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Eyes down at Hastings Internatioanl Chess Congress (photo: Lara Barnes).

Chess tourney another success for Hastings

There was Chinese victory in the Masters tournament of the Hastings International Chess Congress this week, but the congress, now waiting to see how its council grant holds up in the coming settlement, is itself a victory for the town. Nick Terdre reports.

The winner over the board was China’s Grandmaster (GM) Jun Zhao, who started the last round already a point ahead of his nearest rival, Brazilian GM Alexandr Fier, and was happy to settle for a draw, leaving him ahead of the field with eight points out of nine against Fier’s seven. By dint of last round victories GM Aleksander Mista of Poland and International Master Gudmundur Kjartansson of Iceland also finished on seven.

Congress director Con Power (photo: Lara Barnes).

Comfortably housed these days in the Horntye sports hall, the congress has put Hastings firmly on the world chess map since it was first held in 1895, and includes various competitions catering for all levels of player down to novices. The event ran smoothly this year, according to congress director Con Power. “All the players were happy with it, we’ve had nothing but compliments,” he told HOT.

Several hundred turned up – just over 100 took part in the Masters – from all over the country and abroad. Always a big international attraction, this year there were players from 24 different countries, including Mongolia and, for the first time, Sri Lanka. The Kyrkjebø family, a father and two daughters – the latter took part in the Masters – attended from Norway.

Many come accompanied by relatives or friends. They all need somewhere to stay, so that’s good news for the town’s guest-houses and other accommodation providers at a very slack time of year, Con points out.

Playing in pairs - strictly no conferring! (Photo: Lara Barnes).

This year, for the first time, a pairs tournament was held, at the White Rock Hotel, in which each side consists of two players who take it in turn to move. That proved a success, as did the Blitz tournament in the hotel, in which each player had only three minutes plus two seconds a move to complete the game.

Con notes a gratifying increase in the number of youngsters attending. This year the youngest participant was nine. Hastings has traditionally been a springboard for rising young players heading for chess stardom – English high-flyers Nigel Short, Michael Adams, Luke McShane and David Howell all have Hastings on their CV.

Jun Zhao received his £2,000 first prize from Dominic Lawson, son of Nigel and brother of Nigella but more relevantly on this occasion president of the English Chess Federation. Hastings mayor Alan Roberts was also in attendance.

Theodore Slade, who most improved his rating during the tournament (photo: Brendan O'Gorman).

Among other awards Women’s International Master Tereza Olsarova of Czechoslovakia shared the prize for best performance by a woman – 5½ points – with Women’s GM Nino Maisuradze of France – Tereza also secured a norm towards achieving WGM status. One player, Theodore Slade, scooped the prizes for improved rating, both for an under 21 player and an under 2,200 rated player.

Hastings International Chess Congress is dependent on funding from the borough council. This year the grant amounted to just over £20,000. Over the years the council has been very generous, Con says. But with a further swingeing reduction in central government funding just announced, Con and his colleagues wait with some trepidation to hear what the grant will be for the 2015/16 congress when the council publishes its budget proposals next week.

Maxim Rodshtein gets the Masters going with the help of council leader Jeremy Birch. Enjoying the highest rating, 2,676, the Israeli GM was the tournament favourite, but finished outside the prizes with 6.5 points (photo: Pam Thomas).

Posted 12:42 Thursday, Jan 8, 2015 In: Sport

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