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The winning Team Rasa - Rasa Norinkevicuite and her bunch of (reasonably) dead-eyed bowmen.

The winning team – Rasa Norinkevicuite and her cohort of (reasonably) dead-eyed bowmen.

Victory for black team in chess-archery contest

Team Rasa with the black pieces triumphed in the second Hastings Chess-Archery Contest held at Horntye Park in late October. The event, which brings together two sporting activities with a long tradition in Hastings, was deemed a success by all and will hopefully become an annual fixture. Nick Terdre reports. Photos by Pam Thomas.

Team Rasa was led by Woman FIDE Master Rasa Norinkevicuite, while Team Francis, led by International Master Francis Rayner, had the white pieces. With a rating of 1987 against Francis’s 2080, as well as the black pieces, Rasa was nominally at a disadvantage. But that was without taking into account the contribution of the respective sets of archers, who came from the Bayeux Bowmen Club.

In this hybrid game dreamt up by Stewart Reuben, international consultant to the Hastings International Chess Congress (HICC), each chess player nominates the type of chessman – pawn, bishop, knight, rook, queen or king – that he or she wishes to move. One of their archers then has to aim at a target on which all the types of chessmen are represented and hit the desired type. If they hit another type, that is what the chess player has to move. If they miss altogether, a second archer has a go. If they also miss, the chess player has to move a pawn.

So however carefully the chess player has planned the game, they never know when they will have to improvise. And that could be the moment their opponent can seize the advantage – if their own supporting archers can deliver the right shot.

Taking aim. The archer's accuracy determines whether the chess player can make the desired move.

Taking aim: the archer’s accuracy determines whether the chess player can make the desired move.

In the event there was quite a lot of deviation from plan (see game below). As early as move 6, White had to move his queen rather than the bishop he asked for, while Black had to move her king, which had been accidentally hit by her bowman colleague. That prevented her from castling, but White himself was only able to castle on move 23: in a normal game castling usually takes place early on.

White’s archers continued to miss at critical junctures, and by move 27, he was three pawns down and losing. He soldiered on to move 42 before resigning.

“Most people seemed to enjoy themselves,” says Stewart. “The archers were talking about a third game next year. Francis was a bit bruised by his team failing so frequently to hit his desired target. But not as much as the English Chess Federation logo, which the archers hit three times: it emerged blooded, but unbowed.”

As well as commemorating the archery deployed in the Battle of Hastings 950 years ago, the contest served to publicise the next Hastings International Chess Congress which will take place from 28 December to 5 January, also at Horntye Park. This year will be the 92nd edition of what is the longest-running international chess congress in the world.

Team Francis’s archers were Colin Ford, Jane Ripley, Adrian Sheppard, Rachel Flay and Val Hames, and Team Rasa’s were Billy Turner, Barrie Green, Stuart Hames and Gautam Sengupta. Arbiters for the match were Stewart Reuben and Alan Hustwayte, the Hastings International Chess Congress director.

More information: Pam Thomas, PR Officer, HICC, on

The chess players - Franics Rayner and Rasa Norinkevicuite in foreground - and the Bayeux Bowmen. Crator Stewart Reuben far right just in front of congress director Alan Hustwayte.

The chess players – Francis Rayner and Rasa Norinkevicuite in foreground – and the Bayeux Bowmen. Creator Stewart Reuben, far right, in front of HICC director Alan Hustwayte.

Team Francis vs Team Rasa, Horntye Park, 27 October 2016. Comments by Stewart Reuben.
1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 d6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 a6 (So far, so good. It is the Sicilian Defence, Najdorf Variation.) 6 Qe2 (Oops, White asked for a bishop move. But surely Qd3 would have been better, not blocking the bishop and defending the Nd4?) 6…Kd7 (Forced after the archer accidentally shot the king.) 7 Qd1 Ke8 (The players have got the game back on schedule. Optically it looks like they are back in the main line, but Black can no longer castle. She stands worse). 8 Bg5 Nbd7 9 Nb3 h6 10 e5 (White wanted to move his bishop, but is forced to move a pawn – at least that ensured he attacked a piece.) 10…hxg5 11 exf6 gxf6 12 Bd3 Ne5 13 h3 g4 `14 h4 Kd7 (Off it goes again.) 15 Qe2 Bh6 16 Qd1 Ke8 17 a4 Be6 18 Nd4 Qd7 19 Ra3 (He wanted to make a knight move). 19…f5 (Black also wanted to move a knight, probably in order to capture the bishop. 20 Nxe6 Nxd3+ 21 cxd3 fxe6 22 Ne2 Rc8 23 0-0 (This is the first time in either game that a player has managed to castle.) 23…Bg7 (A real combination. Black attacks two pawns simultaneously.) 24 g3 Bxb2 25 Rb3 Bf6 26 Qb1 (This is what Francis requested his archer to aim for. But Rb6 or even gambling with Rxb7 would have been a better choice now White is two pawns down.) 26…Qxa4 27 d4 (Of course White wanted to play Rxb7. Now he is three pawns down and losing.) 27…b5 28 Nc3? (Hoping for a miracle, but losing yet another pawn.) 28…Qxd4 29 Ne2 Qb6 30 Rc1 Rxc1+ (White must move his queen, knight or king. Taking with the queen is obviously best, but three archers made three attempts, all failing. So the rules required a king move) 31 Kg2 Rxb1 32 Rxb1 (Of course Francis knew he was totally lost, but played on, rather hoping he would get mated.) 32…Qc6+ 33 f3 Qxf3+ 34 Kg1 Rh7 35 Rf1 Qe3+ (forgetting she could take the knight) 36 Rf2 b4 37 Kg2 b3 38 Rf1 Rh6 39 Nf4 b2 40 Rb1 Kf7 41 Nd5 exd5 42 Re1 (One last gamble) 42…Qxe1 (I might have tried for 43 h5 hoping for Rxh5 stalemate.) 43 resigns 0-1.

Posted 20:07 Tuesday, Nov 1, 2016 In: Sport

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