Continuing his awe-inspiring streak, fourth seed Arjun Erigaisi won the Abu Dhabi Masters chess title by scoring two back-to-back victories in less than 24 hours in Abu Dhabi on Thursday.
After inflicting a defeat on a struggling top-seeded Chinese Wang Hao in the eighth round on Wednesday evening, Arjun returned on Thursday morning to finish the job by stopping ninth-seed Spaniard David Anton.
In fact, until Anton erred in judgment on the 62nd move, the game was headed for a draw. Arjun spotted Anton’s blunder and forced his resignation on the 67th move to emerge as a worthy champion.
The last-round victory was important for Arjun to emerge as a clear champion. In the case of a last-round draw, Arjun would have been tied at seven points with Uzbekistan’s Jovokhir Sindarov who had a better tiebreak score. Eventually, Sindarov finished runner-up. Significantly, the strong 148-player field boasted an average rating of 2396.
For his stupendous unbeaten effort in scoring 7.5 points from nine rounds, Arjun collected $15,000. Rated 2689, Arjun performed at a whopping 2893 level and earned 22 rating points. As per the live ranking, Arjun is placed at a career-best 24th and third - behind Viswanathan Anand (12th) and D. Gukesh (20th) - among Indians.
Nihal Sarin led a pack of five Indians at 6.5 points who occupied 6th to 10th spots. Among them was Aditya Samant, who came up with a Grandmaster-norm performance. Rated 2430, Aditya performed at 2709 and ended his campaign by stunning third-seed Russian Alexandr Predke.
In the earlier rounds, Aditya drew with Nihal and Aryan, and overcame Abhijeet Gupta, and Australian GM Temur Kuybokarov before drawing with 11th seed Argentine Sandro Mareco.
The caravan now moves to Dubai for the Dubai Open tournament beginning on Saturday. Joining the strong and large Indian brigade will be R. Praggnanandhaa as the fourth seed.