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Sunway Sitges: Aravindh Wins, Hambleton To Shave Beard
Aman Hambleton becomes Canada's latest GM. | Photo © Sunway Sitges Festival.

Sunway Sitges: Aravindh Wins, Hambleton To Shave Beard

Aravindh Chithambaram Vr. won the Sunway Sitges Festival's main tournament as the only player to score 7.5/9. It was also the tournament where IM Aman Hambleton scored his final GM norm, so that he can finally shave his beard.

The Sunway Sitges was held for the fourth time in Sitges, a beach town 35 km southeast of Barcelona. It was a nine-round Swiss than ran from 15 to 23 December in the Sunway Playa Golf & Spa hotel. 

Sunny Sitges

Sunny Sitges, living up to the tournament's name. | Photo: Arne Moll.

The main group had 182 participants from 43 federations, including 26 GMs and 35 IMs. The top seeds were GMs Alexander Motylev (Russia, 2675), Sam Shankland (USA, 2662), Salem Saleh (UAE, 2638), Hrant Melkumyan (Armenia, 2633), Alexander Zubov (Ukraine, 2626), Romain Edouard (France, 2621) and Victor Bologan (Moldova, 2607).

The tournament however was won by 14th seed Aravindh Chithambaram Vr. of India. The 18-year-old grandmaster, one of India's up and coming players, finished in clear first place with 7.5/9. 

Here's how he beat the top seed with the black pieces in round seven. At some point Motylev lost the thread in the complications.

On social media Arvindh didn't get as much attention as one other player: IM Aman Hambleton of Canada. Most fans know him as one of the "Chessbrahs," a group of strong chess playing friends who have been quite successful making fun video streams on Twitch and YouTube. Other "brahs" include GMs Eric Hansen and Robin van Kampen.

Hambleton, who is also a regular guest as commentator for Chess.com shows on Chess.com/TV, scored his first GM norm in 2012, when he was still an FM, at the UNAM Chess Festival in Mexico.

When playing in the Reykjavik Open in April of this year, he shared with everyone that he had decided not to shave until he would be a grandmaster. "I was having a bad event in Sweden in March earlier this year and decided to make this bet with myself," he told Chess.com. "A bit for fun, but also to motivate me."

Hambleton immediately scored his second norm in Reykjavik, but after that, things didn't work out in subsequent tournaments. His beard grew bigger and bigger.

In Sitges everything went well. He scored 6/9 and a 2649 performance rating, which included wins against GMs Victor Bologan and Alexandr Predke. Here's the Bologan game:

Hambleton, looking back on the beard story: "In the end it did its job, and it made a lot of people follow me on my journey to GM to it turned out to be great publicity."

The 25-year-old player will be Canada's 10th GM, alongside Evgeny Bareev, Mark Bluvshtein, Anton Kovalyov, Eric Hansen, Bator Sambuev, Kevin Spraggett, Alexandre Lesiege, Pascal Charbonneau, Razvan Preotu, Dimitri Tyomkin and Duncan Suttles. He plans to shave his beard during an online Chressbrah stream on New Year's Eve.

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