35-year-old 5-time Argentinian Champion Diego Flores has won the $13,000 first prize in the 2018 Dubai Open after beating Ganguly in a dramatic final game. The Indian GM had been leading by a full point with two rounds to go, but then lost to runner-up Eduardo Iturrizaga in the penultimate round. Sethuraman took bronze after a wild last-round draw against Gawain Jones, who couldn’t quite win a third Dubai title in a row but still won the blitz event.
The 9-round Dubai Open took place in the Dubai Chess and Culture Club from the 2nd to the 10th April 2018, and you can replay all the games using the selector below:
The Vishy Anand inspired chess boom in India is nowhere more visible than in the Dubai Open, where perhaps it helps that Dubai is a mere 3-hour flight from Mumbai. An astonishing 73 of the 164 players were Indian, with the next highest representation 11 players from the host nation the United Arab Emirates.
It was perhaps no surprise, then, that it was an Indian player who led from the front for most of the event. Surya Shekhar Ganguly was having a perfect tournament. He conceded just one draw as he took the sole lead after Round 6, and then in Round 7 he beat top seed Yuriy Kryvoruchko to open up a full point lead with just two rounds to go. From then on, though, it all went wrong as he suffered at the hands of Latin-American players.
First an advanced pawn proved to be a weakness not a strength against Venezuela’s Eduardo Iturrizaga, who went on to score an unbeaten 7/9 and finish in second place.
That meant Ganguly was caught by four players before the final round, but he still came very close to winning the title in a thriller of a final game against Diego Flores. The Argentinian grandmaster looked as though he was getting slowly outplayed when he decided to take drastic measures on move 14:
14.Rxg4!? changed the character of the struggle, but Ganguly took it in his stride and had 32 minutes to his opponent’s 1 minute 35 seconds after 30.Qxa7!? (note in this event there was no time added at move 40):
Ganguly spent 9 minutes here, but chose 30…Qh3?, when after 31.Rf2 Bb4 32.a3! there was nothing better than 32…Bd6, since 32…Be1? would run into 33.Rxf3!, exploiting the weak back rank. Instead he needed to play a slightly different variation on the same theme with 30…Rh6! 31.Rf2 (31.h4 runs into the crushing 31…Bxh4!) 31…Bb4 32.a3 Be1 and this time there’s no Rxf3 since the queen is both defending f3 and threatening to deliver mate.
In the game Flores had 3 pawns for the exchange and Ganguly, perhaps tempted by his opponent’s clock situation, failed to make the difficult switch to playing for a draw. When the e-pawn broke loose the encounter didn’t last long, with the final touch coming on move 56:
Exchanging queens is just a draw, but the quiet 56.Kf2! was game over. After 56…Qf5+ 57.Qf3 Qc2+ 58.Be2 there were no more checks and the e-pawn couldn’t be stopped. Ganguly resigned.
That meant that after a quiet start Diego Flores had taken the top prize and trophy:
The fate of third place was decided in the extraordinary Sethuraman-Jones. While Gawain Jones was already on his own, his Indian opponent didn’t take more than 29 seconds for any of his first 23 moves:
Here, though, he sank into a 42-minute think before playing 24.f4!? Neg4 25.c5!? and there was fire on board. Even the players didn’t know what was going on!
In the end it finished in a draw and Sethuraman took bronze, while Gawain finished 6th after winning the previous two editions of the tournament:
The standings at the top were as follows:
Last year the Dubai Open took place after the Sharjah
Masters, while this year it’s the other way around, with many of the
participants from Dubai making the short trip to Sharjah (we can reuse last
The Sharjah Masters has a slightly higher prize fund with $15,000 for first place and has attracted some more top players, including 18-year-old Wei Yi (skipping the Chinese League after playing all 22 rounds last year) and Wang Hao from China, 20-year-old Russian Vladislav Artemiev (playing his first tournament as a 2700-player), Arkadij Naiditsch and Adhiban.
The games start on Thursday April 12th (games will appear here once the pairings are out):
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