1st Sharjah Masters

After a few relaxing weeks at home, we flew last Wednesday to Dubai to play in the 1st Sharjah Masters. We will head next to the Dubai Open with one rest day in between. We arrived at Dubai Airport around midnight Thursday and headed straight to the hotel which is right next to Sharjah’s airport. Sharjah and Dubai aren’t far apart, around a 30 minute drive.

When I was looking up our flight options I did have a look to see if we could fly to Sharjah’s Airport and one option was flying into Dubai then onwards to Chennai (India!) before flying back to Sharjah. Fortunately Gawain had told me that Sharjah and Dubai weren’t far apart but I could see someone making an easy mistake, especially if the flight was cheap.

The Chess Club. A very impressive building!

When we finally awoke from our slumber and headed to lunch we met GM Danny King who is doing the online videos. He told us that the first round would be starting at 4.30pm instead of 5.30pm as in the regulations. We ventured down to try and get a lift about 3.30pm. Once we arrived things were quite a mess as the organisers didn’t have a confirmed arrivals list so they were not sure which players had arrived or not! We didn’t manage to start the first round until 5.30pm. Another strange thing was that in the regulations the time control said it would be 90 minutes plus 30 second increment and no extra time at move 40 but when I sat down it said 1 hour and 40 minutes – I was quite confused but I think they have also now changed the time control.

The waiting period
Mad scrum to see the first round pairings

Round 2 started again at 4.30pm (which all games will be except the final round which will start at 4). Unfortunately some players didn’t realise the change as the official website still had the start time as 5.30pm so the two Greek GMs defaulted when they arrived at 5.30pm. I did notice that though they are in the pairings they have defaulted the last two rounds.  It’s not great as a professional player losing in such a way but that’s why we always try and make sure we know what time the rounds start and what the time control is.

You can find the round 4 pairings here. You can also watch the live games on chess24.com.  Here’s a link also to Danny King’s videos.

Gawain in the 1st round. Photograph by Maria Emilianova

Gawain had a very crazy game yesterday against GM Alan Pichot. Here’s his analysis with GM Danny King.


Gawain is now on 3/3 and I’ve finally managed to win a game so I’m on 1/3. I blundered a very obvious move in the first round and in the second round my opponent played very well to outplay me from a position I couldn’t quite grasp.

Today is the first day that normal pairings will be used. In the first 3 rounds the organisers decided to accelerate the pairings so there were two groups (above 2260 and below 2260) and in Round 4 the two groups merged together. We see many strong and underrated juniors on the top boards today, including Leon Luke Mendonca who will play GM Laurent Fressinet. Leon and his dad came up to us while we were waiting around the first round and Leon told us he was a big fan of Gawain’s and is obsessed now with playing the Dragon. He managed to win a game yesterday after remembering 25 moves of theory!

The view from our room; Sharjah Airport with the city in the distant.

We managed to sleep well last night and went for a quick dip in the pool this morning. The last few days weather wise has been very strange with lots of thunder and torrential rain. Let’s hope for some sun and I think we are now starting to get into a good routine (which is always key for a successful tournament) and hopefully the rest of the tournament will go well.