Sharjah Masters: Eight co-leaders, Aryan upsets Arjun

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
5/21/2023 – Four rounds into the strong Sharjah Masters, eight players are sharing the lead with 3 points each. Among them are Ju Wenjun and Praggnanandhaa Rameshbabu, the only two players who kicked off the tournament with back-to-back wins. Aryan Chopra is also among the co-leaders — the 21-year-old, ranked 35th in Sharjah, beat his higher-rated compatriot Arjun Erigaisi in round 4. | Pictured: Co-leaders Praggnanandhaa and Nihal Sarin drew their round-4 encounter | Photos: Tournament’s Facebook page

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Ju Wenjun continues to impress

Most of the players who had a strong start at the Sharjah Masters decided to play it safe in rounds 3 and 4, as almost all games on the top boards finished drawn on Friday and Saturday. Nonetheless, a number of players did manage to join the leading pack by scoring wins on the lower boards. 

Women’s world champion Ju Wenjun and Indian prodigy Praggnanandhaa Rameshbabu were sharing the lead after two rounds. They remain as co-leaders, but they have now been joined by six more participants who also have plus-two scores in the standings: Samuel Sevian, Amin Tabatabaei, Haik Martirosyan, Nihal Sarin, Aryan Chopra and Vladislav Kovalev.

Ju is clearly the lowest-rated player in this group, as she is in fact the only co-leader not rated above 2600. After claiming upset victories in the first two rounds, she continued to impress by safely holding draws against Pragg and the ever-dangerous Tabatabaei. Ju is set to face Martirosyan with black in Sunday’s fifth round.

Ju Wenjun

Ju Wenjun

One of the biggest surprises in round 4 was given by Aryan Chopra, who got the better of eighth seed Arjun Erigaisi with white. Arjun was overly optimistic in the opening and early middlegame, as his far-advanced central pawns turned out to be more a weakness than a threat.

Both sides have pushed their central pawns, but White’s pawn chain is certainly more solid than its Black’s counterpart. Aryan went on to grab the c-pawn two moves later and duly converted his advantage into a 61-move win.

Sharjah Masters 2023

The playing hall

In round 3, Harsha Bharathakoti needed only 16 moves to take down Lucas van Foreest with the black pieces.

Out of an Alapin Sicilian, which saw the players repeating 13 moves from a 2022 grandmaster game (given how long they spent on choosing how to proceed, they were out of book before that tough), the Dutchman opted for the incorrect capture on move 16 and had to resign right after his Indian opponent showed the refutation on the board. 

Standings - Round 4

Rk. Name Pts.  TB1 
1 Praggnanandhaa, R 3 0
2 Nihal, Sarin 3 0
3 Sevian, Samuel 3 0
4 Kovalev, Vladislav 3 0
5 Ju, Wenjun 3 0
6 Tabatabaei, M. Amin 3 0
7 Aryan, Chopra 3 0
8 Martirosyan, Haik M. 3 0
9 Suleymanli, Aydin 2,5 0
10 Galperin, Platon 2,5 0
11 Kuybokarov, Temur 2,5 0
12 Dardha, Daniel 2,5 0
13 Theodorou, Nikolas 2,5 0
14 Sanal, Vahap 2,5 0
15 Azarov, Sergei 2,5 0
16 Maghsoodloo, Parham 2,5 0
17 Cheparinov, Ivan 2,5 0
Aravindh, Chithambaram Vr. 2,5 0
19 Sargsyan, Shant 2,5 0
Mchedlishvili, Mikheil 2,5 0

...78 players

Pairings - Round 5

Name Pts. Result Pts. Name
Kovalev, Vladislav 3 3 Praggnanandhaa, R
Nihal, Sarin 3 3 Sevian, Samuel
Tabatabaei, M. Amin 3 3 Aryan, Chopra
Martirosyan, Haik M. 3 3 Ju, Wenjun
Murzin, Volodar Maghsoodloo, Parham
Gukesh, D Aravindh, Chithambaram Vr.
Yu, Yangyi Dardha, Daniel
Kadric, Denis Sjugirov, Sanan
Niemann, Hans Moke Vakhidov, Jakhongir
Predke, Alexandr Sargsyan, Shant
Esipenko, Andrey Theodorou, Nikolas
Sanal, Vahap Oparin, Grigoriy
Korobov, Anton Vokhidov, Shamsiddin
Cheparinov, Ivan Suleymanli, Aydin
Kuybokarov, Temur Narayanan.S.L,

...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.