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New chess format on the block? | Sunway Sitges International Online Open

by Avathanshu Bhat - 05/05/2020

The Sunway Sitges International Online Open was the first tournament with a classical format to be held online. Over 500 players fought it out in respective categories, Group A and Group B, featuring a time format of 90'+30". With multiple GM's and IM's playing together, the tournament also saw a Zoom call with videos of participants, as well as commentary by Daniel King and Anna Rudolf. Neel Shintre from Mumbai participated in the event, and in this article describes the proceedings of the event from his perspective, and also gives his view on how Online tournaments could become more common and staple. Honi Arora, one of the top performers in the Group B category, also shares his experience.

My experience of playing the first online classical event

By Neel Shintre


Classical time control = over the board play. However, ever since the lockdown was announced not only in India but in the whole world, we chess lovers had to abandon all thoughts of playing serious tournaments anytime soon. Even super GM tournaments, most notably the Candidates, were postponed or cancelled. At this time, online tournaments received the biggest impetus. But all of them were in a blitz format. We mostly play blitz and rapid for entertainment, but classical chess is the real deal. Who would organize a classical chess tournament, that too one to be played online? There was scope for cheating and the question was, how to control it.


The organizers of the Sunway Sitges Chess Festival came up with an answer. The usual Sunway Sitges tournament takes place in December annually, but the organizers creatively arranged the first online classical tournament from April 19 to April 27, 2020. The tournament was organized in two groups – Group A open to all and Group B for players below ELO 2000. Several GMs and IMs like Kirill Shevchenko, Axel Bachmann, Vitaliy Bernadskiy and the eventual champion Ahmed Adly participated enthusiastically in the tournament. Each round was played online on the chess. com platform and was preceded by the players joining a Zoom video call as well as being available for Skype communication. This way the arbiters would keep a watch on the players, and the players had a virtual experience of being in a playing hall. I must applaud the arbiters’ efforts as they managed the herculean task of monitoring both Groups A and B, each consisting of close to 250 players!

The tournament started with a technical glitch on the first two days due to which the start was postponed to the third day. However, after these teething troubles were past, the tournament rolled in spectacular fashion.


Here is a special video made with the efforts of the organizers featuring many of the game’s greats:

First-ever online Swiss Open: Sunway Sitges Online!

After the completion of nine rounds, the tournament moved to a knockout format of the top 16 players They played under 5+3 time control to determine final ranking for the prize list. GM Ahmed Adly of Egypt took the top honors in Group A and pocketed a handsome €1500 as prize money. All the entry fee was donated to Hospital Residència Sant Camil for the fight against Covid-19.

Here are some setups that players taking part in our online tournament these last 9 rounds shared with us. An interesting way of playing online chess, which was allowed thanks to the classic time control of this first-ever online Swiss!@ChesscomNews @Anna_Chess @DanielKingChess

— Sunway Chess Open (@SunwayChessOpen) April 28, 2020 >


It was a pleasure for me to be a part of this historic, first ever, online classical chess tournament. I would have gained 122 rating points had it been a rated event, but for me the icing on the cake was my first ever victory against an IM. I am sure we will be seeing more such tournaments in the future. Shall I dare say that the day is not too far for FIDE rated tournaments to be regularly played online as a “new normal” in the post-COVID era?

Ranking list after classical time control (Group A):

Rk.SNo NameTypsexFEDRtgIPts. TB1  TB2  TB3 
14GMShevchenko KirillUKR25927,050,555,542,25
23GMBachmann AxelPAR25997,049,553,539,75
337IMMehar Chinna Reddy C.H.1IND24227,049,052,539,00
42GMAdly AhmedEGY26157,048,552,539,50
522Sattarov Bobir1UZB24597,045,549,537,00
633IMDas Sayantan1IND24317,045,549,035,75
728GMVasquez Schroeder Rodrigo1CHI24417,044,548,536,50
823IMYoo Christopher Woojin1USA24557,044,047,537,25
943IMKopylov Michael1UKR24077,044,047,034,25
107GMNasuta GrzegorzPOL25586,549,053,537,25
1113IMVrolijk LiamNED25026,546,550,534,00
1247IMEspinoza Palomino Willyam1PER24006,546,550,033,25
135GMThybo Jesper SondergaardDEN25906,546,051,036,00
1456Kopylov Daniel2GER23486,545,547,031,75
1511GMAnisimov PavelRUS25276,544,048,533,50
1639FMReimanis Ritvars1LAT24216,543,548,032,50

These 16 players then fought in blitz playoffs and the tournament was won by Adly Ahmed.



The author of the above lines Neel Shintre is a 16-year-old from Mumbai, with a current live rating of 1896. He has played numerous tournaments all over India and abroad.

Honi Arora wins the B-group classical section with 8.0/9

Honi Arora, Elo 1798, from Jaipur, who had earlier played in Barcelona last year when he traveled with the ChessBase India Power Circuit, finished first in Group B in the classical format, undefeated with a score of 8 points out of 9 rounds. However, in the 16 person playoffs with time control 3 + 2, with some unfortunate communication gaps, finished 8th.



Says Honi, "The tournament did not have a good start as many players suffered a lot; some did not get games, some had problems with switching on their webcam etc. I was expecting this tournament to get cancelled and many players left the tournament after seeing the first two days. Even I had problems because I played the first round on the first day but it was not concluded. But the third day was totally different as the arbiters were able to solve the issues and the players had no problems. I felt very excited and glad to play the prestigious Sitges online chess tournament. After the two days of suffering there were no errors. The arbiters were also removing the players who were cheating and the most amazing thing was that I could see the opponent live via zoom meeting."

Final standings after nine classical rounds in Group B

Rk.SNo NameTypsexFEDRtgIPts. TB1  TB2  TB3 
137Arora Honi2IND17988,048,052,545,25
21CMHinds NathanJAM19907,547,050,539,50
38Teh Wee ZhunMAS19347,050,055,042,50
416Arya Nirag ShahHKG19097,049,552,538,75
549Bashirov Kemal2UKR17627,047,050,036,50
623Meddouri-Bernard Edouard1FRA18697,044,048,036,50
726Shakhmatov Roman1KAZ18517,042,044,534,25
820De Kleuver Jonathan1NED18837,041,545,535,00
939Ghita Vlad-Bogdan2ROU17957,040,043,032,50
1038Greco Joseph2ENG17967,037,540,531,50
1174Kalyani B3wIND16606,552,054,035,00
1252Arsh Shah2HKG17516,546,049,533,50
1314Perez Garcia Jose MiguelESP19216,543,046,031,75
1432Sanchez Fenollar Daniel1ESP18196,538,542,028,25
1583Arvind Ramnath Iyer3IND16026,049,053,033,00
1631Saypuri Srithan1IND18246,047,550,529,50
1777Pragnya H G3wIND16406,047,050,031,00
182CMChouchane AmineTUN19806,046,550,530,25
1936Lopez Minguella Armand1ESP18016,045,049,530,00
2015WCMLesbekova AselwKAZ19206,044,548,529,50

Complete Standings

The winner of the B-group classical section was the young Indian talent Honi Arora

"I was not aware that the top players in the classical section would indulge in a playoff. I was informed just a few minutes before the playoff began. I had connection issues and lost my game due to disconnection."


Check out Honi's game against Kalyani B in the 7th round of the tournament, annotated by him.

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