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Photo: Lara Barnes.

Seven-way tie at chess tournament

Hastings International Chess Congress ended at the weekend in an unprecedented seven-way tie. Since it began in 1895, this premier event has put Hastings firmly on the world chess map. Nick Terdre savoured the atmosphere at Horntye Park Sports Complex.

Hastings International Chess Congress is the longest running international chess tournament in the world that caters for grandmasters (GMs) – the highest title available to chess players – congress director Con Power told HOT. Along with the British championship, it is the leading tournament in Britain.

It is an important event for Hastings too. “Hastings Borough Council is pleased to be the main sponsor of the congress, as it brings hundreds of visitors to the town at a time when the hotels and guest houses would otherwise be quiet,” as council leader Jeremy Birch put it when he opened the tournament.

Hastings doesn’t have the big bucks to attract the top grandmasters but still secures a notable turnout – nearly 100 players in the Masters section, including 13 GMs and 12 international masters (IMs), the second highest rank.

The congress makes its own contribution to the town’s cosmopolitan character, attracting entrants from all over the world. This year nearly half the players – 43 – came from 24 countries outside the UK, including seven GMs and nine IMs.

Petr Marusenko (photo: Pam Thomas).

Ukrainian IM Petr Marusenko has been coming for 23 years and remembers when the event was staged on the pier. “It’s one of the most traditional and interesting tournaments,” he says. “The conditions are brilliant and I’ve made many friends here.” Now 60 and recently retired, Petr is planning to write a book on the Dutch opening.

 

Among this year’s newcomers were the Foisor family from Romania: father Ovidiu-Doru, mother Cristina-Adela

Sophie Milliet, centre, and Cristina-Adela Foisor, with Amber Rudd (photo: Pam Thomas).

and daughter Mihaela-Veronica. The other daughter, a Women’s Grandmaster living in the US, couldn’t make it, Cristina-Adela told me. With a score of six points out of a possible nine, she shared the prize for the highest-placed woman with IM Sophie Milliet of France.

Chess and boxing – flavour of the month? This unlikely combination has some well-known adherents, including former world heavyweight boxing champions Lennox Louis and Vitali Klitschko. Hastings’ own chess player/boxer this year was Carl Strugnell, 32, of France, who assured me as he was about to dash off that he was still boxing.

Chess and music perhaps sounds a more harmonious coupling. A love for both is embodied in local resident Francis Rayner, concert pianist, Hastings Philharmonic Choir stalwart and oft-times champion of Hastings Chess Club.

Francis Rayner and 13-year-old Matthew Wadsworth (photo: Lara Barnes).

Another local resident, teenager Callum Brewster, won the prize for the most improved rating. He may be among the rising stars who can perhaps be spotted among the younger participants. The youngest was 11-year-old Zhen Yu Cyrus Low from Singapore, and another who first made an impression last year Matthew Wadsworth, now 13. Both finished with an impressive 4.5. Future GMs? Time will tell.

And that unprecedented seven-way draw? Twice the top prize has been split four ways, but never more than that. The winning score this year was 6.5. Each of the winners received £750, which explains why no-one complains of chess players being overpaid.

Here are the winners at the awards ceremony with MP Amber Rudd and Mayor Alan Roberts: from left, GM Mikheil Mchedishvili from Georgia, GM Igor Khenkin (Germany), who also won the prize for best game, GM Qun Ma (China), IM Justin Sarkar (USA), GM Mark Hebden (England), Jovica Radovanovic (Serbia), who also won the prize for the highest-placed non GM/IM, and IM Jahongir Vakhidov (Uzbekistan).

Photo: Pam Thomas.

 

Hastings International Chess Congress

 

 

Posted 14:41 Wednesday, Jan 8, 2014 In: Sport

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