Vladimir Akopian, the tournament's inaugural winner 20 years ago, wins his first game against Jordan's Farhan Mohannad Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: Defending champion Grandmaster (GM) Gawain Jones of the UK defeated Serbian Woman International Master (WIM) Ljilja Drljevic to lead the tournament’s elite players in stamping their class on the rest of the title pretenders at the start of the 20th Dubai Open Chess Tournament on Monday night at the Dubai Chess and Culture Club.

Seeking an unprecedented third straight title in the tournament, the third-seeded Jones will have a tougher assignment in Tuesday night’s second round against GM R.R. Laxman, who won against fellow Indian player Raahil Mullick in the first round.

Tournament top-seed GM Yuriy Kryvoruchko of Ukraine prevailed over the veteran UAE national team player Fide Master (FM) Othman Moussa, while second-seed GM Bassem Amin of Egypt also barged into the win column after outplaying FM Lucas Ranaldi of Norway.

First-round games

Armenia’s GM Vladimir Akopian, the inaugural champion in 1999 and fourth-seed this year, defeated Jordan’s FM Farhan Mohannad to also join a large group of 67 players who won their first-round games.

Also picking up wins were former Dubai Open champions GM Alexandr Rakhmanov of Russia, GM Abhijeet Gupta of India, GM Eduardo Iturrizaga of Venezuela and GM Levan Pantsulaia of Georgia.

International Master (IM) Omar Noaman led the UAE contingent in the opening round with a win over Egypt’s Abdel Rahman Shokry.

Dubai Chess Club’s IM Sultan Ibrahim had a solid performance with a draw against the much higher-ranked GM Diego Flores of Argentina.

The games are broadcast live on the club’s website and Facebook page, as well as other popular chess portals.

More than 160 players from more than 30 countries are taking part in the tournament, which has a total prize fund of $50,000.

The champion will receive $10,000 and the Shaikh Rashid Bin Hamdan Cup. The rest of the top 15 finishers will also receive cash prizes, along with the top UAE players and ladies.

The Dubai Open Blitz Tournament, a side event that will be held during the tournament break on Friday, will have a total prize fund of $4,000.