Ringing in the New Year at the Rilton Cup

by Macauley Peterson
1/1/2019 – The traditional Rilton Cup in Stockholm is currently in its 48th edition. The nine-round tournament started on December 27th and runs through January 5th. The New Year is celebrated in Stockholm and New Year's Day is the lone free day. The event routinely attracts a strong field of GMs — at least those not interested in Rapid or Blitz championships, and it even has its own mobile app for iOS and Android! | Photo: Lars OA Hedlund

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Lagarde leads at half-time in Stockholm

French Grandmaster Maxime Lagarde is the pace-setter at the traditional Rilton Cup, with 4½ out of five rounds played. He is joined at the top of the leaderboard by Gopal G.N. whose only draw was against the top-seeded Israeli GM Tamir Nabaty. Nabaty trails by half a point, leading a group of 15 players with 4.0/5. Among them are some well-known veteran names, such as GM Sergey Volkov from Russia, GM Bartlomiej Heberla from Poland and Spanish GM (now living in Sweden) Juan Manuel Bellon Lopez, but also relative newcomers like 15-year old GM Awonder Liang from the USA.

Maxime Lagarde

GM Maxime Lagarde | Photo: Lars OA Hedlund

On New Year's Eve, Lagarde converted an advantageous rook endgame against Spain's Miguel Santos Ruiz, which illustrates a useful concept: 


At first glance, you might think it makes sense to advance to b3 to support the b-pawn's advance from c2, but this merely loses time. 41...Kb5 is correct, pacifying the white rook after 42.Ra1 b3 43.Ke3 b2 44.Rb1 Ka4 and the king soon arrives on a2.

A 19-year-old Danish IM, Jesper Sondergaard Thybo (already rated 2519), was surprisingly among the players leading the tournament after four rounds. The 22nd seed played a nice attack in Round 2 against the 16-year-old Norwegian FM Tryggestad. The game between them showed a common theme in open tournaments: in the face of a fierce attack it takes a cool head to mount a successful defence — possible in this case but extremely difficult:


Thybo and Tryggestad

Jesper Sondergaard Thybo and Andreas Garberg Tryggestad | Photo: Lars OA Hedlund

Standings after Round 5 (top 20)

Rk. Name Pts.  TB1 
1 Lagarde Maxime 4,5 13,5
2 Gopal G.N. 4,5 13,0
3 Nabaty Tamir 4,0 15,5
4 Yeoh Li Tian 4,0 15,0
5 Urkedal Frode Olav Olsen 4,0 14,0
6 Volkov Sergey 4,0 14,0
7 Heberla Bartlomiej 4,0 13,5
8 Lalith Babu M R 4,0 13,5
9 Karthikeyan Murali 4,0 13,0
10 Gajewski Grzegorz 4,0 13,0
11 Kobalia Mikhail 4,0 13,0
12 Donchenko Alexander 4,0 12,5
13 Liang Awonder 4,0 12,5
14 Pranav Anand 4,0 12,0
15 Santos Latasa Jaime 4,0 12,0
16 Moroni Luca Jr 4,0 11,0
17 Bellon Lopez Juan Manuel 4,0 10,0
18 Santos Ruiz Miguel 3,5 16,0
19 Valsecchi Alessio 3,5 14,0
20 Thybo Sondergaard Jesper 3,5 14,0

... 161 players

The tournament takes a New Years Day pause before the final round rounds, ending on January 5th. Each round is accompanied by daily live commentary with the legendary GM Ulf Andersson and WIM Fiona Steil-Antoni. Replay the 5th round webcast below:

All available games


Klaus Besenthal contributed reporting.


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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