Sunway Sitges: Chess on the Catalonian Beach

by ChessBase
2/11/2017 – Imagine an Open tournament with beautiful surroundings around the venue, a beach nearby. Imagine going to the playing hall by pedaling a bicycle on the seashore. Atul Dahale found it so mesmerizing that he thought he was in a different world. Find beautiful pictures, annotations, GM masterclass by the winner, and more in his personal report!

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Sunway Sitges: Chess on the Catalonian Beach

By Atul Dahale

Sunway Sitges International Festival was held from 16th December to 23rd December 2016 at Sitges (Barcelona), which is a beautiful town of the Catalonia region. This was the third edition of the festival which attracted players from 30 different countries. The Spanish, Indians and Russians contributed the most number of players that included 27 grandmasters and 31 international masters.

This shows the tournament was very strong and of high quality. In the end, four players scored 7.0/9 points and Russian GM Evgeny Romanov (2622) won the tournament on better tiebreak.

Happiness in balmy Sitges

I arrived in Sitges after my tournament in Rome, so I was a bit tired but when I reached the tournament venue all my fatigue vanished! The beautiful surroundings around the venue, the beach, the bungalows on the streets and the calm environment was so mesmerizing that I felt I am in a different world.

Hotel Sunway Playa Golf Sitges was the official hotel of the Sunway Chess festival. It is situated in a scenic location on the beach. We were staying at the Sunway apartments and the organizers provided the visiting players bicycles for the entire duration of the tournament. Riding the bicycle on beach side every day was a refreshing experience before and after the games.

Look at this one minute video which will give you an idea of What was it like to ride the bicycle in Sitges and localities. Perfect place to play a tournament in the winter!

What happened in the tournament?

There was a four-way tie for the top place, all with 7.0/9. Top seed from the US, GM Gata Kamsky (2661), French GM Edouard Romain (2611), Spanish GM Martinez Lopez (2552) and GM Evgeny Romanov (2622) scored the same number of points and tied for the first place but Romanov won the tournament on better tiebreak with a 2723 rating performance.

For Romanov, it was second championship title in a row. Just a week before this event, he won the Rome Chess festival. In this tournament, he was leading from the beginning with 5.5/6 but in the seventh round, he lost against talented Italian GM Daniel Vocaturo (2601). His chances were looking bleak but a champion always rises to the occasion when it matters most. He won his last round game against another youngster, Dutch GM Jorden Van Foreest (2605) and finished on top!

First Place

GM Evgeny Romanov with winner’s Cheque of 2000 Euros along with the Mayor of Sitges and Organisers.

On special request, GM Romanov has analyzed his crucial game from this tournament against the legendary player from Peru, GM Julio Granda Zuniga (2646). There is a lot to learn from this masterclass game.

Evgeny Romanov - Julio Granda Zuniga (Notes by GM Evgeny Romanov)

[Event "III Sunway Sitges chess festival"] [Site "Sitges"] [Date "2016.12.20"] [Round "?"] [White "Romanov, Evgeny"] [Black "Granda Zuniga, Julio"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "E18"] [Annotator "Evgeny Romanov"] [PlyCount "69"] [EventDate "2015.08.17"] [EventCountry "ESP"] {I came to Catalonia some days after the tournament in Rome, which I successfully managed to win. Of course, it brought positive emotions, but energy level, whenever you're playing in several tournaments in a row, goes down. I had to keep this fact in mind before every game in Sitges, but unfortunately, some strange and ridiculous mistakes have been done during 4th hour of several games... Therefore I'd like to thank organizers for perfect conditions they provide us with! Not many strong open events held in beautiful resort hotels on the seaside with an opportunity to watch waves and sunset directly from playing venue!} 1. d4 Nf6 2. Nf3 e6 3. c4 b6 4. g3 Bb7 {The game vs legend Julio Granda was played in round 6. We shared 1st place with 4.5 points before this game. I can't say my mood and emotions were good enough. The reason of this is the previous game with GM Lopez Martinez Josep Manuel (who played decent chess in this tournament from my perspective), where I destroyed absolutely normal position with a couple of blunders and won the game only because of luck. So, the plan vs Julio was to play calm chess, not entering into huge complications and trying to get a little plus.} 5. Bg2 Be7 6. O-O O-O 7. Nc3 Ne4 8. Bd2 Bf6 9. Rc1 {This opening takes a leading position in the recent repertoire of my opponent. But before next move, he turned into deep thought. Definitely, he tried to avoid my preparation in his usual line with 9...d6. But maybe the choice of black is not the best.} c5 10. d5 exd5 11. cxd5 Bxc3 $6 ({11...Nd2 happened in some GMs games. But from my humble perspective after} 11... Nxd2 12. Nxd2 d6 13. Nde4 Be7 14. f4 $1 {white's play is easier, that was proved by Magnus on last Olympiad.} f5 15. Nf2 Ba6 16. a4 Bf6 17. Re1 Nd7 18. e3 Rb8 19. Qc2 g6 20. Nb5 Bxb5 21. axb5 Bg7 22. Bh3 Kh8 23. e4 g5 24. fxg5 f4 25. Bf5 fxg3 26. Nh3 gxh2+ 27. Kh1 Be5 28. Qe2 Rf7 29. Rc2 Rg7 30. Rf1 Qe8 31. Qd3 Nf8 32. Rg2 Ng6 33. Bxg6 Qxg6 34. Nf4 Bxf4 35. Rxf4 Qh5 36. Qc3 Kg8 37. Qf6 Rf7 38. Qe6 Rbf8 39. Rgf2 c4 40. g6 Qd1+ 41. Rf1 {1-0 (41) Carlsen,M (2857)-Cordova,E (2638) Baku AZE 2016}) 12. Bxc3 d6 {The black's plan is doubtful but understandable. He'd like to advance pawns on q-side controlling the centre at the same time. In case of success, the light-squared strategy of black might get very dangerous. However, I had a feeling, that exchange of Benoni bishop can't promise black equal chances.} 13. Be1 $1 {Beginning of the plan in memory of Mark Dvoretsky. Both black knights tend to control e4 square and attack d5 pawn. It reminded me the conception of the extra piece- even (White Bishop on dark squares has no opponent!). Also, 13. Nd2 would have given white easy play.} Re8 14. Nh4 $1 Ba6 $5 {Here black had realized my ambitions and try to make e4 difficult.} (14... Nd7 15. f3 Nef6 16. e4 Ba6 17. Rf2 Ne5 18. Rc3 {-leads to the same type of position, but B on c1 is arrested for some more moves} b5 19. Bf1 $1 Qb6 (19... b4 20. Bxa6 bxc3 21. Bxc3 $16) 20. b4 $1 { -and white is winning the fight for control over dark squares}) 15. f3 Nf6 16. Rf2 Nbd7 17. Bc3 {This will give tempo when the b pawn advances but bishop must take a diagonal!} b5 18. b3 b4 19. Ba1 {Bishop is better placed on a1 preventing extra forks in the future.} {Here on next move I seriously considered c4, as it is the only one active and fast plan for counterplay. But it seems it doesn't give black enough compensation.} Ne5 (19... c4 20. bxc4 Ne5 21. e4 Nxc4 (21... Rc8 22. Nf5 Bxc4 23. Rfc2 Ba6 24. f4 Rxc2 25. Rxc2 Nd3 26. Bf1 $18) 22. Bxf6 $1 Qxf6 23. Qa4 $18) 20. Qd2 Bc8 {Protecting f5.} (20... c4 21. Qxb4 Nxd5 (21... cxb3 22. Qxb3) 22. Qd2 Nf6 23. Nf5 d5 24. Qg5 Ng6 25. bxc4 dxc4 26. e4 $16 {With complete domination}) 21. e4 Qb6 $5 {The problem of black is f4 coming at once.} 22. h3 (22. f4 $6 Neg4 23. Re2 c4+ 24. Bd4 c3 $1 25. Qd1 Qd8 $13) 22... a5 23. f4 Ng6 {Easy to see without exact calculation, that black's play is too late.White gained maximum from their position, and it's time for crucial attack now.} (23... Ned7 24. Re1 a4 25. e5 $18) 24. e5 Nxh4 25. gxh4 Nh5 {To be honest my energy was very low at this moment already, and I missed a couple of my opponent's options, giving him practical chances..} 26. Bf3 $2 (26. Kh2 $2 Qd8 $1 {-first blunder}) (26. e6 {-was declined, because of following} fxe6 27. dxe6 Bxe6 28. f5 (28. Bf3 $1 Bf7 29. Bxh5 Bxh5 30. Qd5+ Bf7 31. Qg5 $18 {-was also missed}) 28... Bf7 29. Bxa8 Rxa8 30. Rg2 d5 {-with practical chances for black}) (26. Qd1 $3 {-the simplest} Ng3 (26... g6 27. e6 fxe6 (27... f5 28. Qd2 Ra7 29. Qb2 Ng7 30. h5 $18) 28. dxe6 Bxe6 29. f5 Bf7 30. fxg6 hxg6 31. Rxf7 $1 $18) 27. e6 Nf5 28. Qh5 g6 29. exf7+ $18) 26... Ng3 27. e6 fxe6 $4 {This is exactly what white was hoping for. Both bishops are in play now.} (27... Nf5 $1 {-second missed opportunity} 28. Re1 fxe6 29. dxe6 Bb7 30. Bg4 Qc6 31. Kh2 Nd4 32. f5 {must be also completely winning for white, however, it could be not easy over the board to allow the knight to jump on d4 :)}) 28. dxe6 Bb7 (28... Bxe6 29. f5 {I suppose in calculations black missed,that after} Nxf5 30. Bxa8 Rxa8 31. Rxf5 $1 {is coming} Bxf5 32. Qd5+ $18 ) 29. f5 Bxf3 30. Qg5 $1 {Intermediate move destroys all black's hopes!} Ra7 ( 30... Nxf5 31. Qxf5 Rf8 32. Qg5 Qb7 33. Rcf1 h6 34. Qg3 Rae8 (34... Bd5 35. Rf7 ) 35. Qxd6 a4 36. Qd7 $18 {Black is losing his bishop anyway}) 31. Qxg3 Be4 32. f6 Rxe6 33. fxg7 $1 Ra8 (33... c4 34. Kh2 Bf5 35. Rxc4 $18) 34. Rcf1 c4 35. Kh2 1-0

This is the breathtaking view from the tournament hall which Romanov was talking about in the annotated game above. Isn’t it beautiful? (Photo: Sharath Elumulai)

Second Place

GM Romain Edouard (right), 2611 FIDE, from France started slowly but picked up speed towards the end tying for the first place with a 2696 rating performance. He was second in the tiebreak and was richer by 1200 euros.

Here is his eighth round win against Daniel Vocaturo. It was a dominating performance! He built his position smoothly and then finished the game without giving any counter play.

[Event "Sunway Sitges Open 2016"] [Site "Sitges ESP"] [Date "2016.12.22"] [Round "8.1"] [White "Edouard, R."] [Black "Vocaturo, D."] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "D38"] [WhiteElo "2611"] [BlackElo "2606"] [Annotator "Atul"] [PlyCount "91"] [EventDate "2016.12.16"] 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. Nf3 d5 5. cxd5 exd5 6. Bg5 Nbd7 7. Qc2 h6 8. Bh4 g5 $5 {Interesting decision..} (8... c5 9. e3 O-O 10. Bd3 {would have been quite natural..}) 9. Bg3 Ne4 10. Nd2 Nxg3 11. hxg3 Nb6 12. e3 {White's pawn structure in center is solid although Black has two bishop it won't favour him much as the position is not that open yet.. ! White's rook is eyeing on h6! overall I will prefer playing with white here..} (12. a3 Bf8 13. e3 Bg7 14. Bd3 Qe7 15. Nb3 O-O 16. Bh7+ Kh8 17. Bf5 c6 18. O-O-O Nc4 19. Kb1 Bxf5 20. Qxf5 Rad8 21. Nc5 Kg8 22. Rhe1 b6 23. Nd3 Nd6 24. Qh3 Ne4 25. Nxe4 dxe4 26. Ne5 Rd6 27. Nc4 Rd5 28. Qg4 Rfd8 29. Qe2 Qe6 30. Rd2 c5 31. dxc5 Rxd2 32. Nxd2 Qd5 33. cxb6 axb6 34. Nc4 Qb5 35. Rc1 Rc8 36. Rc2 Rc6 37. Ka2 Qd5 38. a4 Rc5 39. b4 Rc8 40. b5 Ra8 41. Kb3 Bf8 42. Qd2 Qc5 43. Qc3 Rd8 44. Rd2 Rc8 45. g4 Ra8 46. Rd7 Rc8 47. g3 Be7 48. Rd2 Bf8 49. Rd1 Be7 50. Rd7 Bf8 51. Rd2 Be7 52. Rd1 Bf8 53. Rd4 Bg7 54. Qd2 Bxd4 55. Qxd4 Qxd4 56. exd4 f5 57. Nxb6 Re8 58. Nd5 Kf7 59. a5 Rd8 60. Kc4 Rc8+ 61. Kb4 Ke6 62. Nb6 Rc2 63. a6 Rb2+ 64. Ka5 {1-0 (64) Van Wely,L (2674)-Eljanov,P (2686) Foros 2007}) 12... c6 13. Bd3 Be6 14. Kf1 { white is not casteling .. he will keep his king in the center where it is actually quite safe!} Qf6 15. a3 Bd6 16. Ne2 O-O-O {Black has decided to castle long..he wants to bring his all pieces on Kingside and attack White's king... but this is not so easy as White is also ready to attack on queenside quite fast.. now it depends on who will be able to destroy opponent's shield first..} 17. b4 {starting the pawn storm..} Kb8 18. Rb1 h5 {black is also not going to sit idel..} 19. a4 {typical!} Rc8 20. a5 Nd7 {when you can't break through on the wing you need to break into the center and activate your pieces. .! white's pieces need some space to breath..!} 21. e4 $1 dxe4 22. Nxe4 Qe7 23. Qd2 f6 24. Nc5 Bg4 25. f3 Be6 26. Qe3 Bxc5 $2 {after this white will have clear target i.e. b7. White will pile up his Rooks on b-file and it will be difficult to defend the weaknesses around black's king.} (26... Rce8) 27. bxc5 Qf7 28. Rb4 Rhe8 29. Qd2 Ka8 30. Kf2 {slowly bringing the Rook in the game..} a6 {this move has created additional weakness.. now white has another target on a6.. And the bishop on d3 is idealy placed !} 31. Nc3 Bd5 32. Rhb1 {all white's pieces are playing !! Black couldn't creat any counter play ..} Rc7 33. Nxd5 cxd5 34. c6 $1 {typical destructive move... you need to break the base of pawnchain.. !} bxc6 35. Bxa6 Nb8 36. Rb6 Ka7 37. Rb7+ (37. Qb2 {would have been a quick finish..}) 37... Ka8 38. R7b6 Qh7 39. Bb7+ Ka7 40. Qc3 {complete dominance.} h4 {it's too late..} 41. g4 Rce7 42. Qc5 Re2+ 43. Kg1 Re1+ 44. Rxe1 Rxe1+ 45. Kf2 Nd7 46. Ra6+ {Dominating game by Edouard..!!} 1-0

Third place

Strong Catalonian GM Josep Manuel Martinez Lopez (2552) played well in this tournament. He was third after a crucial last round win against third seed GM Ivan Ivanisevic (2648). (Cartoon: Wada Lupe)

It was an innovative idea of organizers to make cartoons of players. The talented cartoonist Wada Lupe depicts Josep's final round win. Creative and humorous! In this picture, you can see the epic expressions of players while Josep does a Zorro!

We present you this game by GM Lopez Martinez with some training questions to solve! Learn how to take advantage of development and initiative in the opening! Enjoy!


[Event "Sunway Sitges Open 2016"] [Site "Sitges ESP"] [Date "2016.12.23"] [Round "9.3"] [White "Lopez Martinez, Josep"] [Black "Ivanisevic, I."] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "B48"] [WhiteElo "2552"] [BlackElo "2648"] [Annotator "Atul"] [PlyCount "83"] [EventDate "2016.12.16"] {This was the last round of the tournament. Whoever wins will finish in top rankings. Both players were in fighting mood.} 1. e4 c5 {Sicilian defense is considered one of the most aggressive openings suitable for the crucial last round!!} 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Qc7 5. Nc3 e6 6. Be3 a6 {This is starting well known position of Sicilian Tiamanov. Here white has several options to build up his position.. like Bd3 Qd2 f4 and Be2.. But Lopez played a Queen move which is a hot favourite nowadays. i.e Qf3!} 7. Qf3 $5 (7. Bd3 Nf6 8. O-O Ne5 (8... Nxd4)) (7. Qd2 Nf6 8. O-O-O Bb4 9. f3 Ne5 10. Nb3) (7. Be2 Nf6 8. O-O Bb4 9. Na4) 7... d6 (7... Bd6 8. O-O-O Be5 9. g3 Nge7 10. Qe2 O-O 11. f4 Bxd4 12. Bxd4 Nxd4 13. Rxd4 e5 14. Rd1 exf4 15. e5 f3 16. Qxf3 Qxe5 17. Bg2 d6 18. Rhe1 Qg5+ 19. Kb1 Be6 20. Qxb7 d5 21. Nxd5 Nxd5 22. Bxd5 Rab8 23. Qc6 Rfc8 24. Qd6 Bf5 25. Be4 Bxe4 26. Rxe4 Rd8 27. Rde1 Qb5 28. Qe5 Qc6 29. b3 h6 30. Kb2 Rb5 31. Qf4 Rc8 32. R1e2 Rc5 33. c4 a5 34. Qe3 Kh7 35. Re5 Qf6 36. Qf4 Qg6 37. Qe4 f5 38. Qd4 Qh5 39. Rf2 Rxe5 40. Qxe5 Rf8 41. Qxa5 Qd1 42. Qd2 Qg1 43. Qc2 Kh8 44. a4 g5 45. c5 f4 46. c6 f3 47. c7 Kg7 48. Rd2 f2 49. Rd7+ {1-0 (49) Caruana,F (2813)-Movsesian,S (2677) Douglas ENG 2016}) 8. O-O-O ({Anand's choice..} 8. Nxc6 bxc6 9. O-O-O Nf6 10. Qg3 Nh5 11. Qh4 Nf6 12. g4 Be7 13. g5 Nd7 14. f4 Rb8 15. Qg3 d5 16. f5 Bd6 17. Qh3 Ne5 18. f6 g6 19. Qg2 Qa5 20. Bd2 Qb4 21. b3 Qa3+ 22. Kb1 d4 23. h4 dxc3 24. Bxc3 O-O 25. Qg3 Nc4 26. e5 Bxe5 27. Bxe5 Nxe5 28. Qxe5 Bb7 29. h5 c5 30. hxg6 Bxh1 31. Qh2 fxg6 32. Rd7 h5 33. Rg7+ Kh8 34. Qxh1 Rbd8 35. Be2 Qa5 36. Bxh5 gxh5 37. Qxh5# {1-0 (37) Anand,V (2776) -Leenhouts,K (2499) Bastia FRA 2016}) 8... Bd7 9. Qg3 Nf6 10. f3 Rc8 11. Nxc6 Bxc6 12. Bd3 b5 13. Kb1 Nd7 14. Rhe1 Nc5 {As you can see white has completed his development, his all pieces are playing.. whereas Black's king is still in the center.. The bishop of f8 is stuck to protect the g7 pawn.. so basically white should react fast and take advantage of his development. How will you do it?} 15. Nd5 $1 {Typical move in this type of position.. when your both rooks are positioned in front of the opponent's king!} Qb7 ({Obviously black can not take the knight!} 15... exd5 $2 16. exd5 Bxd5 17. Bxc5+ Be6 18. Bd4 $18) 16. Bd4 Nxd3 17. Rxd3 e5 {Now again this is the critical position.. white can not allow black to complete his development.. if white moves his bishop back then black will get some time and moreover the center will be closed so there will be more chances for black to complete his development!} 18. Bxe5 $1 { Excellent!! white is not afraid to give up one piece.. he will get pawns and black position will collapse!} dxe5 19. Qxe5+ Be7 20. Qxg7 Rf8 21. Qxh7 { Now its just matter of time when black has to give up.. although he has two bishops but they are not of great use. Pawns will dominate the rest of the game plus the strong knight in the center! Rest is easy !} Bd8 22. Nf4 Bc7 23. e5 Ba5 24. Re2 Rd8 25. e6 Rxd3 26. cxd3 Bb4 27. exf7+ Kd7 28. Qf5+ Kc7 29. Ne6+ Kb6 30. Nxf8 Bxf8 31. Re8 Ka5 32. Rxf8 Qe7 33. Re8 Bxe8 34. fxe8=Q Qxe8 35. Qe4 Qh8 36. h4 Qh6 37. a3 Kb6 38. Qd4+ Ka5 39. Qd8+ Ka4 40. Qc7 b4 41. Qc4 a5 42. Ka2 1-0

Fourth place

Former World Championship challenger, GM Gata Kamsky (2661) from the USA was the top seed in the tournament. (Photo: Sharath Elumalai )

He had to concede two draws in first three games but then he found his rhythm and scored 7/9 to finish 4th on tiebreak.

An Indian Talent announces his arrival

Focused in everything he does — Nihal Sarin playing Fussball, that too with so much dedication!

Wonderboy Nihal Sarin, who is already a 2386 rated player, scored 5.5/9 points to achieve his second IM norm. This 12-year-old kid is really very talented!

Here is one of his games which he drew against the second runner-up GM Josep Martinez Lopez with a fine positional style. This boy knows his stuff!

[Event "Sunway Sitges Open 2016"] [Site "Sitges ESP"] [Date "2016.12.17"] [Round "2.12"] [White "Nihal, Sarin"] [Black "Lopez Martinez, Josep"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "D80"] [WhiteElo "2340"] [BlackElo "2552"] [Annotator "soham.datar"] [PlyCount "68"] [EventDate "2016.12.16"] 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 d5 4. Bg5 Ne4 5. Bh4 c5 6. cxd5 Nxc3 7. bxc3 Qxd5 8. e3 cxd4 9. Qxd4 Qxd4 10. cxd4 Bg7 (10... e6 {this is another plan to play with. Black tries to exchange white's better and active bishop with his slight passive bishop. for example} 11. Rb1 Be7 12. Bxe7 Kxe7 13. Nf3 Nc6 14. Bd3 { playing with a healthy pawn structure and a good bishop certainly favours White .}) 11. Nf3 Nc6 12. Rb1 b6 13. Bb5 $1 Bd7 14. Ke2 {when there is a possibility of maximum exchange of the pieces on the board , then the king should be kept in the centre from which he can immediately take part in the endgame for futher action.} Na5 15. Rhc1 $1 {Black hasnt castled yet and is busy solving his problems of light sqaured bishop. So white has time to develope his pieces and aim towards entering in Blacks territory.} Bxb5+ 16. Rxb5 e6 {We can see that Black's h8 rook is not participating in the battle . Also the knight on a5 is not impressive as it is awkwardly placed. knight on the rim is bad!} 17. Rc7 $1 {Rook on the 7th rank is always good. So whenever possible you should try to occupy 7th rank as it exerts pressure on base of pawn chain and limits oppoenent's activity.} O-O 18. Rb1 {Improving the Rook's position and getting ready to double the rooks on "c" file. Now white is much better here.} h6 {Trying to kick off the bishop from h4-d8 diagonal .} 19. Be7 $1 Rfc8 20. Rbc1 Rxc7 21. Rxc7 b5 22. Nd2 {improving the postion of knight and preparing to place it on outpost c5 from which he has a greater scope of action.} Bf8 23. Bxf8 Kxf8 {However black has been successful in minimizing the threats by white by exchanging of the maximum pieces . Still I think that white's position is much better due to active position of rook and knight is likely to occupy strong post on c5 ! .} 24. Kd3 {In endgame King is the Piece with which you can attack!} a6 25. Kc3 Rb8 26. Kb4 (26. Ne4 $1 {is the best way to play.} Nc4 (26... b4+ 27. Kb2 Rb6 28. Nc5 Ke8 29. Ra7 $18) 27. Ra7 a5 28. a4 $1) 26... Nc4 27. Ne4 a5+ 28. Kc5 {white has achieved great position..} Nb2 29. Ra7 (29. Kc6) 29... a4 30. Nf6 {this gives Black chance to escape with a draw.} (30. a3 {followed by Kb4-a5 was good to maintain the initiative} Nd3+ 31. Kc6 Rc8+ 32. Kxb5 Rc2 $16) 30... Nd3+ 31. Kc6 Kg7 32. Nd7 Nb4+ 33. Kc5 Nd3+ 34. Kc6 Nb4+ {Good game by Nihal Sarin.. It shows that he has good understanding of positional concepts unlikely for a Kid of his age. He is truly a Prodigy!} 1/2-1/2

And here is another game, annotated by the little boy himself (he can type quite fast for a 12-year-old):

[Event "Sunway Sitges Open 2016"] [Site "?"] [Date "2016.12.22"] [Round "8"] [White "Nihal Sarin"] [Black "Angelo Damia"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "A60"] [WhiteElo "2340"] [BlackElo "2233"] [Annotator "Sarin,Nihal"] [PlyCount "45"] [EventDate "2016.??.??"] [SourceDate "2003.06.08"] 1. d4 Nf6 {My opponent was much more experienced than me and he could play anything. Here he opted for 1...Nf6. He has played many other openings like Slav, Wade (d6 and Bg4) and many lines.} 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 $5 {This is a very very popular move, but it came as a surprise for him, as I used to play 3.Nf3 much more often.} (3. Nf3 {I have played it quite a lot of times.} a6 $5 { My opponent has played this move before. Black's idea is something like....} 4. Nc3 d5 {And this is an interesting QGD idea for black.}) 3... c5 {Played after a 12 minute thought.} (3... d5 4. cxd5 exd5 5. Bg5 {This is an interesting position with some attractive plans.}) 4. d5 Bd6 {He goes for the Snake Benoni, that is not very popular but interesting. Usually, the black players go first exd5 and then Bd6.} 5. g3 {This is an interesting setup.} exd5 6. cxd5 { After thinking for approximately 2 minutes, I decided to take back naturally with the pawn.} O-O 7. Bg2 Re8 8. Nf3 {So far, normal developing moves from both sides.} a6 $6 {I considered this move to be dubious as my feeling is that the inclusion of a6 and a4 favours white. I think that black should have used the a6 square for the bishop.} 9. a4 Bc7 10. d6 $1 {This is an important move. If black is allowed to play d6, he is very fine.} Ba5 {This is why the opening is called Snake Benoni. The bishop's path looks like the movement of a Snake. (Avrukh's comments in one of his famous opening books by Quality Chess.)} 11. Nd2 {Quite natural. Bringing the knight closer to the e4 square.} (11. O-O { is a very natural move, but...} Bxc3 12. bxc3 Ne4 {Seems to give black some counterplay. The point of 11.Nd2 is revealed.}) 11... Nc6 {Black's idea is understandable. He wants to play b5 in order to free his bishop on c8, which is doomed due to the pawn on d6.} 12. O-O {I thought for some time here, and played the most natural move here.} (12. Nc4 {This was the other move I was thinking of, but....} Ne4 13. Nxa5 Qxa5 {Seemed to give him some play, though white still is better.}) 12... Rb8 (12... b6 13. e4 {White is already much better.}) 13. e4 $1 {This natural move is very strong here. White wants to play f4 and e5.} b5 14. f4 {The natural follow-up.} Kh8 {Black has nothing better.} (14... b4 {is an interesting try, but after...} 15. Ncb1 $1 (15. Ne2 $6 c4 16. e5 Bb6+ 17. Kh1 Ng4 {Gives black some counterplay.}) 15... c4 16. e5 {White controls the g4 square.}) (14... h5 15. h3 {Just creates a weakness.}) 15. e5 Ng8 {The position is pathetic for black. White has a tremendous space advantage, and black has five pieces on the back rank!} 16. Nde4 f6 {Only attempt for some counterplay.} 17. Nd5 fxe5 {Here I sank into deep thought.} 18. f5 {This move looks interesting, with ideas of f6, Bg5.} Rf8 (18... Nf6 19. Ng5 Rf8 20. Nxf6 Qxf6 21. Nxh7 Kxh7 22. Qh5+ Kg8 23. Bd5+ Rf7 24. Bg5 {was the idea.}) 19. f6 gxf6 (19... Qe8 $5 20. fxg7+ Kxg7 21. Rxf8 Qxf8 22. Qg4+ Kh8 23. Qh5 Bd8 24. Bg5 {White is winning.}) 20. Nexf6 {A small tactic.} Rf7 21. Qh5 Rxf6 (21... Qf8 22. Nxh7 Rxh7 23. Qxh7+ Kxh7 24. Rxf8 $18) 22. Bg5 $1 Rh6 ( 22... Rxf1+ 23. Rxf1 {The queen is trapped.}) 23. Bxh6 {Black's queen, bishop, and knight are in their starting positions!} 1-0

He showed his true colours in the two blitz tournaments that were held alongside the main event where he cleaned up a field full of titled players!

In the first Sitges Blitz, he finished a respectable sixth after a loss to GM Ivan Ivanasevic.

Ranking after eight rounds:

Rk. SNo   Name Gr Rtg Pts.
1 6 GM VAN FOREEST Jorden A 2492 7,0
2 2 IM GOLUBOV Saveliy A 2526 6,5
3 3 GM LOPEZ MARTINEZ Josep Manuel A 2513 6,5
4 19 FM LOPEZ MULET Inigo A 2206 6,0
5 1 GM IVANISEVIC Ivan A 2549 6,0
6 33 FM NIHAL Sarin B 1965 6,0
7 9 GM CIFUENTES PARADA Roberto A 2470 5,5
8 4 GM SWAPNIL S. Dhopade A 2502 5,5
9 11 IM CRUZ Filemon A 2380 5,5
10 5 FM BEERDSEN Thomas A 2496 5,5

Nihal on his way to a crucial victory over Israeli GM Evgeny Postny (2604).

In the second blitz event, he was at a different level — beating opponents at will, except the top seed GM Miguel Munoz (2651), with whom he drew. He finished with two crushing wins over Postny and Saveliy Golubov (2526). Speaking to ChessBase India about his win against Postny, Nihal commented,"I wanted to win the tournament, but he is a good player. So, I decided to just play symmetrically, maintain the first move advantage, and press in the endgame — it worked." See the video in this article.

Ranking after Round eight:

Rk   Name Gr Rtg Pts
1 GM MUNOZ Miguel A 2651 7,5
2 FM NIHAL Sarin B 1965 7,0
3 IM PETROV Nikita A 2407 6,5
4 GM POSTNY Evgeny A 2604 6,0
5 IM HERNANDO RODRIGO Jose Maria A 2361 6,0
6 FM EXPOSITO AMARO Josue A 2301 6,0
7 FM GARRIGA CAZORLA Pere A 2476 6,0
8 IM GOLUBOV Saveliy A 2526 5,5
9 GM ALSINA LEAL Daniel A 2411 5,5
10 GM LEMOS Damian A 2476 5,5

Fun and Frolic

The organization of this tournament was top notch! The organizers made sure that players got all the facilities and enjoyed their stay at Sitges. They took care of each and every small detail. Right from providing free sports facilities in the hotel, bicycles for players to commute to the venue and elsewhere, feast and cocktails for the players! On few days, movies were shown on big screen.

A unique way to celebrate this festival with all the participants of the tournament!

One of the world's youngest international masters, Awonder Liang from the USA, was playing in this tournament. The organizers arranged one simultaneous display of this wonder kid! 

Sports facilities by the organizers to all Players was a treat! Every day, after the games, we used to go to playing arena and enjoy Table Tennis or Fussball! Sports of any kind is always a stress buster after a tough game.

Isn’t she adorable? (Photo: Sharath Elumulai)

Sasi's Opening Prep (in Table Tennis)

Everybody knows that Indian GM Krishnan Sasikiran is an expert when it comes to opening preparation but he is also a very good table tennis player! Enjoy how he serves like a Pro.

On a Personal Note

Selfie with the ever-smiling and efficient organizer of Sunway Sitges Chess Festival, Mr. Francesco Gonzales. Thank you for organizing such a wonderful event! Looking forward to playing the next edition!

During this tournament, me (with the selfie stick) was staying with my friends Aniruddha Deshpande (in the vanguard; better known to Indians as 'Sir' — the origins of this title remain unknown), Supriya Joshi, and GM Swapnil Dhopade (the other guy with specs)!

I am really impressed by the way this tournament was efficiently organized. We really had a great time together in Sitges! This tour wouldn’t have been so amazing and memorable without my friends and the organizer himself!

Atul Dahale (pictured above) is one of the first internationally FIDE rated players from Parbhani. He loves the game of chess and enjoys the fact that he can travel to different places, meet people and make new friends thanks to chess. He has a rating of 2076 and is a successful coach currently based in Pune, Maharashtra. You can contact him on

Special thanks to Sharath Elumulai for contributing with his pictures.

This report originally appeared in ChessBase India.


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