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Sunway Sitges: Chess on the Catalonian Beach

by Atul Dahale - 10/02/2017

Imagine an Open tournament with beautiful surroundings around the venue, a beach nearby. Imagine going to the playing hall by pedaling a bicycle on the seashore. Atul Dahale found it so mesmerizing that he thought he was in a different world. Find beautiful pictures, annotations, GM masterclass by the winner, and more in his report!

Sunway Sitges: Chess on the Catalonian Beach

By Atul Dahale


Sunway Sitges International Festival was held from 16th December to 23rd December 2016 at Sitges (Barcelona), which is a beautiful town of the Catalonia region. This was the third edition of the festival which attracted players from 30 different countries. The Spanish, Indians and Russians contributed the most number of players that included 27 grandmasters and 31 international masters.


This shows the tournament was very strong and of high quality. In the end, four players scored 7.0/9 points and Russian GM Evgeny Romanov (2622) won the tournament on better tiebreak.

Happiness in balmy Sitges

I arrived in Sitges after my tournament in Rome, so I was a bit tired but when I reached the tournament venue all my fatigue vanished! The beautiful surroundings around the venue, the beach, the bungalows on the streets and the calm environment was so mesmerizing that I felt I am in a different world.


Hotel Sunway Playa Golf Sitges was the official hotel of Sunway Chess festival. It is situated in a scenic location on the beach. We were staying at the Sunway apartments and the organizers provided us bicycles for the entire duration of the tournament. Riding the bicycle on beach side every day was a refreshing experience before and after the game.

Look at this 1 min video which will give you an idea of What was it like to ride the bicycle in Sitges and localities. Perfect place to play a tournament in the winter!

What happened in the tournament?

There was a four-way tie for the top place, all with 7.0/9. Top seed from the US, GM Gata Kamsky (2661), French GM Edouard Romain (2611), Spanish GM Martinez Lopez (2552) and GM Evgeny Romanov (2622) scored the same number of points and tied for the first place but Romanov won the tournament on better tiebreak with a 2723 rating performance.


For Romanov, it was second championship title in a row. Just a week before this event, he won the Rome Chess festival. In this tournament, he was leading from the beginning with 5.5/6 points but in the seventh round, he lost against talented Italian GM Daniel Vocaturo (2601). His chances were looking bleak but champions always rise when it matters most. He won his last round game against another youngster, Dutch GM Jorden Van Foreest (2605) and finished on top!


First Place...

GM Evgeny Romanov with winner’s Cheque of 2000 Euros along with the Mayor of Sitges and Organisers.

On a special request, GM Romanov has analyzed his crucial game from this tournament against the legendary player from Peru GM Julio Granda Zuniga (2646). There is a lot to learn from this masterclass game.


Romanov-Zuniga (Notes by Romanov)

[Event "III Sunway Sitges chess festival"]
[Site "Sitges"]
[Date "2016.12.20"]
[Round "?"]
[White "Romanov, Evgeny"]
[Black "Granda Zuniga, Julio"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "E18"]
[Annotator "Evgeny Romanov"]
[PlyCount "69"]
[EventDate "2015.08.17"]
[EventCountry "ESP"]
{I came to Catalonia some days after the tournament in Rome, which I
successfully managed to win. Of course, it brought positive emotions, but
energy level whenever you're playing in several tournaments in a row goes down.
I had to keep this fact in mind before every game in Sitges, but unfortunately,
some strange and ridiculous mistakes have been done during 4th hour of several
games... Therefore I'd like to thank organizers for perfect conditions they
provide us with! Not many strong open events are held in a beautiful resort hotel
on the seaside with an opportunity to watch waves and sunset directly from playing
venue!} 1. d4 Nf6 2. Nf3 e6 3. c4 b6 4. g3 Bb7 {The game vs legend Julio
Granda was played in round 6. We shared 1st place with 4.5 points before this
game. I can't say my mood and emotions were good enough. The reason of this is
the previous game with GM Lopez Martinez Josep Manuel (who played decent chess
in this tournament from my perspective), where I destroyed absolutely normal
position with couple of blunders and won the game only because of luck. So,
the plan vs Julio was to play calm chess, not entering into huge complications
and trying to get a little plus.} 5. Bg2 Be7 6. O-O O-O 7. Nc3 Ne4 8. Bd2 Bf6
9. Rc1 {This opening takes a leading position in recent repertoire of my
opponent. But before next move he turned into deep thought. Definitely he
tried to avoid my preparation in his usual line with 9...d6. But maybe the
choice of black is not the best.} c5 10. d5 exd5 11. cxd5 Bxc3 $6 ({11...Nd2
happened in some GMs games. But from my humble perspective after} 11... Nxd2
12. Nxd2 d6 13. Nde4 Be7 14. f4 $1 {white's play is easier,that was proved by
Magnus on last Olympiad.} f5 15. Nf2 Ba6 16. a4 Bf6 17. Re1 Nd7 18. e3 Rb8 19.
Qc2 g6 20. Nb5 Bxb5 21. axb5 Bg7 22. Bh3 Kh8 23. e4 g5 24. fxg5 f4 25. Bf5 fxg3
26. Nh3 gxh2+ 27. Kh1 Be5 28. Qe2 Rf7 29. Rc2 Rg7 30. Rf1 Qe8 31. Qd3 Nf8 32.
Rg2 Ng6 33. Bxg6 Qxg6 34. Nf4 Bxf4 35. Rxf4 Qh5 36. Qc3 Kg8 37. Qf6 Rf7 38. Qe6
Rbf8 39. Rgf2 c4 40. g6 Qd1+ 41. Rf1 {1-0 (41) Carlsen,M (2857)-Cordova,E
(2638) Baku AZE 2016}) 12. Bxc3 d6 {The black's plan is doubtful but
understandable. He'd like to advance pawns on q-side controlling the centre at
the same time. In case of success, the light-squared strategy of black might
get very dangerous. However, I had a feeling, that exchange of Benoni bishop
can't promise black equal chances.} 13. Be1 $1 {Beginning of the plan in
memory of Mark Dvoretsky. Both black knights tend to control e4 square and
attack d5 pawn. It reminded me the conception of extra piece- even (White
Bishop on dark squares has no opponent!). Also, 13. Nd2 would have given white
easy play.} Re8 14. Nh4 $1 Ba6 $5 {Here black had realized my ambitions and
try to make e4 difficult.} (14... Nd7 15. f3 Nef6 16. e4 Ba6 17. Rf2 Ne5 18.
Rc3 {-leads to the same type of position, but B on c1 is arrested for some more
moves} b5 19. Bf1 $1 Qb6 (19... b4 20. Bxa6 bxc3 21. Bxc3 $16) 20. b4 $1 {
-and white is winning the fight for control over dark squares}) 15. f3 Nf6 16.
Rf2 Nbd7 17. Bc3 {This will give tempo when the b pawn advances but bishop
must take a diagonal!} b5 18. b3 b4 19. Ba1 {Bishop is better placed on a1
preventing extra forks in the future.} {Here on next move I seriously
considered c4, as it is the only one active and fast plan for counterplay. But
it seems it doesn't give black enough compensation.} Ne5 (19... c4 20. bxc4 Ne5
21. e4 Nxc4 (21... Rc8 22. Nf5 Bxc4 23. Rfc2 Ba6 24. f4 Rxc2 25. Rxc2 Nd3 26.
Bf1 $18) 22. Bxf6 $1 Qxf6 23. Qa4 $18) 20. Qd2 Bc8 {Protecting f5.} (20... c4
21. Qxb4 Nxd5 (21... cxb3 22. Qxb3) 22. Qd2 Nf6 23. Nf5 d5 24. Qg5 Ng6 25. bxc4
dxc4 26. e4 $16 {With complete domination}) 21. e4 Qb6 $5 {The problem of
black is f4 coming at once.} 22. h3 (22. f4 $6 Neg4 23. Re2 c4+ 24. Bd4 c3 $1
25. Qd1 Qd8 $13) 22... a5 23. f4 Ng6 {Easy to see without exact calculation,
that black's play is too late.White gained maximum from their position,and
it's time for crucial attack now.} (23... Ned7 24. Re1 a4 25. e5 $18) 24. e5
Nxh4 25. gxh4 Nh5 {To be honest my energy was very low at this moment already,
and I missed couple of my opponent's options, giving him practical chances..}
26. Bf3 $2 (26. Kh2 $2 Qd8 $1 {-first blunder}) (26. e6 {-was declined,
because of following} fxe6 27. dxe6 Bxe6 28. f5 (28. Bf3 $1 Bf7 29. Bxh5 Bxh5
30. Qd5+ Bf7 31. Qg5 $18 {-was also missed}) 28... Bf7 29. Bxa8 Rxa8 30. Rg2 d5
{-with practical chances for black}) (26. Qd1 $3 {-the simplest} Ng3 (26... g6
27. e6 fxe6 (27... f5 28. Qd2 Ra7 29. Qb2 Ng7 30. h5 $18) 28. dxe6 Bxe6 29. f5
Bf7 30. fxg6 hxg6 31. Rxf7 $1 $18) 27. e6 Nf5 28. Qh5 g6 29. exf7+ $18) 26...
Ng3 27. e6 fxe6 $4 {This is exactly what white was hoping for. Both bishops
are in play now.} (27... Nf5 $1 {-second missed opportunity} 28. Re1 fxe6 29.
dxe6 Bb7 30. Bg4 Qc6 31. Kh2 Nd4 32. f5 {must be also completely winning for
white,however,it could be not easy over the board to allow knight to jump on
d4 :)}) 28. dxe6 Bb7 (28... Bxe6 29. f5 {I suppose in calculations black
missed,that after} Nxf5 30. Bxa8 Rxa8 31. Rxf5 $1 {is coming} Bxf5 32. Qd5+ $18
) 29. f5 Bxf3 30. Qg5 $1 {Intermediate move destroys all black's hopes!} Ra7 (
30... Nxf5 31. Qxf5 Rf8 32. Qg5 Qb7 33. Rcf1 h6 34. Qg3 Rae8 (34... Bd5 35. Rf7
) 35. Qxd6 a4 36. Qd7 $18 {Black is losing his bishop anyway}) 31. Qxg3 Be4 32.
f6 Rxe6 33. fxg7 $1 Ra8 (33... c4 34. Kh2 Bf5 35. Rxc4 $18) 34. Rcf1 c4 35. Kh2



This is the breathtaking view from the tournament hall which Romanov was talking about in the annotated game above. Isn’t it beautiful? (Photo: Sharath Elumulai)

Second Place... 

GM Romain Edouard (right | 2611) from France started slowly but picked up speed towards the end tying for the first place with a 2696 rating performance. He was second in the tiebreak and was richer by 1200 euros.

Here is his eighth round win against Daniel Vocaturo. It was a dominating performance! He built his position smoothly and then finished the game without giving any counter play.



[Event "Sunway Sitges Open 2016"]
[Site "Sitges ESP"]
[Date "2016.12.22"]
[Round "8.1"]
[White "Edouard, R."]
[Black "Vocaturo, D."]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "D38"]
[WhiteElo "2611"]
[BlackElo "2606"]
[Annotator "Atul"]
[PlyCount "91"]
[EventDate "2016.12.16"]
1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. Nf3 d5 5. cxd5 exd5 6. Bg5 Nbd7 7. Qc2 h6 8.
Bh4 g5 $5 {Interesting decision..} (8... c5 9. e3 O-O 10. Bd3 {would have been
quite natural..}) 9. Bg3 Ne4 10. Nd2 Nxg3 11. hxg3 Nb6 12. e3 {White's pawn
structure in center is solid although Black has two bishop it won't favour him
much as the position is not that open yet! White's rook is eyeing on h6!
overall I will prefer playing with white here..} (12. a3 Bf8 13. e3 Bg7 14. Bd3
Qe7 15. Nb3 O-O 16. Bh7+ Kh8 17. Bf5 c6 18. O-O-O Nc4 19. Kb1 Bxf5 20. Qxf5
Rad8 21. Nc5 Kg8 22. Rhe1 b6 23. Nd3 Nd6 24. Qh3 Ne4 25. Nxe4 dxe4 26. Ne5 Rd6
27. Nc4 Rd5 28. Qg4 Rfd8 29. Qe2 Qe6 30. Rd2 c5 31. dxc5 Rxd2 32. Nxd2 Qd5 33.
cxb6 axb6 34. Nc4 Qb5 35. Rc1 Rc8 36. Rc2 Rc6 37. Ka2 Qd5 38. a4 Rc5 39. b4 Rc8
40. b5 Ra8 41. Kb3 Bf8 42. Qd2 Qc5 43. Qc3 Rd8 44. Rd2 Rc8 45. g4 Ra8 46. Rd7
Rc8 47. g3 Be7 48. Rd2 Bf8 49. Rd1 Be7 50. Rd7 Bf8 51. Rd2 Be7 52. Rd1 Bf8 53.
Rd4 Bg7 54. Qd2 Bxd4 55. Qxd4 Qxd4 56. exd4 f5 57. Nxb6 Re8 58. Nd5 Kf7 59. a5
Rd8 60. Kc4 Rc8+ 61. Kb4 Ke6 62. Nb6 Rc2 63. a6 Rb2+ 64. Ka5 {1-0 (64) Van
Wely,L (2674)-Eljanov,P (2686) Foros 2007}) 12... c6 13. Bd3 Be6 14. Kf1 {
white is not casteling .. he will keep his king in the center where it is
actually quite safe!} Qf6 15. a3 Bd6 16. Ne2 O-O-O {Black has decided to
castle long..he wants to bring his all pieces on Kingside and attack White's
king... but this is not so easy as White is also ready to attack on queenside
quite fast.. now it depends on who will be able to destroy opponent's shield
first..} 17. b4 {starting the pawn storm..} Kb8 18. Rb1 h5 {black is also not
going to sit idel..} 19. a4 {typical!} Rc8 20. a5 Nd7 {when you can't break
through on the wing you need to break into the center and activate your pieces.
.! white's pieces need some space to breath..!} 21. e4 $1 dxe4 22. Nxe4 Qe7 23.
Qd2 f6 24. Nc5 Bg4 25. f3 Be6 26. Qe3 Bxc5 $2 {after this white will have
clear target i.e. b7. White will pile up his Rooks on b-file and it will be
difficult to defend the weaknesses around black's king.} (26... Rce8) 27. bxc5
Qf7 28. Rb4 Rhe8 29. Qd2 Ka8 30. Kf2 {slowly bringing the Rook in the game..}
a6 {this move has created additional weakness.. now white has another target
on a6.. And the bishop on d3 is idealy placed !} 31. Nc3 Bd5 32. Rhb1 {all
white's pieces are playing !! Black couldn't creat any counter play ..} Rc7 33.
Nxd5 cxd5 34. c6 $1 {typical destructive move... you need to break the base of
pawnchain.. !} bxc6 35. Bxa6 Nb8 36. Rb6 Ka7 37. Rb7+ (37. Qb2 {would have
been a quick finish..}) 37... Ka8 38. R7b6 Qh7 39. Bb7+ Ka7 40. Qc3 {complete
dominance.} h4 {it's too late..} 41. g4 Rce7 42. Qc5 Re2+ 43. Kg1 Re1+ 44. Rxe1
Rxe1+ 45. Kf2 Nd7 46. Ra6+ {Dominating game by Edouard..!!} 1-0


Third place...


Strong Catalonian GM Josep Manuel Martinez Lopez (2552) played well in this tournament. He was third after a crucial last round win against third seed GM Ivan Ivanisevic (2648).

It was an innovative idea of organizers to make cartoons of players. The talented cartoonist Wada Lupe depicts Josep's final round win. Creative and humorous! In this picture, you can see the epic expressions of players!


We present you this game by GM Lopez Martinez with some training questions to solve! Learn how to take advantage of development and initiative in the opening! Enjoy!

[Event "Sunway Sitges Open 2016"]
[Site "Sitges ESP"]
[Date "2016.12.23"]
[Round "9.3"]
[White "Lopez Martinez, Josep"]
[Black "Ivanisevic, I."]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "B48"]
[WhiteElo "2552"]
[BlackElo "2648"]
[Annotator "Atul"]
[PlyCount "83"]
[EventDate "2016.12.16"]
{This was the last round of the tournament. Whoever wins will finish in top
rankings. Both players were in fighting mood.} 1. e4 c5 {Sicilian defense is
considered one of the most aggressive openings suitable for the crucial last
round!!} 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Qc7 5. Nc3 e6 6. Be3 a6 {This is
starting well-known position of Sicilian Tiamanov. Here white has several
options to build up his position.. like Bd3 Qd2 f4 and Be2.. But Lopez played
a Queen move which is a hot favourite nowadays. i.e Qf3!} 7. Qf3 $5 (7. Bd3 Nf6
8. O-O Ne5 (8... Nxd4)) (7. Qd2 Nf6 8. O-O-O Bb4 9. f3 Ne5 10. Nb3) (7. Be2 Nf6
8. O-O Bb4 9. Na4) 7... d6 (7... Bd6 8. O-O-O Be5 9. g3 Nge7 10. Qe2 O-O 11. f4
Bxd4 12. Bxd4 Nxd4 13. Rxd4 e5 14. Rd1 exf4 15. e5 f3 16. Qxf3 Qxe5 17. Bg2 d6
18. Rhe1 Qg5+ 19. Kb1 Be6 20. Qxb7 d5 21. Nxd5 Nxd5 22. Bxd5 Rab8 23. Qc6 Rfc8
24. Qd6 Bf5 25. Be4 Bxe4 26. Rxe4 Rd8 27. Rde1 Qb5 28. Qe5 Qc6 29. b3 h6 30.
Kb2 Rb5 31. Qf4 Rc8 32. R1e2 Rc5 33. c4 a5 34. Qe3 Kh7 35. Re5 Qf6 36. Qf4 Qg6
37. Qe4 f5 38. Qd4 Qh5 39. Rf2 Rxe5 40. Qxe5 Rf8 41. Qxa5 Qd1 42. Qd2 Qg1 43.
Qc2 Kh8 44. a4 g5 45. c5 f4 46. c6 f3 47. c7 Kg7 48. Rd2 f2 49. Rd7+ {1-0 (49)
Caruana,F (2813)-Movsesian,S (2677) Douglas ENG 2016}) 8. O-O-O ({Anand's
choice..} 8. Nxc6 bxc6 9. O-O-O Nf6 10. Qg3 Nh5 11. Qh4 Nf6 12. g4 Be7 13. g5
Nd7 14. f4 Rb8 15. Qg3 d5 16. f5 Bd6 17. Qh3 Ne5 18. f6 g6 19. Qg2 Qa5 20. Bd2
Qb4 21. b3 Qa3+ 22. Kb1 d4 23. h4 dxc3 24. Bxc3 O-O 25. Qg3 Nc4 26. e5 Bxe5 27.
Bxe5 Nxe5 28. Qxe5 Bb7 29. h5 c5 30. hxg6 Bxh1 31. Qh2 fxg6 32. Rd7 h5 33. Rg7+
Kh8 34. Qxh1 Rbd8 35. Be2 Qa5 36. Bxh5 gxh5 37. Qxh5# {1-0 (37) Anand,V (2776)
-Leenhouts,K (2499) Bastia FRA 2016}) 8... Bd7 9. Qg3 Nf6 10. f3 Rc8 11. Nxc6
Bxc6 12. Bd3 b5 13. Kb1 Nd7 14. Rhe1 Nc5 {As you can see white has completed
his development, his all pieces are playing.. whereas Black's king is still in
the center. The bishop of f8 is stuck to protect the g7 pawn.. so basically
white should react fast and take advantage of his development. How will you
do it?} 15. Nd5 $1 {Typical move in this type of position.. when your both
rooks are positioned in front of the opponent's king!} Qb7 ({Obviously black
can not take the knight!} 15... exd5 $2 16. exd5 Bxd5 17. Bxc5+ Be6 18. Bd4 $18
) 16. Bd4 Nxd3 17. Rxd3 e5 {Now again this is the critical position.. white
can not allow black to complete his development.. if white moves his bishop
back then black will get some time and moreover the center will be closed so
there will be more chances for black to complete his development!} 18. Bxe5 $1
{Excellent!! white is not afraid to give up one piece.. he will get pawns and
black position will collapse!} dxe5 19. Qxe5+ Be7 20. Qxg7 Rf8 21. Qxh7 {
Now its just matter of time when black has to give up.. although he has two
bishops but they are not of great use. Pawns will dominate the rest of the
game plus the strong knight in the center! Rest is easy !} Bd8 22. Nf4 Bc7 23.
e5 Ba5 24. Re2 Rd8 25. e6 Rxd3 26. cxd3 Bb4 27. exf7+ Kd7 28. Qf5+ Kc7 29. Ne6+
Kb6 30. Nxf8 Bxf8 31. Re8 Ka5 32. Rxf8 Qe7 33. Re8 Bxe8 34. fxe8=Q Qxe8 35. Qe4
Qh8 36. h4 Qh6 37. a3 Kb6 38. Qd4+ Ka5 39. Qd8+ Ka4 40. Qc7 b4 41. Qc4 a5 42.
Ka2 1-0


Fourth place...

Former World Championship challenger and GM Gata Kamsky (2661) from the USA was the top seed of the tournament. (Photo: Sharath Elumalai )

He had to concede two draws in first three games but then he found his rhythm and scored 7/9 to finish 4th on tiebreak.

Indians at Sitges

Indian Superstar GM Krishnan Sasikiran (2661) had a decent tournament with 5 draws and 4 wins he scored 6.5/9 to finish 7th in the end!

 Two Indians GM Sasikiran and GM S.L. Narayanan in action!

We present you a miniature game by Sasikiran annotated by Soham Datar (Elo: 2030). Enjoy how Sasi forced his opponent to resign after the opening!

[Event "Sunway Sitges Open 2016"]
[Site "Sitges ESP"]
[Date "2016.12.17"]
[Round "3.1"]
[White "Sasikiran, K."]
[Black "Dobrov, V."]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "B12"]
[WhiteElo "2661"]
[BlackElo "2499"]
[Annotator "soham.datar"]
[PlyCount "45"]
[EventDate "2016.12.16"]
1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. e5 Bf5 4. Nf3 e6 5. Be2 Nd7 6. O-O f6 {Idea is to take an
immediate action in the center. Typical idea is played in french defense where
the Black's light squared bishop is on c8. Here it is improved to the f5
square. But the slight improper placement of black knight on d7 gives white a
chance to play c4 as there is no attack on white's d4 pawn with typical ...c5
and Nc6 which occurs in french kind of structures.} 7. c4 ({one game went with
} 7. exf6 Ngxf6 8. Nh4 Bd6 9. Nxf5 exf5 10. c4 O-O 11. cxd5 Nxd5 12. Nc3 N7f6
13. Bf3 Ne4 14. Qc2 Nexc3 15. bxc3 Qd7 16. c4 Nf6 17. Re1 Rae8 18. Bb2 Rxe1+
19. Rxe1 Re8 20. Rxe8+ Qxe8 21. g3 Qe1+ 22. Kg2 Ne4 23. Bxe4 Qxe4+ 24. Qxe4
fxe4 25. Kf1 Kf7 26. Ke2 Ke6 27. Ke3 Kf5 28. h3 h5 29. d5 g5 30. g4+ hxg4 31.
hxg4+ Kxg4 32. Kxe4 cxd5+ 33. cxd5 b5 34. Be5 Be7 35. Bc7 {1-0 (35) Narayanan,
S (2515)-Kunal,M (2309) Noida IND 2016}) 7... fxe5 8. cxd5 (8. dxe5) 8... cxd5
9. Bb5 $1 {after this Black is tied up..} (9. dxe5 {would allow black to play
Ne7- c6} Ne7 10. Nc3 Nc6 11. Bf4 Bc5 $11) 9... Bg4 10. dxe5 Bc5 11. Nc3 Ne7 (
11... a6 {was good} 12. Be2 Bxf3 13. Bxf3 Rc8 (13... Nxe5 $6 14. Bh5+ g6 15.
Bf4 Nc6 16. Bg4 e5 17. Re1 $14) 14. Bh5+ g6 15. Bg4 Rc6 {with a roughly equal
game but white is having bishop pair and there are some weaknesses around
black's king.. it will be easier to play with white pieces.!}) 12. Na4 $1 {
simple idea to exchange one of the opponent's active pieces and gaining a
bishop pair!} b6 13. b4 $1 Bxb4 $2 (13... Bxf3 14. Qxf3 Bxb4 $2 {losses to} (
14... Bd4 15. Bb2 Nf5) 15. Qg4) 14. Qd4 Bxf3 15. Qxb4 Bh5 {so here we can see
that the position is pretty open and white as managed to keep the bishop pair.
Lack of activity of Knights causes Black much problems now.} 16. Ba3 $1 {
after this Black's king is in danger and the position is already lost!} Ng6 17.
Rac1 {bringing more pieces in game.} Kf7 18. f4 {when all your pieces are
playing what will you do? Obviously open up the position.. !} Kg8 19. f5 Ngxe5
20. fxe6 Nc5 21. Nxc5 bxc5 22. Qf4 Qf6 23. Qg3 {A fine game played by
Sasikiran :-)} 1-0

Indian GM Shyam Sundar M. was playing very well in this tournament.

He played 5 games against 2600+ players winning one game against GM Evgeny Postny  (2620) and drawing three against GM Sasikiran K., GM Alexander Zubov (2606) and the champion GM Evgeny Romanov! He lost in the last round against GM Gata Kamsky in a tough game. He had to be content with 6.0/9 and 11th place. Way to go Shyam!


Here is his superb win against GM Postny Evgeny (2620) where he played quite aggressively and showed that he is not afraid to get into complications!

[Event "Sunway Sitges Open 2016"]
[Site "Sitges ESP"]
[Date "2016.12.19"]
[Round "5.4"]
[White "Postny, E."]
[Black "Shyam, SM."]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "E04"]
[WhiteElo "2620"]
[BlackElo "2532"]
[Annotator "Atul"]
[PlyCount "83"]
[EventDate "2016.12.16"]
1. d4 {Let's look at this interesting and dynamic game by Shyam Sundar. Postny
is a very strong and solid positional player, Shyam took a lot of risk trying to
muddy waters and eventually this strategy turned out pretty good for him.} Nf6
2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 d5 4. g3 dxc4 5. Bg2 Bb4+ 6. Bd2 a5 7. Qc2 Bxd2+ (7... Nc6 8.
Qxc4 Qd5 {is more common.}) 8. Qxd2 c6 9. a4 Ne4 (9... b5 10. axb5 cxb5 11. Qg5
O-O 12. Qxb5 Ba6 13. Qa4 Qb6 {was an interesting option in which few games
have played and the results are in white's favour. One good example is between
Kramnik-Topalov, World Championship game. Elista-2006} 14. O-O Qxb2 15. Nbd2
Bb5 16. Nxc4 Bxa4 17. Nxb2 Bb5 18. Ne5 Ra7 19. Bf3 Nbd7 20. Nec4 Rb8 21. Rfb1
g5 22. e3 g4 23. Bd1 Bc6 24. Rc1 Be4 25. Na4 Rb4 26. Nd6 Bf3 27. Bxf3 gxf3 28.
Nc8 Ra8 29. Ne7+ Kg7 30. Nc6 Rb3 31. Nc5 Rb5 32. h3 Nxc5 33. Rxc5 Rb2 34. Rg5+
Kh6 35. Rgxa5 Rxa5 36. Nxa5 Ne4 37. Rf1 Nd2 38. Rc1 Ne4 39. Rf1 f6 40. Nc6 Nd2
41. Rd1 Ne4 42. Rf1 Kg6 43. Nd8 Rb6 44. Rc1 h5 45. Ra1 h4 46. gxh4 Kh5 47. Ra2
Kxh4 48. Kh2 Kh5 49. Rc2 Kh6 50. Ra2 Kg6 51. Rc2 Kf5 52. Ra2 Rb5 53. Nc6 Rb7
54. Ra5+ Kg6 55. Ra2 Kh5 56. d5 e5 57. Ra4 f5 58. Nxe5 Rb2 59. Nd3 Rb7 60. Rd4
Rb6 61. d6 Nxd6 62. Kg3 Ne4+ 63. Kxf3 Kg5 64. h4+ Kf6 65. Rd5 Nc3 66. Rd8 Rb1
67. Rf8+ Ke6 68. Nf4+ Ke5 69. Re8+ Kf6 70. Nh5+ Kg6 71. Ng3 Rb2 72. h5+ Kf7 73.
Re5 Nd1 74. Ne2 Kf6 75. Rd5 {1-0 (75) Kramnik,V (2743)-Topalov,V (2813) Elista
2006}) 10. Qf4 Qb6 11. O-O (11. Nbd2 Nxd2 12. Qxd2 O-O 13. O-O c5 14. Rfc1 Nc6
15. dxc5 Qxc5 16. b3 e5 17. Ng5 h6 18. Rxc4 Qb6 19. Bxc6 bxc6 20. Nf3 Qxb3 21.
Nxe5 Re8 22. Rc5 Bb7 23. Qa2 Qxa2 24. Rxa2 Rad8 25. f4 Rd5 26. Rc3 f6 27. Nxc6
Kh7 28. Kf2 Rc8 29. Rac2 Rxc6 30. Rxc6 Bxc6 31. Rxc6 Rd4 32. Ra6 Rxa4 33. e4
Rxe4 34. Rxa5 Rb4 35. h3 Rb3 36. Rc5 Ra3 37. Rb5 Rc3 38. Rd5 Rb3 39. Ra5 Rc3
40. Rb5 Ra3 {1/2-1/2 (40) Matlakov,M (2691)-Predke,A (2550) Kolomna RUS 2016})
11... Qxb2 {Shyam took up the challenge. The poisoned pawn..!!} 12. Ne5 O-O
13. Na3 Nc3 14. Qe3 Nxe2+ 15. Kh1 Nc3 16. Rfc1 {now the queen on b2 must be
feeling came up with an interesting idea of giving up the
queen and unbalancing the position.. !} Nd5 17. Bxd5 exd5 18. Rab1 {The queen
is trapped..} Qb4 19. Rxb4 axb4 {black got just one Rook for the queen but his
pawns are ready to roll.. and Rook will also grab another pawn on a4.. instead
of retaining the Knight White gave up the piece for two pawns and trying to
simplify matters.} 20. Naxc4 ({If white retains the knight then...} 20. Nc2 b3
21. Nb4 f6 22. Nf3 Rxa4 23. Qc3 Re8 $17 {and all Black's pieces are active.
the knights are helpless in front of pawns.. !}) 20... dxc4 21. Nxc4 Be6 22. Nb6
Ra5 {rook lift the Rook joins the battle..} 23. d5 {trying to restrict Black's
piece activity..} cxd5 24. Rc7 {Rook occupies the 7th Rank..} d4 $1 {need of
the position..!} 25. Qxd4 Nc6 26. Rxc6 {White is not clinging on to his
material, these top players understand when to exchange and what to exchange.
.. the Value of the pieces changes according to the position.. !} (26. Qe3 Re5
27. Qc1 b3 $17 {Black's pieces are very active .. ! The co-ordination between
white's pieces is not so good.. !}) 26... bxc6 27. Qxb4 Re5 {I was watching
this game live and was wondering how Black will stop white's a-pawn from
queening.. as the a8 square is under white's control. The only way was to
counter attack. Attacking the vulnerable White king with all your pieces.
this is exactly what Black did.. !} 28. h4 h5 29. Qd4 Re1+ 30. Kg2 Bf5 31. Nd7
Rfe8 32. Nc5 Bg4 $1 {Controlling all light squares..} 33. a5 Rd1 $1 {now
second rook will join the game .. and white's king can be trapped in mating
net..} 34. Qb2 $4 Ree1 {Its all over..!!} 35. f3 Rg1+ 36. Kf2 Rgf1+ 37. Ke2
Rfe1+ 38. Kf2 Rf1+ 39. Ke2 Rb1 40. Qc2 Rbe1+ 41. Kd3 Bf5+ 42. Kd4 {amazing
play by ShyamSundar against such a strong player.. !!} 0-1


The norm achievers

The talented boy Harsha Bharathkoti played some good games and achieved his final IM norm in this tournament. He has completed all his IM title formalities to become a full-fledged International Master!

Focused in everything he does — Nihal Sarin playing Fussball, that too with so much dedication!

Our wonder boy FM Nihal Sarin, who is already a 2386 rated player, scored 5.5/9 points to achieve his second IM norm. This 12-year-old kid is really very talented! He showed his true colours in the two blitz tournaments that were held alongside the main event where he cleaned up a field full of titled players! (Report).

Here is his one game which he drew against the second runner-up GM Josep Martinez Lopez with a fine positional style. This boy knows his stuff!

[Event "Sunway Sitges Open 2016"]
[Site "Sitges ESP"]
[Date "2016.12.17"]
[Round "2.12"]
[White "Nihal, Sarin"]
[Black "Lopez Martinez, Josep"]
[Result "1/2-1/2"]
[ECO "D80"]
[WhiteElo "2340"]
[BlackElo "2552"]
[Annotator "soham.datar"]
[PlyCount "68"]
[EventDate "2016.12.16"]
1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 d5 4. Bg5 Ne4 5. Bh4 c5 6. cxd5 Nxc3 7. bxc3 Qxd5 8.
e3 cxd4 9. Qxd4 Qxd4 10. cxd4 Bg7 (10... e6 {this is another plan to play with.
Black tries to exchange white's better and active bishop with his slight
passive bishop. for example} 11. Rb1 Be7 12. Bxe7 Kxe7 13. Nf3 Nc6 14. Bd3 {
playing with a healthy pawn structure and a good bishop certainly favours
White .}) 11. Nf3 Nc6 12. Rb1 b6 13. Bb5 $1 Bd7 14. Ke2 {when there is a
possibility of maximum exchange of the pieces on the board, then the king
should be kept in the centre from which he can immediately take part in the
endgame for further action.} Na5 15. Rhc1 $1 {Black hasnt castled yet and is
busy solving his problems of the light-sqaured bishop. So white has time to
develop his pieces and aim towards entering in Blacks territory.} Bxb5+ 16.
Rxb5 e6 {We can see that Black's h8 rook is not participating in the battle .
Also, the knight on a5 is not impressive as it is awkwardly placed. knight on
the rim is bad!} 17. Rc7 $1 {Rook on the 7th rank is always good. So whenever
possible you should try to occupy 7th rank as it exerts pressure on base of
pawn chain and limits opponent's activity.} O-O 18. Rb1 {Improving the Rook's
position and getting ready to double the rooks on "c" file. Now white is much
better here.} h6 {Trying to kick off the bishop from h4-d8 diagonal .} 19. Be7
$1 Rfc8 20. Rbc1 Rxc7 21. Rxc7 b5 22. Nd2 {improving the postion of the knight and
preparing to place it on outpost c5 from which he has a greater scope of
action.} Bf8 23. Bxf8 Kxf8 {However black has been successful in minimizing
the threats by white by exchanging of the maximum pieces. Still, I think that
white's position is much better due to active position of rook and knight is
likely to occupy strong post on c5 ! .} 24. Kd3 {In endgame King is the Piece
with which you can attack!} a6 25. Kc3 Rb8 26. Kb4 (26. Ne4 $1 {is the best
way to play.} Nc4 (26... b4+ 27. Kb2 Rb6 28. Nc5 Ke8 29. Ra7 $18) 27. Ra7 a5
28. a4 $1) 26... Nc4 27. Ne4 a5+ 28. Kc5 {white has achieved great position..}
Nb2 29. Ra7 (29. Kc6) 29... a4 30. Nf6 {this gives Black chance to escape with
a draw.} (30. a3 {followed by Kb4-a5 was good to maintain the initiative} Nd3+
31. Kc6 Rc8+ 32. Kxb5 Rc2 $16) 30... Nd3+ 31. Kc6 Kg7 32. Nd7 Nb4+ 33. Kc5 Nd3+
34. Kc6 Nb4+ {Good game by Nihal Sarin. It shows that he has a deep understanding of positional concepts, unlikely for a kid of his age. He is truly a Prodigy!} 1/2-1/2


The rating gainers

Sai Agni Jeevitesh (2115) gained 124 Elo rating points from this tournament. From his recent European tournaments, he gained around 300 points and has crossed 2400 rating mark! (Interview to follow).

The 11-year-old talent from Nagpur CM Raunak Sadhwani (2246) was in good form. He was very close to complete his maiden IM norm.

He scored 5.0/9 and gained 54 Elo points.In the first round, he played a good game against GM Ivan Ivanisevic (2648) It was equal till the end, but he faltered in a Bishop vs Rook endgame. Let’s have look at this endgame, and learn some basics of Bishop vs Rook endgame!

[Event "Sunway Sitges Open 2016"]
[Site "Sitges ESP"]
[Date "2016.12.16"]
[Round "1.3"]
[White "Sadhwani, Raunak"]
[Black "Ivanisevic, I."]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "B49"]
[WhiteElo "2246"]
[BlackElo "2648"]
[Annotator "Atul"]
[SetUp "1"]
[FEN "8/6r1/3kB3/8/8/3K4/8/8 w - - 0 81"]
[PlyCount "32"]
[EventDate "2016.12.16"]
{[#]} 81. Ba2 {after all drama the position has converted to this Bishop vs
Rook endgame which is a theoretical draw but in practice when the clock is
ticking you need to play precisely otherwise you will end up in a difficult
position. The side with the bishop needs to follow some basic principles. 1)
The king needs to maintain himself in right corner i.e. The opposition corner
square of the bishop. 2) Bishop needs to be placed in such way so that it
should be able to defend against sidechecks whenever necessary. 3) look out
for stalemate tactics. 4) The bishop needs to be kept at a distance from where
it should be able to give a check to the opponent's king when it is threatening
checkmate.} Ke5 82. Kc2 {The king is heading towards the right corner i.e. a1.}
Kd4 83. Kb2 Rg2+ 84. Ka1 {First part of the plan is successful.} Kc3 85. Bb1
Kb3 86. Bf5 {Keeping the bishop on a2-g8 or b1 to h7 diagonal will help white.}
Rg1+ 87. Bb1 Rg5 88. Ba2+ $1 Ka3 89. Bb1 Rg2 90. Bf5 {so far everything is
going smoothly.} Ra2+ 91. Kb1 Rf2 {and now it's very important for Black to
keep the bishop at a far distance from where it will be active. If placed
close to the king then Black might gain a tempo by attacking it and in that
moment if side with the bishop is not able to give check to the opponent's
king then it will be all over as happened in the game.} 92. Bd3 $4 (92. Bg6 {
or Bh7 was necessary..} Rg2 (92... Kb3 93. Ka1 Ra2+ 94. Kb1 Rg2 95. Bf7+ {
this is the difference than the game!! white is just in time to save the game.}
Kc3 96. Ka1 $11) 93. Bf5 Kb3 94. Be6+ $1 Kc3 95. Ka1 $11) 92... Kb3 $1 {
and now white can not give check to the opponent's king and it's all over.} 93.
Kc1 (93. Bb5 Rb2+ 94. Kc1 Kc3 {and now the bishop will be lost because of
mating patterns.} 95. Bc6 Rb6 96. Bd7 Rb7 97. Bc6 Rc7 98. Ba4 (98. Be4 Re7)
98... Ra7 99. Bc2 Ra1+ 100. Bb1 Kb3 101. Kd2 Rxb1 $19) (93. Ka1 Ra2+ 94. Kb1
Rd2) 93... Kc3 94. Bb5 Rf5 95. Be2 Rg5 96. Kb1 Rg1+ 0-1


Very calm and determined girl from Tamilnadu WIM Monisha GK gained 48 rating points!

Fun and Frolic

The organization of this tournament was top notch! The organizers made sure that players got all the facilities and enjoyed their stay at Sitges. They took care of each and every small detail. Right from providing free sports facilities in the hotel, bicycles for players to commute to the venue and elsewhere, feast and cocktails for the players! On few days, movies were shown on big screen.


A unique way to celebrate this festival with all the participants of the tournament!

One of the world youngest international masters, Awonder Liang from the USA, was playing in this tournament. The organizers arranged one simultaneous display of this wonder kid! 

Sports facilities by the organizers to all Players was a treat! Every day, after the games, we used to go to playing arena and enjoy Table Tennis or Fussball! Sports of any kind is always a stress buster after a tough game.


Isn’t she Adorable? (Photo: Sharath Elumulai)

Sasi's Opening Prep (in Table Tennis)...

Everybody knows that Sasi is an expert when it comes to opening preparation but he is also a very good Table tennis player! Enjoy how he serves like a Pro.

On a Personal Note...

Selfie with the ever-smiling and efficient organizer of Sunway Sitges Chess Festival, Mr. Francesc Gonzales. Thank you for organizing such a wonderful event! Looking forward to come and play next edition!

During this tournament, I was staying with my friends Aniruddha Deshpande (Better known as 'Sir' — the origins of this title remain unknown), Supriya Joshi and Swapnil Dhopade!

I am really impressed by the way this tournament was efficiently organized. We really had a great time together in Sitges! This tour wouldn’t have been so amazing and memorable without my friends and the organizer himself!

Atul Dahale is one of the first internationally FIDE rated players from Parbhani. He loves the game of chess and enjoys the fact that he can travel to different places, meet people and make new friends thanks to chess. He has a rating of 2076 and is a successful coach currently based in Pune, Maharashtra. You can contact him on


Special thanks to Sharath Elumulai for contributing with his pictures.









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  4. Gibraltar Masters: The Indian Performance

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