Praggnanandhaa, Jumabayev joint leaders at Dubai Open Chess Tournament

The two grandmasters will fight for the solo leadership in Wednesday's fifth round

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Rinat Jumabayev of Kazakhstan at the Dubai Open. (Supplied photo)
Rinat Jumabayev of Kazakhstan at the Dubai Open. (Supplied photo)

By Team KT

Published: Tue 30 Aug 2022, 10:39 PM

Grandmasters Rameshbabu Praggnanandhaa of India and Rinat Jumabayev of Kazakhstan won their respective games on Tuesday night to forge a two-way tie for the lead with four points apiece after four rounds in the Dubai Open Chess Tournament at the Dubai Chess and Culture Club.

Praggnanandhaa defeated Armenian GM Aram Hakobyan in a sharp Sicilian Dragondorf, while Jumabayev prevailed over former Indian child prodigy GM Sahaj Grover in an English Opening.

The two will fight for the solo leadership in the fifth round’s top-board encounter on Wednesday.

“It will be an interesting game,” Jumabayev told Khaleej Times of his 5pm tussle with one of the hottest players on the planet. “I remember we played once in Aeroflot in 2018 and a couple of blitz games, but I remember all games ended in a draw.”

Jumabayev, the 2014 champion of Kazakhstan whose biggest claim to fame was eliminating then world number two Fabiano Caruana in the 2021 World Cup, had nurtured a tangible advantage in a variation of the English that is also called the Reversed Sicilian, but later in the game missed an in-between move by Grover, or zwischenzug in chess parlance, that allowed the Indian back into the game.

“At some point I was thinking about making a draw,” said Jumabayev after realising he was losing control of the game. But it was Grover who would make the fatal mistake, missing a tactical shot that would win white a full piece.

“I just didn’t see it,” said Grover in the analysis room. “I think it was time trouble and I just completely forgot about it.”

Grover continued playing a full piece down, before resigning on the 49th move.

“Today I was lucky. Sahaj was very ambitious in his position and it helped me,” the Kazakh grandmaster confessed.

On Wednesday’s fifth round, Jumabayev will need a bit more than luck against a hot-streaking teenager, who only a week ago won three straight games against the world champion Magnus Carlsen. Praggnanandhaa has not slowed down since, winning all his four games in Dubai in convincing fashion.

Against Hakobyan, the fourth-seeded Praggnanandhaa showed his aggressive intentions early by playing the Adams Attack variation against the Armenian’s super-sharp Sicilian set-up, where the Indian teenager pushed his kingside pawns early in the opening and then castled queenside.

The Armenian was up for the challenge, giving up his rook for Praggnanandhaa’s dark-squared bishop, which allowed black’s “Dragon” bishop to gain massive control over the dark squares and, combined with the open b-file, created seriously counterplay against white’s king.

“I underestimated Bh8,” said Praggnanandhaa of black’s decision to sacrifice material. “First I thought white should be better, but then it wasn’t easy cause he’s getting some easy play.”

Hakobyan, however, stumbled in the build-up of his counter assault when he offered more material on move 17, pushing his pawn to the g5 square in a typical Sicilian pawn sacrifice that aims to further strengthen black’s control of the central dark squares.

Praggnanandhaa, however, sidestepped the pawn offer, pushing his f-pawn deeper into black’s territory and further clamping down black’s worst piece on the board – the light-squared bishop.

The Indian prodigy concluded the game with an endgame finesse, sacrificing his bishop to mop up all of black’s central pawns, while keeping black’s king boxed in at the edge of the board. With all of black’s blockading pawns gone, white’s two unopposed queenside passers decided the outcome of the game.

The two other matches between the other fourth-round co-leaders ended in draws, dropping them to joint second place with 3.5 points each. Serbian GM Aleksandar Indjic was pushing for a win in the endgame but second seeded Indian GM Arjun Erigaisi held his ground to force the draw after 49 moves of an English Opening.

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