Youth ravages Sharjah Masters

by André Schulz
4/16/2018 – The 2nd Sharjah Chess Masters is currently taking place in the UAE. Nearly 130 players compete for the first prize of $ 15,000, including five players over 2700. After six rounds, the young Iranian star Parham Maghsoodloo (pictured) is in the clear lead and is the man to beat (no one has!). | Photo: Niklesh Jain

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The 2nd Sharjah Chess Masters

According to popular theory, chess was invented in India was around 500 CE and spread from there in all directions. On the way to Europe, Persia was the next stop. When the Arabs conquered Persia in the 7th century, the game of chess was also introduced to the Arab countries. At first, it was highly valued, but then banned for religious reasons as it was presumed to be equivalent to gambling. 

The development of tournament chess moved beyond the Arab world long ago, but in recent years chess has been rediscovered there and since then it has been rapidly advancing. Strong top players were hired as coaches, the chess clubs (in the United Arab Emirates, for example), reside in palace-like buildings, and tournaments are regularly held that range from good to very high. 

After the chess boomed in the Emirates, then in Iran, even Saudi Arabia recently jumped on the chess as part of the modernization and opening of the country as it hosted the last World Blitz and Rapid Championship. Previously, chess was virtually non-existent in Saudi Arabia. The country's rankings include just 47 players. In Iran, things are looking very different. Iran now ranks 28th in the country ranking, not far from Norway and ahead of Italy or Sweden.

The best players in the country are also still quite young. Five players in the top ten are under 20 years old. Their Elo ratings may not seem so impressive at first glance, but like some other chess-developing countries, Iranian players are underrated because of lack of tournament participation.

See Iran ranking list...

Among the newer tournaments in the region is the Sharjah Masters, held this year for the second time. Sharjah connects to Dubai on the Gulf Coast in the north. The chess club has its domicile in a large dedicated building on a main road, the E88. Next door is a McDonalds. Next to it a gas station. Sounds a lot like your typical German highway...except the chess club, of course.

Google Maps

The Sharjah chess and cultural centre via Google Streetview

The prize fund of the tournament is $60,000. First prize: $15,000. The tournament is under the patronage of HH Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Mohammad Al Qasimi, the head of government of the country.  

With Wang Hao, Yuriy Kryvoruchko, Vladislav Artemiev, Arkady Naiditsch, Bassem Amin and Pavel Eljanov, six players are over 2700, at the top of a list of about 30 other grandmasters. Like the recent Dubai Open, the bulk of the field is made up of Indian players, with nearly fifty. In comparison comparable European Opens, Sharjah is just around the corner from India. 

Iran is represented by nine players. Parham Maghsoodloo (18 years, number one in the country), Mohammad Amin Tabatabaei (17, and number two) and Alireza Firouzja (15, and third) lead the internal rankings.

Speaking of young people: in the field of the Sharjah Opens, you will find two of the world's best 14-year-olds: Nodirbek Abdusattorov (Uzbekistan) and Bibissara Assaubayeva (Russia). 

After five rounds, Sethuraman, the eldest of the Indian contingent, shared the lead with Maghsoodloo. Both players had won all their games so far. Parham Maghsoodloo defeated none other than Elo favourite Wang Hao in round five.


Maghsoodloo had survived massive pressure from Wang in the middlegame and battled back to equal. Now in this tricky endgame, Wang really needed to play Bd7 to put the breaks on black's pawns. After 37.Rb3 e4 the pawns are getting serious. Now 38.Bd7 comes too late. Black's pieces are too active and he won a dozen moves later.

The strength of the young Uzbek player Nodirbek Abdusattorov was felt in the third round by Arkadij Naiditsch:


The sixth round clash between the leaders Maghsoodloo and Sethuraman was quite interesting for fans of the symmetrical English Rubinstein. 


The "normal" moves for white are 10.Rac1 or 10.d3, but Maghsoodloo's move has also been played and has the point of "threatening" to lop off the knight on c6. Normally White doesn't want to give up his fianchettoed bishop, but this is an exception. For this reason 10...Bd7 is the most common reply. Sethuraman instead played the novelty 10...Be6 and there followed 11.Bxc6 bxc6 12.Nf3 with an equal but double-edged position. Soon after, the young Iranian initiates a series of mass exchanges into a queen and rook ending.


Move the pieces on the live diagram!

20.Bxc5 Nxc5 21.Nxc5 Bxf3 22.exf3 Bxc5 23.Rxc5 Qxd3 24.Kg2 Rxc5 25.Qxc5 Qa6.

White is better due to the weak black pawn on c6 which becomes a target. 


Black is tied down but is still holding after 41...Rd8. Unfortunately, despite the added time, Sethuraman missed a tactical shot and played 41...Kh7 in under a minute. Now 42.Qg6+! pins the f6 pawn, such that 42...Kh8 43.Rxe5 fxe5 44.Qxd6 left white with a clearly winning queen endgame. Maghsoodloo forced off the queens just five moves later and earned a handshake, leaving him as the sole leader by a full point, still undefeated, and gaining a boatload of rating points.

Results of the sixth round

Name Pts. Result Pts. Name
Maghsoodloo Parham 5 1 - 0 5 Sethuraman S.P.
Naiditsch Arkadij 4 1 - 0 4 Kovalev Vladislav
Petrosian Tigran L. 4 ½ - ½ 4 Eljanov Pavel
Iturrizaga Bonelli Eduardo 4 ½ - ½ 4 Inarkiev Ernesto
Tabatabaei M.Amin 4 0 - 1 4 Jones Gawain C B
Abdusattorov Nodirbek 4 ½ - ½ 4 Adhiban B.
Safarli Eltaj 4 1 - 0 4 Vignesh N R
Grandelius Nils 4 0 - 1 4 Dimakiling Oliver
Kryvoruchko Yuriy 1 - 0 4 Soumya Swaminathan
Narayanan.S.L 0 - 1 Wang Hao

Standings after six rounds (top 20)

Rk. Name Pts.  TB1 
1 Maghsoodloo Parham 6,0 0,0
2 Sethuraman S.P. 5,0 0,0
3 Safarli Eltaj 5,0 0,0
4 Naiditsch Arkadij 5,0 0,0
5 Dimakiling Oliver 5,0 0,0
6 Jones Gawain C B 5,0 0,0
7 Iturrizaga Bonelli Eduardo 4,5 0,0
8 Artemiev Vladislav 4,5 0,0
  Abdusattorov Nodirbek 4,5 0,0
10 Wang Hao 4,5 0,0
11 Adhiban B. 4,5 0,0
12 Firouzja Alireza 4,5 0,0
13 Petrosian Tigran L. 4,5 0,0
14 Kryvoruchko Yuriy 4,5 0,0
15 Eljanov Pavel 4,5 0,0
  Inarkiev Ernesto 4,5 0,0
17 Jumabayev Rinat 4,5 0,0
18 Kovalev Vladislav 4,0 0,0
19 Yakubboev Nodirbek 4,0 0,0
20 Vishnu Prasanna. V 4,0 0,0

...129 Players

All available games


Translation from German and additional reporting: Macauley Peterson

Correction April 17: Removed reference to "the first move after time control" since Sharjah uses 90 minutes for the entire game, plus a 30-second increment starting from move one. Maghsoodloo, Tabatabaei, and Firouzja, are actually the top 3 in Iran (and not 2-4 as originally written).


André Schulz started working for ChessBase in 1991 and is an editor of ChessBase News.


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