New chess format on the block? | Sunway Sitges International Online Open
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:
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 pic.twitter.com/9Dfyn2UkAK— 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):
|3||37||IM||Mehar Chinna Reddy C.H.||1||IND||2422||7,0||49,0||52,5||39,00|
|7||28||GM||Vasquez Schroeder Rodrigo||1||CHI||2441||7,0||44,5||48,5||36,50|
|8||23||IM||Yoo Christopher Woojin||1||USA||2455||7,0||44,0||47,5||37,25|
|12||47||IM||Espinoza Palomino Willyam||1||PER||2400||6,5||46,5||50,0||33,25|
|13||5||GM||Thybo Jesper Sondergaard||DEN||2590||6,5||46,0||51,0||36,00|
These 16 players then fought in blitz playoffs and the tournament was won by Adly Ahmed.
This is GM Ahmed Adly's from Egypt playing from home. Current African Chess Champion (and a very nice guy), he has played last 2 editions of our regular tournament and is now participating in our online event (#2 ranked player with a rating of 2615) while he'll celebrate Ramadan! pic.twitter.com/qpKnJndKBd— Sunway Chess Open (@SunwayChessOpen) April 24, 2020
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.
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 pic.twitter.com/9Dfyn2UkAK— Sunway Chess Open (@SunwayChessOpen) April 28, 2020
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
|3||8||Teh Wee Zhun||MAS||1934||7,0||50,0||55,0||42,50|
|4||16||Arya Nirag Shah||HKG||1909||7,0||49,5||52,5||38,75|
|8||20||De Kleuver Jonathan||1||NED||1883||7,0||41,5||45,5||35,00|
|13||14||Perez Garcia Jose Miguel||ESP||1921||6,5||43,0||46,0||31,75|
|14||32||Sanchez Fenollar Daniel||1||ESP||1819||6,5||38,5||42,0||28,25|
|15||83||Arvind Ramnath Iyer||3||IND||1602||6,0||49,0||53,0||33,00|
|17||77||Pragnya H G||3||w||IND||1640||6,0||47,0||50,0||31,00|
|19||36||Lopez Minguella Armand||1||ESP||1801||6,0||45,0||49,5||30,00|
"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.