Midway though the Sunway Sitges Open 2019

by André Schulz
12/17/2019 – The Sunway Sitges Open started on the Catalonian coast south-west of Barcelona over the weekend. The starting list was led by Parham Maghsoodloo and there are also several other strong grandmasters in the field. After five rounds, Anton Korobov and Narayanan S.L share the lead. | Photos: @SunwayChessOpen on Twitter

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Two leaders after Round 5

Shortly before Christmas there is a new tradition brewing in Sitges, Spain; The "Sunway Sitges International is now in its 6th year is a 10-round Swiss open played from December 13th-22th 2019. Sitges is a popular seaside resort on the Spanish Mediterranean coast, south of Barcelona, ​​and enjoys an average annual temperature of 18 degrees over 300 days of sunshine a year. The tournament is hosted by the Hotel Sunway Playa Golf & Spa.

Narayanan S.L. won with Black over his countryman Sethuraman to move to 5 points after as many rounds, but he was joined late in the day by Anton Korobov who also won with the black pieces over Praggnanandhaa.


White's dark-squared bishop is menacing, but it is Black's that will win the day. How did Narayanan strike?

20...xe4! 21.xe4 xe4 22.xe4 c3 with a winning attack.

Young "Pragg" went astray at the end of the first time control, allowing Korobov to win a pawn in a rook and knight endgame.


Here Pragg can keep the position balanced with 39.♘d6 but his insertion of 39.d2 g5 40.g2 f6! left his e-pawn for dead. Korobov was forced to convert a long rook ending but did so without any problems to claim his share of the lead.

Vassily Ivanchuk gave up two draws in rounds 1 and 3 against much weaker opposition and is a full point behind the leaders. But his win over English IM David Eggleston was notable enough to feature in IM Lawrence Trent's The Weekly Show today.

Trent is also playing in Sitges himself!

The water's a bit cold, but no less than 17 sandy beaches invite you to swim anyway

Sitges sunset

Sitges was settled long before the Roman era and over the millennia the inhabitants and visitors of the place have left many traces and cultural monuments. One is Xato, a Catalan speciality that can of course be prepared in different variations. Typical ingredients are endive salad, cod, tuna, anchovy, eggplant and black olives. However, the soul of the dish is the sauce, for which there are of course various recipes, for example, this: 

Xato sauce

  • 50 g almonds, peeled and roasted
  • 25 g hazelnuts, roasted
  • 1 large clove of garlic
  • 2 Nora peppers, remove the core and soak in warm water
  • 1 large tomato, skinned
  • 1/2 tsp paprika powder hot (cockroach: allspice d'espelette)
  • 1 tsp paprika powder sweet
  • Salt
  • olive oil a
  • little sherry vinegar

Garlic and salt are ground and mixed in a mortar. Then the nuts are added. The whole thing is ground into a paste in a mortar. Add sherry vinegar and then top up with olive oil to taste until a kind of mayonnaise develops, only with a different nuttier taste.

Meanwhile, the chess in Sitges is also very good, and the field has grown stronger every year. This is ensured not only by the good weather and the Catalan Xato, but also by the prize fund, which is up to EUR €27,000 this year.

Around 450 players take part, including 290 in the A-Open. The top seeds are return-guest Vassily Ivanchuk, Parham Maghsoodloo and Anton Korobov. The host country Spain is represented by almost 50 players, but there's also a massive Indian contingent. In addition to "veterans" such as Sasikiran and Sethuruman, the young Indian elite is also widely represented, for example with Nihal Sarin, Praggnanandhaa and Gukesh.

Lawrence Trent and Parham Magsoodloo

A large field led to a number of perfect scores in the early going and indeed 17 players started with 3 out of 3, including Alexander Donchenko, who has been in excellent shape for some time and is already second in the German ranking behind Dieter Nisipeanu.

After four rounds that number shrank to 5 players and the Ukrainian Anton Korobov led the pack, however neither Ivanchuk nor Maghsoodloo was among them.

In round one, he showed what distinguishes a very strong grandmaster from an amateur.


18...f5 19.ed2 e5 20.h4? [Important was 20.♕d1 eyeing the pawn on a4.] 20...g5 21.hf3 e6 [The materialistic option was 21...♜d5] 22.cc1 Qf7 23.h4? [An invitation to attack. White is now overrun.] 23...g4 24.h2 h5 25.f3 g7 26.fxg4 hxg4 27.hf1 e4 28.dxe4 f4 29.gxf4 xf4 30.e5 d3 31.e4 d4 0-1

The attractive curved playing hall

Standings after Round 5 (top 20)


Games and commentary


Commentary by GM Daniel King and IM Anna Rudolf

Translation from German and additional reporting: Macauley Peterson


André Schulz started working for ChessBase in 1991 and is an editor of ChessBase News.


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