talent

Javokhir Sindarov from Uzbekistan has a rating of 2221. Add to it 78 points that he gained at the Abu Dhabi Masters and it takes him to 2299! Ten years old and nearly 2300! And this is not only because of the co-efficient of 40. I saw this young lad’s games quite closely, also losing to him in the blitz tournament, and I am sure he will be the next big thing to hit the world of chess. He recently won the Asian under ten Championships with a score of 8.5/9, two points ahead of the nearest rival. Just to prove my point, here’s a snippet from one of his games from the Abu Dhabi tournament.

[Event "22nd Abu Dhabi Int. Chess Festival Mas"] [Site "Abu Dhabi"] [Date "2015.08.31"] [Round "9.40"] [White "Asadli, Vugar"] [Black "Sindarov, Javokhir"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "A05"] [WhiteElo "2324"] [BlackElo "2198"] [Annotator "Sagar Shah"] [PlyCount "62"] [EventDate "2015.08.23"] [EventRounds "9"] [EventCountry "UAE"] [WhiteClock "1:03:26"] [BlackClock "0:55:48"] 1. Nf3 Nf6 2. g3 g6 3. b3 Bg7 4. Bb2 O-O 5. Bg2 d6 6. d4 Bd7 7. O-O Qc8 8. Re1 Bh3 9. Bh1 Nc6 10. c4 Re8 11. d5 Nd8 12. Nc3 e5 13. e4 b6 14. b4 a5 15. a3 axb4 16. axb4 Rxa1 17. Qxa1 Nb7 18. Qa7 h6 19. Nd2 {Diagram [#] Javokhir who is black has a clearly inferior position from the opening. He realises that he should be playing on the kingside and the first priority is to activate all the pieces.} Nh5 $1 {Not only clearing the f-pawn to move forward but also to prepare a very nice maneuvre which we shall see in the game.} 20. Bf3 Rf8 21. Rc1 (21. Be2 $1 {was a nice little idea to get in c4-c5.} Bf6 22. c5 bxc5 23. Ba6 Bg5 24. Ncb1 $1 $16 {A difficult move to make, but the f3 square has to be defended. If White can find this idea he would be better but these moves like Bf3-e2 and Nc3-b1 are really not so easy.} (24. Bxb7 $6 Qb8 $1 $13)) 21... Bf6 $1 {Before going for f5 Javokhir improves his worst placed piece, which is the bishop on g7. This is a very matured decision for a ten-year-old boy.} (21... f5 $6 22. exf5 Qxf5 (22... Bxf5 23. Nde4 $16) 23. Nce4 $16 (23. Qxb7 $2 Qd3 $17 )) 22. Nb3 Bg5 23. Rc2 f5 $1 {Everything is in place for the kingside attack.} 24. c5 f4 $1 {With five black pieces attacking the white king and the queen stranded on a7, the game will end with a decisive attack.} 25. Bh1 fxg3 26. hxg3 Qg4 $1 {Of course. The b7 knight is not a piece that requires saving!} 27. Bc1 Nxg3 28. fxg3 Bxc1 29. Nxc1 Rf1+ 30. Kh2 Qh5 31. Qb8+ Bc8+ {A very nice attack quite typical of young players. But what was impressive was the maneuvre with Bf6-g5, improving the worst placed piece. That is not something which even the most experienced grandmasters are able to do in their games.} 0-1

Alireza Ghoorchibeygi (right) is a partially blind chess player from Iran who had participated in the Abu Dhabi Open 2015. He started off with just 1.0/6, but won his final three games to finish with an excellent score of 4.0/9, gaining 35 Elo points. Above he can be seen with a friend and his manager (on the far left).

“Make it large” is Ehsan Ghaem Maghami’s way of doing things. He is the first grandmaster from Iran. He beat Anatoly Karpov in a 20-game match of classical, rapid and blitz chess by a score of 10.5-9.5. He played against 614 opponents in a simultaneous display that lasted for more than 25 hours, and won 590 games! And lastly he has a degree of Bachelor in Laws and is currently defending his thesis in sports management for a PhD. Truly, a multi-faceted personality.

Timofeev Artyom from Russia scored 5.0/9 and finished 37th. Born in 1985, Timofeev reached a career high rating of 2690 in the year 2010. Since then it has been all downhill, and his current rating is 2540. Losing 150 points in five years at this level is highly unusual.

I met Andrey Vovk (above) in the dining area one afternoon, and we started speaking about the strongest chess siblings in the world. When I told him that the Vovks (Andrey and Yuri) are number two behind the Zhigalkos (Andrey and Sergei), he asked me to just recheck the calculations. “The Zhigalkos have lost a few rating points and we might have just surpassed them,” he said. The calculations revealed that the Zhigalkos are still ahead of Vovks… but only by one Elo point!

  1. Zhigalkos (2656 + 2585) /2 = 2620.5
  2. Vovks (2611 + 2628) /2 = 2619.5

Note: We are not considering the Polgars (Judit and Zsuzsa) as both of them are currently inactive. But if we did then they would be the highest with an average Elo of (2675+2577)/2=2626.

Speaking of siblings, the Zhigalkos and Vovks will soon face some stiff challenge from the brothers N.R. Vignesh (left) and N.R. Visakh. Vignesh is 17 years old and has a rating of 2430, while Visakh is 16 and is 2411. The way they are progressing, the Indian siblings might soon become the strongest in the world!

Sight seeing

On the rest day the organizers took the players to the Ferrari World –
the largest indoor theme park in the world [picture from the official website]

Formula Rossa in Ferrari World is the fastest roller coaster in the world [picture by Gabor Papp]

Closeup of the brave and undaunted riders – so you get an impression of how they were feeling

A bird's eye view of the water park at man-made Yas Island, a multi-purpose leisure, shopping and entertainment center built at an estimated total cost of over $40 billion. It occupies a total land area of 25 square km2. Yas Island holds the Yas Marina Circuit, which has hosted the Formula One Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix since 2009.

We visited the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, the largest mosque in the United Arab Emirates, on the
last day of the tournament. Its domed structure and vast expanse made quite a deep impression on us.

The pools along the arcades reflect the mosque's spectacular columns, which becomes even more glorious
at night. The unique lighting system was designed by architects to reflect the phases of the moon.

The entrance to inside of the mosque consists of an artistically engraved door
which is operated by sensors, and opens automatically as soon as you come near it!

The beautiful interiors. The mosque is large enough to accommodate over 40,000 worshipers. It has seven imported chandeliers from the company Faustig in Munich Germany that incorporate millions of Swarovski crystals.

Inside the mosque, from left to right – Gawain Jones, Sandipan Chanda, Samuel Shankland, Padmini Rout, Cecile Haussernot and Sagar Shah, standing on the largest carpet in the world. This carpet was made by around 1,300 carpet knotters. It is predominantly made from wool (originating from New Zealand and Iran). There are 2,268,000,000 knots within the carpet and it took approximately two years to complete.

Chess players can be found with all sorts of stylish accessories when playing the game. In the above picture you see a former European Individual bronze medalist sporting a ring with the letter ‘R’ on it. And next to him is a “Dragon specialist” wearing a fashionable Pierre Cardin watch. The question to you is, who are they? Answers will be posted as an addendum to this article in two days.

All the pictures, in this as well as other reports from Abu Dhabi Masters 2015 on ChessBase, have been provided by WIM-elect Amruta Mokal (2123). Amruta played in the tournament, scoring 3.5/9. She maintains a Facebook page for chess photography.

Top final rankings (after nine rounds)

Rk. SNo Ti. Name FED Rtg Pts.  TB2   TB3  w-we rtg+/-
1 12 GM Grandelius Nils SWE 2628 7.0 2609 53.0 1.92 19.2
2 24 GM Kravtsiv Martyn UKR 2599 7.0 2601 53.5 2.16 21.6
3 5 GM Jobava Baadur GEO 2664 7.0 2596 51.5 1.24 12.4
4 7 GM Areshchenko Alexander UKR 2661 7.0 2565 50.0 1.11 11.1
5 4 GM Rapport Richard HUN 2671 7.0 2550 48.0 0.86 8.6
6 27 GM Salem A.R. Saleh UAE 2595 6.5 2571 48.5 1.44 14.4
7 22 GM Prohaszka Peter HUN 2602 6.5 2553 45.5 1.09 10.9
8 10 GM Jones Gawain C B ENG 2647 6.5 2529 46.0 0.37 3.7
9 17 GM Gupta Abhijeet IND 2619 6.5 2517 49.0 0.53 5.3
10 13 GM Iturrizaga Bonelli Eduardo VEN 2625 6.0 2584 50.5 0.78 7.8
11 3 GM Kryvoruchko Yuriy UKR 2697 6.0 2574 48.5 -0.19 -1.9
12 19 GM Swiercz Dariusz POL 2617 6.0 2568 49.5 0.60 6.0
13 9 GM Akopian Vladimir ARM 2647 6.0 2556 45.5 0.14 1.4
14 15 GM Petrosian Tigran L. ARM 2623 6.0 2526 47.5 0.16 1.6
15 37 GM Vaibhav Suri IND 2552 6.0 2526 45.0 0.91 9.1
16 16 GM Rakhmanov Aleksandr RUS 2620 6.0 2504 46.5 -0.13 -1.3
17 6 GM Sjugirov Sanan RUS 2664 6.0 2489 44.5 -0.67 -6.7
18 2 GM Almasi Zoltan HUN 2700 6.0 2479 43.0 -1.06 -10.6
19 18 GM Onischuk Vladimir UKR 2618 6.0 2455 43.0 -0.56 -5.6
20 48 IM Sadzikowski Daniel POL 2480 6.0 2359 40.0 -0.07 -0.7

Addendum: Answers to the trivia:

1. The players in "My how time flies 2" are Yuriy Kuzubov, Sergey Karjakin, Kateryna Lahno, Anna and Mariya Muzychuk.

2. The player with the letter 'R' ring is Evgeny Romanov and the guy wearing a Pierre Cardin watch is Gawain Jones. 

ChessBase is providing detailed coverage of the Abu Dhabi Masters 2015. The games are being be broadcast live on the official web site and on the chess server 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.

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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fishcakex fishcakex 9/10/2015 07:22
But I think it's Lahno
fishcakex fishcakex 9/10/2015 07:20
Middle looks like Morozevich
gmwdim gmwdim 9/10/2015 04:02
I recognize Karjakin standing next to Kuzubov in the old photo, and the Muzychuk sisters on the right side. Who's the guy in the middle?