Top seed Parham Maghsoodloo observes the Round 1 Sharjah Masters action | photo: Sharjah Masters
Indian stars Gukesh, Arjun Erigaisi, Praggnanandhaa and Nihal Sarin, and Women’s World Champion Ju Wenjun, were among the players to start with wins as the 6th edition of the Sharjah Masters began in the United Arab Emirates. The Swiss “Open” is in fact closed to all but grandmasters, with 2519 the lowest rating of any player in the 78-player field.
The 9-round 2023 Sharjah Masters runs from 17-25 May in the Sharjah Chess Club, before many of the players will then move to neighbouring Dubai for the Dubai Open from May 27 to June 6.
The top event in Sharjah uses the Swiss pairing system, but is perhaps unique for a tournament of its size in that this year all 78 players are grandmasters. That meant that Round 1, usually a formality for the top players in opens, was anything but.
Christopher Yoo got some help with his 1st move | photo: Sharjah Masters
On Board 1 top seed Parham Maghsoodloo was facing the dangerous 16-year-old US star Christopher Yoo, though it turned out Parham’s second had done a good job, guessing that Christopher would repeat a line that had seem him get a good position, even if he lost to Grigoriy Oparin.
A few moves later Parham was completely winning and went on to wrap up victory with few difficulties. Christopher toppled his king, as they do in the movies, to end the game.
An even quicker win came for another favourite, Yu Yangyi, who found an elegant way to finish off his attack.
20% of the players in the tournament are from India, with star names Gukesh, Arjun Erigaisi, Praggnanandhaa and Nihal Sarin all among the Round 1 winners.
Time for Praggnanandhaa to make the final push to 2700? | photo: Sharjah Masters
Some fared worse, however, with Adhiban unable to play 1.b3 but playing 1…b6 instead against Anton Korobov’s 1.c4. It didn’t end well, as the Ukrainian star cruised to victory and now plays Maghsoodloo on top board in Round 2.
Ukrainian star Anton Korobov opened with a win | photo: Sharjah Masters
Hans Niemann knows how tough Indian opponents can be after suffering two losses towards the end of the recent Baku Open that saw him plunge back below 2700. In Sharjah, however, he bounced back with a win over another Indian opponent, Harsha Bharathakoti.
17.Rxc6!? bxc6 18.dxe5 was an exchange sacrifice that ultimately worked out perfectly for the 19-year-old US Grandmaster.
Hans Niemann will be hoping to make a quick return to the 2700 club | photo: Sharjah Masters
2704-rated Ray Robson was the highest seeded player to lose in Round 1, against Denis Kadric, who represents Montenegro | photo: Sharjah Masters
Indian no. 3 Vidit was held to a draw by 16-year-old Volodar Murzin and now finds himself playing Ju Wenjun in Round 2. The Women’s World Champion decided it was time to get in some practice at classical chess before she faces Lei Tingjie in her latest World Championship match in July.
The game, against 2-time Indian Champion Kharthikeyan Murali, was a rollercoaster, with Ju Wenjun first winning, then losing, before her g-pawn finally broke free and clinched the win.
Vidit-Ju Wenjun is on Board 12 in Round 2, which once again features big match-ups wherever you look.