Chithambaram clinches Dubai Open chess title

Seeded 13th in the tournament, he had a comfortable edge against compatriot GM Rameshbabu Praggnanandhaa, but settled for a draw

GM Aravindh Chithambaram holds his championship trophy. — Jobannie Tabada
GM Aravindh Chithambaram holds his championship trophy. — Jobannie Tabada

By Jobannie Tabada

Published: Mon 5 Sep 2022, 12:24 AM

After what he described as a disastrous 2021, Indian Grandmaster (GM) Aravindh Chithambaram is enjoying a solid run this year winning two national titles, a championship in Spain and now his first silverware in the Dubai Open Chess Tournament on Sunday.

Playing on the first board, Chithambaram, seeded 13th in the tournament, had a comfortable edge against compatriot GM Rameshbabu Praggnanandhaa, but settled for a draw in the end as his fourth-seeded opponent found a beautiful resource to keep the dynamic balance of the game.

With the draw, Chithambaram upped his tally to 7.5 points, but the drama did not end there as the championship would not be decided until a few minutes later when top-seed GM Alexandr Predke of Russia, likewise, drew against GM Ahmed Adly of Egypt. A win by Predke would have created a two-way tie for first, with Predke likely getting the championship with a much higher tiebreak than Chithambaram.

“I have been playing in Dubai a few times, but I’ve never played on the stage before,” Chithambaram told Khaleej Times, referring to the Dubai Open tradition of placing the first table on a stage in the middle of the playing hall. “And now, eventually I won the tournament itself.”

Chithambaram, this year’s Indian blitz and rapid champion and winner of an international tournament in the Spanish town of Benasque in July, played the Colle System, where white slowly builds up pressure against black’s kingside anchored on white’s light-squared bishop on d3.

“I had a slightly better position, but he found this nice pawn sacrifice, where black gets very good counterplay in the light squares,” said Chithambaram, who nonetheless managed to puncture black’s kingside defences with his two rooks.

Although low on time and facing dangerous threats to his king, Praggnanandhaa still found strong counterplay against the white king, prompting Chithambaram to repeat moves and settle for a 38-move draw.

“2021 was a disaster,” Chithambaram revealed, explaining how a dip in his rating late last year cost him a slot in the national team. “And that was why I was not part of the Olympiad.

“So I’m really happy with this result.”

Predke and Praggnanandhaa finished half a point behind with seven points and took the second and third places respectively. Three other Indian players also had seven points: GM Abhijeet Gupta, IM Sammed Jaykumar Shete and GM S.P. Sethuraman, who took the fourth to sixth places.

Reigning Indian champion GM Arjun Erigaisi drew against GM Harsha Bharathakoti and had the highest tiebreak among 6.5-pointers to secure seventh place. Completing the eighth to 15th places were FM Seyed Kian Poormosavi of Iran (6.5), GM Aleksandar Indjic of Serbia (6.5), Bharathakoti (6.5), Adly (6.5), GM Ziaur Rahman of Bangladesh (6.5), GM Samvel Ter-Sahakyan of Armenia (6.5), GM Arjun Kalyan of India (6.5) and GM Aram Hakobyan of Armenia (6).

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