In recent years, England has regrettably not been one of the most active nations in the world when it comes to organising international tournaments. However, if there is one thing we Brits are good at it is tradition, and when it comes to chess there is no tradition older than the Hastings International Tournament. First held in 1895, the event became an annual tradition in the 1920s, and apart from a break between 1940-44, has been held every year since. The 2006 tournament, which ran from 28 December to 5 January, was the 82nd edition, a longevity that no other international tournament can match.
Hastings 1895. Standing: Albin, Schlechter, Janowski, Marco, Blackburne, Maroczy, Schiffers, Gunsberg, Burn, Tinsley. Seated: Vergani, Steinitz, Tchigorin, Lasker, Pillsbury, Tarrasch, Mieses, Teichhmann.
Hastings is a town on the South-East coast of England, and most famous as the site of the battle in 1066, which saw the Norman French conquer the Saxon English. Thankfully, nowadays, most of the battles which take place in Hastings are conducted on the 64 squares. In addition to the congress itself, Hastings also boasts one of the oldest chess clubs in England, and is now the location of the English Chess Federation’s national chess library.
Horntye Sports Centre, the venue for all tournaments
In the tournament hall (in front Latiffa Messam-Sparks vs Aly Wilson)
This year’s Hastings congress took place as usual at the Horntye Park Leisure Centre and consisted of a whole series of events including 5-day tournaments and a weekend congress. The centrepiece was a 9-round FIDE-rated open, the Hastings Masters, which featured 96 competitors from 21 different countries including 12 Grandmasters and 15 International Masters. Top seed on rating was Meran Gagunashvili from Georgia, whilst his potential rivals included Ikonnikov, Hebden, Gofstein, and last year’s winner, Valery Neverov of the Ukraine.
After a hard 9 days of chess, the tournament ended in a tie between Gagunashvili and Neverov, on 7/9, with 6 players occupying 3-8 places, half a point behind: Pert, Chernaiev, Ikonnikov, Gofstein, Pavlovic and Lalic. IM norms were scored by Chris Briscoe of England, rated just 2121, and 12-year-old Srinath Narayanan of India, yet another of the young talents being churned out by the Indian chess talent conveyor belt.
The winner: Merab Gagunashvili [Photo: Frits Agterdenbos, TSF]
The most brilliant game of the tournament was the following, where Simon Williams came close to earning himself a shower of gold coins, only to falter at the critical moment:
Williams,S (2473) - Gagunashvili,M (2611)
Hastings Masters (4.1), 31.12.2006
1.d4 d6 2.e4 Nf6 3.Nc3 g6 4.Be3 c6 5.h3 Bg7 6.g4!? Qa5 7.Qd2 e5?! 8.Nge2 b5 9.dxe5 dxe5 10.Bc5!? Nbd7 11.b4 Qd8 12.0–0–0 Bf8?! [12...a5] 13.Bxf8 Rxf8 14.Qd6 Bb7 15.Ng3 Qb8 16.Qd2 Qc7 17.g5 Ng8 18.h4 Ke7 19.h5 Rfd8 20.hxg6 hxg6 21.Qe3 a5 22.Bh3! Kf8 23.Bxd7 Rxd7 24.Qc5+ Re7.
25.Nf5!! axb4 26.Rh8 gxf5 27.exf5 bxc3 28.f6 Rae8 29.Qxc3! Threatening simply Qh3-h7, against which Black is helpless. 29...e4 30.Qh3 Qf4+ 31.Kb1 Qxg5 32.Qh7 Threat 33 Rxg8+ 32...Ra8 33.Rxg8+ Qxg8.
34.fxe7+? Missing the simple 34 Qxg8+ Kxg8 35 fxe7, when there is no defence to Rd8+ (35...Re8 36.Rd8 f5 37.Rxe8+ Kf7 38.Rb8 Kxe7 39.Rxb7++–). 34...Kxe7 35.Qxe4+ Kf6 36.Qf4+ Ke6 37.Qe4+ Kf6 38.Qf4+ Ke6 39.Qd6+ Kf5 40.Qc5+ Kf6.
41.Qd4+?? [41.Rd6+ Kg7 42.Rd3!+-] 41...Kf5 42.Qd3+ Kf6 43.Qf3+ Ke6 44.Qh3+ Kf6 45.Qf3+ Ke6 46.Qe4+ draw. [Click to replay]
Colin McNab and Bernard Cafferty
Full coverage of the tournament can be found on the tournament website, www.hastingschess.org.uk. This includes a full PGN file of games, many photographs, plus the highly entertaining daily reports by FM Steve Giddins.