Nodirbek Yakubboev wins Qatar Masters in blitz tiebreaks

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
10/20/2023 – Uzbek grandmaster Nodirbek Yakubboev beat compatriot Nodirbek Abdusattorov in blitz tiebreaks to win the Qatar Masters in Doha. Yakubboev entered the tournament as the 19th seed, and obtained a round-9 victory over Karthikeyan Murali to reach the tiebreaks. Abdusattorov, on his part, defeated former sole leader Arjun Erigaisi in the final round of classical chess. Arjun made a very unfortunate blunder to lose the all-important encounter. | Photo: Aditya Sur Roy

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A battle of Nodirbeks

Out of the seven players who entered the final round with chances to win the Qatar Masters, three hailed from India, three from Uzbekistan and one from the United States (Hikaru Nakamura). The frontrunner was 20-year-old Arjun Erigaisi, who beat David Paravyan on Thursday to get a half-point advantage over the field.

As for the Uzbek representatives fighting for overall victory, the three were coincidentally the same three that played on the top boards for the team that brilliantly won the 2022 Chess Olympiad in Chennai. Back then, the top two boards were occupied by two Nodirbeks, Abdusattorov and Yakubboev, respectively.

As round 9 progressed in Qatar, it seemed like it was going to be a battle of who would get to catch Arjun, who seemed to be holding a draw from a tough position against Abdusattorov.

Until disaster struck.

The position was balanced when Arjun blundered with 48...Rh4, allowing 49.Bf6+. Resignation followed only seconds later.

A truly heartbreaking mistake, both for Arjun and for his compatriots following the game outside the playing hall — as recorded by the magnificent ChessBase India team.

By that point, Javokhir Sindarov had already drawn his game, while Narayanan S.L. had held the ever-dangerous Hikaru Nakamura to a draw, which meant only Yakubboev or Khartikeyan Murali could catch Abdusattorov in the final standings.

Yakubboev, playing white, had the better minor piece, the better pawn structure and a dangerous central passer to boot.

Karthikeyan saw it necessary to give up an exchange with 39...Rxe3 here. Under the circumstances, it was a reasonable try, but Yakubboev did a good job in converting his advantage into a win that granted him the right to fight for the title in a blitz tiebreaker with his teammate and namesake.

Yakubboev showed better nerves than his younger (and higher-rated) opponent to prevail with the black pieces in the first blitz encounter. In the rematch, the older of the Nodirbeks got to force a queen trade with a good-looking exchange sacrifice.

25.Rxe6 Bxe6 26.Qxc7 means there is no way for Black to keep the queens on the board if White chooses to trade them. Only needing a draw, Yakubboev did swap the queens shortly after, but also continued to look for ways to activate his pieces.

When the draw was agreed on move 49, it was Yakubboev who had a winning advantage. Three wins on a single day (one over Karthikeyan and two over Abdusattorov) gave the tournament’s 19th seed overall victory!

Yakubboev is a 21-year-old who was awarded the title of grandmaster ‘only’ in 2019. A 3-time Uzbek national champion, he does not receive as much attention as his younger compatriots Nodirbek Abdusattorov and Javokhir Sindarov.

However, Ivan Sokolov, the captain of the national team that grabbed gold in the Olympiad, did not mince words in praising his abilities in a lengthy interview conducted by Sagar Shah:

SS: The player on board two, Nodirbek Yakubboev, not much is known about him. Because when Sindarov became a GM, he was around 12 years and a few months old, so he became well known because of that. Abdusattorov is very well-known after becoming the World Rapid champion. But Yakubboev was very solid on board two, he was unbeaten. What would you say are his strengths?

Sokolov: Yeah, he’s a little bit less known indeed than those players because he’s slightly older than them. But he’s still a very young and a rather universal player.

He works a lot. He also works a lot in the kind of areas where many young players are not working. He’s just trying to improve his chess, and not only interested in the most promising opening variation. I see a great future for him as well.

In Chennai, Yakubboev finished undefeated with an 8/11 score, having obtained draws against the likes of Levon Aronian, Vidit Gujrathi and Jorden van Foreest. Now, in Qatar, the 2616-rated Uzbek outscored the likes of Magnus Carlsen, Hikaru Nakamura and Anish Giri!

Tiebreak games

Vaishali collects women’s first prize and her third GM norm!

The Qatar Masters grants a $5,000 first prize for the woman player with the best placement in the final standings. The winner this year was 22-year-old rising star Vaishali Rameshbabu, Praggnanandhaa’s sister.

Vaishali was the second-highest rated woman player in the field, behind Kazakh IM Bibisara Assaubayeva. With a 5/9 score and a better tiebreak score than her compatriot Divya Deshmukh, Vaishali secured both the aforementioned prize and her third GM norm. To get the highest title awarded in chess, the young player only needs to surpass the 2500-rating barrier.

After gaining 19.7 rating points at the Asian Games and the Qatar Masters, Vaishali climbed to the 21st spot in the women’s live ratings list, with 2467.7 Elo points to her name!

Final standings

Rk. Name Pts.  TB1 
1 Yakubboev, Nodirbek 7 0
2 Abdusattorov, Nodirbek 7 0
3 Narayanan.S.L, 6,5 0
4 Sindarov, Javokhir 6,5 0
5 Nakamura, Hikaru 6,5 0
6 Erigaisi, Arjun 6,5 0
7 Maghsoodloo, Parham 6,5 0
8 Gukesh, D 6,5 0
9 Paravyan, David 6 0
10 Karthikeyan, Murali 6 0
11 Giri, Anish 6 0
12 Shimanov, Aleksandr 6 0
13 Salem, A.R. Saleh 6 0
Jumabayev, Rinat 6 0
15 Puranik, Abhimanyu 6 0
16 Carlsen, Magnus 6 0
17 Sethuraman, S.P. 6 0
Kaidanov, Gregory 6 0
19 Van Foreest, Jorden 6 0
20 Oparin, Grigoriy 6 0

...158 players

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Carlos Colodro is a Hispanic Philologist from Bolivia. He works as a freelance translator and writer since 2012. A lot of his work is done in chess-related texts, as the game is one of his biggest interests, along with literature and music.