Dubai Open a favourite destination for young chess prodigies, says Shakari

Magnus Carlsen officially became a grandmaster at the Dubai Open in 2004

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Rameshbabu Praggnanandhaa at the Dubai Open. (Supplied photo)
Rameshbabu Praggnanandhaa at the Dubai Open. (Supplied photo)

By Team KT

Published: Tue 30 Aug 2022, 1:00 AM

Of the 29 players who had perfect scores going into Monday’s third round at the Dubai Open Chess Tournament, half were born after the turn of the millennium. Three of them are among the 10 highest-rated grandmasters (GM) in the tournament – second-seed Arjun Erigaisi, fourth-seed Rameshbabu Praggnanandhaa, and 10th-seed Raunak Sadhwani, all from India.

While this group of young grandmasters had mixed results in Monday night’s matches, the presence of such as a strong field of up-and-coming players at the top of the leaderboard underlines the Dubai Open’s special affinity with a new generation of potential world-beaters in the 64-square playing field.

“The Dubai Open has certainly been a favourite destination of young prodigies,” Saeed Yousuf Shakari, secretary-general of the Dubai Chess and Culture Club and tournament director of the Dubai Open, tells Khaleej Times.

“Magnus Carlsen officially became a grandmaster at the Dubai Open in 2004, and the youngest GM at that time at 13 years old. That tells a lot about the deep connection this tournament has with the world’s future champions.”

Carlsen was only one among a long list of prodigies who have made the Dubai Open a jump-off point to a successful chess career. The Filipino-American Wesley So, reigning world champion in Fischer Random (the only world title that Carlsen has yet to win), is the youngest champion in Dubai Open history when he achieved the feat as a 14-year-old GM in 2008.

Azerbaijan's Shakriyar Mamedyarov and China’s Wang Hao, among the world’s highest-rated players who have competed in the elite world championship candidates tournament, were also past champions in Dubai at age 19 and 16, respectively.

Meanwhile, three of the youthful co-leaders managed to move to the fourth round with unblemished slates – Erigaisi, 18, Praggnanandhaa, 17, and Azerbaijan’s Mahammad Muradli, 19 – as eight players remained with a perfect output of three points for the lead.

Erigaisi picked up a clinical win over fellow teenage grandmaster Rithvik Raja of India in a Four Knight’s opening.

Praggnanandhaa had an even shorter workout, beating compatriot IM Shyaamnikhil P in the Rossolimo variation of the Sicilian Defence.

“I think I played a good game,” Praggnanandhaa told Khaleej Times. “When I achieved a better position, I just wanted to keep playing accurately, because sometimes when you think you are winning and you try to relax, then you start to make mistakes.”

Praggnanandhaa capitalised on his strong influence on a8-h1 diagonal and pressure on the f-file to launch an unstoppable kingside attack and wrap up the point in 25 moves.

Also in the lead with three points are Kazakhstan’s GM Rinat Jumabayev, India’s GM Sahaj Grove, GM Aram Hakobyan of Armenia, GM Vladimir Akopian of the US, and GM Aleksandar Indjic of Serbia.

Top seed GM Alexandr Predke of Russia was held to a draw by IM Vignesh N R of India and fell to joint second place.

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