Sunway Sitges: Alekseenko still perfect

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
12/20/2022 – A seventh win in a row left Kirill Alekseenko in the sole lead of the massive main tournament at the Sunway Chess Festival in Sitges. The Russian grandmaster defeated Karen Grigoryan with white to widen the gap atop the standings — the leader has a full point lead over Amin Tabatabaei, who got the better of Daniel Dardha with black on Monday. | Photo: Eteri Kublashvili

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Seven out of seven

Only by scoring seven wins in a row can one dream of getting a full point lead while playing an open tournament with no fewer than 326 participants. And that is precisely what Kirill Alekseenko did at the outset of the main event in Sitges. The Russian, who arrived in Catalonia as the eighth seed, has gained 13 rating points in the process, and is now 15 points away from returning to the “2700 club” — his peak rating was 2715, achieved in November 2019.

Curiously, another contender has also won all the games he has played so far in Sitges. However, he only sat on the board six times. Iranian GM Amin Tabatabaei is in shared second place on 6/7 points, after losing his game (against an Israeli player) by forfeit on opening day. Of course, he did not “throw” that game intending to pull off a “Swiss gambit” — the idea of losing an early game in a Swiss tournament to face lower-rated opposition later on — but nonetheless got easier pairings than his Russian colleague currently in the lead.

Tabatabaei has collected as many points as Aravindh Chithambaram, who entered the event as the 23rd seed and upset Andrey Esipenko with the black pieces in round 7.

Generally, the Schliemann/Jaenisch variation in the Ruy Lopez is not seen often in elite games. Aravindh had no trouble equalizing with the black pieces against Esipenko in this line.


The struggle between queen, rook and knight versus queen, rook and bishop lasted for 33 moves. It was relatively easier to play the endgame for Black as the position was open.

White’s queen venturing to f8 landed Esipenko in more trouble since 55.Qf8 Qc7 forced him to exchange queens in order to avoid the pinned f4-knight from being captured — 56.Kg1/h1 does not work either due to 56...Re8 57.Nd5 Qb7.

There followed 56.Rd1 Rxe3 57.Qd6 Qxd6 58.Rxd6 c4 and the passed c-pawn earned Aravindh the full point.


Standings after round 7

Rk. Name Pts.  TB1 
1 Alekseenko Kirill 7 30
2 Aravindh Chithambaram Vr. 6 28,5
3 Tabatabaei Mohammad Amin 6 26
4 Grigoryan Karen H. 5,5 32,5
5 Yu Yangyi 5,5 30,5
6 Niemann Hans Moke 5,5 30
7 Karthikeyan Murali 5,5 30
8 Puranik Abhimanyu 5,5 29,5
9 Petrosyan Manuel 5,5 29,5
10 Demchenko Anton 5,5 28,5
11 Adhiban B. 5,5 28
12 Durarbayli Vasif 5,5 27,5
13 Korobov Anton 5,5 27
14 Sumets Andrey 5,5 26,5
15 Gokerkan Cem Kaan 5,5 24
16 Moussard Jules 5,5 24
17 Safarli Eltaj 5 29,5
18 Samant Aditya S 5 29,5
19 Kollars Dmitrij 5 28,5
20 Esipenko Andrey 5 28,5
21 Aryan Chopra 5 28,5
22 Dardha Daniel 5 28
23 Svane Frederik 5 28
24 Tahay Alexis 5 28
25 Sidhant Mohapatra 5 28
26 Cheparinov Ivan 5 27,5
27 Kraemer Martin 5 27,5
28 Jones Gawain C B 5 27,5
  Sankalp Gupta 5 27,5
30 Bilych Olexiy 5 27

...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.