Sunway Sitges Chess Festival: Alonso Surprise Winner Ahead Of Inarkiev, Sasikiran
Inarkiev and Sasikiran playing the tiebreak for second place. | Photo: Peter Doggers/

Sunway Sitges Chess Festival: Alonso Surprise Winner Ahead Of Inarkiev, Sasikiran

| 18 | Chess Event Coverage

The surprise winner of the fifth Sunway Sitges Chess Festival was GM Alvar Alonso of Girona, Spain as the only player to reach a score of 8/10. Ernesto Inarkiev defeated Krishnan Sasikiran in the tiebreak for second place.

The participants list of the tournament included more big names, such as Dmitry Andreikin and Vassily (or Vasil, as he prefers himself) Ivanchuk, but none of these favorites managed to win the 5,000 euro first prize. Instead, a local hero gave himself a rather merry Christmas.

Alvar Alonso Rosell is from the Catalonian city of Girona, located about 100km northeast of Barcelona. The 26-year-old grandmaster had won the 2011 Spanish championship after winning a few national youth titles, but his first place in Sitges is by far his biggest victory thus far.

Alvar Alonso Sunway Sitges 2018Alvar Alonso wins Sunway Sitges 2018. | Photo: Peter Doggers/

Going into the final round with 7/9, just like Andreikin, Ivanchuk and his opponent Romain Edouard, Alonso was looking at an equal position until around the time control. By then, Andreikin and Ivanchuk had already drawn their game, but not bothered by that, Alonso took the upper hand, won a pawn and eventually the game.

While few were paying attention to this game on board two (with all the adjacent boards already empty), and hotel crew already started removing sponsor logos and chairs, Alonso's hand was steady enough to convert a five thousand euro endgame:

Here's's interview with Alvar Alonso.

It was not difficult for Alonso to choose his best game of the tournament: his win over Inarkiev. "It was everything you can ask for a game: very good preparation against a 2700, and then the middlegame I played really well, fast, and then a very nice idea in the endgame to sacrifice three pawns for really good compensation and go for a win pretty smoothly."

Fan-favorite Ivanchuk had spoilt some of his chances in the penultimate round as he outplayed Inarkiev in a Petroff as Black, but again reached terrible time trouble and at some point, with just five seconds on the clock, he offered a draw in a winning position:

Vassily Ivanchuk Sunway Sitges 2018After a great run in rounds 2-8, Ivanchuk finished with two draws. | Photo: Peter Doggers/

Seven players tied for second place with 7.5/10, with Ivanchuk on eighth place as his tiebreak wasn't great.

Interestingly, the organisers had chosen to hold a playoff among the top three players on 7.5 points, for second place and for the money involved—it wasn't just for the show. However, the "show" aspect, or rather, an excellent feel for PR, was definitely there. The organisers decided to hold the playoff outside on the terrace, with the sea and the sunset as a beautiful backdrop.

Andreikin Sasikiran tiebreak Sunway Sitges 2018In the "semifinal" of the tiebreak, Sasikiran defeated Andreikin. | Photo: Peter Doggers/

And for every little issue with that, quickly a solution was found: since it was getting darker, a spotlight was set up to lighten up the board, and because it got a bit chilly, a heating machine was placed next to the players.

Inarkiev Sasikiran tiebreak Sunway Sitges 2018Inarkiev lost the first game, but then won the second and also the Armageddon vs Sasikiran to win the tiebreak and the €3,000 second prize. | Photo: Peter Doggers/

Eventually, the spectators got a worthy show as both the semifinal and the final for second place were decided in Armageddon games. Sasikiran was doing well as Black where he only needed a draw, but suddenly he forgot about the clock, played a few very quick moves but then was flagged anyway in a completely winning position:

One remarkable moment in the tournament should be mentioned here. In the following game, played in round five, IM N. Krishna Teja of India, who ended up scoring a grandmaster norm, might have executed the best claim ever made in chess. He wrote down 121...Rd8, went to the arbiter and said that after this move, the 50-move rule should end the game (the last capture was 71.Rxa2) and set the result as a draw.

The claim was correct and just perfect: one move before checkmate the half point was saved! (Unlike Zhansaya Abdumalik, who could have done the same against Mariya Muzychuk at the 2018 Women's World Championship but instead resigned...)

Krishna Teja GM norm Sunway Sitges 2018An important half point for N. Krishna Teja of India who went home with a GM norm. | Photo: Peter Doggers/

And what about the many prodigies playing in Sitges? Well, this time none of them had a spectacular performance but OK, it cannot be Christmas every day.

For starters, D. Gukesh of India failed to break Sergey Karjakin's record of becoming the youngest GM ever. He finished on 6.5/10 but his performance rating of 2530 wasn't enough for his third grandmaster norm.

Awonder Liang (USA), already a GM, scored the same number of points and had a performance of 2577. And also on 6.5/10 finished both Nihal Sarin and Praggnanandhaa Rameshbabu, who in fact were paired against each other in the final round. In an in-depth interview with after the game, they said it was not because they are such good friends..!'s interview with Nihal Sarin (14) and Praggnanandhaa Rameshbabu (13).

The sixth Sunway Sitges Chess Festival is planned for the same dates: it will finish on the Sunday before Christmas 2019. Surely, many of the same title holders will return as everyone was clearly enjoying themselves. This author might be back too...

2018 Sunway Sitges | Final Standings (Top 25)

Rk. SNo Fed Title Name RtgI Pts. TB1 TB2 TB3 Rp
1 27 GM Alonso Rosell Alvar 2524 8,0 61,0 0 64,5 2789
2 3 GM Inarkiev Ernesto 2693 7,5 61,5 0 66,5 2669
3 4 GM Sasikiran Krishnan 2673 7,5 59,5 1 63,0 2701
4 1 GM Andreikin Dmitry 2719 7,5 59,5 0 63,5 2721
5 34 GM Dragnev Valentin 2483 7,5 56,5 0 60,5 2684
6 28 GM Santos Ruiz Miguel 2523 7,5 56,0 0 60,5 2654
7 8 GM Indjic Aleksandar 2620 7,5 56,0 0 60,5 2683
8 2 GM Ivanchuk Vassily 2717 7,5 53,0 0 57,0 2610
9 5 GM Edouard Romain 2644 7,0 59,5 0 63,5 2625
10 6 GM Vocaturo Daniele 2629 7,0 55,5 0 60,0 2591
11 14 GM Santos Latasa Jaime 2584 7,0 52,5 0 56,5 2552
12 32 IM Sosa Tomas 2488 7,0 52,5 0 56,5 2563
13 18 GM Xu Xiangyu 2565 7,0 50,5 0 55,0 2485
14 20 GM Kadric Denis 2554 7,0 49,5 0 53,0 2489
15 17 GM Petrosyan Manuel 2565 6,5 62,5 0 66,5 2624
16 9 GM Lagarde Maxime 2616 6,5 59,0 0 64,0 2519
17 11 GM Romanov Evgeny 2614 6,5 59,0 0 63,5 2557
18 26 IM Harutyunian Tigran K. 2528 6,5 59,0 0 63,0 2592
19 13 GM Peralta Fernando 2584 6,5 58,5 0 63,5 2538
20 12 GM Liang Awonder 2589 6,5 57,0 0 61,5 2577
21 16 GM Nihal Sarin 2576 6,5 56,5 0 61,5 2578
22 68 IM Krishna Teja N 2340 6,5 56,5 0 60,5 2574
23 41 IM Sadhwani Raunak 2434 6,5 55,5 0 59,0 2550
24 35 IM Gukesh D 2466 6,5 55,0 0 59,0 2530
25 25 GM Praggnanandhaa R 2530 6,5 54,5 0 57,5 2559

(Full final standings here.)

Games via TWIC.

Praggnanandhaa vs Nihal Sarin Sunway Sitges 2018Praggnanandhaa vs Nihal Sarin was a last-round pairing for the young Indians. | Photo: Peter Doggers/

Praggnanandhaa Nihal Sarin Fussbal Sunway Sitges 2018Praggnanandhaa and Nihal Sarin playing fussbal after their game. | Photo: Peter Doggers/

Four prodigies Sunway Sitges 2018Four prodigies in Sitges: World #1 U-11 Raahil Mullick, world #1 U-12 D. Gukesh, World #1 U-13 Praggnanandhaa Rameshbabu and world #1 U-14 Nihal Sarin. | Photo: Oskar Stöber Blázquez/Sunway Sitges 2018.

Sasikiran Inarkiev tiebreak Sunway Sitges 2018The start of the tiebreak final between Sasikiran and Inarkiev with the sunset behind. | Photo: Peter Doggers/

Sasikiran tiebreak Sunway Sitges 2018Sasikiran won the first game and seemed to be winning the Armageddon... | Photo: Peter Doggers/

Inarkiev tiebreak Sunway Sitges 2018...but eventually it was Inarkiev who pulled through. | Photo: Peter Doggers/

Tiebreak Sunway Sitges 2018It was quite the spectacle, and that for second place! Alonso said that he was happy with his victory, but he also would have liked to play some blitz against these players. | Photo: Peter Doggers/

Harutyunian Tigran GM Norm Sunway Sitges 2018Tigran Harutyunian also scored a GM norm. | Photo: Peter Doggers/

Winners Sunway Sitges 2018The top three together on stage: Sasikiran, Alonso and Inarkiev. | Photo: Peter Doggers/

Leontxo Garcia Anna Rudolf Sunway Sitges 2018Commentators Leontxo Garcia and Anna Rudolf got a special reminder as well. | Photo: Peter Doggers/

Earlier report:

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