Youth Triumphs as Dardha, Niemann Take Top Honors at Djerba Masters

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Closing ceremony (photo courtesy Djerba Chess Festival)


American GM Hans Niemann and Belgian GM Daniel Dardha shared top honors at the Djerba Masters invitational, with Dardha taking first on tiebreaks. Held during the Djerba Chess Festival in Djerba, Tunisia, from February 18 through 25, the eight-player Round Robin featured a number of young talents and one established veteran. In addition to the 18-year-old Dardha, the 20-year-old Neimann, and the 16-year-old World Junior Champion GM Marc’Andria Maurizzi, the event also featured a beloved 54-year-old Ukrainian: GM Vasyl Ivanchuk.


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Final standings of the Djerba Masters


After seven rounds, Niemann and Dardha both finished with “plus two” scores of 4½/7, with Dardha earning two wins to go with five solid draws. One of these wins featured a fascinatingly complex endgame worth highlighting here:



Niemann had a (characteristically) more tumultuous road to the same score, winning three games but losing a rollercoaster to Maurizzi in the penultimate round:



Maurizzi finished in a tie for third with a 4/7 score, earning a sixth-round win over French GM Jules Moussard to go along with his win over Niemann. A fourth-round loss to Norwegian GM Aryan Tari, however, made it harder for him to catch the leaders:



Of Niemann’s wins, his game over Tari was quite impressive and came basically out of the opening:



Niemann’s win over IM Divya Deshmukh (the only non-GM in the event, serving as a last-minute substitute for GM Vaishali Rameshbabu) was more reminiscent of some of his nail-biters. A promising position started to get away from him as Divya began to activate pieces, but right when she was ready to equalize, he found a way to regain control:



Niemann also dodged a bullet in his draw against the second-most veteran player in the event. The 29-year-old Frenchman had a winning position but was unable to convert:



Finally, what about Ivanchuk? The veteran finished with a very solid, professional “plus one” score, tying with Maurizzi for third. As a note, the combined ages of the other top three finishers is 54, exactly the same as Ivanchuk’s. His one win was not the flashiest of his career, but the ease with which he outplayed a strong opponent thirty years his junior is worth paying attention to:



Full results for the Masters and open tournaments are available here. All games from the Masters can be found here.