Niemann Shakes Off Slow Start, Ties for Third in Dubai

After drawing his first three games in the masters section of the inaugural Dubai Police Global Chess Challenge, American GM Hans Niemann won four of his final six games to come up a half-point short of the co-champions. The tournament was held from May 4 through 12 in Dubai. This tournament is looking to join the Dubai Open and Sharjah Masters as a third super-strong annual event held in the United Arab Emirates. 

Niemann's 6½/9 score was good for a seven-way tie for third (along with familiar names like GM Vasyl Ivanchuk and GM Amin Tabatabaei), while Indian GMs Pranav V and Aravindh Chithambaram finished first and second (on tiebreaks, respectively) with 7/9 scores. More details from the event and games from the winners can be found on's report (the event does not appear to have an official website). 

Below are annotations on a number of key games from Niemann's event. Of his three draws, the first saw him face serious losing chances against Serbian IM Teodora Injac after losing the thread shortly out of the opening:



Paired down against IMs again in the next two games, Niemann again faced serious losing chances in his second game, and spoiled a slight advantage to draw the third. Before the event, Niemann stepped into a brief internet spat with content creator and IM Levy "Gotham Chess" Rozman, during which he claimed that he "couldn't stand" International Masters.



Perhaps Rozman appreciated the prophetic nature of Niemann's post?


Finally, a novelty in a theoretical line of the Catalan against Uzbek IM Saidakbar Saydaliev saw Niemann reach a plus-score after four games:



Taking advantage of back-to-back games with the white pieces, Niemann won a more aggressive game against Azerbaijani FM Khagan Ahmad after Niemann managed to keep up the pressure by forcing Ahmad to find difficult moves as his clock dwindled:



Niemann then followed a solid draw in round six against Indian GM Diptayan Ghosh with back-to-back wins against GMs Aydin Suleymanli and S P Sethuraman to catch the leaders with a 6/8 score headed into the final round. His game against Suleymanli was particularly fascinating, especially this critical moment:



Against Sethuraman, Niemann came out guns blazing with a "Dragodorf" structure against Sethuraman's 6. Rg1!? line against Niemann's Najdorf Sicilian. He managed to gain a better understanding of the dynamics and tactically forced his way into a won endgame with textbook use of an Exchange sac and an effective bishop pair:



Unfortunately for the American, he was unable to get anything in his final-round game against Indian GM Aditya Mattal, and ended up having to hold the defending side of a king-and-rook versus king-rook-and-bishop after pressing desperately for a victory in a drawn position. With both Pranav and Chithambaram winning their final-round games, Niemann had to settle for a tie for third. 

Still, after the slow start, producing an undefeated finish of two wins and two draws against fellow GMs in the final four rounds is not too shabby. Niemann was also far from the only player to face serious competition from lower-rated opponents, as he was quick to point out:



Other players have also been discussing about how this and similar tournaments are proving increasingly difficult to win prizes (let alone rating) as more and more lower-rated players are showing up hungry to compete.