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Hastings International Chess Congress will have to find anew home if housing development is approved on the Horntye Park grounds.

Hastings International Chess Congress will have to find a new home if housing development is approved on the Horntye Park grounds.

Panchanathan wins, but chess congress faces having to find new venue

Hastings International Chess Congress went well under its new sponsor, with the added bonus of a clear winner in the Masters – India’s Magesh Chandran Panchanathan. But a shadow hangs over its future as it faces the prospect of having to find a new venue for future editions. Nick Terdre reports. Photos by Brendan O’Gorman.

Grandmaster (GM) Magesh Chandran Panchanathan was not the highest ranked in the Masters – in fact, with a pre-tournament rating of 2479, he was 10th, with English GM David Howell well above him on 2676 – but he took an early lead and never looked back.

He started the ninth and final round on Sunday on 7 points, a clear point ahead of the chasing pack. Although he played another strong game, and appeared to have winning chances at times, in the end he had to settle for a draw and 7.5 pts after a tussle with white against his compatriot GM GA Stany.

Having a clear winner was clearly a relief after last year’s six-way tie for first. “It’s so good to see a sole winner and second,” commented Hastings mayor and congress president Cllr Nigel Sinden. Second place went to French GM Romain Edouard, who finished on 7 pts after winning his final game against Dutch GM Erik van den Doel. Panchanathan’s prize was £2,000 and Edouard’s £1,200.

Conor Murphy

Conor Murphy was in among the prizes again.

Vaishali leading woman

The highest ranked female, winning £200, was India’s Women’s GM Rameshbabu Vaishali, who with a haul of 6 pts, ended on a par with Howell and 11 others. Vaishali also shared the £200 for the highest placed player who is neither a GM nor an IM with Ireland’s Conor Murphy, one of last year’s joint winners.

£200 prizes also went to Laurence Butt, who returned the highest rating performance for an over 65-year-old, and to Rohila Shivika for the highest rating performance for an under 18 – the latter winning the Con Power award in memory of the popular former congress director.

Mention must also be made of some of the youngsters with bright futures, who are always in evidence at Hastings. Ten-year-old Louis Khoo-Thwe scored a remarkable 4 pts (including a 0.5 pt bye in one round), while Jerry Z Zheng, 12 years, finished with 3.5 and his nine-year-old brother Harry with 3.

Seven-year-old Patrick Damodaran, the youngest participant.

Seven-year-old Patrick Damodaran, the youngest participant.

Seven-year-old Patrick Damodaran scored 2.5 pts, byes excluded, winning two and drawing one. Kneeling on his chair to get a good view of the board, in his final round win Patrick was taking about 40 seconds per move, a speed which must have disconcerted his opponent.

Pavilion’s days numbered

Last year Peter Finch, chairman of the board of the Horntye Sports Complex trustees, had given the welcome news that the congress could continue to be held in the pavilion despite plans to sell the Horntye grounds for housing development. That situation had now changed, he told HOT: against his advice, the board had decided to sell all the land, including that on which the pavilion stands, to a developer, Bellway, which is expected shortly to seek outline planning permission for building.

The new congress chairman Marc Bryant declared himself sanguine at the prospect of having to find an alternative venue. Chances were that the pavilion would still be standing this time next year, and development plans might be stymied by public objections, as the land had been given in trust to the people of Hastings, he told HOT.

If a new venue does have to be found, it might not be an easy task as there are few large enough places within easy reach of the centre of town, he said. A school could be a possibility, especially as the congress takes place during the Christmas holidays.

New sponsor makes welcome start

While the future remains clouded, the congress has at least found itself an enthusiastic new sponsor in the shape of Caplin Systems, which provides foreign exchange trading technology to banks. “It’s been beyond my wildest dreams, really fantastic” CEO John Ashworth said of this year’s tournament at the closing ceremony. He himself took part in one of the secondary competitions.

GM Simon Williams, whose SOS led to Caplin becoming the new sponsor (photo: Brendan O'Gorman).

GM Simon Williams, whose SOS led to Caplin becoming the new sponsor.

Additional funding from Caplin made it possible to attract a wider field of top players – 17 GMs took part in the Masters which was contested by 125 participants. There was a total of 297 entries from 27 countries in the various tournaments which comprise the congress – the Christmas Tournament, the New Year Morning and Afternoon Tournaments and the Weekend Open.

Ashworth thanked Simon Williams for making it possible – with the previous sponsor having departed, the GM had tweeted that the Hastings congress needed saving, and Caplin had answered the call. “It’s a substantial and significant tournament in the chess calendar, and we’ve been able to make a difference,” he said, adding, “I’m pretty certain we’ll be here next year.”

The view from the commentary room

While there’s almost a tangible hush in the playing room at Hastings Masters, up in the commentary room the conversation is lively as GM Chris Ward leads real-time analysis of games in progress and those concluded. Chris has a faithful following who are responsible for choosing the best game of the tournament. Here he offers his thoughts on the winner and the best game, and comments on some of this year’s highlights. Photos by Brendan O’Gorman.

Magesh Chandran Panchanathan, left, on his way to the half point which secured him the Masters title in the final round against fellow grandmaster GA Stany.

Magesh Chandran Panchanathan, left, on his way to the half point which secured him the Masters title in the final round against fellow grandmaster GA Stany.

It was a bad week at the office for top seeded English GM David Howell who was reportedly a bit under the weather.

But overall it was a totally dominant performance by eventual winner Panchanathan, who to be fair only required a draw in the last round to secure the title outright. A solid game against a higher rated Grandmaster opponent, bar rating points, there was little to be gained by risking all in an attempt to win, but a lot to be lost should he have lost!

The  commentary room vote for the best game prize was overwhelmingly in favour of the ultra impressive 8th round Sengupta-Panchanathan clash which ticked all the boxes…

This was a crunch game on board 1 with Black against his fellow Indian and a strong GM. Despite leading the tournament it seemed a draw never entered Panchanathan’s mind as he sacrificed a pawn in the opening but never panicked, instead slowly mobilising his army in the direction of the White king. After White dared to grab a second pawn, Black’s offensive got under way in earnest with 22…h5! and from then on White had a horrible task trying to defend.

I’m not sure bringing more pieces into the attack through 25…Re6 was strictly speaking necessary but it worked a treat, for example after 27…Qh3 bringing …Nh4 into play courtesy of the …Rg6 swinger threat. Simply a fantastic game, culminating in a beautifully visual queen sac and choice of delightful mates that for all intents and purposes was a fitting way to win the tournament.

Deep Sengupta (2564) vs Magesh Chandran Panchanathan (2479) Hastings Masters, 04.01.2020

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Nf6 4. Ng5 d5 5. exd5 Na5 6. Bb5+ c6 7. dxc6 bxc6 8. Be2 h6 9. Nh3 Bc5 10. d3 0-0 11. 0-0 Nb7 12. Nc3 Bd4 13. Kh1 Nd6 14. Ng1 Re8 15. Na4 Nf5 16. Nf3 Ba6 17. Nxd4 Qxd4 18. c3 Qd6 19. Be3 Rad8 20. Bxa7 e4 21. d4 Bxe2 22. Qxe2 h5 23. Bc5 Qf4 24. Nb6 Qh4 25. Kg1 Re6 26. Nc4 Nd5 27. g3 Qh3 28. Kh1 h4 29. Rg1 Rh6 30. Qf1 Qxh2  0-1

French GM Romain Edouard, whose mis-move against GM Gergely Kantor lost him a half point (photo: Brendan O'Gorman).

French GM Romain Edouard, whose mis-move against Kantor lost him a half point.

Closest challenge

The closest challenge came from the talented second seeded French GM Romain Edouard who finished on an impressive score of 7/9 but ultimately paid the price for a couple of unenergetic quick draws and the odd unforced inaccuracy and one stand-out blunder arguably as a result of moving unnecessarily quickly with plenty of time on his clock but with the opponent under time pressure.

Indeed in retrospect a tournament turning point came after 30 moves of Edouard’s round 6 game against Hungarian GM Gergely Kantor. In a completely winning position, pawns up and with an excellent situation along the c3-h8 diagonal, it appeared he intended to deal with the threat to his light-squared bishop by unpinning his g-pawn with 31 Kh1 when 31…Rxg2 could be met by the tasty discovered check 32 Nf5. Unfortunately what materialised was 31 Kh2?? when 31…Rxg2+! was of course check! 32 Kxg2 was then necessary when 32…Qg3+ 33 Kh1 Qxh3+ allowed Black a …Qg3-h3 perpetual check. It was later put forward that the error was a finger-slip although members of the commentary room thought those only happened with a mouse when playing online!

IM Richard Bates narrowly missed out on a GM norm.

IM Richard Bates narrowly missed out on a GM norm.

Honourable mentions must go to…

English IM Richard Bates, who had to play so many top players and was unbeaten until the last round. Unfortunately at that point he was given the unenviable task of having to beat (albeit out of sorts) top seed David Howell with Black in order to obtain a GM norm. A good effort but alas finally a defeat.

Hungarian IM Mate Bagi, who regularly featured on the demo boards. The commentary room felt that after starting the last round ambitiously with Black against a strong opponent, a draw was agreed after a nevertheless very creditable performance, leaving him equal third.

The rd 3 game Bates-Hebden provided us with a cute checkmate whilst Jack Rudd was involved in two candidates for the best game prize; rd 7 Balaji-Rudd (a nice effort by the talented English youngster) and Sucikova-Rudd in rd 9 (an entertaining game that sadly put paid to the Slovakian’s WIM norm).

Games can be viewed and played through here.


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Posted 10:24 Thursday, Jan 9, 2020 In: Sport

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