Shakhriyar Mamedyarov wins World Stars Sharjah Online

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
6/16/2020 – Due to the coronavirus outbreak, pretty much all over-the-board action was cancelled or postponed. Some tournaments decided to compensate a bit by organizing online events. The World Starts Sharjah Online was a six-player double round-robin with participants rated between 2661 and 2764. Top seed Shakhriyar Mamedyarov won the tournament convincingly by scoring 7½/10 points. Pentala Harikrishna and Radoslaw Wojtaszek finished second and third respectively. | Photo: Niki Riga / World Chess

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Sharjah MastersIt had already become a feature in the yearly chess calendar to see strong players making their way to the United Arab Emirates to play both at the Dubai Open and the Sharjah Masters. While the tournament in Dubai has been held since 1999, the Sharjah Masters started running in 2017, with Wang Hao, Parham Maghsoodloo and Ernesto Inarkiev winning the first three editions.

On March 5, the organizers informed that the tournament had been postponed, and about two months later announced that a double round-robin with a US$ 10,000 prize fund would take place online instead.

Four of the six players included in the line-up had registered to participate in the open tournament before the coronavirus crisis — Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, who was heading the 169-player field, Pentala Harikrishna, Saleh Salem and Bassem Amin. Radoslaw Wojtaszek and Rustam Kasimdzhanov were added to the line-up later on, making for a very strong closed event.

The tournament was held on June 12-13 at the Internet Chess Club server, with a time control of 10 minutes for the game plus 3-second increments.

Mamedyarov undefeated

The last player to beat world champion Magnus Carlsen in a classical game was the convincing winner of the event. Mamedyarov obtained five wins and five draws to end the tournament as the only undefeated player on 7½ out of 10. The Azerbaijani beat every other participant, except Wojtaszek, at least once.

Shakh's sharp style worked wonders. In round 2, he showcased his tactical strength against Kasimdzhanov with the white pieces:

 

Although it is not the best according to the engines, 20.f4 leads to a tactical struggle, the kind in which Mamedyarov thrives. The queens left the board not long after, but by then White had already gained the initiative and went on to score a full point after converting his advantage in an endgame with rooks and knights.

 

Against Harikrishna in round 3, he saw his opponent playing a strange move:

 

In order to deal with the threat of a capture on h3, the Indian star played 18.Kf2. By transferring his king to the centre, he successfully escaped what could have been a killer attack, but Mamedyarov nonetheless managed to simplify into a superior endgame after getting a strong passer on the g-file.

Harikrishna scored as many victories — five — as the Azerbaijani in the tournament, but lost twice. He finished in sole second place half a point ahead of Wojtaszek.

 

A single game could have ruined Mamedyarov's flawless performance — at least result-wise. Salem had white against him in the last round and employed his usual double-edged style to get a better position out of the opening:

 

White's strong 16.d5 opened up lines for his better-developed pieces. From this point on, however, Mamedyarov showed he can also defend against tactical players throwing their pieces at him, and ended up winning the game in 32 moves.

 

Final standings

Rk. Name Pts.  TB1 
1 Mamedyarov Shakhriyar 7,5 0,0
2 Harikrishna Pentala 6,5 0,0
3 Wojtaszek Radoslaw 6,0 0,0
4 Kasimdzhanov Rustam 5,5 0,0
5 Salem A.R. Saleh 3,0 0,0
6 Amin Bassem 1,5 0,0

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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.

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