Dubai: After yielding the lead briefly in the sixth round, the two highest-rated players regained full control of the tournament with a half-point lead going into the final round of the Dubai Juniors Chess Tournament at the Dubai Chess and Culture Club.
Indian top-seed Fide Master (FM) Sadhwani Raunak defeated third-seed Khazar Babazada of Azerbaijan in Monday night’s eighth round, while second-seed FM Ahmad Ahmadzada of Azerbaijan won over seventh-seed Essam Hamad of the UAE as the two tournament favourites kept their distance from the rest of the title pretenders with 7.5 points apiece.
Raunak and Ahmadzada gave up the lead momentarily when they drew their sixth-round encounter, before resuming their domination of the 140-strong, nine round tournament with consecutive victories.
A resurging Eduard Hakobyan, the fourth-seed from Armenia, is giving chase with three straight wins following a loss to Raunak in the fifth round to occupy solo second place with seven points.
Hakobyan defeated Azerbaijan’s Farid Mustafayev in the eighth round, setting him up for a tough assignment in Tuesday’s ninth round against Ahmadzada.
Raunak will be up against Faris Rashid Alriyami, the tournament’s lone entry from Thailand, in the final round.
Alriyami prevailed over the UAE’s Jaber Soud in the eighth round to keep his title hopes alive with 6.5 points at joint third place.
The other player with 6.5 points is Palestine’s Raji Sayel Abu Azizah, winner over the UAE’s Abdalla Yahya Alhammadi in the eighth round.
Hamad and Ebrahim Ahmed Ebrahim are carrying on the fight for the UAE contingent with six points each.
Ebrahim won over compatriot Abdulrahman Mohammad Al Taher in the eighth round and will next face Azerbaijani third-seed Khazar Babazada, the solo leader in the sixth round who quickly faded out of contention with back-to-back losses to Ahmadzada and Raunak. Hamad will be up against Tigran Ghazaryan of Armenia.
The final round of the annual event, which has gathered junior players aged 14 and below from 18 countries, will be contested starting at 10am on Tuesday with the awarding ceremony to follow in the evening.
Prizes totalling $10,000 will be distributed to the top 10 finishers and the best UAE players.