Big upset at the start of Sunway Sitges 2018

by Macauley Peterson
12/16/2018 – Fan favourite super-GM Vassily Ivanchuk lost to 12-year-old Sreeshwan Maralakshikari from India. The powerful youth are likely to remain one of the chief storylines in Sitges, a town just down the Mediterranean coast from Barcelona. In attendance are the top players in the world ages 11-14 — all from India — plus the European number one under-15 IM Vincent Keymer from Germany. | Pictured: The playing hall on the eve of battle | Photo: Sunway Sitges International Chess Festival

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Ivanchuk bluffed and beaten by 12-year-old

The Sunway Sitges International Chess Festival is growing into a top open tournament, one rather akin to Gibraltar, given its location right on the Mediterranean Sea, mild winter climate, excellent playing conditions and festival atmosphere. Like Gibraltar, it's held in and sponsored by a hotel — the Sunway Playa Golf & Spa de Sitges. The tournament attracts top-flight grandmasters but also caters to amateurs and features an excellent programme of side events. You can attend a Masterclass from Vassily Ivanchuk in the morning, then borrow a bike (free for all hotel guests) and cycle into town, down the beautiful seaside promenade, for lunch in the old centre of Sitges. There is just one game a day in the late afternoon, so there's plenty of time to explore, have a swim or a round of golf, before the games.


The wide promenade — about 3 Km from the hotel to the centre of town

Romanishin simul

A simul by Ukrainian GM Oleg Romanishin | Photo: Sunway Sitges International Chess Festival

In Group A alone there are 182 players from 48 chess federations in attendance. Of them, 39 are from India including the top youth in the world by rating: Raahil Mullick (under-11), Gukesh D. (under-12),  GM Praggnanandhaa (under-13) and GM Nihal Sarin (under-14). Gukesh is one to keep an eye on in particular since he has a chance to break the all-time youngest GM record held by Sergey Karjakin. But there are also eleven 2600+ players, led by GMs Dmitry Andreikin (who came with his young family) and the aforementioned Ivanchuk.

Speaking of "Chucky", he was sensationally upset by the young 2244-rated Sreeshwan Maralakshikari. Sreeshwan played quickly and confidently, which seems to have provoked the veteran Ukrainian grandmaster into rushing a bit himself, even in the face of danger.

GM Miguel Illescas, on the live commentary webcast, gave the following prognosis: "I got the impression that Ivanchuk thought, 'ok this guy is bluffing'...and in fact, White's attack was a bit of a bluff."


Sreeshwan thought for under a minute on every move but two up until this point, signalling that he was fearless. Illescas noted that 19...Bxc3 20.bxc3 Nxe5 would give Black a clear edge. But Ivanchuk started with 19...Bxe5? allowing the shot 20.Bxg6! Even now, the game is still not completely over. Black can fight on with 20...Rf8. But after 20...hxg6? 21.Qxg6 Bg7 22.Qf7+ Kh8 23.Qh5+ Kg8 24.Bg5 Qc8? 25.Qf7+ Kh8 26.Rf4 Ivanchuk is getting mated.

IM Sagar Shah analysed the complete game for ChessBase India:


Sreeshwan vs Ivanchuk

The game was among the first to finish in around 40 minutes! | Photo: Rupali Mullick / ChessBase India

"Everyone in the world, you should come here!"

That was Egyptian GM Ahmed Adly's dictum after winning his first-round game:


White's pawns are menacing but at first glance, it looks like Black has 24...Rb5 here. After 25.Qa7 Qxa7 26.Rxa7, however, Black can't take 26...Nxc5 due to 27.Bf1 and the knight drops off. So, after a 13-minute think, Adly's 2234-rated opponent, Bharath Subramaniyam, played instead 24...b3. Black's b-pawn ran to b2 and White advanced his c-pawn aiming to push further: 25.c6 Rb5 26.Qa7 b2 27.Rab1 Qxa7 28. Bxa7 Nb6 29.Bf1 Rb4 30.Ba6 Na4:


Play through the moves on the live diagram

Adly wanted to play 31.c7 here, but was worried about 31...Nc3 when 32.c8(Q) fails because Black just takes it 32...Rxc8 33.Bxc8 Nxb1 34.Rxb1 Ra4! winning the piece back because of the threat of Ra1. But there's a beautiful alternative in 32.Bc5! Stick a pin in that move as what happened in the game was 31.Re3 Bh6 32.Ra3 Bd2. This is quite a good move but 33.c7 is working now as well, since 33...Nc3 loses to 34.Rxc3! Bxc3 35.Bc5! Ra4 36.Bxe7 and, here, Black collapsed with 36...Ra8 37.d6, winning.

Thanks to some very unusual geometry, 36...Ba5 would at least eliminate the c7 pawn and maybe allow Black to survive, e.g. 37.d6 Bxc7 38.dxc7 Rc8! 39.Bxc8 Ra1 and White will have to win some endgame with two bishops for the rook but equal and symmetrical pawns. Fun stuff. 

Anna Rudolf and Ahmed Adly

Adly explains all on the live webcast

Round 2 went more according to "plan" with the first significant upset coming way down on board 18. It was another Indian, however, this time WGM Vaishali R (incidentally the sister of Praggnanandhaa!) who caught Bosnian GM Denis Kadric daydreaming:


Can you spot the winning tactic? Play it out against the engine!

32...Nd4! with a fork on f3 next

29 players remain with a perfect score after two rounds. As many as 66 players turned up Saturday night for the late night blitz tournament which started at 23:00 and ran until nearly 2 AM! GM Vasquez Schroeder Rodrigo (2529 from Chile) took clear first with 7½ out of 9.

Live commentary webcast

IM Anna Rudolf has been joined by GM Miguel Illescas and GM Danny King so far

Standings after Round 2 (top 20)

Rk. Name Pts.
1 Sasikiran Krishnan 2,0
  Adly Ahmed 2,0
  Lagarde Maxime 2,0
  Romanov Evgeny 2,0
  Peralta Fernando 2,0
  Lopez Martinez Josep Manuel 2,0
  Nihal Sarin 2,0
  Petrosyan Manuel 2,0
  Kulaots Kaido 2,0
  Harutyunian Tigran K. 2,0
  Alonso Rosell Alvar 2,0
  Henderson De La Fuente Lance 2,0
  Dragnev Valentin 2,0
  Soumya Swaminathan 2,0
  Vaishali R 2,0
16 Inarkiev Ernesto 2,0
  Vocaturo Daniele 2,0
  Gukesh D 2,0
  Pogonina Natalija 2,0
  Ahlander Bjorn 2,0

Live commentary of Round 3

IM Anna Rudolf and GM Levan Aroshidze

All available games



Macauley served as the Editor in Chief of ChessBase News from July 2017 to March 2020. He is the producer of The Full English Breakfast chess podcast, and was an Associate Producer of the 2016 feature documentary, Magnus.


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