In Catalonia, 40km south of Barcelona, the 9th Chessable Sunway Sitges Chess Festival 2022 took place from 11 to 22 December.
Catalonia, a region located in the east of Spain, is known for its immense heritage, its language and its culture… But also for its numerous chess tournaments (see our review for the Menorca tournament)! For example, Sitges, a small seaside town near Barcelona, has been hosting the Chessable Sunway Sitges for 9 years.
The Sitges Chess Festival takes place at the 4* Sunway Playa Golf & Spa Hotel, which offers a superb seaside setting. The hotel itself is decorated to reflect the activity that takes place there over 11 days. Results from previous years as well as photos and biographies of champions line the walls of the corridors.
The 400 players of the 2022 festival are spread over 4 different rooms. The first room is used for the first chess boards of the 2 Opens. Perched on the 5th floor of the hotel, this main room has a beautiful view of the sea. Moreover, the fifteen or so tables broadcasted at each round allow live commentaries which were available in English (P. Svidler and J. Gustafsson), Spanish (D. Martinez and M. Rodrigo) and French (A. Navrotescu).
Then, two other pleasant halls welcome the rest of the players of the open A. However, it is regrettable that the majority of the Open B players have to make do with an outdoor tent. Although the tent also has a beautiful view of the sea, it quickly becomes noisy when the heating is on.
To conclude on the subject of playing conditions, a buffet is available to players in each room. There are sweet snacks and soft drinks available, all of which are regularly refilled. In addition, this year, during the first round, each player was offered a water bottle to take advantage of the water fountains on site.
The players (420 registered* this year), were divided into two tournaments. Group A is open to all, while group B is restricted to players under 2000. Thus, 326 players were registered* in the open A with a median of 2200 elos, which makes it the strongest open (without elo limit) in which Clément participated. As for the Open B, 94 players were registered*.
It is worth noting the strong presence of the Indian delegation with 74 entries*. This makes it the second federation represented after Spain (101 entries*) and before Germany (27 entries*).
The games followed the classic FIDE format with 1h30m + 30min at the 40th move and an increment of 30s per move. The tournaments were played in 10 rounds from 12 to 22 December to Spanish hours, i.e. games starting at 16:30 except for the last round. A rest day was positioned after round 6 to allow football fans to watch the World Cup final.
This festival stands out from the others we have participated in because of the number of additional activities offered. Every morning, lectures are given by famous players, but also by authors, referees or other personalities of our universe. Some of these lectures are also broadcast on YouTube (for example Ivanchuk’s lecture**).
Activities include the classic blitz tournaments as well as table tennis and football matches. Those who want to relax before the game can enjoy yoga sessions. And for food lovers, the pizza masterclass, the sushi masterclass or the oenology session will be just right.
However, between the preparation for the games and the late mornings needed to compensate for games often ending after 9pm, it is better to be accommodated on site to be able to participate in all these activities.
Tournament check in and forfeit
Tournament check in is mandatory in France but much more rarely abroad. So for this tournament no check in was necessary. As a result, it seemed to us that many players were forfeit in the early rounds, including one of the top players.
We also noticed that a player was counted in the pairings for the first 3 rounds even though he never showed up, so he forfeited 3 times in a row! Beyond these elements which shock us, an interesting question would be to make statistics to see the difference on the forfeits between the tournaments with and without check in.
The Open A was led from start to finish by Kirill Alekseenko (RUS), who started very strong with 7/7 before professionally managing the end of the tournament to finish at 8.5/10. He is followed by Hans Moke Niemann (USA) and Mohammad Amin Tabatabaei (IRI) with 8/10.
In the Open B of this Chessable Sunway Sitges it is Abdumajid Botiraliev (UZB) who wins with 8,5/10. A great achievement for this 10 years old player ranked 1657.
60°/92 – 4points/10
Although I was tired because I was recovering from a flu, I am quite satisfied with my tournament in which I played some pretty good games and won 3 times against opponents ranked higher than me.
However I preferred to play only 8 games out of 10 because of my tiredness.
220°/324 – 4points/10
I am very disappointed by this last tournament. Indeed in the first 5 rounds I win against the lower ranked players and lose against the stronger ones. A bye in round 6 will break this routine and I will suffer two defeats against players much lower ranked than me achieving my worst performance of the last ten years.
The Chessable Sunway Sitges Chess Festival is the biggest chess event we have ever attended. The location is easy to reach and the mild Catalan temperatures in December are attractive. In addition, the many activities on offer and the high standard of the main tournament make this festival a very popular event.
However, having participated in tournaments of all kinds, we have a preference for smaller tournaments. Indeed, we value more relaxed tournaments where we can easily interact with the organizer and the local players. This is obviously our opinion and we totally understand the enthusiasm for this festival which remains a major event in the chess world.
During our chess adventures, we have discovered different ways to start the round. In France we have the traditional “players shake hands, black press the clock and white play”. Abroad there are different variants, including the sober “please start the game”. However, some tournaments stand out, in Wijk Aan Zee, a gong is used while in Fagernes we were allowed a whistle. At the Chessable Sunway Sitges in the room with the first chessboards, a hammer blow on a bell gives the starting signal.
What we liked
What we liked less
The tournament was taking place in Catalonia, so we obviously spent several days in its capital, Barcelona. This city has an extraordinary history and cultural heritage. In addition to the strong presence of the local language, a strong sense of belonging to the Catalan culture is also visible on the facades of the buildings decorated with Catalan flags. When walking around, one regularly sees flags with a star on them, indicating the desire for independence.
Visits to the city highlight the work of the architect Antoni Gaudi. From the park of the citadel to the houses, such as the Casa Milà or the Casa Battlo, everything is a work of art. We had the opportunity to admire these architectural elements during a pleasant guided bike tour.
Casa Battlo is part of a group of three houses known as the “Island of Discord”, in Catalan “Illa de la Discòrdia”. The other two houses on the island are the work of Catalan modernist architects (Catalan Art Nouveau). For the record, the Spanish term for the island is “Manzana de la Discordia” where Manzana means both island and apple of discord, in reference to the famous Greek myth. This myth is well suited to these three very different houses, which no one can distinguish in terms of beauty.
It is worth noting that these houses and their neighbours all have roughly the same dimensions. This can be explained by the implementation in the 19th and 20th centuries of the “Cerdà” plan to expand the city, which strictly governed the layout. This plan introduced perpendicular streets, with the corners of the buildings cut off at street crossings to increase visibility and facilitate the wind flow. In addition, the plan imposes strict dimensions on buildings so that they do not shade the houses behind them, ensuring that everyone has access to natural sunlight. Thus, unable to stand out by the height of their buildings, the rich owners sought to have the most beautiful façade.
The city’s star attraction is undoubtedly the Sagrada Familia. This basilica was begun in 1882 and Gaudi directed its construction from 1883. Like his other works, the result is unique and marked by a naturalist-modernist style. The height of the building will be 172.5 m, one metre less than the Monjuïc mountain overlooking Barcelona. In fact, according to Gaudi, the work of man cannot exceed that of God, namely nature, and therefore this mountain.
The construction had its ups and downs, as finances were not always good. Gaudi died in 1926 after having spent a quarter of a century on the basilica, never seeing his work completed. Different architects took over and today the basilica is nearing completion. The structural work should be completed in 2026 and the finishing touches in 2032.
To finish our discovery of Barcelona, we loved to wander around the old city centre, the Barri Gotic neighbourhood. Here are some pictures to give you an insight into this beautiful city:
Sitges is nestled between the hills and the Mediterranean Sea, 40km south of Barcelona. This small town is now a renowned seaside resort. A beautiful sandy beach runs alongside the sea and is protected by wave breakers.
Although Sitges is mainly a tourist town, it is still a busy one and the town centre is very welcoming even out of season in mid-December. Besides, if you are chilly, it is a good destination to play chess. Indeed we enjoyed a very mild late autumn in Sitges with afternoons at 18°C while France was facing a cold wave.
*From now on, in our articles we will talk about registered players and not about players because not all registered players play.
**The different videos of live comments and conferences are quite difficult to find on Youtube, you have to search in the chess24 live videos.