Aravindh takes Sitges Sunway 2017

by Klaus Besenthal
12/24/2017 – The "Sunway Chess Festival" ended today in the Catalan city of Sitges. In the last round, the game between the 18-year-old Indian Chithambaram VR Aravindh and Zdenko Kozul from Croatia was the top duel: Both players had previously led the field together with 6½ / 8 each. In a balanced, but extremely sharp position, Kozul finally went wrong, which left the Indian with 7½ / 9 and the sole tournament winner. "Chessbrah" Aman Hambleton earned his third and final GM norm. | Photo:

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Aravindh wins

Sam Shankland second after playoff with Salem Saleh, third

One day before Christmas, the normal (chess) life produced some good news from Catalonia (in contrast to the difficult political conditions on the ground, which we hear so much about). There was something to celebrate for the local Catalans, as their FC Barcelona football squad won the "El Clasico" at Real Madrid 3-0 shortly after the end of the chess tournament in Sitges, a coastal town of about 30,000 located some 35 km to the southwest of the Catalonian capital.

Of course you could follow the game on the pitch...if your game was over in time | Photo:

The game between Chithambaram VR Aravindh and Zdenko Kozul was at least as exciting. In a Sicilian, both players had uncompromisingly attacked the opposing king: the Indian (white) on the kingside, the Croatian with black on the queenside. In an extremely difficult tactical situation, youth finally triumphed over age. Kozul had probably seen some tactical motif when he played his 36th move, but it did not pan out for him. The young Indian pounced on his opponent's mistake and assuredly took home the full point:


The Scheveningen Sicilian by Lubomir Ftacnik

The name Sicilian Defence (1.e4 c5) describes a number of systems, each of which could easily be considered as an independent opening. The problems in the Paulsen, Richter Rauzer or Sveshnikov are complex, but the Sicilian pawn structures tie them all together. The Scheveningen Sicilian is central to an understanding of them.

American GM Sam Shankland and GM Salem Saleh from the UAE, finished exactly at their starting rank, in second and third, each with 7 / 9, tied with German IM Matthias Dann. But to get there they had to contest a three-way playoff. Saleh had to first beat Dann to face Shankland in the final two game blitz match.

The first game was drawn, and the second looked to be ending peacefully as well until Saleh overlooked a remarkable geometric nuance at the last moment.


Saleh played 57.Kf5? immediately, only to discover it was practically the only losing move! It's remarkable because it looks so natural —attack both of black's undefended passed pawns. And yet, Ke5 or Kg5 or Bd4 all maintain a draw. The reason is that after Shankland's 57...Kf3! both pawns are running and Saleh's king is no longer in time to help. He needed to pick a side to run around — either e5-d4 or g5-h4 would do, but suddenly he was unable to stop Shankland from queening one of his pawns.

You can replay the complete playoff which was streamed live on Facebook. The action starts at about 15 minutes:

Pity they forgot to switch off the camera which continued streaming for over 2½ hours! | Source:

It was very strong tournament for Matthias Dann, who finished with a win over Victor Bologan:


The Sicilian Rossolimo for White

The Rossolimo Variation 3.Bb5 is considered to be one of the strongest replies to 2…Nc6 in the Sicilian Defence. The fact that the move has been played by practically all the top players proves its popularity and strength. But the most interesting aspect of playing 3.Bb5 is that we force sharp, attacking players who love to have the initiative to forget about the Open Sicilian and to adjust themselves to a new world, one full of positional ideas, manoeuvres and nuances.

GM Alexander Motylev was the Elo favourite but finished in eigth place, after being knocked out of contention by a loss to Aravindh in the seventh round.

Alexander Motylev

Alexander Motylev (left) from Russia | Photo:

The other "big news" was Canadian IM Aman Hambleton achieving his goal of qualifying for the GM title. He swore off shaving until he would score his third GM norm, and had long since entered Castaway territory, but it finally happened for him!

Fans of the "Chessbrah" team can now look forward to a live streamed shaving ritual on December 31st!

Update: December 30th — The 2018 festival dates have been accounced:

Final standings

Rk. Snr Title Name FED EloI Pts.
1 14 GM Aravindh Chithambaram Vr. IND 2586 7,5
2 2 GM Shankland Samuel USA 2662 7,0
3 21 IM Dann Matthias GER 2517 7,0
4 3 GM Salem A.R. Saleh UAE 2638 7,0
5 27 IM Gascon Del Nogal Jose Rafael VEN 2479 7,0
6 4 GM Melkumyan Hrant ARM 2633 6,5
7 8 GM Kozul Zdenko CRO 2607 6,5
8 1 GM Motylev Alexander RUS 2675 6,5
9 19 IM Santos Latasa Jaime ESP 2536 6,5
10 13 GM Sokolov Ivan NED 2589 6,5
11 5 GM Zubov Alexander UKR 2626 6,5
12 36 IM Cernousek Lukas CZE 2456 6,5
13 11 GM Predke Alexandr RUS 2599 6,0
14 29 IM Hambleton Aman CAN 2474 6,0
15 33 IM Bilguun Sumiya MGL 2459 6,0
16 15 IM Petrov Nikita RUS 2574 6,0
17 6 GM Edouard Romain FRA 2621 6,0
18 39 IM Yankelevich Lev GER 2435 6,0
19 17 GM Peralta Fernando ARG 2556 6,0
20 7 GM Bologan Victor MDA 2607 6,0
21 18 GM Vasquez Schroeder Rodrigo CHI 2547 6,0
22 16 GM Liang Awonder USA 2573 6,0
23 20 IM Asis Gargatagli Hipolito ESP 2531 6,0
24 42 IM Krishna C R G IND 2421 6,0
25 49 IM Munguntuul Batkhuyag MGL 2397 6,0
26 23 IM Santos Ruiz Miguel ESP 2509 6,0
27 43 IM Raja Harshit IND 2420 6,0
28 12 GM Lopez Martinez Josep Manuel ESP 2598 6,0
29 10 GM Agrest Evgenij SWE 2600 6,0
30 66 GM Pogorelov Ruslan UKR 2344 6,0
31 79 FM Lopez Mulet Inigo ESP 2304 6,0
32 70 FM Arman Deniz SWE 2324 6,0

... total of 183 Spieler in the A Tournament

All games



Translation from German and additional reporting: Macauley Peterson

Klaus Besenthal is computer scientist, has followed and still follows the chess scene avidly since 1972 and since then has also regularly played in tournaments.


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