Sharjah Masters: Ju kicks off with upset victory

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
5/18/2023 – With 78 grandmasters, the Sharjah Masters kicked off on Wednesday. Most favourites scored victories, but there were a few upsets: seventh seed Ray Robson was defeated by Denis Kadric, while women’s world champion Ju Wenju got the better of Murali Karthikeyan. Ju’s win was not without ups and downs, as she first got a clear advantage, then found herself up against the ropes, and finally managed to make the most of a miscalculation by her opponent. | Photos: Official website

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A total of 78 participants made their way to Sharjah, one of the seven emirates that constitute the United Arab Emirates. All 78 of them count with the grandmaster title, which makes for a rarely seen phenomenon in a Swiss open — more frequently, these opens have a wide range of players rating-wise.

The field includes 8 players rated 2700 or above, with Parham Maghsoodloo from Iran the top seed, followed by the Indian duo of Dommaraju Gukesh and Vidit Gujrathi. Out of these three favourites, only Vidit failed to score a full point in the first round, as he drew with white against Russian youngster Volodar Murzin.

Seventh in the starting rank stands Ray Robson, who was the highest-rated player to kick off the tournament with a loss. Robson lost with black to Denis Kadric from Montenegro, who proficiently converted his one-pawn advantage in a technical ending with rooks and knights.

Denis Kadric

Denis Kadric

A few more upsets were seen on opening day, including the one seen on board 31, where Ju Wenjun — nothing less than the women’s world champion — beat Murali Karthikeyan with the white pieces. The Indian GM is rated 77 points higher than the Chinese star.

In a rollercoaster game which saw Ju first getting a clear edge and then letting her advantage slip away, Karthikeyan made a strategic mistake on move 42.

42...fxg4 43.hxg4 Rxa4 would have left Black clearly in the driver’s seat, with a passer on the a-file and White’s knight on f3 lacking active possibilities.

Instead, 42...f4 allowed White to free her position via 43.h4 gxh4 44.Nxh4 Rxa4 45.Nf5

Black is still better, but White has certainly found some counterplay with her active minor pieces. A further mistake by Karthikeyan on move 51 again gave the women’s world champion the upper hand — she would not let her advantage slip away for a second time, as she went on to get a notable 56-move victory.

Daniel Dardha

Belgian GM Daniel Dardha

Results - Round 1

Name Pts. Result Pts. Name
Yoo, Christopher Woojin 0 0 - 1 0 Maghsoodloo, Parham
Gukesh, D 0 1 - 0 0 Vescovi, Giovanni
Murzin, Volodar 0 ½ - ½ 0 Vidit, Santosh Gujrathi
Yu, Yangyi 0 1 - 0 0 Mastrovasilis, Dimitrios
Mendonca, Leon Luke 0 ½ - ½ 0 Sjugirov, Sanan
Niemann, Hans Moke 0 1 - 0 0 Harsha, Bharathakoti
Kadric, Denis 0 1 - 0 0 Robson, Ray
Erigaisi, Arjun 0 1 - 0 0 Piorun, Kacper
Sanal, Vahap 0 0 - 1 0 Praggnanandhaa, R
Predke, Alexandr 0 ½ - ½ 0 Peralta, Fernando
Ivic, Velimir 0 0 - 1 0 Sevian, Samuel
Esipenko, Andrey 0 1 - 0 0 Dragnev, Valentin
Bernadskiy, Vitaliy 0 0 - 1 0 Salem, A.R. Saleh
Tabatabaei, M. Amin 0 1 - 0 0 Yuffa, Daniil
Socko, Bartosz 0 ½ - ½ 0 Martirosyan, Haik M.

...39 boards

Pairings - Round 2

Name Pts. Result Pts. Name
Maghsoodloo, Parham 1 1 Korobov, Anton
Cheparinov, Ivan 1 1 Gukesh, D
Narayanan.S.L, 1 1 Yu, Yangyi
Nguyen, Thai Dai Van 1 1 Niemann, Hans Moke
Yilmaz, Mustafa 1 1 Erigaisi, Arjun
Praggnanandhaa, R 1 1 Sadhwani, Raunak
Sevian, Samuel 1 1 Kovalev, Vladislav
Aravindh, Chithambaram Vr. 1 1 Esipenko, Andrey
Salem, A.R. Saleh 1 1 Kadric, Denis
Sargsyan, Shant 1 1 Tabatabaei, M. Amin
Mchedlishvili, Mikheil 1 1 Nihal, Sarin
Vidit, Santosh Gujrathi ½ 1 Ju, Wenjun
Sjugirov, Sanan ½ ½ Murzin, Volodar
Can, Emre ½ ½ Predke, Alexandr
Martirosyan, Haik M. ½ ½ Mendonca, Leon Luke

...39 boards

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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.