Sharjah Masters 2019: Five leaders after three rounds

by Niklesh Kumar Jain
3/25/2019 – The Sharjah Masters 2019 is one of the strongest open tournaments in the world. With a total prize fund of $60,000 and the first prize of $15,000, they have been able to attract some of the strongest GMs in the world. There are 35 GMs and 35 IM taking part in this tournament. After three rounds we have five leaders: 14-year-old Nihal Sarin, Alexander Fier, Ernesto Inarkiev, Le Quang Liem and Eduardo Iturrizaga. Niklesh Jain is at the venue and sends us a detailed report.

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The United Arab Emirates gained attention of the chess community all over the world with the Dubai Open. Now in its 21st edition the Dubai Open is still going strong. But there is another tournament just a few kilometres away which is held right before the Dubai Open — The Sharjah Masters. The Sharjah Masters began on 22nd of March 2019 and ends on 30th of March while the Dubai Open begins on the 1st of April 2019 with a break of one day in between. Thus instead of playing just one tournament (Dubai Open) for all these years, now players can plan a trip to UAE and get to play in two strong events. In fact the Sharjah Masters has a higher first prize ($15,000) than Dubai Open ($13,000).

This is the 3rd edition of the Sharjah Masters that began in 2017. In just two years the tournament has established itself as one of the best chess open events in the world. With a rating cut off of 1500 and the first prize of USD $ 15,000 the Sharjah Masters proves to be an ideal opportunity for ambitious lower rated players to fight against IMs and GMs and for the 2600+ GMs to win excellent prize money.

The Sharjah Chess Club where the tournament is being held | Photo: Niklesh Jain

What is more attractive? The neatly lined tables? The revolving chairs? or the artistic carpet? | Photo: Niklesh Jain

The inauguration of the event by the organizing committee and guests on board no.1. The important dignitaries in the photo are Shaik Saqr Alqassemi, head of Sharjah Sports Council and  Shaik Saud Almualla, President of Sharjah Chess Club, and President of Arab Chess Federation

Wang Hao recently won the HD Bank Open in Vietnam. He also won the Hail rapid championships in Saudi Arabia. He is in great form and also the top seed at the Sharjah Masters 2019 | Photo: Niklesh Jain

178 players from 31 countries are participating at the Sharjah Masters 2019. There are 35 GMs and 35 IMs and 17 GMs above the rating of 2600. Wang Hao with a rating of 2718 is the top seed, followed by Vladimir Fedoseev (2715) and Le Quang Liem (2715). India has the biggest contingent at the event with 84 players. Even the host country UAE has just 23 participants.

After three rounds we have five leaders from five different countries: Nihal Sarin from India, Le Quang Liem from Vietnam, Ernesto Inarkiev from Russia, Eduardo Iturrizaga from Venezuela and Alexander Fier from Brazil.

Starting rank (top 20)

No. Name Rtg RtgI
1 Wang Hao 2718 2718
2 Fedoseev Vladimir 2715 2715
3 Le Quang Liem 2715 2715
4 Inarkiev Ernesto 2692 2692
5 Matlakov Maxim 2692 2692
6 Sargissian Gabriel 2689 2689
7 Kryvoruchko Yuriy 2680 2680
8 Maghsoodloo Parham 2673 2673
9 Sjugirov Sanan 2667 2667
10 Mareco Sandro 2666 2666
11 Firouzja Alireza 2657 2657
12 Iturrizaga Bonelli Eduardo 2639 2639
13 Ganguly Surya Shekhar 2633 2633
14 Adly Ahmed 2611 2611
15 Zubov Alexander 2605 2605
16 Idani Pouya 2604 2604
17 Gupta Abhijeet 2602 2602
18 Pichot Alan 2584 2584
19 Nihal Sarin 2578 2578
20 Yakubboev Nodirbek 2569 2569

14-year-old Nihal Sarin has been impressive and with 3.0/3 is already gaining six Elo points. Considering that he gained 11 Elo at Aeroflot, he is already at 2595 on the live rating list. | Photo: Niklesh Jain

Nihal's game from the third round against Mokliss El Adnani was very impressive.


Nihal realized that with the black king in the centre he has to open up the position and did so with 17.f4! The important point being that 17...♜xf4 18.♖xf4 exf4 is met with 19.e5! and White gets a very dangerous attack.


The former World Blitz Champion Le Quang Liem has been quite clinical at this event in the first three rounds | Photo: Niklesh Jain


It is clear that White has more space here. Hence, keeping more pieces on the board makes complete sense. Le Quang Liem played 21.d2! avoiding the exchange of knights. 


I really like what Le Quang Liem did next. He saw that his knight on d2 should be aiming for the d5 square and rerouted it with Nb1! The idea is to play ♘b1-c3-d5. White is slightly better and the Vietnamese GM converted it into a full point.


Le Quang Liem speaks to ChessBase India's Niklesh Jain after his victory over Venkatesh

Ernesto Inarkiev is on 3.0/3 and is one of the leaders | Photo: Niklesh Jain


This line is considered to be an interesting one for Black. And believe it or not, it has been played in 53 games before! Inarkiev was aware of the same and this speaks volumes about his level of preparation.


Iturrizaga from Venezuela is the fourth leader at the Sharjah Masters 2019. In the second round he played an excellent game to beat G. Akash.


Alexander Fier from Brazil is also on 3.0/3. We selected his nice win over Ratnakaran for this article. The reason? Ratnakaran is an aggressive player and likes to find resources even in lost positions. But once Fier got an advantage, he never really let it go. Step by step he increased it and finished off his opponent with absolute ease.


Standings after round 3 (top 10)

Rk. Name Pts.
1 Inarkiev Ernesto 3,0
2 Fier Alexandr 3,0
3 Iturrizaga Bonelli Eduardo 3,0
4 Le Quang Liem 3,0
5 Nihal Sarin 3,0
6 Sargissian Gabriel 2,5
7 Maghsoodloo Parham 2,5
8 Ganguly Surya Shekhar 2,5
9 Idani Pouya 2,5
10 Zubov Alexander 2,5

Sri Sai Baswanth vs Maxim Matlakov — with a rating difference of 674 Elo points it was nearly the biggest upset of the entire event, until something unusual happened

Round 2 highlights

Round three highlights

All available games



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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