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The most popular event in Europe for Indian players - Sunway Sitges Chess Festival

by Sagar Shah - 18/11/2019

Which is the most popular European event for Indian players? Is it the Gibraltar Masters? Is it the Aeroflot Open? Is it the Grenke Chess Classic? While all of these tournaments are popular and are frequently visited by many Indians, there is one event which takes the cake. Situated in one of the most picturesque locations in Europe, on the Mediterranean sea coast, the Sunway Sitges Chess Festival is an event you cannot afford to miss. Into its sixth year, the tournament will take place from 13-22nd December 2019 and will see as many as 75 Indians taking part in the A-group out of the 240 registered players! And it's not just about quantity! We also have high quality players including Sasikiran, Sethuraman, Karthikeyan, Nihal Sarin, Praggnanadhaa and many others. Why is this tournament so popular among Indians? We try to find out!

When it comes to tournaments outside India there are events like Abu Dhabi Masters, Dubai Open, Sharjah Masters, where find nearly 50% of the participants as Indians. However, this is because the middle east is not so far from India. It's just a three hour flight! When it comes to European events, we do see quite a few Indians at the major events like the Gibraltar Masters or the Grenke Chess or the Reykjavik Open, but nothing as compared to Middle-East events. Aeroflot Open has many Indians going every year, but that is because the Government takes care of the expenses and it is a part of the exposure trip. There is one tournament that is becoming the most popular hunting grounds for Indian chess players in the Europe - The Sunway Sitges Open. In 2019 it will be held from the 13th to the 22nd of December 2019. This year 75 players out of the 240 participants in the A group are from India! 16 more players will take part in B-group, making it a total of 91 Indians at the event.

Sasikiran, the highest finishing Indian in 2018 is back this year and is the highest rated Indian. He starts as the fifth seed. | Photo: Rupali Mullick

Sethuraman is the tenth seed at the event | Photo: Amruta Mokal

The two prodigies of Indian chess Nihal Sarin (2612) and Praggnanandhaa (2586) start as the 15th and 22nd seeds respectively. Seeing their recent form, we can be sure that they will be fighting it out for the top places! | Photo: Amruta Mokal

It will be exciting to see India's youngest GM D. Gukesh (2544) in action

After quite a long break, 16-year-old Arjun Erigaisi (2544) is back on the board! | Photo: Sagar Shah

India's latest GM Raunak Sadhwani will be looking to continue where he left it off at the Isle of Man 2019 | Photo: Amruta Mokal

The 11-year-old talent IM Bharath Subramaniyam will be looking to score his maiden GM norm!  | Photo: Amruta Mokal

India no.3 Bhakti Kulkarni will be playing this year's event! | Photo: Asian Continental 2019

Tania Sachdev will also be seen in action! | Photo: Sagar Shah

Top Indians in the A group

5GMSasikiran KrishnanIND26600 Oil and Natural Gas Corporation LtGroup A
10GMSethuraman S.P.IND26340Group A
15GMNihal SarinIND26120Group A
16GMKarthikeyan MuraliIND26110Group A
22GMPraggnanandhaa RIND25860Group A
23GMPuranik AbhimanyuIND25800Group A
29GMErigaisi ArjunIND25440Group A
30GMGukesh DIND25440Group A
36GMNarayanan SrinathIND25260Group A
37GMHarsha BharathakotiIND25230RACE chess clubGroup A
43IMSadhwani RaunakIND25070All India Chess FederationGroup A
44GMGirish A. KoushikIND25060All India ChessGroup A
47GMIniyan PIND24970Group A
54GMKarthik VenkataramanIND24700Group A
63IMRaja HarshitIND24470Group A
72IMBharath Subramaniyam HIND24200Chess GurukulGroup A
75IMKulkarni BhaktiIND24180Group A
76IMAkash Pc IyerIND24150Group A
77IMDhulipalla Bala Chandra PrasadIND24140Group A
78FMRathanvel V SIND24100Group A
79IMMendonca Leon LukeIND23980Group A
80IMTania SachdevIND23970Air India AthleteGroup A

GM Parham Maghsoodloo is the top seed in the A-section | Photo: Amruta Mokal

Ivanchuk played in 2018, he is playing in 2019 as well! He is the second seed.

The guy who very nearly won Superbet Grand Chess Tour Rapid and Blitz will be the third seed - Ukrainian GM Anton Korobov| Photo: Lennart Ootes

One of the strongest players of Armenia Hrant Melkumyan will be the fourth seed

Top 20 seeds of the Sunway Sitges 2019

No. NameFEDRtgIRtgNsexTypGrClub/City
1GMMaghsoodloo ParhamIRI26840
2GMIvanchuk VassilyUKR26790
3GMKorobov AntonUKR26700
4GMMelkumyan HrantARM26610
5GMSasikiran KrishnanIND26600 Oil and Natural Gas Corporation Lt
6GMLagarde MaximeFRA26572596C.E. Barcelona
7GMDonchenko AlexanderGER26500
8GMKovalenko IgorLAT26470
9GMEdouard RomainFRA26352616C.A. Sestao
10GMSethuraman S.P.IND26340
11GMTabatabaei M.AminIRI26300
12GMVocaturo DanieleITA26152619C.E. Mollet
13GMPetrosyan ManuelARM26130Stepanakert
14GMIllescas Cordoba MiguelESP26122598E.D.A.M.I. C.E
15GMNihal SarinIND26120U16
16GMKarthikeyan MuraliIND26110
17GMDurarbayli VasifAZE26090
18GMAdly AhmedEGY26070
19GMSalgado Lopez IvanESP25942601HGal
20GMSvane RasmusGER25940


So what are the reasons for so many Indians and so many strong players playing at the Sunway Sitges Chess Festival? We think these seven points contribute towards the immense popularity of the event.

1. Beautiful place!

The beauty of the place is simply unparalleled! And apart from being a strong event, you can combine it with a nice vacation!

Hotel Sunway Playa Golf Sitges is the official hotel and venue for the event  

Where can you see such a sunset! | Photo: Sharath Erumalai

The nice thing is that you can see the same view from the playing hall as well! | Photo: Sushir Lohia

It's worth walking through the streets of Sitges!| Photo: Sushir Lohia

2. Inviting young talents

The organizers at Sunway Sitges have always tried to ensure that they have a good crop of young talents visiting their event.

What a unique photo! When it was taken back in 2018, these four were the highest rated players in their respective age groups (from left to right) - Raahil Mullick born in 2007, Gukesh born in 2006, Praggnanandhaa born in 2005, and Nihal Sarin born in 2004! | Photo: Sunway Sitges 2018

In 2018, in the very first round we had a big upset when Sreeshan Maralakshikari got the better of Vassily Ivanchuk! | Photo: Rupali Mullick

3. Side events:

Awonder Liang giving a simul in 2017 | Photo: Supriya Bhat

Oleg Romanishin, a legend, gives a simul. Playing against him in the frame is Anand Nadar, who recently became an IM | Photo: Supriya Bhat

It's not just chess! On the top left you have the wine tasting event, on the top right is the Tapas workshop and alright, a blitz event as well! | Photo: Supriya Bhat

You can always take a dip in this nice pool at the official hotel before or after the game! | Photo: Sushir Lohia

The Fussball table and table tennis is something that players love to indulge in after their games! | Photo: Atul Dahale

4. A good prize fund!

A first prize of 5000 Euros is a pretty decent sum. Combined with the good conditions that are offered, it attracts many top players!| Photo: Avathanshu Bhat

5. Cycling!

A key attraction for many people who play at the Sunway Sitges is cycling to the venue!

You book an apartment which is a couple of kilometres away from the venue and you cycle to it! Cycling in such pristine environment is truly exhilarating! | Photo: Saravanan
Atul Dahale takes you on a short trip to

6. ChessBase India coverage:

ChessBase India has been covering the Sunway Sitges Chess Festival quite intensively since three years now! In 2016 we had Atul Dahale and Sushir Lohia who wrote reports for us with excellent pictures! In 2017, youngster Avathanshu Bhat and Supriya Bhat visited the event reporting for ChessBase India and in 2018, it was Rupali Mullick, who sent us material for daily reports!

People who have covered the tournament for ChessBase India in the previous yearss - Atul Dahale (top left), Avathanshu and Supriya Bhat (top right), Sushir Lohia (bottom left) and Rupali Mullick (bottom right)

7. Kind and innovate organizers

The organizers almost always reply instantly to the mails sent by the participants. They help you in the visa process by sending the invitation letter and they give you different options for accommodation. Their hospitable approach makes the trip to Sunway Sitges and back a very memorable one for majority of the players.

Avathanshu Bhat interviews one of the main organizers of the event Oskar Stöber Blázquez

Such interesting cartoons by Andres Wadalupe is a nice and innovate idea by the organizers! | Photo: Sunway Sitges

A lot of organizers make sure that the playing hall is nice. While the organizers at Sunway Sitges have done that, they have also taken care to provide a nice analysis room (above) | Photo: Sushir Lohia

A video feast from the final day of the Sunway Sitges 2018

By Rupali Mullick


This is how the final standings of the Sunway Sitges International 2018 looked like:

The final standings

The young Spanish GM Alonso Rosell Alvar staved off attacks from GMs of different countries and kept the first prize within his country Spain!

GM Ernesto Inarkiev won the second prize of Euro 3,000

A lot was expected from the strong Indian contingent at the event. Some of them played up to their potential, some did not. The best Indian performer by far was Sasikiran Krishnan.

Sasikiran took home the prize of 1500 Euros and third place

Sasikiran was leading the tournament right from the beginning, but a loss in the eighth round against Inarkiev proved costly

Sasi, however, made it up with a fine win in the final round against GM Evgeny Romanov. With 7.5/10, he tied for spots second until the seventh. The organizers decided to hold a playoff for places two, three and four. As Andreikin and Sasikiran were on third and fourth places respectively, they had to play series of two blitz games with a time control of 5+3.

Blitz playoff 1.1

Sasikiran claimed a fine win in the first game!

Blitz playoff 1.2

Andreikin immediately struck back with a win in the second blitz game

Armageddon Sasikiran vs Andreikin

Sasikiran won the Armageddon with the white pieces and moved into the final match against Inarkiev

Blitz playoff 2.1

Sasikiran won a nice game in the first game of the blitz match against Inarkiev

Blitz playoff 2.2

Inarkiev won the second game, thus taking the match to an armageddon


In a position where Sasikiran was winning, he ran out of time and lost the game! Inarkiev was second, and Sasi had to settle for the third spot.

Previous reports on the event:

Sunway Sitges 2016 by Atul Dahale

Sunway International - the most scenic place to play chess by Sushir Lohia

Sunway Sitges 2017 (A) by Avathanshu Bhat

Sunway Sitges 2017 (B) by Avanthanshu Bhat

Get ready for Sunway Sitges International Chess Festival 2018

Sreeshwan beats Ivanchuk in round 1 of Sunway Sitges 2018

Can Gukesh become the youngest GM ever?

Krishna Teja scores his maiden GM norm

To know more about this upcoming Sunway Sitges International Chess Festival, please visit

You can also know more about it from the ChessBase India Calendar

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