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Indian GM Panchanathan on his way to beating Erik van den Doel of Holland in the sixth round of the Masters tournament.

Indian GM Magesh Chandran Panchanathanon his way to beating Erik van den Doel of Holland to maintain his sole lead in the sixth round of the Masters tournament.

Fresh lease of life for Hastings’ prestigious chess tournament

After six rounds of the Masters tournament at Hastings International Chess Congress, Indian Grandmaster Magesh Chandran Panchanathan is in the sole lead. The tournament is enjoying a fresh lease of life with a new sponsor and a big increase in the number of participants. Nick Terdre reports. Photos by Brendan O’Gorman.

An air of optimism reigns at Hastings International Chess Congress (HICC), for more than 120 years one of the town’s major claims to fame worldwide. The prestigious tournament, which a year ago faced an uncertain future with the ending of its sponsorship by Tradewise Insurance, has a new benefactor – Caplin, a City-based firm which provides IT services to banks, and whose CEO, John Ashworth, is himself an enthusiastic chess player.

The International Chess Federation (Fide) rating event takes place at Horntye sports complex.

“We got lucky,” is the cheerful comment from new chairman Marc Bryant, who has been involved with the congress for more than 45 years and is also chairman of Hasting Chess Club. Caplin found its way to HICC through the good offices of GM Simon Williams, a regular participant, Bryant explains. The company see the event as fertile ground for meeting “mathematically minded software developers” who might be potential recruits to their engineering department.

GM David Howell - top seed but having a hard time after six rounds.

GM David Howell – top seed but having a hard time after six rounds.

With the backing of fresh funds, the congress has been able to attract a greater number of top players – there are 17 Grandmasters (GMs), the top title for a chess player, participating this year, more than twice as many as a year ago – and this in turn has brought in larger numbers of less qualified players keen to challenge the best. As a result there are just over 120 players contesting the Masters, up some 50% on last year.

Top of the crop is leading English GM David Howell, with a rating of 2676. There is one other 2600-plus player, France’s Romain Edouard. So far Howell, a joint winner in 2009, is not having a good outing – after six of the nine rounds he lies joint 26th with 3.5 points.

Lone leader

Alone in the lead is Indian GM Magesh Chandran Panchanathan with 5.5 pts, a whole point ahead of four chasers on 4.4: Edouard and International Masters (IMs) Martin Petrov, Mate Bagi and Matthew Wadsworth.

WGM Rameshbabu Vaishali from India, the top-ranked woman.

WGM Rameshbabu Vaishali from India, the top-ranked woman.

There are also half a dozen high-ranking women, led by Women’s Grandmaster Rameshbabu Vaishali from India, although the leading women after six rounds are Women’s Fide Master Svetlana Sucikova and Women’s IM Lan Yao, both in joint sixth place with 4 pts.

Overperformers in the chasing pack on 4 pts, and rubbing shoulders with a number of GMs and IMs, are Dennis Brouwer and Viktor Stoyanov, both without a title, and Harry Grieve and Conor Murphy, both Fide Masters, the lowest title. Murphy was one of six joint winners last year.

With three rounds to go, there is still everything to play for.



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Posted 17:09 Friday, Jan 3, 2020 In: Sport

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