Sharjah: Three co-leaders, Tabatatabei misses big chance

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
5/18/2024 – Draws on boards 1-4 in Friday’s fourth round at the Sharjah Masters allowed Hans Niemann, Aravindh Chithambaram and Saleh Salem to remain as co-leaders atop the standings. Twelve players now stand a half point behind, including Arjun Erigaisi, Alexey Sarana and Vladimir Fedoseev, who all won in round 4. | Photo: Aditya Sur Roy

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A tough field

None of the 88 participants at the Sharjah Masters managed to keep a perfect score after four rounds of play. The three players who entered the fourth round as co-leaders all signed draws, much like the five players who stood a half point back, which means Hans Niemann, Aravindh Chithambaram and Saleh Salem continue to share the lead, each with 3½ points.

The draws on the top boards allowed a number of players to join the chasing pack, as there are now twelve participants standing a half point behind the leading trio. The players who joined the chasing pack on Friday are Arjun Erigaisi, Alexey Sarana, Vladimir Fedoseev, Javokhir Sindarov, Daniil Yuffa, Daneshvar Bardiya and Mahammad Muradli.

Top seed Arjun found a nice exchange sacrifice to get a clear positional advantage in his game with black against Manuel Petrosyan.

31...Nxe5 32.Nxe5 Bxe5 would help White to reorganize his army via 33.Re1, while 31...Rxf3 32.Rxf3 Nxe5, as played in the game, gains a strong initiative for Black.

Note that the white rook cannot escape along the f-file, and escaping along the third rank would allow ...Ne5xc4, further improving Black’s chances — thus, Petrosyan gave back the exchange with 33.Kg2 Nxf3 34.Kxf3, but after 34...Rf8+ Black was clearly for choice.

Arjun went on to show excellent endgame technique to convert his advantage into his third victory of the tournament. The top seed was upset by Nikolas Theodorou in the second round of the event.

Manuel Petrosyan, Arjun Erigaisi

Manuel Petrosyan and Arjun Erigaisi | Photo: Aditya Sur Roy

Tabatabaei’s missed chance

Playing white against Aravindh on board 2, Tabatabaei played a number of strong tactical moves to get a clear advantage, but then failed to finish off his opponent. The 75-move encounter was highly tense, with the Iranian GM making the mistake that allowed his opponent to escape with a draw on move 48.

If Black is not careful, White’s rook and knights will create a deadly mating net on the kingside — and Aravindh had been dealing with difficult threats for quite a while now. However, White should also be cautious if he wants to keep his advantage.

Tabatabaei had 43 seconds when Aravindh gave a check with 47...Nd2+, and he employed 24 of those 43 seconds considering where to place his king. His decision of playing 48.Kf1 (instead of 48.Kg2 or 48.Kh2) turned out to be erroneous.

The problem with placing the king on f1 is that after 48...Nf4+, Black is threatening checkmate with ...Rd6-d1, which both forces White to waste a crucial tempo and restricts the white monarch’s mobility in many potential variations.

There followed 49.Rg7+ Kh8 50.Rh7+ Kg8 (repeating a couple of times to gain seconds on the clock) 51.f3 Be8

In any reasonable line emerging from the first diagrammed position, White was forced to give up the h6-pawn to be able to make progress, most likely entering an advantageous endgame with his extra pawn.

But in this version, the white king will be unable to join the fight due to the pawn on f3.

In contrast, after 48.Kg2, White would have managed to simplify into a technically winning position via for example: 48...Be8 49.Rg7+ Kh8 50.Kf3

Black is forced to make concessions in all lines, as it is likely that he will be forced to trade White’s h-pawn for his g-pawn, and the connected passers on the kingside will eventually decide the game in White’s favour.

The final sequence of the game was recorded by the ever-diligent ChessBase India team. Tabatabaei looks understandably disconcerted.

Standings after round 4

Rk. Name Pts.  TB1 
1 Salem, A.R. Saleh 3,5 0
2 Niemann, Hans Moke 3,5 0
3 Aravindh, Chithambaram Vr. 3,5 0
4 Tabatabaei, M. Amin 3 0
5 Murzin, Volodar 3 0
6 Sarana, Alexey 3 0
7 Muradli, Mahammad 3 0
8 Fedoseev, Vladimir 3 0
9 Daneshvar, Bardiya 3 0
10 Sankalp, Gupta 3 0
11 Puranik, Abhimanyu 3 0
12 Yuffa, Daniil 3 0
13 Shankland, Sam 3 0
14 Erigaisi, Arjun 3 0
15 Sindarov, Javokhir 3 0
16 Theodorou, Nikolas 2,5 0
17 Royal, Shreyas 2,5 0
18 Iniyan, Pa 2,5 0
19 Yu, Yangyi 2,5 0
20 Maurizzi, Marc`andria 2,5 0
21 Zemlyanskii, Ivan 2,5 0
22 Nguyen, Thai Dai Van 2,5 0
23 Mendonca, Leon Luke 2,5 0
24 Sevian, Samuel 2,5 0
25 Nihal, Sarin 2,5 0

...88 players

All games


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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