Sunway Sitges: Tabatabaei holds Alekseenko to a draw

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
12/21/2022 – Kirill Alekseenko’s winning streak in Sitges came to an end in round 8, as Amin Tabatabaei held the Russian to a draw on Tuesday. Nonetheless, Alekseenko still has a full-point lead over a five-player chasing pack. Top seeds Yu Yangyi and Hans Niemann are among the chasers, after both winning their round-8 encounters. | Photo: Amruta Mokal

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Five players a full point back

With only two rounds to go, Kirill Alekseenko continues to lead the standings at the main event of the Sunway Chess Festival. The 25-year-old from Vyborg won his first seven games before being held to a draw by Amin Tabatabaei on Tuesday. Alekseenko still has a full-point lead, though, except that now there are five players looking for him to slip up in the last hurdle.

Among the five players chasing the leader are Yu Yangyi and Hans Niemann, the tournament’s top two seeds. Both Yu and Niemann won their round-8 games, much like Cem Kaam Gokerkan, the lowest-rated in the chasing pack, who stunned Karthikeyan Murali with the black pieces.

Round 9 will see Yu facing Alekseenko on top board, while Niemann will be the clear favourite in his game with black against Gokerkan. Manuel Petrosyan is the remaining player currently on 6½ points, and will face Tabatabaei with black on Wednesday.

To win his round-7 game, Niemann needed to deal with Aravindh’s bold attempt to create an attack in the early middlegame. The Indian gave up his knight to weaken his opponent’s king.


15...N7b6 16.Qc2 f5 would have been a more pragmatic approach than 15...e5 16.Nxd5 Bxd2+ 17.Kxd2 exd4 18.Ke2 d3+ 19.Kd2, as played by Aravindh.


Black never got enough compensation for the sacrificed knight, and ended up resigning before playing his 40th move.

Andrey Esipenko

Andrey Esipenko faced two Indian youngsters in a row | Photo: Isabel García / Chessable

After being upset by Aravindh, Andrey Esipenko, the sixth seed in Sitges, managed to bounce back by taking down another strong Indian youngster, Aditya Samant. It was not an easy win, though, as Esipenko only had a (doubled) extra pawn in a knight endgame that seemed to be headed to a draw.


The only break available for Black is ...e5-e4, and White just needs to ensure that Black does not get to do that easily. From this position, Black needed 27 more moves until getting to push his e-pawn — and the position after 94...e4, shown below, is not a trivial win either.


Fatigue eventually caught up to Aditya, as his knight was trapped by Esipenko, leading to a resignation on move 113.

Standings after round 8

Rk. Name Pts.  TB1 
1 Alekseenko Kirill 7,5 39,5
2 Yu Yangyi 6,5 38
  Niemann Hans Moke 6,5 38
4 Petrosyan Manuel 6,5 37,5
5 Tabatabaei Mohammad Amin 6,5 36,5
6 Gokerkan Cem Kaan 6,5 33
7 Puranik Abhimanyu 6 40,5
8 Aravindh Chithambaram Vr. 6 38,5
9 Dardha Daniel 6 37,5
10 Demchenko Anton 6 37,5
11 Durarbayli Vasif 6 37
12 Esipenko Andrey 6 37
13 Cheparinov Ivan 6 36,5
14 Korobov Anton 6 36,5
15 Adhiban B. 6 36
16 Sankalp Gupta 6 36
17 Jones Gawain C B 6 36
18 Arjun Kalyan 6 35,5
19 Tin Jingyao 6 35
20 Jubin Jimmy 6 35
21 Willow Jonah B 6 35
22 Bernadskiy Vitaliy 6 34,5
23 Alsina Leal Daniel 6 34,5
24 Woodward Andy 6 34,5
25 Aditya Mittal 6 34,5

...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.