Holder Chithambaram and Vahap share Masters division lead at Dubai chess meet - GulfToday

Holder Chithambaram and Vahap share Masters division lead at Dubai chess meet

Sanal Vahap (left) ponders a move during a third round game against Abhijeet Gupta at the Dubai Open Chess Tournament.

Sanal Vahap (left) ponders a move during a third round game against Abhijeet Gupta at the Dubai Open Chess Tournament.

Defending champion Grandmaster (GM) Aravindh Chithambaram of India and GM Sanal Vahap of Turkey zoomed to the top of the leaderboard as the only two players with perfect scores after three rounds of action at the 23rd Dubai Open Chess Tournament at the Dubai Chess and Culture Club.

Chithambaram defeated GM Nikolas Theodorou of Greece, while Vahap, who celebrated his 25th birthday on the eve of the tournament, took down former Dubai Open champion GM Abhijeet Gupta in Monday night’s third round.

In both games, the winners dominated their opponents with exquisite piece play and endgame technique.

Playing white, Chithambaram went for Bc4 against Theodorou’s Accelerated Sicilian Dragon and the two players followed a well-known line where black sacrifices a pawn in exchange for a lead in development. In fact, black was a pawn down for nearly 30 moves, although he had the two bishops in an open board as compensation.

The tide started to turn in Chithambaram’s favor when Theodorou won back the pawn in exchange for giving up the bishop pair and then strangely pushed his f-pawn to f5, leaving the Greek player’s seventh rank alarmingly vulnerable to a rook invasion.

The Indian Grandmaster did not need much prodding to dutifully penetrate black’s self-inflicted weak point, and the active rook inside black’s fortress, coupled with a perennially weak pawn on b3, left black passively defending from here onwards.

With Theodorou’s rook tied down to defending the b3 pawn and his bishop and king busy guarding invasion points in the center of the board, Chithambaram then masterfully expanded his operation to the kingside, applying the principle of ‘two weaknesses’ on the way to an instructive endgame victory in 68 moves.

In another Sicilian encounter, Sanal, playing white, employed the Moscow variation and similar to the Chithambaram-Theodorou game, black also gave up a pawn to ruin white’s pawn structure.

But Gupta started to lose the thread when he mysteriously refused to capture a free pawn on c4 to win back the sacrificed material. Gupta counted on his better pawn structure (Sanal’s doubled pawns on c4 and c3 were potentially a long-term liability) and his rook-bishop combo versus Sanal’s rook-knight pair to keep his winning chances alive, but it was all an illusion as the Turkish GM had his pieces perfectly placed to cover white’s weakness and even create pressure against black’s weakest point – the half-open b-file.

Gupta started to get into serious trouble when he finally decided to equalize material by capturing on c4 with his b-pawn, which came at the cost of opening the b-file for white’s rook to enter black’s territory and cause irreparable damage.  Sanal wrapped up the game on the 45th move shortly after winning black’s a-pawn and creating an unopposed passed pawn on the queenside.

Chithambaram will have the black pieces against Sanal as the two grandmasters contest the sole leadership in Tuesday’s top-board matchup from 5pm.

 The rest of the games among the round-two leaders ended in draws, with Iran’s GM Amin Tabatabaei failing to convert a winning position against Serbia’s GM Aleksandar Indjic to settle for a draw after 48 moves in the round’s top-board game.

Both players have 2.5 points for joint second place. Top-seed GM Yu Yangyi of China also has 2.5 points after frustrating GM Vugar Asadli’s bid to beat a second 2700-player in a row. Yu defeated the Azerbaijani, who scored a big win over second-seed GM Hans Moke Niemann of the US in the second round, with the black pieces in a Najdorf variation of the Sicilian Defense.

Also with 2.5 points are GM Maxim Matlakov of Russia, GM Vladislav Kovalev of Belarus, GM Javokhir Sindarov of Uzbekistan, GM Daniil Yuffa of Spain, GM Adhiban Baskaran of India, GM Maksim Chigaev of Russia, GM Arjun Erigaisi of India, GM Harsha Bharathakoti of India, and GM Vitaliy Bernadskiy of Ukraine.

 Open division: Fide Master (FM) Ammar Sedrani continued his winning ways, defeating Bryle Arellano of the Philippines in an Old Benoni game to post his third straight win.

Sedrani shares the lead with Russia’s FM Maxim Gavrilov, Raji Abuazizah of Palestine, Franz Barretto of the Philippines, and Ediz Kocak of Germany. Sedrani and Abuazizah will play on the first board in Tuesday’s round four from 5pm, while Gavrilov will take on Barretto on the second board. Kocak will be up against third-seed Candidate Master (CM) Stefan-Emilian Prisacaru of Romania, who leads a chasing group of 2.5-pointers.

Related articles