Salamanca: Alekseenko sole leader

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
5/25/2024 – Kirill Alekseenko defeated Mariya Muzychuk on Friday to become the sole leader at the Salamanca Masters. With two rounds to go, Alekseenko, the defending champion, has a half-point lead over Eduardo Iturrizaga and Ruslan Ponomariov. In Saturday’s final rounds, Alekseenko will face Iturrizaga with the white pieces and will play black against Michael Adams. | Photos: Official website

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The first repeat champion?

In the 2023 edition of the Salamanca Masters, Kirill Aleseenko and Jaime Santos finished the single round-robin at the top of the standings with 5½ points each. Alekseenko, who still represented Russia (he transferred to Austria in July 2023), was declared champion on tiebreak criteria — specifically thanks to his larger number of wins.

Now, in the seventh edition of the Festival, Alekseenko might become the first repeat champion of the event, as he goes into the final two rounds with a half-point lead over Eduardo Iturrizaga and Ruslan Ponomariov. Alekseenko grabbed the sole lead on Friday thanks to a victory with black over Mariya Muzychuk.

The final two rounds of the tournament will take place on Saturday. The all-important clash between Alekseenko (with white) and Iturrizaga will be the marquee matchup of round 6, while the current sole leader will end the event playing black against Michael Adams.

Adams stands in shared sixth place with 2/5 points after suffering upset defeats against Muzychuk and Nurgyul Salimova.

Results - Round 5

Alekseenko already had a positional advantage when Muzychuk faltered with 28.Nh2. Figuring out all the tactical ramifications of this move is no easy task.

Black gets a clearly superior position after 28...Bxh2 29.Kxh2 Qd6+. The problem for White is related to a potential back rank mate — e.g. 30.Kg1 Rxc2 31.Qxc2 Nxd4 (diagram), and White cannot play 32.Nxd4 due to 32...Re1#

White will either be checkmated (as in the line mentioned above) or lose the knight on e2.

After seeing this line, Muzychuk, who was way down on the clock, entered the best possible line for White — 30.f4 Nexf4 31.Bxf4 Nxf4 32.Nxf4 Qxf4+ 33.Kh1

Alekseenko now easily gained a second extra pawn via 33...Rxc2 34.Qxc2 Qxd4, and went on to convert his material advantage into his fourth win of the event.

Mariya Muzychuk, Kirill Alekseenko

Mariya Muzychuk facing Kirill Alekseenko

Standings after round 5

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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