In today’s hi-tech world, with several players being caught using powerful hand-held computers built-in to their cell-phones, chess has sadly become more a game of ‘techmate’ rather than checkmate. Mobile apps such as Droidfish and Shredder have made it easier to analyse highly-complex positions, which has led to an epidemic of players caught using them during their games.
Yet despite handsets being banned from most tournaments, there is nothing to stop players from hiding in the nearest toilet cubicle to consult one - or, as happened last weekend, even hiding one in a toilet cubicle!
Georgian champion GM Gaioz Nigalidze was disqualified from the Dubai Open after his round six opponent, Tigran L. Petrosian (named after the former Soviet world champion of the same name) became highly-suspicious about the frequency of his rushing off to the toilet. After being challenged by the arbiter, Nigalidze professed his innocence; and a subsequent search found no electronic devices on his person. But an iPhone was then discovered in the cubicle he had been using; crudely wrapped in toilet paper and hidden behind the pan. He denied it was his, but the evidence said otherwise: it was logged on to one of his social media pages, and the current position in his game was being analyzed on a playing engine.
The Georgian was immediately removed from the tournament and his case has now been referred to Fide’s anti-cheating commission, which could potentially slap Nigalidze with a lengthy playing ban. Sadly, the hi-tech hullabaloo led to an inevitable media frenzy that overshadowed what was actually an interesting tournament.
It ended in a six-way Grandmaster logjam at the top, with Dragan Solak (Turkey), David Howell (England), Vladimir Fedoseev (Russia), Andrei Istratescu (France), Ivan Ivanisevic and Eltaj Safarli (Azerbaijan) all tied on 7/9 - but Solak walked away with bragging rights to the title and the Sheikh Rashid Bin Hamdan Al Maktoum Cup with the better tiebreak score.
And just behind the main prize-winners, on 6.5-points, was the former US champion Alexander Shabalov.
A Shabalov - A Istratescu
17th Dubai Chess Open, (7)
1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.Nbd2 Bf5 5.Nh4 This little finesse in the opening often leads to an early draw, with a repeat of moves after 5...Bc8 6 Nf3 Bf5 etc. Alternatively, several players just repeat the moves twice, in order to gain a little time on the clock for later in the game. 5...Be6 6.e3 g6 7.b3 Bg7 8.Bb2 0–0 9.Bd3 c5 10.Nhf3 cxd4 11.Nxd4! Taking advantage of the bishop placement on e6. 11...Bg4 11...Bc8 12.cxd5 Nxd5 13.Nc4 leaves White with a small advantage due to the better developed pieces. 12.f3 e5 13.Nb5 a6 13...e4! had to be played. Now, thinking he had to complicate the position, Black falls into a bad game. 14.fxg4 axb5 15.g5! Ne8 16.cxd5 Qxd5 16...Qxg5 17.Qe2 f5 18.e4 Nd6 19.0–0 leaves White with a big advantage. 17.Ne4 Nd6 18.Bc2! Shabalov rightly judges that the forced exchange of queens leads to a won ending. 18...Qxd1+ 19.Kxd1 Nxe4 20.Bxe4 Na6 If 20...Nc6 21.Ke2 and Black is going to come under a lot of pressure, with ideas such as Rhc1. 21.Rc1! Even stronger than the alternative route to victory, with 21.Bxb7 Rad8+ 22.Ke2 Nc5 23.Bc6 Nd3 24.Rab1 b4 25.a4 also winning. 21...Ra7 21...Nb4 22.a3 Nc6 23.Ke2 and yet again, the ending is hopeless for Black, as the with White's bishops dominating the position. 22.a3 b4 23.Ke2 Re8 24.axb4 Nxb4 25.Ra1 Rea8 (See Diagram) 26.Bxb7! Easily winning now. 26...Rxa1 27.Rxa1 Rxa1 28.Bxa1 f5 29.gxf6 Bxf6 30.Bc3! Not only is White a pawn ahead, he also has the Black knight semi-trapped on the edge of the board. 30...Na2 31.Bd2 Be7 32.Kd3 Kf7 32...Bb4 33.Bxb4 Nxb4+ 34.Kc3 Na2+ 35.Kc4 and - much like the game - the b-pawn marches up the board supported by the king and bishop. 33.Kc4 Ba3 34.b4 Ke6 35.Kb3 Bc1 36.Bxc1 Nxc1+ 37.Kc4 h5 38.h4 This nicely fixes Black's pawns, halting any ideas of g5, hoping to generate some salvaging chances. 38...Ne2 39.Be4 Kf6 40.b5 Ng3 41.Kd5 1–0