GM Arjun Erigaisi won the Sharjah Masters International Chess Championship 2023 on Thursday after winning his final-round game against GM Nodirbek Yakubboev.
Eight players were tied on 5.5/8 heading into the final round and only Arjun was able to win and secure himself $10,000 for first place, while GMs Sam Sevian and Gukesh D received $8,000 and $7,000 for second and third.
The sixth edition of the event, which took place at the Sharjah Cultural and Chess Club, was touted as the strongest international open tournament in the history of the game and boasted a field of 78 grandmasters from 31 federations, along with an average rating of 2618.
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🚨 BREAKING: 🇮🇳 GM Arjun Erigaisi clinched the 2023 Sharjah Masters event in style with 6.5/9! 🏆
💪 After losing the fourth round, he bounced back strongly with 4.5/5.
— Chess.com – India (@chesscom_in) May 25, 2023
The tournament itself took place in one of the largest chess centers on Earth, which according to its website, boasts a floor space of 34,000 cubic feet. The event was split into three divisions: The Masters, The Challengers, and The Futures.
After three rounds, not a single player remained on a perfect score, and only four players had managed to garner 2.5/3 points; GMs Rameshbabu Praggnanandhaa, Amin Tabatabaei, Nihal Sarin, and Ju Wenjun. The women’s world champion’s run to 2.5 included a stunning upset with Black over the tournament’s third seed, GM Vidit Gujrathi.
When asked about her plans leading up to her women’s world championship title match in Chongqing and Shangai in July, Ju Wenjun said: “I will also play the Chinese league in June and then it is very close to the match.”
Two rounds later, a new leader emerged on 4/5, GM Haik Martirosyan, who recently won the bronze medal at the FIDE World Blitz Championship in December 2022.
In an event full of so many top GMs, streaks are far less common than in amateur tournaments, which made his trio of wins in rounds three, four, and five over GMs Velimir Ivic, Christopher Yoo, and Ju Wenjun, respectively, all the more impressive.
The second seed GM Gukesh D put a stop to Martirosyan’s streak in round six and kept his position on board one for the remainder of the tournament, but draws in the final three rounds stopped him from claiming the title.
The eventual winner Arjun suffered an early setback in the tournament, falling to his countryman GM Aryan Chopra but bounced back in emphatic style, going on to score 4.5/5 to finish the tournament. In his typically tactical style that he has harnessed in online chess over the past years, one of Arjun’s finest conversions came in round seven against GM Hipolito Asis Gargatagli.
Heading into the final round, an eight-way tie for first left many players with chances to win the tournament, however, with a tiebreak system in place to determine the placegetters, there was plenty of incentive to play for a win. As far as tiebreaks were looking, Sevian and Yangyi were the frontrunners had all of the results finished drawn on the top boards.
As short draws cropped up around him, Arjun was the lone player to break the mold and he defeated Yakubboev in just 27 moves, icing the game with a powerful bishop sacrifice.
Arjun stated after his victory: “Recently I’d been having rough tournaments everywhere, so I was hoping to do well here…” as well as saying: “To win such a strong tournament feels good.”
The Indian GM also mentioned that there was no time for rest and that he would be backing up this tournament with a showing at the Dubai Open with just a two-day gap, starting on Saturday, May 27.
In signs of the country’s growing chess dominance, seven of the top 20 finishers hailed from India and they now have five players rated over 2700. To put this in perspective, Russia also has five players in this category. With several Indian prodigies on the cusp of cracking the barrier for the first time, India could soon have the most 2700s of any country in the world.
Standings – Top 20
|10||GM||Thai Dai Van Nguyen||2645||5.5|
(Full final standings here.)
The Sharjah Masters 2023 took place May 17-25, 2023, in the Sharjah Cultural & Chess Club, UAE. This strong, nine-round Swiss tournament featured top players including GMs Parham Maghsoodloo, Gukesh D, Vidit Gujrathi, and Yu Yangyi. The time control was 90 minutes for the entire game plus a 30-second increment starting on move one and the Masters prize fund was $45,000.