Vahap Sanal leads Turkish Championship after five rounds

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
11/17/2020 – The 2020 Turkish Championship is taking place in Kemer, a seaside resort and district of Antalya Province on the Mediterranean coast. The event is a 10-player single round-robin. Defending champion and rating favourite Vahap Sanal is leading the standings table on 4 out of 5. Kivanc Haznedaroglu is in sole second place after beating women’s national champion Ekaterina Atalik. | Pictured: Vahap Sanal facing Ataberk Eren in round 4 | Photo: Official site

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Defending champion in the lead

The number of Covid-19 cases continue to increase in Turkey,  but the national chess championship is nevertheless taking place in Kemer, a seaside resort and district of Antalya Province on the Mediterranean coast. As seen in the photographs published in the official website, plenty of social distancing, obligatory use of masks and Plexiglas walls are the measures taken by the organizers to deal with the invisible enemy.

The tournament is a 10-player single round-robin taking place on November 13-21. Defending champion Vahap Sanal (2557) and Burak Firat (2474) are the rating favourites, while current women’s national champion Ekaterina Atalik is also in the mix.

22-year-old Sanal, who earlier this year lost a hard-fought match against Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, is the only undefeated player after five rounds — he leads the standings table on 4/5. In round 3, Sanal defeated Kivanc Haznedaroglu, who currently stands in sole second place a half point behind. Cem Kaan Gokerkan, Melih Yurtseven and second seed Firat Burak are tied on 3/5, with Firat yet to draw a game in the competition.

Turkish Chess Championship 2020

A typical chess tournament during the Covid-19 pandemic | Photo: Official site

In what might turn out to be a crucial result for the final standings, Sanal beat Haznedaroglu from the black side of a King’s Indian Defence in round 3. Black’s passer on the b-file was stronger than White’s central duo in the end:


Here White’s most trying continuation was 30.d6 immediately, instead of 30.e5, as after 30...Ra3 31.Qd1 b3 32.d6 Qe6 he already needs to be very careful to avoid finding himself material down:


The cautious 33.Qc1 or the more active 33.Rc7 were necessary at this juncture, while Haznedaroglu’s 33.Re1 was a fatal mistake. There followed 33...b2 34.Nxb2 Rxb2 35.Qxd4 Rb5 and White was never capable of drumming up enough counterplay to compensate for the knight he had given up. Resignation came on move 45.

Kivanc Haznedaroglu, Vahap Sanal

Kivanc Haznedaroglu vs. Vahap Sanal | Photo: Official site

The most surprising result of round 5 was Emirlan Tarlabasi’s win over Firat. The latter decided to offer a bishop sacrifice in a complex middlegame:


With the structure closed and a strong pawn on e4, Firat went for an interesting attack with 22...Bxh3 — in case of 23.gxh3 Black has 23...Nf3+ 24.Nxf3 exf3 and White will need to be permanently cautious with the g-file opened up in front of his king and a very annoying black pawn on f3.

Although the engines give gxh3 as best, Tarlabasi pragmatically rejected the sacrifice and continued with 23.Ncxe4, freeing up his position. The game continued 23...f5 24.Ng3 Ng4 25.f3 Qh4 26.Nh1 Bh5 27.g3 Qe7 28.Kg2:


Here Firat had another chance to give up his bishop, with 28...Bxf3+ — which in this case was in fact a good alternative, as after 29.Nxf3 Nxc4 Black has plenty of activity against White’s weakened structure. This time around, however, Black went for the retreating 28...Nd7, giving White enough tempi to regroup and eventually prevail thanks to his space advantage.

Emirlan Tarlabasi, Ekaterina Atalik

Emirlan Tarlabasi playing black against Ekaterina Atalik in round 4 | Photo: Official site

Standings after Round 5


All games



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.


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