Asadli downs Niemann in 2nd round to take joint lead in Dubai Open chess event - GulfToday

Asadli downs Niemann in 2nd round to take joint lead in Dubai Open chess event

Participants in action during the second round of the Dubai Open Chess Tournament.

Participants in action during the second round of the Dubai Open Chess Tournament.

Vugar Asadli caused the biggest stir so far in the 23rd edition of the Dubai Open Chess Tournament when the Grandmaster (GM) from Azerbaijan defeated second-seed GM Hans Moke Niemann of the US in Sunday night’s second round at the Dubai Chess and Culture Club.

Asadli joins 11 others, including former Dubai Open champions GM Maxim Matlakov of Russia and GM Abhijeet Gupta and GM Aravindh Chithambaram of India, for the lead at two points.

Fourth-seed GM Amin Tabatabaei of Iran is now the highest-rated player among the leaders after top-seed GM Yu Yangyi of China and third-seed GM Arjun Erigaisi of India settled for quick draws in round two against GM Evgeny Romanov of Norway and GM Mikheil Mchedlishvili of Georgia respectively, dropping all four to joint second place with 1.5 points each. Also with 1.5 points is the UAE’s GM Salem AR Saleh, who outplayed 16-year-old Armenia talent IM Emin Ohanyan in an interesting rook and two knights vs rook and two bishops pawn endgame.

Niemann employed the flexible Makogonov variation against Asadli King’s Indian Defense and both players proceeded to castle in opposite directions, guaranteeing an exciting, complex fight for the full point.

By move 21, Asadli had sacrificed nearly all his quenside pawns in exchange for the bishop pair and open lanes for his rooks, in a dangerous direct assault against the white king. But Niemann kept things under control until halfway through the game when the American started to play passively, allowing Asadli to grab the initiative and even win the exchange.

It was downhill from thereon for Niemann, who surrendered the point after 58 moves.

Chithambaram, the defending champion, and Gupta, winner in 2011, had two of the longest games to finish on day two, playing over four hours before beating GM Karthik Venkataraman of India and GM Abhimanyu Mishra of the US respectively.

Chithambaram had a rook, knight and a g-pawn pawn just two squares away from promotion against Venkataraman’s rook and bishop in an endgame the defending champion admitted to be still a draw. “I feel sorry for him because it was totally a drawn position,” explained Chithambaram, pointing out that Venkataraman walked into a trap that “paralyzed” his position, allowing the g-pawn to cruise to promotion.

“It’s a long tournament and I’m not thinking about it at the moment,” added Chithambaram of his chances of scoring a two-peat this year.

But the defending champion relishes the challenge of playing against a much tougher field in this year’s newly introduced Masters category. “And if you lose, you don’t lose that much rating points,” he says with a smile.

Gupta was pushing for a win all game long, but Mishra, the youngest player in history to be awarded the grandmaster title, had one last chance to save the point after Gupta’s natural-looking 90th move, Ba4.

Mishra responded with Ra8 and Gupta had no problems converting the forced line that followed. Moving the rook over to the kingside, however, offered much better drawing chances according to the tablebases, although Mishra’s extreme time trouble made it almost impossible to find the deep puzzle-like resource over the board.

Other players who share the lead with two points include GM Sindarov Javokhir of Uzbekistan, GM Maksim Chigaev of Russia, GM Aleksandar Indjic of Serbia, GM Vladislav Kovalev of Belarus, GM Daniil Yuffa of Spain, GM Nikolas Theodorou of Greece and GM Adhiban Baskaran of India.

Open division: In the Open tournament, top-seed Fide Master (FM) Ammar Sedrani of the UAE defeated Syria’s Talab Rami to lead 12 other players in a tie for the lead with two points. The nine-year-old Syrian squandered a massive advantage in the endgame and then missed a tactical shot by the UAE player in an equal position to concede the game.

Sedrani next faces the dangerous Filipino player Bryle Arellano, who also has two points after a win over Madduri Satya Tejeswar, in the third round’s top-board match-up on Sunday.

Apart from Sedrani and Arellano, others with two points each are FM Maxim Gavrilov of Russia, FM Kalugampitiya RS of Sri Lanka, FM Kevin George Micheal of Egypt, Sameir Ramez of Egypt, Anel Muratova of Kazakhstan, Franz Barretto of the Philippines, Ediz Kocak of Germany, Sharon Rafael of India, Raji Abuazizah of Palestine, Anas Khwaira of Jordan, and Shakhnoza Sabirova of Uzbekistan.

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