Highest ranked Indian in the fray Abhijeet Gupta got off to a flier, defeating Osman Abdelgadir of Sudan, while Grandmaster M R Lalith Babu was held to a draw by Elena Partac of Moldova in the first round of the 16th Dubai International open chess. It turned out to be a good day in the office for Gupta as he had to exert little for a maximum result against Abdelgadir. Playing the white side of an English opening, Gupta got an early advantage and then spotted a simple tactic to earn a knight for just a pawn. The rest was easy.
Lalith Babu faced an early wake up call by Partac who matched the Indian move for move despite a hige desparity in ratings. It was a Caro Kann defense by Babu wherein Partac played a less played system and the game was always close to equal. Babu fancied his chances in the rook and pawns endgame but Partac was equal to the task as she gave nothing away. After 87 moves the draw was agreed to leaving both players on a half point.
The opening day was not devoid of upsets usual for a strong tournament like the Dubai open. Highly regarded Grandmaster Tigran Petrosian went down to Mona Khaled of Egypt while Gawain Jones of England had to part with a half point against Narmin Khalafova of Azerbaijan. Amongst the Indians, Siva Mahadevan came out with a good result holding Russian Grandmaster Sergey Volkov to a creditable draw.
It was a typical hit-and-miss game as Mahadevan got a winning position after capturing Volkov’s queen for just two minor pieces but missed a simple blow that cost him a rook. Volkov thought he had chances but the Indian fought back to win the rook for his passed pawn and the Russian was lucky to find a fortress.
The Indian GMs had a good day apart from Lalith Babu. Debashish Das got the better of compatriot Harshal Shahi, Niusha Afshar of Iran proved no match against M Shyam Sundar while Sahaj Grover excelled at the expense of Ahmed Elgantiry of Egypt. At the top of the tables, Anton Korobov scored over Asian junior girls’ champion Ivana Maria Furtado in a game where the Indian girl fought hard. Nishant Malhotra was the other Indian on the receiving end despite putting up a brave show against Grandmaster Stevic Hrvoje of Croatia.