Sunway Sitges: Esipenko escapes with a draw

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
12/14/2022 – No fewer than 54 players have won both their first encounters at the main event of the Sunway Festival in Sitges. However, round 2 saw five 2600+ rated players draw against much lower-rated opponents. Russian rising star Andrey Esipenko was held to a draw by French FM Mathieu Phileas, who in fact could have won the game had he made the most of his chances in a queen and rook endgame. | Pictured: The first blitz tournament of the festival took place on Tuesday night

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No longer perfect

Five players from the top-20 in Group A of the Sunway Chess Festival only scored half points in Tuesday’s second round. Andrey Esipenko, Vasyl Ivanchuk, Gawain Jones, Manuel Petrosyan and Eltaj Safarli all drew in round 2.

Out of the five, only Esipenko was in real trouble of actually losing his game, though, as French FM Phileas Mathieu had an advantageous position in a queen and rook endgame but could not find the killer blow on move 54.


In this position, the most critical continuation is also the strongest, as 54...h2+ wins for Black. Mathieu went for 54...Re8 instead, protecting his e-pawn at once. 

Giving the check from h2 first would be followed by 55.Kh1 and only then Black should go for 55...Re8, with the extra tempo gained the crucial factor in the ensuing lines — e.g. 56.Qxb7 e3 57.Qf3 (what else?) Qxf3 58.gxf3 e2 59.Re1 Kf5, and the black king joins the fun just in time.


Once the monarch gets to e3, it is game over. None of this appeared on the board, though, as Mathieu’s continuation led to a draw by perpetual check. It was a close shave for Esipenko, who will face Tukrish FM Umu Ata Akbas in round 3 — i.e. the player who held Gawain Jones to a draw, with the black pieces, on Tuesday.

Top pairings - Round 3

Name Pts. Result Pts. Name
Yu Yangyi 2   2 Fernandez Guillen Ernesto J.
Firat Burak 2   2 Niemann Hans Moke
Van Foreest Jorden 2   2 Sardana Rishi
Erdogmus Yagiz Kaan 2   2 Alekseenko Kirill
Demchenko Anton 2   2 Raja Rithvik R
Abdisalimov Abdimalik 2   2 Karthikeyan Murali
Grigoryan Karen H. 2   2 Goh Wei Ming Kevin
Nigmatov Ortik 2   2 Aryan Chopra
Bernadskiy Vitaliy 2   2 Garcia Ramos Daniel
Vitier Vazquez Cristian 2   2 Puranik Abhimanyu
Roberson Peter T 2   2 Durarbayli Vasif
Adhiban B. 2   2 Ajay Karthikeyan
Gholami Orimi Mahdi 2   2 Kollars Dmitrij
Aravindh Chithambaram Vr. 2   2 Fataliyeva Ulviyya
Bai Adelard 2   2 Dardha Daniel
Sanal Vahap 2   2 Krastev Alexander
Tahay Alexis 2   2 Cheng Bobby
Kraemer Martin 2   2 Bilych Olexiy
Bournel Antoine 2   2 Svane Frederik
Salimova Nurgyul 2   2 Alsina Leal Daniel

...161 boards

In one of the many side events put forth by the organizers in Sitges, Anton Korobov grabbed a gold medal in the first blitz tournament of the festival. Daniel Dardha and André Ventura completed the podium.

Standings after round 2

Rk. Name Pts.  TB1 
1 Yu Yangyi 2 1
  Van Foreest Jorden 2 1
  Alekseenko Kirill 2 1
  Demchenko Anton 2 1
  Grigoryan Karen H. 2 1
  Aryan Chopra 2 1
  Bernadskiy Vitaliy 2 1
  Puranik Abhimanyu 2 1
  Durarbayli Vasif 2 1
  Kollars Dmitrij 2 1
  Dardha Daniel 2 1
  Sanal Vahap 2 1
  Kraemer Martin 2 1
  Svane Frederik 2 1
  Alsina Leal Daniel 2 1
  Wadsworth Matthew J 2 1
  Ayats Llobera Gerard 2 1
  Fernandez Guillen Ernesto J. 2 1
  Erdogmus Yagiz Kaan 2 1
  Goh Wei Ming Kevin 2 1
  Abdisalimov Abdimalik 2 1
  Garcia Ramos Daniel 2 1
  Nigmatov Ortik 2 1
  Fataliyeva Ulviyya 2 1
  Vitier Vazquez Cristian 2 1
  Roberson Peter T 2 1
  Krastev Alexander 2 1

...326 players

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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.