Sunway Sitges: Former winners held to draws

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
12/13/2022 – No major upsets were seen in round 1 of the Sunway Main Tournament, as 16 out of the top 20 seeds won their games in Sitges. Amin Tabatabaei, the tenth seed, lost by forfeit, while two former winners of the event (plus Jules Moussard) were held to draws by lower-rated opponents — i.e. Ivan Cheparinov and Anton Korobov. | Pictured: A beautiful sunset from the 2021 edition. | Photo: Lennart Ootes

ChessBase 17 - Mega package - Edition 2024 ChessBase 17 - Mega package - Edition 2024

It is the program of choice for anyone who loves the game and wants to know more about it. Start your personal success story with ChessBase and enjoy the game even more.


Most favourites prevail

The main tournament at the Sunway Chess Festival kicked off on Monday. A 10-round Swiss open, it saw four players tying for first place on 8 points last year. Thus, few mistakes can be made throughout — especially in the first round, when the top seeds are paired up against much lower-rated opposition.

This year, opening day saw 16 out of the top 20 seeds grabbing victories. The one player from the top 10 who lost a full point was Amin Tabatabaei, whose game against Netanel Levi finished after just one move — the most likely scenario is that the Iranian star could not make it in time to the event (*).

Other than that, three games finished drawn on the top 20 boards, as Ivan Cheparinov (2020 winner), Jules Moussard and Anton Korobov (2019 winner) only managed to get half points.

Big rating differences will also be seen in the second round, although it will be certainly more difficult for the top guys to score wins.

(*) It most likely had to do with the fact that Levi hails from Israel, unfortunately.

Name Pts. Result Pts. Name
Kanov Nikola 1   1 Yu Yangyi
Niemann Hans Moke 1   1 Wagh Suyog
Song Julien 1   1 Van Foreest Jorden
Esipenko Andrey 1   1 Mathieu Phileas
Injac Teodora 1   1 Ivanchuk Vasyl
Alekseenko Kirill 1   1 Valenzuela Gomez Fernando
Garcia Molina Jose 1   1 Demchenko Anton
Jones Gawain C B 1   1 Akbas Umut Ata
Fitzsimons David 1   1 Petrosyan Manuel
Karthikeyan Murali 1   1 Krasteva Beloslava

...158 boards

The second seed in sunny Sitges is none other than US rising star Hans Niemann. Playing black against Susanna Gaboyan, the 19-year-old had no trouble making the most of his opponent’s weakening pawn push early in the game.


9.h4 has only been tried by players rated below 2300 in the recent past, as it has the major drawback of leaving g4 open for a black piece to infiltrate, with the white king already castled on that side of the board.

The move did not grant Black a decisive advantage, but it did give Niemann a straightforward plan: to look for direct attacking chances right from the get go. Four moves later, he began to expand on the kingside.


Although Black has also pushed his h-pawn and castled on the kingside, his pieces are better placed to look for an attack. Niemann’s 13...f6 is not the strongest move in the position, but it does pose difficult questions to an opponent that already needs to face the difficult psychological task of having a much higher-rated player across the board.

Gaboyan’s 14.Bf4 was already not the most precise, as it just lost a tempo to 14...g5.

Soon after, the f-file was opened up, and Niemann found a couple of nice moves to further weaken his opponent’s king position.


After 19...Bh6, Black cannot go for 20.Bxf2 due to 20...Qxf2 21.Kh1 Qxg3, while 19...Nf4, as played in the game, can be replied by 20...Rxg2+, forcing matters.

There followed 21.Kxg2 e5 22.Nxh5 Nxe3+ 23.Rxe3 Bxe3 24.Qg4+


Black has a piece for a pawn but, more importantly, he has foreseen that his king can escape White’s short-lived attack (the a1-rook was transferred to h1 two moves later), and it is the opponent’s monarch the one which is, after all, in bigger trouble.

23...Kh7 24.Qd7+ Kh8 25.Rh1 Qf2+ 26.Kh3 Rg8


Resignation came after 27.Qxd6 Bf1+, as the light-squared bishop joined the attack with decisive effect. There is mate-in-six on the board.

Standings after round 1

k. SNo     Name sex FED Rtg Club/City Pts.  TB1   TB2   TB3 
1 1
GM Yu Yangyi   CHN 2728   1 0 0 0,00
GM Niemann Hans Moke   USA 2698   1 0 0 0,00
GM Van Foreest Jorden   NED 2690 Schaakclub J.S.V. Sissa 1 0 0 0,00
GM Esipenko Andrey   FID 2678   1 0 0 0,00
GM Ivanchuk Vasyl   UKR 2673   1 0 0 0,00
GM Alekseenko Kirill   FID 2672   1 0 0 0,00
GM Demchenko Anton   FID 2632   1 0 0 0,00
GM Jones Gawain C B   ENG 2630   1 0 0 0,00
GM Petrosyan Manuel   ARM 2621 Stepanakert 1 0 0 0,00
GM Karthikeyan Murali   IND 2620   1 0 0 0,00
GM Grigoryan Karen H.   ARM 2619 Benalmadena 1 0 0 0,00
GM Aryan Chopra   IND 2618   1 0 0 0,00
GM Bernadskiy Vitaliy   UKR 2617   1 0 0 0,00
GM Puranik Abhimanyu   IND 2616   1 0 0 0,00
GM Safarli Eltaj   AZE 2616   1 0 0 0,00
GM Durarbayli Vasif   AZE 2612   1 0 0 0,00
GM Adhiban B.   IND 2611   1 0 0 0,00
GM Kollars Dmitrij   GER 2610   1 0 0 0,00
GM Aravindh Chithambaram Vr.   IND 2607 Chess Gurukul 1 0 0 0,00
GM Dardha Daniel   BEL 2606 SK Moretus Hoboken 1 0 0 0,00
GM Sanal Vahap   TUR 2597   1 0 0 0,00
GM Cheng Bobby   AUS 2583   1 0 0 0,00
GM Kraemer Martin   GER 2583   1 0 0 0,00
GM Svane Frederik   GER 2568   1 0 0 0,00
GM Tin Jingyao   SGP 2562   1 0 0 0,00
GM Alsina Leal Daniel   ESP 2527 Barbera C.E. 1 0 0 0,00

...326 players

All available games


ChessBase 17 - Mega package

ChessBase is a personal, stand-alone chess database that has become the standard throughout the world. Everyone uses ChessBase, from the World Champion to the amateur next door. It is the program of choice for anyone who loves the game and wants to know more about it.


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.