Ponomariov leapfrogs Alekseenko, wins Salamanca Masters

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
5/26/2024 – Ruslan Ponomariov scored back-to-back wins on Saturday to leapfrog former sole leader Kirill Alekseenko in the standings and win the Salamanca Masters. Alekseenko would have at least tied for first had he not lost his final-round game against Michael Adams. The Austrian representative finished in sole second place, while Eduardo Iturrizaga grabbed clear third place. | Photos: Official website

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Five wins in a row

Ruslan Ponomariov started the single round-robin in Salamanca with a loss against Eduardo Iturrizaga. He then drew Michael Adams to end the first day of action tied for sixth place. Three days later, the Ukrainian GM obtained outright victory after collecting five wins in a row in rounds 3-7.

Going into the final two rounds of the event, Ponomariov stood a half point behind sole leader Kirill Alekseenko. Round 6 saw the fight for first place becoming a two-horse race, since Alekseenko defeated direct contender Iturrizaga with the white pieces, while Ponomariov got the better of Elisabeth Paehtz. Alekseenko had 5 points to Ponomariov’s 4½.

In the deciding round, Alekseenko had black against Adams, while Ponomariov had white against Mariya Muzychuk. Adams made the most of a powerful passed pawn to beat Alekseenko, while Ponomariov outplayed Muzychuk in a double-edged encounter — thus allowing Ponomariov to leapfrog the former sole leader at the last hurdle.

Alekseenko and Iturrizaga finished in second and third place, respectively. Adams and Paehtz tied for fourth place with 3½ points each.

Michael Adams, Kirill Alekseenko

Michael Adams defeated Kirill Alekseenko in the final round

Salamanca Chess Masters 2024

The playing hall during round 6

In a position with kings castled on opposite sides, Ponomariov found an effective exchange sacrifice to activate his strong dark-squared bishop on the long diagonal.

30.Rxg7 Qxg7 31.d5 not only threatens the queen on g7 and the knight on c6, but also allows White to bring the other rook to the attack via 31...Qg4 32.Rg1

In this agonising position for Black, Paehtz found nothing better than 32...Qxg1+, as she went on to resign the game three moves later.

Ruslan Ponomariov, Elisabeth Paehtz

Ruslan Ponomariov and Elisabeth Paehtz

Final standings

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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