84th International Chess Congress in Hastings

by ChessBase
12/30/2008 – The annual International Chess Congress at Hastings has started at the Horntye Park leisure centre. The nine-round Masters' section features 13 GMs, 16 IMs and one WGM. The field is led by the rating favourite Emanuel Berg of Sweden, and the British challenge by David Howell. We will be reporting on the event on a two-round basis. Here for starters is the round one report by Steve Giddins.

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84th Hastings International Chess Congress

Off and running

FM Steve Giddins reports on round one of the 2008-9 Hastings Masters

As young stockbroker Bud Fox says, when the stock market opening bell rings in the film Wall Street, "They're off and running"! The 84th Hastings International Chess Congress got underway yesterday, with an even larger-than-usual entry descending on the Horntye Park leisure centre. The showcase event, the 9-round Hastings Masters, features 13 GMs, 16 IMs and one WGM. The field is led by rating favourite Emanuel Berg of Sweden, a regular and popular visitor to these shores. The British challenge is led by David Howell, who has had an outstanding 2008. A brilliant debut at the Dresden Olympiad in November was followed by an awesome 10.5 / 11 at the British Rapidplay in Halifax, a week later, and when the new FIDE rating list appears in the next few days, Howell is due to break the 2600 barrier for the first time. His British rivals include Gawain Jones and Stephen Gordon, thus ensuring that our three most talented young players are all appearing in the event, whilst we are delighted to welcome back Hastings "local boy" Stuart Conquest, the reigning British Champion. Amongst the other foreign contenders one must mention Valery Neverov, who has won the tournament, either outright or shared, in each of the last three years.

The Hastings Masters, with the "British Challenger" David Howell (second from right)

The first round saw few shocks, despite the accelerated pairings, with only one of the top ten seeds dropping half a point. However, several of the favourites had hard battles against substantially lower-rated opposition, with both Berg and Howell being taken well into the fifth hour. Second seed Igor Kurnosov of Russia won rather more easily against Prosviriakov, whilst Neverov's Grunfeld Defence saw the champion score a fairly smooth victory against fellow Ukrainian Peter Marusenko, one of the most loyal of our regular visitors here at Hastings. One young name to watch in this event is that of Sahaj Grover, a 13-year old Indian, already rated over 2300. He had a tremendous battle against Gawain Jones, who eventually triumphed only after 120 moves of a Q+P ending. Grover is just the latest name to roll off the Indian production line of talented young players, and I feel sure that he will upset a few big names  before the week is over.

Boards 5 - 8 in round 1, with Gawain Jones vs Sahaj Grover (1-0 in 84 moves)

Lower down, Dutch IM Willy Hendricks showed the benefits of opening preparation, with a double-quick win against Dave Ledger:

Hendriks,Willy (2447) - Ledger,David (2254) [C54]
Hastings Masters 2008
1.e4 e5 2.Bc4 Nf6 3.d3 Bc5 4.Nf3 Nc6 5.c3 a6 6.0–0 d6 7.Bb3 Ba7 8.Be3 0–0 9.Nbd2 Ne7 10.Nh4 Ng6 11.Nxg6 hxg6 12.Bxa7 Rxa7 13.f4 c6 14.Qf3 Qb6+ 15.Kh1 Bg4? This is the start of a fatal manoeuvre. After something such as 15...a5, White would only have a small advantage. 16.Qg3 Be2

17.fxe5! Already decisive. The first point is that 17...dxe5 loses by force, after 18.Rxf6 gxf6 19.Qxg6+, etc. 17... Bxf1 18.exf6 Be2. In his pre-game preparation that morning, this very position had appeared on Hendriks's computer screen, the game Sadvakasov-Melkumyan, Dubai 2007 having continued 18...Bxg2+, with White winning easily in a few more moves. It would appear that the Dutch IM was able to appreciate the theoretical significance of this game, rather more easily than he was able to pronounce either player's name...

Seeing that his position is hopeless, Ledger prefers the line of least resistance. 19.Qxg6 Qxb3 20.Qxg7#

Over the past few years here at Hastings, the irrepressible Jack Rudd has provided a great deal of entertainment. This year, he returns as a fully-fledged IM, having wrapped up his final norm over the summer. In today's first round, he produced a fine combination to down Georgian player, Nikolos Chkaidze.

Chkhaidze,Nikoloz (2203) - Rudd,Jack (2344) [C97]
Hastings Masters (1.24), 28.12.2008
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0-0 Be7 6.Re1 b5 7.Bb3 d6 8.c3 0-0 9.h3 Na5 10.Bc2 c5 11.d4 Qc7 12.Nbd2 Bd7 13.Nf1 Rac8 14.d5 c4 15.Ng3 Nb7 16.Bg5 Nc5 17.Qd2 Kh8 18.Nh4 Ng8 19.Nhf5 Bxg5 20.Qxg5 g6 21.Ne3 a5 22.b4 f6 23.Qh4 Nd3 24.Bxd3 cxd3 25.Nd1 axb4 26.cxb4

The question the student must answer is whether the passed d-pawn is weak or strong. Jack's response earns first-class honours: 26...d2 27.Rf1 Qc1! 28.Ne3 Qxa1 29.Rxa1 Rc1+ 30.Ngf1 Rxa1 31.f3 Rc8 32.Qf2. It appears that White is still resisting, but now comes a second hammer-blow. 32...Rc2! 33.Nxc2 d1Q 34.Nxa1 Qxa1 35.Qa7 Qd4+ 36.Qxd4 exd4. The upshot is an extra piece for Black, who won in a few more moves.

Another player who has done well at Hastings in recent years is Chris Briscoe, who made an IM norm here a couple of years back. He provided the first real upset of this year's event, with a convincing win against Andrew Greet. The latter learned the hard way about the dangers of writing opening books – Briscoe beat him using the 6.Qe2 Worrall Attack in the Spanish, as recommended in that highly-regarded 2007 book Play the Ruy Lopez – by Andrew Greet!


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