Teenage grandmasters look to stamp class in Dubai Open Chess Tournament

Abu Dhabi champion Arjun Erigaisi and Magnus Carlsen-conqueror R. Praggnanandhaa among early favourites

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Rising Indian star Rameshbabu Praggnanandhaa. (Fide Olympiad)
Rising Indian star Rameshbabu Praggnanandhaa. (Fide Olympiad)

By Jobannie Tabada

Published: Fri 26 Aug 2022, 8:05 PM

Last updated: Fri 26 Aug 2022, 8:06 PM

Two of the hottest young players in the international chess circuit look to continue their impressive form as they start nine gruelling rounds of classical chess action in the 22nd Dubai Open Chess Tournament on Saturday at the Dubai Chess and Culture Club.

Rameshbabu Praggnanandhaa, fresh from a giant-killing spree in the FTX Crypto Cup in Miami where he brought down world champion Magnus Carlsen in a dramatic final-round encounter last Sunday, and Arjun Erigaisi, who only two days ago bested a field of 43 topflight grandmasters and over a hundred other titled players to rule the 28th Abu Dhabi International Chess Festival, have emerged early favourites to reign in Dubai.

Praggnanandhaa, who turned 17 this month, and Erigaisi, who will celebrate his 19th birthday during the penultimate round of the Dubai tournament on September 3, also come off a successful campaign at the Fide World Chess Olympiad in Chennai, India. Praggnanandhaa, playing third board for India 2, picked up team and individual bronze medals, while Erigaisi won silver on third board and was the highest scorer for fourth-placer India 1.

The teenage grandmasters (GM) will be up against one of the toughest fields in the Dubai tournament’s history, where almost the entire Indian team that won the bronze medal during the Olympiad, as well players from Olympiad champions Uzbekistan and runners-up Armenia, will be competing.

Members of the Indian and Uzbekistan Olympiad teams, both mostly powered by chess prodigies barely out of high school, are currently the toast of the chess world following their sensational performance at the Chennai Olympiad, putting them directly in the crosshairs of the more than 100 titled players, including 35 grandmasters, chasing for the title in Dubai.

Praggnanandhaa will be joined by Olympiad teammates GM Nihal Sarin, 18, GM Raunak Sadhwani, 16, and GM Adhiban Baskaran, 30.

GM Dommaraju Gukesh, 16, the biggest revelation of this year’s Olympiad having bagged the gold medal on first board ahead of Carlsen, will not be competing in Dubai. Gukesh is currently playing in the Turkish Chess League, although his name was earlier listed among the tournament participants. Also playing in Dubai are GM Shamsiddin Vokhidov, who played fifth board for Uzbekistan in Chennai, and GM Samvel Ter-Sahakyan, who manned the third board for Armenia.

The Olympiad medallists will face stiff competition against a field of more than 170 players from 35 countries, led by this year’s highest-rated player GM Alexandr Predke of Russia, who has an international rating of 2692.

Two former champions are also vying for a second serving of the coveted chess crown — 1999 inaugural winner GM Vladimir Akopian, a former Armenian champion now playing for the USA, and 2011 champion GM Abhijeet Gupta of India.

The Dubai Open, back after a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic, dangles a total prize fund of $50,000, with $13,000 going to the champion. Games are played every day from 5pm.

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