Salamanca: Alekseenko and Iturrizaga share the lead

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
5/24/2024 – After four rounds of rapid games, Kirill Alekseenko and Eduardo Iturrizaga are tied for first place at the Salamanca Masters. The co-leaders have collected 3 points each and stand a half point ahead of Ruslan Ponomariov. Thursday’s rounds saw all eight games ending decisively, as tactical, hard-fought chess has been the rule at the age-old University of Salamanca. | Photos: Official website

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Decisive results

All but one of the sixteen games played so far in the seventh edition of the Salamanca Masters have ended decisively. As has been mentioned frequently, adding entertainment value to chess tournaments — especially in terms of getting double-edged encounters — has more to do with players’ selection than with most other factors.

In Salamanca, the 8-player field features players with ratings ranging from 2242 to 2677. Though the clear underdog, Mónica Calzetta, has been struggling in the first four rounds, we got to see upset victories by Elisabeth Paehtz (rated 2457) over Eduardo Iturrizaga (2590) and by Nurgyul Salimova (2436) over Michael Adams (2676).

After four rounds, Iturrizaga and defending champion Kirill Alekseenko are tied for first place with 3 points each. Ruslan Ponomariov stands a half point behind after having collected two consecutive wins on Thursday — over Alekseenko and Salimova respectively.

Only one round will be played on Friday, which will be followed by an open blitz tournament. Rounds 6 and 7 of the all-play-all Masters event will take place on Saturday.

Results - Round 3

Results - Round 4

One-move blunders and a trapped queen

After starting the event with back-to-back wins, Paehtz was paired up against Adams. Out of a Ruy Lopez, the German grandmaster failed to foresee a sneaky tactical shot on move 24.

24.Bd4 looks like a perfectly natural move, but it is a manoeuvre that surprisingly loses on the spot to 24...c5 25.Bxc5 Be4

The centralised bishop both attacks the rook on b7 (that is why ...c6-c5 was necessary) and threatens checkmate on g2. The other key factor behind the idea is the weakness of White’s back rank, since after 26.Qxe4 Qxe4 27.Rxe4 Black wins with 27...Rd1+.

A remarkable find by the 8-time British champion!

Elisabeth Paehtz, Michael Adams

Elisabeth Paehtz facing Michael Adams

Unfortunately for Adams, his round-3 victory was followed by a painful loss against Alekseenko. In a balanced endgame with a queen and a knight per side, Adams inexplicably blundered a mate-in-two.

Any natural move, like 42.Qf3 or 42.Qe2, keeps the balance, while 42.Qg4 allows 42...Qf2+, and Adams resigned due to 43.Kh1 Qh2#. Ouch.

Salamanca Chess Festival 2024

The playing hall

In round 3, Iturrizaga managed to trap Mariya Muzychuk’s queen early in the middlegame. The Ukrainian threw in the towel after 24...Ba3

White’s opening play has clearly backfired, and an early resignation was called for here, since the queen is dangerously running out of squares — moreover, after 25.Qc7, Black would not trap the queen with 25...Rb7, but would give mate with 25...Rb1+ 26.Kc2 Bf5+ 27.Rd3 Qd3#

Mariya Muzychuk, Eduardo Iturrizaga

Mariya Muzychuk playing white against Eduardo Iturrizaga

Standings after round 4

All games


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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