Maxim Matlakov marches to Dubai Open win

by Niklesh Kumar Jain
4/14/2019 – The 21st Dubai Open witnessed one of the closest finishes that you would see at an open tournament. After nine rounds we had eight players on the same score of 7.0/9. Buchholz was the tiebreak and based on it Maxim Matlakov from Russia finished first and took home USD $13,000 along with the glittering Sheikh Rashid Bin Hamdan Al Maktoum Cup. Other players on 7.0/9 were 14-year-old prodigy Abdusattorov Nodirbek, Le Quang Liem, Yuriy Kuzubov, Eduardo Iturrizaga, Sanal Vahap, Aleksandar Indjic and P. Iniyan. A detailed report from Dubai by NIKLESH JAIN.

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Eight players tie for the top spot in Dubai

UAE completed two strong back-to-back events on its soil — the Sharjah Masters from the 20-30th of March and the Dubai Open from the 1st to the 10th of April 2019. There was one player who finished joint first in both the events. In Sharjah he had to settle for the fifth spot due to tiebreaks but in Dubai he took home the trophy.

GM Maxim Matlakov from Russia, the winner of the Dubai Open 2019 | Photo: Niklesh Jain

Second seed of the Dubai Open 2019, GM Maxim Matlakov won the 21st edition with 7.0/9 and a performance of 2734. It was an eight-way tie at the top, but because of superior tiebreak (Buchholz) Maxim collected cash prize of USD $13,000 and a beautiful trophy. The prize money was not shared.

Maxim played strong chess throughout the event scoring 5½ points in the first 6 rounds. After the hard work was done in the initial rounds, he switched gears, played solidly and drew all his three games in rounds seven, eight and nine to score 7.0/9 and become the 21st Dubai Open Champion. He is now once again close to the 2700 mark and has reached 2698.2 on the live rating chart. 

Speaking to ChessBase after the event, Maxim praised the organizers for their excellent hospitality and said that he when he left home for both the events in UAE, he had not thought that he would be sharing the first in both Sharjah and Dubai. Maxim's best game in the tournament was the one against Deepan Chakkravarthy, in the all-important sixth round.


Matlakov's favourite game from the event was against GM Deepan Chakkravarthy | Photo: Niklesh Jain

Matlakov speaks with us after the end of the event

Nodirbek Abdusattorov (centre) | Photo: Niklesh Jain

Second place in the tournament went to 14-year-old Uzbek talent GM Nodirbek Abdusattorov, who also had a very good event and has now reached 2598 on live rating list. The interesting point to note is that India's Nihal Sarin also has the same live rating and both of them are born in 2004. When we asked Abdusattorov about his rivalry with Nihal, he said, "some competition is bound to exist because both Nihal and I have played in many of the same age tournaments. The Uzbek prodigy gained 14.3 Elo points in Dubai and 5.1 in Sharjah. He took home 19.4 Elo points in this trip to UAE. Nodirbek's favourite game in the event was against Adly Ahmed.


Abdusattorov: "My favourite chess player is Robert James Fischer"

Thanks to the victories in last two rounds top seed GM Le Quang Liem managed to finish third  with 7.0/9. He scored five wins, four draws and remained unbeaten.

GM Le Quang Liem | Photo: Niklesh Jain

GM Yuriy Kuzubov played a nice event, but he was a little unlucky to finish fourth. He scored 5½ points in the first 6 rounds and after that he drew three games just like Matlakov, but had to settle for the fourth place due to his inferior tiebreak.

GM Yuriy Kuzubov | Photo: Niklesh Jain

The first GM of Venezuela Eduardo Iturrizaga finished fifth with 7.0/9. He is the only +2600 player from Venezuela. He defeated Indian star Sethuraman in Round 7 but his first round walk over (his opponent didn't turn up) against Indian Prraneeth Vuppala cost him valuable tiebreak points.

GM Eduardo Iturrizaga | Photo: Niklesh Jain

Vahap Sanal of Turkey made a strong comeback by beating two strong Iranian GMs — Ghaem Maghami Ehsan and Amin Tabatabaei in the last two rounds to finish joint first and take the sixth place.

GM Vahap Sanal | Photo: Amruta Mokal

Aleksandar Indjic, the only player to share the pole position after each round throughout the tournament, was not as fortunate in his tiebreak score — he played well and scored 7.0/9, but it was only good for the seventh place.

GM Aleksandar Indjic | Photo: Niklesh Jain

P. Iniyan scored a surprise final round victory over his compatriot S.P. Sethuraman and finished eighth | Photo: Niklesh Jain

Final Standings (top 20)

Rk. Name Pts.
1 Matlakov Maxim 7,0
2 Abdusattorov Nodirbek 7,0
3 Le Quang Liem 7,0
4 Kuzubov Yuriy 7,0
5 Iturrizaga Bonelli Eduardo 7,0
6 Sanal Vahap 7,0
7 Indjic Aleksandar 7,0
8 Iniyan P 7,0
9 Adly Ahmed 6,5
10 Mchedlishvili Mikheil 6,5
11 Deepan Chakkravarthy J. 6,5
12 Can Emre 6,5
13 Aravindh Chithambaram Vr. 6,5
14 Debashis Das 6,5
15 Vignesh N R 6,5
16 Raghunandan Kaumandur Srihari 6,0
17 Tabatabaei M.Amin 6,0
18 Mareco Sandro 6,0
19 Sindarov Javokhir 6,0
20 Nguyen Anh Khoi 6,0

Complete ranking list

IM Raghunandan KS achieved his first GM norm at the event | Photo: Niklesh Jain

Raghunandan had a great start to the event with 4½/5. But then lost two games. In the final round he was in a must-win situation against GM Sandipan Chanda. His rating average was 2516, which required 6.0/9. If his rating average was 2520, then 5½/9 and a draw in the final round would have been enough for a GM norm. Beating a GM like Sandipan Chanda, who at one point in his chess career had an Elo of 2680, is never easy. It seemed like the game was going away from Raghunandan when Sandipan blundered in a big way, giving the youngster his first GM norm.


12-year-old Bharath Subramaniyan scored an IM norm | Photo: Niklesh Jain

Bibisara Assaubayeva scored a WGM norm | Photo: Amruta Mokal

Category winners

Best female

1st: GM Tokhirjonova Gulrukhbegim (Uzbekistan)

2nd: FM Bibisara Assaubayeva (Kazakhstan)

Best Dubai Player

1st: FM Ahmed Fareed

2nd: Ali Abdulaziz

Best UAE Player

IM Sultan Ibrahim

Best Arab Player

GM Bilel Bellahcene (Algeria)

Best Player 2301-2400

IM Raghunandan Kaumandur Srihari (India)

Best Player 2201-2300

Raahul V S (India)

Best Player 2101-2200

Chekh Adm Khedr Aram (Syria)

Best Player 2001-2100

Sri Sai Baswanth P (IND)

Best Player 2000-below

Jerlyn Mae San Diego (Philippines)

All the prize winners of Dubai Open 2019 captured in one frame


FIDE Instructor Niklesh Kumar Jain Jain is an international chess player who has participated in tournaments in almost in 20 different countries, winning the international tournament in Sri Lanka in 2010. He also worked for a television network as an anchor and news writer for two years and reported in Hindi during World Chess Championship 2013 and 2014.


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