In Round 4 the two separated pairing groups joined and that meant the top boards had players from my group that were between 2100-2220.
Gawain had a very long game against a 10-11 year old Mittal Aditya. A very sweet looking boy. His game was 87 moves and his young opponent defended exceptionally well and only blundered towards the end.
The next day, after being exhausted by his opponent’s hardy defence and surprised in the opening, Gawain opted for a draw against the strong Chinese GM Wang Hao. This meant after I lost quickly we had some time to go into Sharjah. As I said before we are staying next to the airport and there’s nowhere to walk around. I know I was starting to get cabin fever so it was great to head towards the city and walk around.
The food at the hotel is good overall but a bit rich so we were glad to eat something fresher and different. I also found an ice-cream shop and went for the “small” size which you can see is pretty big. The weather has improved since earlier this week and it’s been sunny and hot (as you would think it should be).
In Round 5 unfortunately Gawain lost to the strong Ukrainian player Martin Kratsiv. The game was a Breyer and Gawain hadn’t looked at this line in his prep. I managed to snap back into “playing mode” and beat a 1844. Earlier in the tournament I really struggled against the 1700-1800 juniors and I hoped that I would be able to start playing again.
This tournament has had a few withdrawals including my first round opponent.
The two Greek Grandmasters left the tournament in Round 5. They had missed Round 2 as they didn’t know the round time had changed to 4.30pm (as on the official website it was still down as 5.30pm) and then they missed a round as a sort of protest. After talks with the organisers they came back to play Round 4 but then left the tournament. I don’t know much else about what happened.
Round 6 & 7 were not so great for us. Gawain scored 0/2 for the first time since Gibraltar since 2015 which I think is still pretty good. It was a tough day at the office for him and I’m glad that I was able to snap back in Round 6 to beat an 1838 (when I had struggled in the first rounds beating 1700s). In Round 5, I played an 11 year old who is rated 2374, I got quite a nice position before it petered out into a drawish endgame and then I blundered my knight.
We both bounced back with wins in Round 8. Gawain played against Indian IM Mishra Swahyam which was a very interesting tactical slugfest where Gawain eventually managed to win the endgame thanks to a large time advantage. Unfortunately we both lost in the last round, a win for Ga would’ve meant coming 8th but he lost to another strong Chinese player.
I joked with GM Harika Dronavalli about how we are both getting old (born in 91), when our opponents are born this millennium and how here there are many strong underrated Indian juniors. Gawain didn’t play anyone older than him and the average age of his opponents was about 20! I think I only played one player older than me and far too many juniors for my liking.
One good thing about this tournament is that it doesn’t seem like my games will be published so my openings (or lack of) can still be a surprise for my future opponents. I’ve played quite a few games now that won’t end up in databases which is probably a good thing for me. I was surprised that the arbiters seem to collect the scoresheets with such intensity for them to be thrown away but Gawain said that having game inputters at a chess tournament is a rare thing!
Congratulations to the very strong GM Wang Hao who won the tournament (on tiebreaks). Gawain rates his play highly and he was a friendly chatty player to talk with. I also managed to say about 3 words of mandarin to him. The system of using tie breaks to divide every prize is not a favourite for professional players. I think the system that most would prefer is the Hort-System(in German). Where you split half the prize money based on tiebreak and the other half shared by all players on the score group. I guess there’s no exact fair way to separate winners and Gawain has been fortunate in the past by winning last year’s Dubai Open on tiebreak (Bucholz) and this year’s Tata Steel B Group on tiebreak (which was direct encounter).
We have the weekend off so I think some time relaxing by the pool and heading to Burgerfuel and finding Whittakers Chocolate is on my to do list. If you ever go to NZ make sure you go to Burgerfuel, it’s a Kiwi burger chain which for some reason has expanded to Dubai. The last time I was here I also headed to the Carrefour to top up on my New Zealand chocolate and Tim Tams (both big favourites in our household).
We have now moved to the JW Marriot which will be our “home” for the next 12 nights. We are now next to Dubai Airport and based in Deira (not central Dubai) but the hotel is 5 star and very good. While eating lunch we also spotted a sign saying “Main Prisoner Entrance” so I’m not sure if we are staying next to a jail!