Six-way tie at the top of 94th Hastings Congress

by Antonio Pereira
1/7/2019 – The Horntye Park Sports Complex received the 94th edition of the traditional Hastings Congress. This year, the Masters section was extended from nine to ten rounds, but that did not prevent six players from tying at the top of the standings on 7 points. Daniel Gormally had arrived in the last round as the sole leader, but after drawing with White he was caught by Oleg Korneev, Sarunas Sulskis, Martin Petrov, Alexander Cherniaev and Conor Murphy. | Photos: Brendan O'Gorman

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Closing in on a hundred

A tournament that includes among its past winners five world champions — Botvinnik, Tal, Spassky, Smyslov and Karpov — continues to take place at the southern English town of Hastings. Lately, the tournament, traditionally organised at the very end of each year (and lasting until the next one begins), mostly attracts players from Great Britain.

This year's Masters Tournament had 87 participants, which included eight grandmasters and nineteen players rated above 2300. However, the big chess festival is not restricted to professional players, as no less than fourteen events were organised for amateurs and club players to enjoy — all with money prizes.  Additionally, joint sponsors Tradewise Insurance Services and Hastings Borough Council provided special prizes for norm-getters and the best game in the Masters.

The participants of the 1895 edition | Photo: Brendan O'Gorman

In this year's main tournament, 42-year-old English GM Daniel Gormally probably wished for the event to keep its old nine-round format, as he was the only player on 6 points before Sunday's final round. In the last game, he had White against Gudmundur Kjartansson, who defended tenaciously from a position of weakness to simplify into a rook and knight v rook endgame. Gormally played on in the theoretically drawn position for 25 moves, but ended up agreeing to a draw.

This allowed another five players to catch up with him at the last hurdle. Nonetheless, as the only British player in the six-way tie, he secured a place in the 2019 British Championship — the event grants a qualification spot.

Gormally

Daniel Gormally had a 2576 rating performance | Photo: Brendan O'Gorman

The lowest-rated player in the winning group was Irish FM Conor Murphy, who managed to end up on top despite losing a complicated Sicilian battle against Gormally in round four:

 

While the rest of the co-winners defeated lower-rated players in the final round, Murphy (rated 2331) took down Koen Leenhouts (2470) on Sunday in a bishop v knight endgame, in which White's long-range piece works better with passed pawns on both flanks of the board:

 

The Irish FM correctly forced the exchange of rooks with 47.Rd4, as White's active king and well-placed bishop will secure the a-pawn to queen much quicker than Black's counterpart on the opposite side of the board.

Conor Murphy

FM Conor Murphy arrived as the 15th seed | Photo: Brendan O'Gorman

Meanwhile, Oleg Korneev and Martin Petrov defeated weaker opposition with the white pieces. Third seed Sarunas Sulskis from Lithuania showed good technique in an endgame with four rooks to beat Bogdan Lalic, while Russian Alexander Cherniaev defended effectively against Richard Bates — the latter did not find the most critical continuation in the following attacking position:

 

Cherniaev was probably relieved when he saw 34.fxe7 on the board, as it allowed him to offer an exchange sacrifice with 34...Rxe7, getting some air. Bates did not take the rook and continued putting pressure, but in the diagram position, he could have followed with 34.Rf4, bringing one more piece to the attack...and the position is unclear. Nevertheless, in the game, Black defended against the threats and was up material after some simplifications took place. Cherniaev won after 58 moves.

Thus, six players were declared joint winners in the oldest tournament on the planet.

Cherniaev

Russian GM Alexander Cherniaev | Photo: Brendan O'Gorman

Final standings (top 30)

Rk. Name  TB1 
1 KORNEEV Oleg 7,0
  SULSKIS Sarunas 7,0
  GORMALLY Daniel W 7,0
  PETROV Martin 7,0
  CHERNIAEV Alexander 7,0
  MURPHY Conor E 7,0
7 HAWKINS Jonathan 6,5
  KJARTANSSON Gudmundur 6,5
  PETROV Vladimir Sergeev 6,5
  TAYLOR Adam C 6,5
11 LEENHOUTS Koen 6,0
  LALIC Bogdan 6,0
  DJURIC Stefan 6,0
  KALAVANNAN Koby 6,0
  LYELL Mark 6,0
  STEFANSSON Vignir Vatnar 6,0
  WILLOW Jonah B 6,0
  ROYSET Pal 6,0
  ROLVAG Mikael 6,0
  MIDHUN P U 6,0
21 BATES Richard A 5,5
  MOORE Graham J 5,5
  GRAHAM David B 5,5
  VILLIERS Thomas 5,5
  STOYANOV Viktor 5,5
  ANDERSON John 5,5
  BYRON Alan M 5,5
  WHITE Stuart A 5,5
  SUGDEN John N 5,5
  RICE Chris B 5,5

All available games

 

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Antonio is a freelance writer and a philologist. He is mainly interested in the links between chess and culture, primarily literature. In chess games, he skews towards endgames and positional play.
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EEShelton EEShelton 1/10/2019 04:25
Absolutely THRILL for GM Gormally's result from this tournament! Love his games, fighting spirit and sense of humor.
RdC RdC 1/8/2019 02:29
As a GM, Gormally is automatically qualified for the British Championship. The qualifier should have been the best player not already qualified.
macauley macauley 1/8/2019 11:24
@RegCB - Thanks. Changed.
RegCB RegCB 1/7/2019 01:38
Good report, except that Hastings is not a city!
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