Four co-leaders in Sitges, Faustino Oro makes stellar appearance

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
12/19/2023 – Four players are sharing the lead with 5½ points each after six rounds of play at the Chessable Sunway main tournament in Sitges. Sethuraman S.P. (India), Dominik Horvath (Austria), Brandon Jacobson (United States) and Iniyan Pa (India) are the current co-leaders in the 10-round open event. Two side stories from Sitges dominated the news cycle these days, though: Leinier Dominguez’s withdrawal and Faustino Oro’s participation in Sunday’s blitz tournament. | Photo: David Llada

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Ambitious, fearless competitors

FIDE’s decision to change the requirements to get the rating spot in the 2024 Candidates Tournament has created a bit of a mess in the last month of the year. While previously an average of the players’ ratings in a longer period of time was used to decide the spot, now it is all about who has the highest rating on January 1.

This modification gave Leinier Dominguez and Parham Maghsoodloo an unexpected, outside chance to get the spot after Alireza Firouzja dropped a significant number of points in his latest appearances. But to actually gain the spot, Dominguez or Maghsoodloo also needed to surpass Wesley So — a player who, like Firouzja, has remained near the top of the rankings for a number of years now.

Given how big of a professional achievement it is to reach the Candidates, Dominguez registered to participate in the Sunway Sitges open a few days before the start of the festival and a grandmaster event was quickly organized in Chennai (also giving local heroes Gukesh and Arjun a last-minute chance to reach the Candidates via the FIDE Circuit). In line with these developments, a 4-player double round-robin was organized in France, giving Firouzja a last chance to retake the lead in the rating race.

As of today, Dominguez and Maghsoodloo (who is playing in Chennai) are out of the rating race, with Dominguez withdrawing from the event in Sitges. Meanwhile, FIDE announced that they will “carefully follow and investigate all aspects of the organization of the [Chartres] tournament”, as it might have been organized with the sole purpose of helping Firouzja reach the Candidates.

Simultaneously, a bigger issue has been raised on social media — that of elite players avoiding open tournaments altogether, as risking their high ratings might reduce their chances to get invitations to closed events with big prize funds. Jacob Aagaard wrote:

This is why the rating spot is nonsense. The number 7 player in the world cannot win rating in an open tournament (no surprise). Try to think that there are usually 10 rating spots in top tournaments and no way to qualify. It takes superhuman results to break into the elite. But maintaining a spot there is easier. It is by no means obvious [that] our elite is the real elite, as we see in Grand Swiss, Olympiad, Qatar and other events, where they play the players who make a living playing open tournaments.

This is not said out of disrespect or dislike of anyone. I don’t care about the names of the elite players. I want the elite players to be players who win games and events and who qualify for top tournaments. Not by making draws with each other, but by winning games and events. It will make chess far more entertaining.

The fact that many grandmasters around the 2500-2650 rating band are underrated was shown in the Qatar Masters — where Magnus Carlsen twice lost to much lower-rated opponents — and has also become apparent in Sitges. After six rounds, none of the top-10 seeds are among the co-leaders, as Sethuraman S.P. (India, 11th seed), Dominik Horvath (Austria, 15th), Brandon Jacobson (United States, 17th) and Iniyan Pa (India, 30th) are sharing first place with 5½/6 points each.

In contrast, the likes of defending champion Kirill Alekseenko (Austria, 2670 Elo), Leon Luke Mendonca (India, 2611) and Cristóbal Henríquez (Chile, 2607) have ‘only’ collected 4 points in 6 games at the strong open in Catalonia. Facing ambitious FMs and IMs is no easy task!

Faustino Oro moves to Spain, shines in blitz

Argentina’s “golden boy” Faustino Oro — a.k.a. the Messi of chess — has decided to pursue what is likely to be a record-breaking chess career. His parents, Romina and Alejandro, left stable jobs in Buenos Aires to move to Barcelona, where their 10-year-old son will get more chances to face strong opponents and work with more experienced coaches (you can give them a hand on their recently created GoFundMe campaign!).

A visibly enthusiastic Oro made a stellar appearance at the blitz tournament organized on Sunday in Sitges.

The prodigious kid entered the event as the 52nd seed, and scored 6/9 points to finish in 20th place. Oro defeated two 2300+ rated players and drew 2417-rated GM Abdimalik Abdisalimov.

Leinier Dominguez was among the spectators following what appears to be a tense endgame featuring the Argentinian youngster!

Standings after round 6 - Open A

Rk. SNo Name sex Rtg Pts.  TB1   TB2   TB3 
1 Sethuraman, S.P. 5,5 21,5
2 Horvath, Dominik 5,5 21,5
3 Iniyan, Pa 5,5 20,5
4 Jacobson, Brandon 5,5 20
5 Aravindh, Chithambaram Vr. 5 21,5
6 Tiglon, Bryce 5 20,5
7 Tarhan, Adar 5 20
8 Murzin, Volodar 5 19,5
9 Erdogmus, Yagiz Kaan 5 18
Bazakutsa, Svyatoslav 5 18
11 Bharath, Subramaniyam H 5 17,5
12 Vetoshko, Volodymyr 5 16,5
13 Puranik, Abhimanyu 4,5 22
14 Gorshtein, Ido 4,5 22
15 Raja, Rithvik R 4,5 21
16 Petkov, Momchil 4,5 20,5
17 Gholami Orimi, Mahdi 4,5 20,5
18 Pourkashiyan, Atousa 4,5 20
19 Girel, Joseph 4,5 20
20 Moussard, Jules 4,5 19,5
21 Peralta, Fernando 4,5 19,5
22 Kelires, Andreas 4,5 19,5
Krishna, C R G 4,5 19,5
24 Vignesh, N R 4,5 19,5
25 Jacobson, Aaron 4,5 19,5

...329 players

All available games - Open A


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.