Alexander Donchenko prevails in Barcelona

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
10/7/2019 – 21-year-old German grandmaster Alexander Donchenko achieved the best result of his career so far as he finished in sole first place at the "Ciutat de Barcelona" Masters. Donchenko scored six wins and three draws, thus collecting 7½ points, leaving Gata Kamsky and Tigran Gharamian a half point behind in the final standings table. Argentine IM Tomas Sosa won the eight-round blitz event that was held after round three. | Photo: Official site

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Magistral Ciutat de Barcelona 2019

The "Espai Bota, Recinte Fabra i Coats", a historic building of the Sant Andreu district in Barcelona, was the venue of the stellar event of the season in the Mediterranean city. Two tournaments took place in parallel, with 76 players participating in Group A and 55 battling it out in Group B. A total of fifteen grandmasters registered to play in the main event, with five-time US champion Gata Kamsky as top seed. 

The participants of Group A were fighting for a first prize of €4,000 in a nine-round Swiss tournament with a time control of 90 minutes for the whole game and 30-second increments from move one. The event took place from September 27th to October 5th. In the end, Alexander Donchenko claimed sole first place, as he scored an impressive 7½ out of 9. Gata Kamsky and Tigran Gharamian finished a half point back, after both scored wins with White in the last round.

Tigran Gharamian, Alexander Donchenko, Gata Kamsky

The winners: Gharamian, Donchenko and Kamsky | Photo: Official site

Donchenko, who was born in Moscow, but came to Germany as a young child and is the fifth highest rated player in the national ranking. At 21, he had a remarkable result in this year's Biel Masters, where he shared second place, coincidentally with Kamsky, after collecting 6½ out of 9 points and getting the exact same scores as the American in the two tiebreaker criteria.

In Barcelona, the German rising star kicked off the tournament with four consecutive wins, including a victory in round four over 2018 Spanish champion Salvador del Rio. In round five, the 21-year-old drew with Kamsky and went on to score crucial back-to-back wins over Ivan Ivanisevic and current French Champion Maxime Lagarde.

By then, he was in sole first place, with only Milos Perunovic a half point back. Donchenko split the point with Perunovic in the penultimate round and finished the tournament with a quick draw in his game against another German youngster, Rasmus Svane — it must be noted that the last round was played at 9:30 in the morning, after all previous days the action began at 5 o'clock in the afternoon.

Highlights from Donchenko's games in Barcelona

 

Last round wins for Kamsky and Gharamian

After eight rounds, Donchenko was in sole first place on 7 points, followed by Perunovic on 6½. Four players were sharing third place a half point behind Perunovic — Kamsky (6) was paired up against the Serbian grandmaster, Svane (6) had Black against Donchenko on board one and Tigran Gharamian (6) faced Tomas Sosa (6) on board three.

The most experienced players in the chasing pack showed what they are made of by scoring crucial wins in the last hurdle. Kamsky inflicted Perunovic's first loss of the event after the Serbian chose a timid approach with the black pieces. The American gained a pawn in the middlegame and had little trouble converting his overwhelming positional advantage:

 

White forked queen and rook with 23.d7. Black tried to muddy the waters with 23...xh3 24.gxh3 xf3, but Kamsky kept everything under control with 25.e3. Resignation came rather quickly, only five moves after this sequence.

Gata Kamsky, Jules Moussard

Gata Kamsky during his round four game against Jules Moussard | Photo: Official site

Meanwhile, Gharamian had a much longer day at the office, as he needed 71 moves to take down Argentine Tomas Sosa. The players simplified into an endgame with rooks and bishops of opposite colours as early as move 19. All White had in his favour was a slightly superior pawn structure:

 

The Armenian-French grandmaster never stopped putting pressure on his younger opponent. By move 50, he had gained a pawn, and when Sosa resigned Gharamian was a bishop and a pawn to the good, with mate-in-seven on the board.

Tigran Gharamian

2018 French champion Tigran Gharamian | Photo: Official site

Sosa finished in eleventh place, but he also managed to win the blitz tournament played on the night of September 28th. He collected 7 points in the eight-round Swiss event, only losing against Israeli IM Nimrod Veinberg in round three. Chilean GM Cristobal Henriquez and Spanish FM Jose Herrera finished in second and third places respectively, after scoring 6½ out of 8. You can find the full standings table of the Blitz in Chess-Results.

Tomas Sosa, Daniel Gomez

Tomas Sosa facing Daniel Gomez from Andorra | Photo: Official site

Ciutat de Barcelona - Final standings (top 15)

Rk. Name Pts.
1 Donchenko Alexander 7,5
2 Kamsky Gata 7,0
3 Gharamian Tigran 7,0
4 Lagarde Maxime 6,5
5 Svane Rasmus 6,5
6 Perunovic Milos 6,5
7 Ivanisevic Ivan 6,5
8 Shevchenko Kirill 6,5
9 Sosa Tomas 6,0
10 Priasmoro Novendra 6,0
11 Edouard Romain 6,0
12 Serarols Mabras Bernat 6,0
13 Del Rio De Angelis Salvador G. 5,5
14 Moussard Jules 5,5
15 Semenov Dmitri 5,5

...76 players

All available games

 

Updated to clarify that Donchenko has always represented Germany.

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Carlos Colodro is a Hispanic Philologist from Bolivia. He works as a freelance translator and writer since 2012. A lot of his work is done in chess-related texts, as the game is one of his biggest interests, along with literature and music.
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Thomas Richter Thomas Richter 10/7/2019 10:59
This result for Doncheno was pretty comparable with winning the Groningen Open back in December 2014 (then 8/9, TPR 2803, now 7.5/9, TPR 2801) - of course back then it was an even bigger surprise.
"Donchenko, who was born in Moscow, currently represents Germany" - rather misleading/suggestive: he moved to Germany at the age of four years and, while getting German citizenship only in 2015, probably always represented Germany.
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