Ukrainians lead Al-Ain after three rounds

by Sagar Shah
12/21/2014 – The Al-Ain Open is one of the strongest in the world, and with its first place prize of $11,000 has attracted 150 players from 27 nations of which 43 grandmasters fighting for the top spot on the podium. After three rounds, seven players are in the lead with a perfect score, including the top seeds. We bring you pictorial impressions and game annotations.

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150 players from 27 nations have converged in Al Ain to participate in the 3rd Al Ain Chess Classic 2014. Amongst them are 43 grandmasters, fourteen International Masters and nine woman grandmasters. At stake is the total prize fund of $50,000. UAE is known for conducting extremely strong events like the Dubai Open and the Abu Dhabi Open. However, Al Ain Classic surpassed both of them by having the first prize of $11,000. (Dubai and Abu Dhabi both had $10,000 as the first prize) 

The inauguration ceremony was quite grand with videos being projected to the public on the walls

The Armenian GMs realized that chatting with each other was the best way to kill the two hour delay...

...while the defending champion Abhijeet Gupta and his compatriot GM Sahaj Grover posed for a few pictures

The first round of the tournament was scheduled to begin at 6pm. However, the inauguration ceremony went on for quite some time and due to a few other technical glitches, the round finally began at 8pm hours. With the time control having an additional 30 minutes after 40 moves, it meant that some of the games went on well past midnight!

There weren’t many upsets as the top seeded grandmasters met players almost 500 points below their rating. But there were a few draws, most notable being Rauf Mamedov drawing against WIM Dorsa Derakhshani (2188) and Mikheil Mchedlishivili splitting the point Aliyev Elnur (2141).

[Event "Al Ain Classic 2014 -19-27 December"] [Site "Al Ain"] [Date "2014.12.19"] [Round "1.11"] [White "Mchedlishvili, Mikheil"] [Black "Aliyev, Elnur"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "A41"] [WhiteElo "2625"] [BlackElo "2141"] [Annotator "Mokal,Prathamesh"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "5nk1/1r3p1p/1N1Pb1p1/p1Q5/P7/1P2P3/3R1P1P/q4BK1 w - - 0 30"] [PlyCount "32"] [EventDate "2014.12.19"] [EventRounds "9"] [EventCountry "UAE"] [WhiteClock "0:33:55"] [BlackClock "0:22:07"] {Seeded players are sometimes shaky in the first round, resulting in early upsets. White is completely winning here but makes a slip.} 30. Rc2 $4 ({ Better is} 30. d7 Bxd7 31. Nxd7 Rxd7 32. Rxd7 Nxd7 33. Qxa5 $18) 30... Qd1 $2 { Black misses the opportunity.} ({Instead he had to play} 30... Rxb6 $1 31. Qxb6 Qd1 $1 32. Qc5 Qg4+ 33. Bg2 Qd1+ $11 {A perpetual check ending in immediate draw.}) 31. Rc1 Qg4+ 32. Bg2 Rxb6 {Better late than never? It is Black's only real chance anyway.} 33. Qxb6 Bd5 34. e4 $2 {Another slip.} (34. f3 {retains good winning chances.} Bxf3 35. Rc2 Bxg2 36. Rxg2 Qd1+ 37. Kf2 Qd2+ 38. Kg3 Qe1+ 39. Kh3 Ne6 40. d7 Qd1 41. Qb5 $16 {White should win with accurate play.}) 34... Bxe4 35. f3 Bxf3 36. Qf2 Bxg2 37. Qxg2 Qd4+ 38. Qf2 Qxd6 {With the white King exposed this is very likely to end in a draw.} 39. Qe3 h5 40. Rc4 Ne6 41. h4 Kh7 42. Kf2 Ng7 43. Qd4 Qh2+ 44. Ke1 Qg3+ 45. Qf2 Qe5+ 1/2-1/2

GM Eldar Gasanov (left) with GM Alexander Kovchan. Kovchan played a nice greek gift sacrifice
to win his first round game in style

The first round ended quite late and the players were quite tired. However, the next day was going to be even more hectic as two rounds were scheduled, the first one beginning as early as 9:30 AM! I had my task cut out as I was paired against the top seed of the event, Yuriy Kryvoruchko. After a successful opening, it seemed as if the game would end in a draw, when I made one of the most horrible blunders of my life.

24.a2-a3 meant that my opponent could simply chop off the a3 pawn
with 24…Bxa3! No excuse, not even the early morning round one would
be good enough for such an oversight.

After that Kryvoruchko showed some excellent endgame technique to convert his extra pawn

Ranked number 50 in the world, Yury Kryvoruchko (2688) is one of the
pre-tournament favourites

GM Sergei Zhigalko of Belarus played an amazing game in round two
which is worthy of close inspection

[Event "Al Ain Classic 2014 -19-27 December"] [Site "Al Ain"] [Date "2014.12.20"] [Round "2.3"] [White "Bakre, Tejas"] [Black "Zhigalko, Sergei"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "E15"] [WhiteElo "2454"] [BlackElo "2672"] [Annotator "Mokal,Prathamesh"] [PlyCount "88"] [EventDate "2014.12.19"] [EventRounds "9"] [EventCountry "UAE"] [WhiteClock "1:11:50"] [BlackClock "0:30:16"] {The following game sees an interesting queen sacrifice by Black in the opening stage itself.} 1. d4 Nf6 2. Nf3 e6 3. c4 b6 4. g3 Ba6 5. b3 Bb4+ 6. Bd2 Be7 7. Nc3 O-O 8. Bg2 d5 9. cxd5 exd5 10. O-O Re8 11. Rc1 Bb7 12. Bf4 c6 (12... Na6 {has been quite popular for Black with the idea of playing ...c6 and later ...Nc7.}) 13. Ne5 Nbd7 14. e4 Nf8 15. exd5 cxd5 16. Bh3 a6 ({In an earlier game, there was a short draw following} 16... Ba3 17. Rc2 a6 18. Na4 Ne6 19. Bc1 Bd6 {Epishin-Aseev/URS-ch/1991/1/2-1/2}) 17. Na4 Bd6 18. Be3 Ne6 $5 $146 { This move has never been played before but it was mentioned by Dautov in his analysis in ChessBase Magazine 37.} (18... b5 19. Nc5 Bc8 20. Bg2 $1 $14 {with a slight edge for White, was played in Epishin vs Yudasin, Biel - 1993. The game ended in a draw after 66 moves.}) 19. Nc6 Bxc6 20. Rxc6 b5 (20... Rb8 21. Qd3 $16 {Dautov in ChessBase Magazine 37.}) 21. Nc5 Bxc5 22. dxc5 d4 {The Queen sacrifice by Black had to be conceived before playing this move at least, if not in preparation.} 23. Rd6 dxe3 {Otherwise the previous move would not make any sense.} 24. Rxd8 Raxd8 25. Qc1 (25. Qb1 exf2+ 26. Rxf2 Nxc5 $11 { R+N+P being materially equal to the Q, without any positional problems, Black is doing fine here .}) 25... Nd4 $1 26. Kg2 e2 27. Re1 Re7 {Now for the Queen, Black has a Rook and Knight, but quite obviously the pawn on e2 is Black's hero. It is like a thorn in White's neck. Black's counterplay revolves around it and the position seems to offer enough compensation for him to survive.} 28. c6 $6 {Seems like a miscalculation. White probably thought that he gets the e2-pawn in return for the c-pawn, but Black has a tactic up his sleeve.} (28. Qc3 {is a move that actually threatens c6 since White is always ready to go Qa5 now.} Nc6 $1 (28... Ne4 $2 29. Qa5 $1 $16) 29. Qb2 {White is forced to take measures against ...Rd1.} (29. b4 $2 Rd1 $19) 29... Nd4 $1 $14 {The positions seems slightly better for White but It is hard for him to make progress.}) 28... Rc7 29. Qd2 Rxc6 30. Rxe2 Rcd6 $1 {The White R is doomed, wherever it goes. A nice position of domination.} 31. Re7 (31. Re5 Nc6 $17) ( 31. Re3 Nf5 $17) (31. Re1 Nf3 $17) 31... Nc6 32. Qe3 Nxe7 33. Qxe7 Nd5 $17 { 2Rs are usually stronger than a Q and so, it is now Black who will start mounting the pressure.} 34. Qa7 Nc3 35. a3 g6 {The escape square of the right colour!} 36. Bg4 Nb1 37. a4 h5 38. Be2 Nc3 39. Bf3 bxa4 40. Qc5 Nd1 41. bxa4 Rd2 42. Bxd1 Rxd1 43. h4 R1d2 44. Qc7 $2 {Making it easier for Black.} (44. Qa5 R8d6 45. Qb4 $17 {Black is winning but still has some work to do.}) 44... Re8 ( 44... Re8 45. Qa7 Ree2 46. Qxa6 Rxf2+ $19) 0-1

Playing three rounds back to back is not an easy task for any youngster. It was natural that the playing quality deteriorated and a lot of mistakes were made.

One of the greats, Ivan Sokolov, could not defend with precision and made
many mistakes in the third round to lose against Gulmar Mammadova

[Event "Al Ain Classic 2014"] [Site "?"] [Date "2014.12.20"] [Round "3"] [White "Sokolov, Ivan"] [Black "Mammadova, Gulmar"] [Result "1-0"] [WhiteElo "2645"] [BlackElo "2354"] [Annotator "Sagar Shah"] [PlyCount "72"] [EventDate "2014.??.??"] 1. Nf3 d5 2. g3 Nf6 3. Bg2 g6 4. c4 c6 5. b3 Bg7 6. Bb2 O-O 7. O-O Bg4 8. d4 Qc8 9. Re1 Bh3 10. Bh1 Ne4 11. Nbd2 f5 12. Rc1 Qe6 13. b4 ({Sokolov misses an easy chance to get ana advantage.} 13. Nxe4 $1 fxe4 (13... dxe4 14. Ng5 $18) 14. Ng5 Qf5 15. Nxh3 Qxh3 16. Bg2 $16) 13... h6 14. Qb3 Nd7 15. b5 g5 16. cxd5 cxd5 17. Rc7 {White has quite a pleasant initiative.} g4 18. Nxe4 (18. Nh4 { was a safer option.} Nxd2 19. Bxd5 $18) 18... fxe4 19. Nd2 Qf7 20. Qe3 (20. Nxe4 Nb6 $14 (20... dxe4 21. Rxd7 $18)) 20... h5 21. Nxe4 (21. Rxd7 Bh6 22. Rxe7 $1 Bxe3 (22... Qf6 23. Nxe4 dxe4 24. Qb3+ $18) (22... Qf5 23. Bxe4 $1 dxe4 24. Qb3+ $18) 23. Rxf7 Bxd2 24. Rxf8+ Rxf8 25. Rd1 $14 {was the only way for White to keep a small edge.}) 21... dxe4 22. Rxd7 $2 {A bad mistake by Sokolov who either missed his opponent's next move or the one a few moves later.} (22. Bxe4 {was neccessary.} Nb6 (22... Bh6 23. Qb3 $11) 23. Qb3 $11 {White has enough compensation for the missing piece.}) 22... Bh6 $1 23. Qb3 Qxb3 $1 { sometimes it is possible to miss such simple exchanging move.} (23... e3 {was equally strong.}) 24. axb3 Rxf2 $1 {Breaking through the white king's defences. Maybe this was the move missed by Sokolov.} 25. Bc1 (25. Kxf2 Rf8+ 26. Kg1 Be3# ) 25... Bxc1 26. Rxc1 Raf8 27. Rd8 Rxe2 {The rest is easy. Black is not only a pawn up but also has the opponent's king perpetually in a mating net.} 28. Rd5 Rf6 29. Rxh5 Kf7 30. d5 Ref2 31. Rxh3 gxh3 32. Bxe4 Rd2 33. Re1 b6 34. g4 Rf4 35. Bf5 Rg2+ 36. Kh1 Rff2 {A very nice game by Gulmar Mammadova.} 1-0

After three rounds, seven players are on perfect score with 3.0/3. They are Yuriy Kryvorcuhko, Yuriy Kuzubov, Sergei Zhigalko, Tigran Petrosian, Mikhailo Oleksienko, Gaioz Nigalidze and Ulvi Bjarani. Six rounds to go and now there will be a single round every day at 4pm hours. (much to the relief of all the players!)

Ranking after round three

Rk SNo Ti. Name Fed Rtg Pts K rtg+/-
1 1 GM Kryvoruchko Yuriy UKR 2688 3.0 10 6.5
2 2 GM Kuzubov Yuriy UKR 2681 3.0 10 6.4
3 3 GM Zhigalko Sergei BLR 2672 3.0 10 6.0
4 6 GM Petrosian Tigran L. ARM 2651 3.0 10 6.1
5 13 GM Oleksienko Mikhailo UKR 2621 3.0 10 6.3
6 28 GM Nigalidze Gaioz GEO 2536 3.0 10 9.8
7 37 GM Bajarani Ulvi AZE 2494 3.0 10 9.8
8 47 IM Gagare Shardul IND 2411 2.5 10 11.3
9 53 WGM Khademalsharieh Sarasadat IRI 2378 2.5 20 22.6
10 33 GM Abasov Nijat AZE 2509 2.5 10 5.0
11 8 GM Shankland Samuel L USA 2642 2.5 10 1.1
12 12 GM Vidit Santosh Gujrathi IND 2625 2.5 10 1.2
13 34 GM Grover Sahaj IND 2505 2.5 10 4.7
14 20 GM Gopal G.N. IND 2580 2.5 10 0.2
15 40 GM Babujian Levon ARM 2471 2.5 10 2.8
16 55 WGM Mammadova Gulnar AZE 2354 2.5 20 24.6
17 16 GM Onischuk Vladimir UKR 2614 2.5 10 0.0
18 19 GM Volkov Sergey RUS 2599 2.5 10 -0.4
19 10 GM Gupta Abhijeet IND 2632 2.5 10 0.9
20 15 GM Pashikian Arman ARM 2617 2.5 10 0.9

Click for complete standings

Gallery of portraits

GM Alexander Areshchenko

Pakistan’s only International Master: IM Mahmood Lodhi

Current Ukrainian Champion: GM Yuriy Kuzubov

GM Constantin Lupulescu

GM Vladimir Onischuk

GM Arman Pashikian

GM Hovik Hayrapetyan

IM Amirezza Pourramezanali

One of the youngest players at the event

The games in the report have been annotated by Prathamesh Mokal who
is an International Master and also a FIDE Trainer

Photos by Amruta Mokal


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Topics: Al Ain

Sagar Shah is an International Master from India with two GM norms. He is also a chartered accountant and would like to become the first CA+GM of India. He loves to cover chess tournaments, as that helps him understand and improve at the game he loves so much. He is the co-founder of the ChessBase India website.
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