Rinat Jumabayev tops Barcelona

by Gerd Densing
8/31/2017 – The nineteenth edition of the Sants Open in Barcelona finished with a clear winner in group A: Rinat Jumabayev. The young man from Kazakhstan has been a GM since 2009 and is the number one in his country. An afternoon playoff determined second and third places which went to Moldovan Dmitry Svetushkin and German Julian Martin. | Photo: Gerd Densing

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19th Sants Open

Jumabayev edges a pair of strong young Germans

The ten round open ran from August 18th to 27th in the Catalonian hub of Barcelona, and was the last stop of this year's Catalan Grand Prix series of tournaments. With a total of 755 participants spanning the A, B and C groups, the popular open was once again a very big deal.

This year the tournament was initially overshadowed by the terrorist attack in Barcelona on the afternoon of August 17th that claimed the lives of 16 people. This led to some individual participants dropping out, despite tournament organizers assurances on the official website that the tournament would take place, and pleas that chess players should not allow terror attacks to change their lives.

View of the top boards | Photo: Gerd Densing

The young Kazakh grandmaster Rinat Jumabayev showed why he was the top seed, as he started the tournament with 6 out of 6 before coasting with 3 draws and then a final round win with black to secure clear first, with a 2750 performance rating. In rounds 7 to 10 he handled very difficult situations and positions, often contending with time pressure.

Germany was strongly represented by four players finishing in the top ten. Young GM Jan-Christian Schroeder and Andreas Heimann played well, but the star performances came from IM Leon Mons and FM Julian Martin, who both achieved a GM norm and ended up in the top five.

Julian Martin (left) faces GM Dmitry Svetushkin in a playoff game | Photo: Gerd Densing

Julian Martin won the "Best Player Under-16" prize. To reach the tie for second, Martin defeated the Indian twelve-year-old superstar IM Praggnanandhaa, who is the youngest player ever to cross 2500. "Prag" was an audience magnet in Barcelona as he makes a bid to break Sergey Karjakin's all-time youngest GM record in the coming months. However, he was unfortunately not paired against enough grandmasters (minimum of three) to have any chance at a GM norm.

Praggnanandhaa and Martin

Praggnanandhaa (left) lost to Martin in the last round | Photo: Gerd Densing

Leon Mons, with his draw in the final round against GM Grigoriy Oparin from Russia, not only secured his third and final GM norm, but could also bring his Elo over 2500 and therefore meet the final qualification for the GM title. Congratulations!

"GM-elect" Leon Mons | Photo: Gerd Densing

A blitz tiebreak was held to determine the final ranking for places 2-4 and 5-8. In the blitz, with five minuntes per player plus three second increment, the experienced veterans proved a bit too strong; Dmitry Svetushkin finished second, after scoring 8/10 in the main tournament. And in fifth, Karen Grigoryan from Aermenia topped the list of 14 players who finished with 7½ points. 

Mons and Oparin

Mons and Oparin (above) both finished with 7½ as did Jan-Christian Schroeder (below) | Photos: Gerd Densing

GM Jan Christian Schröder

Although there were no strong 2680s or even 2700 GMs in the tournament, there were a huge number of player in the 2200-2550 range, which lead to many interesting and exciting games. In all four IM and four GM norms were achieved (including the two Germans discussed above).

Game selection


The Catalan: A complete repertoire for White!

The Catalan is one of the most solid openings for White. It forms part of the large and strong fianchetto family in which White builds his strategy mainly around the bishop on g2. Grandmaster Victor Bologan covers all of Black’s replies to the Catalan, some of which can even transpose to other openings such as the Tarrasch System and the Queen’s Indian. Suffice it to say that the Catalan rules!

Final standings (Top 20)

Rk. Name Pts.  TB1 
1 JUMABAYEV Rinat 8,5 0
2 SVETUSHKIN Dmitry 8,0 2
3 MARTIN Julian 8,0 3
4 SCHROEDER Jan-Christian 8,0 4
5 GRIGORYAN Karen H. 7,5 5
6 VOCATURO Daniele 7,5 6
7 MONS Leon 7,5 7
8 AGDESTEIN Simen 7,5 8
9 KARTHIK Venkataraman 7,5 0
10 OPARIN Grigoriy 7,5 0
  ORTIZ SUAREZ Isan Reynaldo 7,5 0
12 NOVIKOV Stanislav 7,5 0
13 HEIMANN Andreas 7,5 0
14 KRYSA Leandro 7,5 0
15 TRENT Lawrence 7,5 0
16 GONZALEZ ACOSTA Bernal 7,5 0
17 MOUSSARD Jules 7,5 0
18 VALSECCHI Alessio 7,5 0
20 GOH Wei Ming Kevin 7,0 0

Group B

The very young Lev Zverev (born in 2010), was a standout in the B-Open. Since the top board of this tournament also played on the stage, young man from the "Botvinnik Chess School", was often in the spotlight. He played with lightning speed and scored some surprises against his adult opponents, ultimately finishing with an impressive performance of 2065 and 7½ points, with was good enough for sixth place on the final rankings. By the way, the Botvinnik Chess School also won the team's rating in the A-Open.Group B

Lev Zverev in action | Photo: Gerd Densing

Chess tourist tips

The tournament organization proceeded in a well-run manner. The live transmission on-site attracted many spectator which was very nice and the results and pairings publication the evening before each round via "chess-results" ran smoothly.

For me, as a first time participant, however, a few points could be improved: Very little was translated into English, and almost all announcements were in Spanish. This could pose a problem for foreign players with little tournament experience.

In addition, many things were not geared to suit "newcomers". For example, it wasn't clear where all side events would take place. Also unclear that there was a separate room where one could get a receipt for the entry fee, but also a beautiful tournament T-shirt.

The tiebreaks took a while to get started as some players did not know that there would be one. So, for instance, Mons came 15 minutes late and completely unprepared to the playing hall and was surprised that he should play a tiebreak at all. GM Simen Adgestein arrived a third of a way through the three tiebreak, missing the first game entirely.

There was no need to check in at the start of the tournament, either. All players were simply paired for the first round ... basta. The unfortunate side effect was that there were over 30 forfeits — not so nice if you came to play ten rounds. This is probably normal procedure in Spain, as another player informed me [also commonplace in the USA -Ed.].

Other minor quibbles: The name badges had a very small font and unfortunate color selection; the name in a thin white font on a blue background was very hard to read. Interestingly, there is not only a Spanish rating, but also a Catalan rating. While the Spanish figure is only slightly higher than the FIDE Elo, the Catalan number was often 200-300 points higher. Again, normal for locals, confusing for foreigners.

To emphasize a positive point: Contrary to earlier rumors, the main tournament hall (and also the adjoining rooms for the lower boards) were all air-conditioned.

The tournament organizers were hard at work and had a strong program of side events: from a simultaneous exhibition, to a tandem chess event, to the indoor soccer, and a blitz tournament.

On the whole, it was very nice and to be recommended.

Outside the playing hall | Photo: Gerd Densing

The atmosphere was very friendly and pleasant. In addition, the tournament is in a "good" season in a tourist city, so I will certainly return to Barcelona to play the Sants Open!

For accommodation I highly recommend the Expo Hotel, which is located in the immediate vicinity of the train station Sants and only ten minutes walk from the tournament (Cotxeres-Casinet).


Gerd is an avid club player who enjoys competing in tournaments. He has recorded his impressions in many reports on the ChessBase news page.


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