Sokolov, Akopian share lead after six rounds in Dubai Open Chess Tournament

Sokolov scores back-to-back wins on Saturday; Akopian ends five-game win streak with a draw

UAE national coach Grandmaster (GM) Ivan Sokolov rocketed to the lead after back-to-back wins in Saturday’s double round, joining erstwhile solo leader GM Vladimir Akopian of Armenia, who settled for a draw in the sixth round after stringing together five wins in a row in the Dubai Open Chess Tournament – Sheikh Rashid Bin Hamdan Cup at the Dubai Chess and Culture Club.

Sokolov earlier dispatched of Azerbaijan’s GM Zaur Mammadov in round five after the latter committed a defensive miscue on move 27. Mammadov, who essayed the Reti opening, accepted Sokolov’s rook sacrifice, but the ensuing attack on his king forced his resignation three moves later.

After displaying his attacking skills in the morning, Sokolov then showcased his endgame technique in his sixth-round encounter with Brazilian GM Alexander Fier later in the evening. Sokolov nursed a slight plus in the opening against Fier’s Gruenfeld Defence and then unleashed a tactical finesse on the 41st move to enter into a rook endgame a pawn up.  After a pair of pawns was exchanged, Sokolov was left with two pawns in the kingside against Fier’s b-pawn, which the Dutch handily converted to win on the 63rd move.

Dutch Grandmaster Ivan Sokolov
Dutch Grandmaster Ivan Sokolov

Akopian scored a resounding attacking win over British GM David Howell’s Reti opening to wrest the solo lead after the morning’s fifth round. The Armenian’s daring piece sacrifice on the 13th move kept Howell’s king stuck in the centre of the board and forced the Brit to use a lot of time. Against relentless pressure from Akopian’s major pieces and two central pawns, Howell finally tripped up on the 38th move, allowing black’s rook to penetrate the first rank with devastating effect and forcing resignation on the 49th move.

Grandmaster Vladimir Akopian from Armenia
Grandmaster Vladimir Akopian from Armenia

In the sixth round, Akopian confronted Indian GM S. P. Sethuraman’s Ruy Lopez with an early d3 on the fifth move, but the Armenian failed to achieve anything special in the opening. Both players agreed to a draw on the 30th move in a completely balanced rook and bishop endgame.

Sokolov and Akopian have 5.5 points after six rounds and will meet at the top board in Sunday’s seventh round. The duo is being chased by a group of nine players who have five points apiece.

UAE results

Fide Master (FM) Nabil Saleh posted his third point after beating Nigeria’s Kenneth Odeh in the sixth round. Also with three points is FM Saeed Ishaq, who dropped his match against India’s Himal Gusain in the sixth round. IM Sultan Ibrahim, who drew with India’s FM Srinath Rao, and Candidate Master (CM) Nagueb Saleh, who won over Abdulla Al-Hamed, both have 2.5 points.

UAE FIDE Matser Nabil Saleh
UAE FIDE Matser Nabil Saleh

The tournament offers a total cash purse of US$50,000, with US$13,000 and the Rashid Bin Hamdan Cup going to the champion. The rest of the top 15 players will also receive cash prizes. There are also special awards for the top Arab and UAE players and top women players.

Dubai Open Chess Tournament standings after six rounds (Top 11)

Rank Title  Name FED Rtg Pts.
1 GM Akopian Vladimir ARM 2656 5.5
2 GM Sokolov Ivan NED 2626 5.5
3 IM Gagare Shardul IND 2491 5
4 GM Savchenko Boris RUS 2607 5
5 GM Adhiban B. IND 2663 5
6 GM Sethuraman S.P. IND 2658 5
7 GM Safarli Eltaj AZE 2656 5
8 GM Pantsulaia Levan GEO 2604 5
9 GM Jones Gawain C B ENG 2650 5
10 IM Thejkumar M. S. IND 2427 5
11 GM Darini Pouria IRI 2496 5