Seeded grandmasters sail unscathed in first round of Dubai Open Chess Tournament

Top-seed GM Alexandr Predke of Russia employed the Queen's Gambit and proceeded to outplay US player Shubh Jayesh Laddha

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Third seed Amin Tabatabaei of Iran at the Dubai Open Chess tournament on Saturday. (supplied photo)
Third seed Amin Tabatabaei of Iran at the Dubai Open Chess tournament on Saturday. (supplied photo)

By Jobannie Tabada

Published: Sat 27 Aug 2022, 10:32 PM

Last updated: Sat 27 Aug 2022, 10:33 PM

“Where can I find the foosball table?” Arjun Erigaisi, winner of the Abu Dhabi Chess Festival just days ago and now gunning for a second title in a row in the UAE at the Dubai Open, found himself some down time in the first round of action when his Filipino opponent failed to show up for their 5pm match at the Dubai Chess and Culture Club on Saturday.

The 18-year-old grandmaster, the second-highest rated player in the Dubai Open, quickly asked to be led to the cub’s favourite corner, enjoying his “extended” break since winning the title in Abu Dhabi.

Erigaisi has been on the road this entire August, leading India’s first team to a fourth-place finish in the Olympiad early this month, then winning the Abu Dhabi title last week, and now playing his second Dubai Open.

In fact, he has been playing multiple tournaments every month for almost a year now, and he’s not slowing down.

“I always enjoy playing,” he tells Khaleej Times. “I think that's one big factor because it's something that I enjoy doing. I don't get tired of doing it, so I can do it nonstop, without any break.”

Although he understands the physical demands of playing tournaments for extended periods, fitness activities are a relatively new addition to his daily routine.

“Until 2021 I never took that seriously. But in 2020 when I had a tournament in Riga, one game lasted like eight hours and towards the end I was just extremely tired. I knew I shouldn't lose, but I just couldn't think. I didn't play well, and that was not due to my chess. That was due to a lack of fitness. So I realised that I should be having more endurance. After that, I started doing basic workouts at home.”

Apart from Erigaisi, fifth-seed GM Sandro Mareco of Argentina likewise took a free point when his Iranian opponent failed to arrive, while the rest of the top 20 grandmasters sailed safely in their first-round matches.

Top-seed GM Alexandr Predke of Russia employed the Queen’s Gambit, the chess opening that inspired the popular Netflix series, and then proceeded to outplay US player Shubh Jayesh Laddha in an endgame with equal material, but with black saddled with a bad bishop and structural weaknesses in the kingside.

Third-seed Amin Tabatabaei of Iran sacrificed his queen for a rook and bishop, and banked on his more active pieces and his opponent’s time woes to grind out a 57-move win over untitled Ojas Kulkarni of India.

World champion-slayer GM Rameshbabu Praggnanandhaa, seeded fourth here, essayed the Philidor’s Defense, an opening he has rarely ever played, to catch Iran’s Fide Master (FM) Reza Mahdavi by surprise en route to a quick 22-move win.

Meanwhile, the tournament’s 2011 champion, GM Abhijeet Gupta, seeded seventh in the tournament, produced one of the round’s prettiest wins when he trapped compatriot Anish Gandhi’s queen with an innocent-looking pawn push on the 19th move. Gandhi resigned immediately, seeing the puzzle-like position was hopelessly lost.

The second round of the nine-round tournament resumes Sunday at 5pm.

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