Veterans, Prodigies Clash At Sunway Sitges Chess Festival
The Sunway Playa Golf & Spa Sitges hotel is located right along the Balearic Sea beach. | Photo: Peter Doggers/

Veterans, Prodigies Clash At Sunway Sitges Chess Festival

| 11 | Chess Event Coverage

The tournament is set in beautiful surroundings and the conditions for the players are excellent. The 5th Sunway Sitges international chess festival has attracted both experienced grandmasters like Vassily Ivanchuk and Alexander Beliavsky, but also prodigies like Praggnanandhaa R and Nihal Sarin

Slowly but surely, the Sunway Sitges tournament is becoming an event to take seriously. It's only been held four times before, and its very existence might have escaped your attention, but suddenly it's there: a tournament that is getting stronger every year, and now has a handful of pretty famous names for its fifth edition.

This 10-round Swiss is currently underway in the The Sunway Playa Golf & Spa Sitges hotel, along the Balearic Sea and less than an hour drive south of Barcelona. It is one of those tournaments where titled players arrive "by accident" and then keep returning to, thanks to the great weather, the great food and the great hotel—these are words use by several grandmasters here!

This author was pleasantly surprised not only by the ambition from the organizers to improve the tournament each year, but also by their attention to detail. It is this combination that made a tournament like Gibraltar—it is not a secret that to some extent it has served as an example for Sitges—so successful.

Sunway Sitges hallway world championsThe hotel corridor is decorated with photos and texts of the world's most famous players in history, something you wouldn't even see at the Carlsen-Caruana match! | Photo: Peter Doggers/

The top seeds this year are Dmitry Andreikin (Russia, 2719), Vassily Ivanchuk (Ukraine, 2717), Ernesto Inarkiev (Russia, 2693) and Krishnan Sasikiran (India, 2673) but other names to keep an eye on are the now famous prodigies Awonder Liang (USA, 2589), Nihal Sarin (India, 2576), Praggnanandhaa R (2530) and IM Vincent Keymer (2508).

Not mentioned yet in this list is IM D. Gukesh, another Indian boy who has two GM norms and was hoping to score his third here. That would have been a historic achievement, since he's just 12.5 years old. To be more specific, Gukesh was born on May 29, 2006 which means that he had until December 29, 2018 to break Sergey Karjakin's record of becoming the youngest GM in the world, as was noted by Chessbase.

D. Gukesh12-year-old D. Gukesh, one of the many Indian rising stars. | Photo: Peter Doggers/

The Sitges tournament was the last chance for D. Gukesh to make history, but at the moment the chances are only theoretical, it seems. With two rounds to go, he sits on a performance rating of 2535 (which needs to be above 2600 after 10 rounds) and he's paired against a player rated 2344 for round nine. An unexpected loss in round three threw a spanner in the works.

The tournament started with a shocker as second seed, and former world number two Ivanchuk, got crushed in the first round by a 2200 player. Yep, also from India...

But for the many Chuky fans out there (this writer included), the story so far has a good ending: the Ukrainian legend scored 6.5 points in the next seven rounds and is now one of the tournament leaders again.

It must be said that he has been somewhat fortunate, as could be witnessed in the last two rounds when he got to play the last 15 move or so on increment, and his opponents missed clear chances.

49-year-old Vassily Ivanchuk in Sitges49-year-old Vassily Ivanchuk enjoys his time in Sitges. | Photo: Peter Doggers/

Also in Friday's eighth round, Ivanchuk's opponent wanted more, avoided a draw (in this case rightfully so!) but found himself losing in the end:

Here's Ivanchuk discussing his win.

On board one, Sasikiran and Andreikin faced each other on Friday night in one of the top clashes of the tournament. The Russian GM was in a fighting mood and chose the Pirc, and also a line he had scored badly against with the white pieces in some recent blitz games!

That strategy worked for Andreikin, who got a nice middlegame position and then reached a better endgame after some inaccuracies by Sasikiran. Something peculiar happened in the rook endgame, where Andreikin basically blundered a pawn, but it remained winning anyway.

Andreikin explaining all the key moments of the game on camera.

One of the norm hunters is IM Lance Henderson de la Fuente, who scored his first GM norm in Gibraltar. He won an instructive bishop endgame in round eight, not without mistakes though.

Lance Henderson de la Fuente SitgesOne of Spain's upcoming stars, Lance Henderson de la Fuente. | Photo: Peter Doggers/

Sunway Sitges 2018 | Standings, 2 rounds to go

Rk. SNo Fed Name Elo Pts. TB1 TB2 TB3 Rp
1 27 GM Alonso Rosell Alvar 2524 6,5 39,0 42,0 32,5 2767
2 1 GM Andreikin Dmitry 2719 6,5 38,0 41,5 29,5 2756
3 2 GM Ivanchuk Vassily 2717 6,5 34,0 37,5 25,0 2595
4 17 GM Petrosyan Manuel 2565 6,0 39,0 42,0 31,5 2692
5 4 GM Sasikiran Krishnan 2673 6,0 38,5 42,0 30,5 2686
6 26 IM Harutyunian Tigran K. 2528 6,0 37,5 41,0 28,5 2651
7 3 GM Inarkiev Ernesto 2693 6,0 36,0 40,0 26,5 2625
8 8 GM Indjic Aleksandar 2620 6,0 36,0 39,5 29,5 2662
9 5 GM Edouard Romain 2644 6,0 36,0 39,0 28,0 2661
10 12 GM Liang Awonder 2589 6,0 35,5 40,0 28,0 2648
11 68 IM Krishna Teja N 2340 6,0 35,0 37,5 26,0 2621
12 32 IM Sosa Tomas 2488 6,0 32,5 36,0 26,0 2551
13 15 GM Lopez Martinez Josep Manuel 2580 5,5 37,5 40,5 29,0 2626
14 11 GM Romanov Evgeny 2614 5,5 37,0 40,5 28,0 2560
15 28 GM Santos Ruiz Miguel 2523 5,5 37,0 40,5 27,0 2574
16 6 GM Vocaturo Daniele 2629 5,5 37,0 40,0 28,0 2589
17 19 GM Kulaots Kaido 2555 5,5 37,0 40,0 27,5 2598
18 7 GM Adly Ahmed 2626 5,5 36,5 41,0 27,5 2599
19 34 GM Dragnev Valentin 2483 5,5 36,5 39,5 26,5 2619
20 13 GM Peralta Fernando 2584 5,5 35,5 39,5 27,0 2535

(Full standings here.)

It should be emphasized that this event is much more than an open tournament; the Sunway Sitges international chess festival is a festival in the true sense of the word. Unlike most open tournaments, there is a wealth of side events that can add a lot to the otherwise typical chess experience of preparing, playing, eating and sleeping. As the main organizer Oskar Stöber Blázquez said: "Our main goal is that the participants enjoy their stay."

Playing hall Sitges SunwayThe playing hall — some of you might recognize Alexander Beliavsky in the photo. | Photo: Peter Doggers/

It was a special experience for this author, who arrived on Wednesday night and obviously appreciated the sunny weather with a temperature of 16 degrees in late December, to suddenly find himself enjoying a tapas masterclass on Thursday morning with the Balearic Sea and a golf course as splendid backdrops that almost seemed there to exaggerate the beauty of the scene.

Tapas Masterclass Sitges 2018The tapas masterclass outside the hotel was one of the many, lovely side events. | Photo: Peter Doggers/

The tournament schedule includes several similar masterclasses; earlier in the week it was possible to learn to make cocktails, there had been a wine tasting, a seaweed and paella show cooking and a sangria masterclass. Some players gave masterclasses as well (similar to what is being done in Gibraltar), chess films are shown in the evenings, football and blitz tournaments are organized... Too much to mention!

The truth is that the big majority of the players are not participating in the afternoon events, for the simple reason that preparing for the game takes preference. These days, almost all tournament players, of all levels, spend hours behind their laptops. For everyone of them, there is the strong suggestion to change this for once, try a different rhythm, spend less energy and enjoy the other joys of life, which are so easily accessible in a paradise like here in Sitges. It might well do wonders for your play!

Top boards 2018 Sunway SitgesThe top boards - note the flags, like at the Olympiad.

2018 Sunway Sitges Leontxo Garcia Anna Rudolf commentaryCommentary is done by Anna Rudolf and Leontxo Garcia.

Praggnanandhaa Nihal 2018 Sunway SitgesPraggnanandhaa and Nihal were sitting alongside each other in round eight.

Sasikiran vs Andreikin 2018 Sunway SitgesSasikiran vs Andreikin, board one in round eight.

Anna Rudolf phone masterclass 2018 Sunway SitgesAnna Rudolf filming the creation of a good aioli...

Aioli tapas Masterclass 2018 Sunway fact three different aioli's (garlic & oil tapenade sauce) were made.

Ingredients gazpacho 2018 Sunway SitgesIf you have a little knowledge of Spanish cooking, you will surely recognize the ingredients for a gazpacho.

Gazpacho 2018 Sunway SitgesThe weather is still good enough for this cold served soup...

Gazpacho 2018 Sunway Sitges...which indeed tasted lovely. Salut!

Follow the tournament here or via the rather active Twitter accountExpect a final report on Monday.

Games via TWIC.

Peter Doggers

Peter Doggers joined a chess club a month before turning 15 and still plays for it. He used to be an active tournament player and holds two IM norms.

Peter has a Master of Arts degree in Dutch Language & Literature. He briefly worked at New in Chess, then as a Dutch teacher and then in a project for improving safety and security in Amsterdam schools.

Between 2007 and 2013 Peter was running ChessVibes, a major source for chess news and videos acquired by in October 2013.

As our Director News & Events, Peter writes many of our news reports. In the summer of 2022, The Guardian’s Leonard Barden described him as “widely regarded as the world’s best chess journalist.”

In October, Peter's first book The Chess Revolution will be published!

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Phone: 1 (800) 318-2827
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