Hastings 2007 – get ready for some nuckie

12/31/2007 – The annual Hastings tournament goes into its 112th edition, with a ten-round Swiss over the New Year, with 16 grandmasters and 16 IMs. One is Glenn Flear, an English GM who has lived for many years in France. Glenn recently wrote a superb book in which he develops the concept of "nuckie", i.e. NQEs, or "Not Quite Endgames". In Hastings he gave a practical demonstration.

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Young at heart – and always ready for some nookie!

Report by Steve Giddins

The annual Hastings International Congress started on 28 December. Now in its 112th year, since the inaugural event in 1895, this is actually the 83rd congress, and is dedicated to the memory of numerous chess organisers and volunteers who have passed away in recent years. Held as usual at the Horntye Park sports centre, the main event is the ten-round Swiss, the Hastings Masters. This boasts a field of 102 players, including 16 grandmasters and 16 international masters.

After two rounds, the top players have already found the going tough. Top seed Malkhatko lost in round one to the young German player, Sebastian Bogner. In fact, after two rounds, there are only five players on 2/2. Three are GMs, one an IM, and the remainder is 59 year old Hastings chess club member, Mel Young, rated just 1954! In round three, he will play 2596-rated Malakhatko, for a total rating differential of 642 points...

Play takes place each day from 14:15h (2:15 p.m. British time), and live coverage of the top games can be found at the official tournament website. The site also includes colourful round-by-round summaries by Steve Giddins.

The congress is officially opened by Councillor Paul Smith (left) and Michael Foster MP (right), with, in the centre, The Right Worshipful Mayor of Hastings, Councillor Maureen Holdsworth. And you thought chessplayers were obsessed with titles...


Grandmaster Nick Pert


Hastings hero Mel Young, rated 1954, prepares to take on the top seed...


... 2596-rated GM Vadim Malahatko

Top board saw India's Deep Sengupta produce the rarely-seen Veresov Opening, against grandmaster Mamedov. The latter more than  equalized, and turned down a draw on move 20, but went fatally wrong around move 32-33, and was unceremoniously mated:

Sengupta,D (2447) - Mamedov,Nid (2575) [D01]
Premier Hastings ENG (2), 29.12.2007
1.d4 Nf6 2.Nc3 d5 3.Bg5 Nbd7 4.Qd3 h6 5.Bh4 c6 6.Nf3 Qa5 7.a3 e6 8.Nd2 b5 9.Nb3 Qb6 10.Bxf6 Nxf6 11.e4 a6 12.Be2 Be7 13.0-0 0-0 14.Qe3 Qc7 15.Bd3 Bb7 16.Rae1 Rad8 17.e5 Nd7 18.Nb1 c5 19.dxc5 Nxc5 20.Nxc5 Bxc5 21.Qg3 b4 22.axb4 Bxb4 23.c3 Be7 24.Nd2 a5 25.Nf3 Qb6 26.Nd4 Ba6 27.Bxa6 Qxa6 28.f4 Bc5 29.f5 exf5 30.Rxf5 Rb8 31.Rf4

Here, Black could have played simply 31...Rxb2 32.Rg4 g6, when the computer is very unconvinced about White's attacking prospects. Instead, Mamedov chose the extravagant  31... h5!? 32.Qf3 Rxb2 33.Qxd5?! 33.Qxh5 is better. 33...Qg6? Now 33...Qa8 would have removed the "girlies" from the board, leaving Black with a winning ending. 34.e6 a4? Completing the collapse. 34...Rb1 was the last chance. 35.exf7+ Kh7 36.Ref1 a3 37.Rh4 Kh6 38.g4 1–0.

The other winner on the top boards was Tahirov, who overcame Jovanka Houska.

Tahirov,F (2540) - Houska,Jo (2404) [D45]
Premier Hastings ENG (2), 29.12.2007
1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 d5 3.c4 c6 4.e3 e6 5.Nc3 Nbd7 6.Qc2 Bd6 7.b3 0-0 8.Be2 b6 9.0-0 Bb7 10.Rd1 Qe7 11.a4 a5 12.Bb2 Rfe8 13.Bd3 h6 14.Re1 Bb4 15.Red1 Bd6 16.Re1 Bb4 17.Red1 Bd6 18.h3 Rac8 19.Qe2 Rcd8 20.Qc2 Rc8 21.Qe2 Rcd8 22.Rab1 Bb8 23.Rbc1

Black had equalized without trouble, and now continued 23...e5 24.cxd5 cxd5 25.Ba6 Ba8? 25...Bxa6 26 Qxa6 e4 looks fine for Black. 26.Nb5 exd4?! Here, too, 26...e4 is better. 27.Nbxd4 Nc5 28.Bb5 Rf8 29.Nf5 Qe6 30.N3d4 Qe5 31.f4 Qe4 and now Tahirov completed the demolition job with 32.Rxc5! bxc5 33.Bd3. Now Black realized the high price to be paid for having opened the long diagonal of White's b2-bishop on move 26. 33...Qe8 loses to 34 Nxg7!. Jovanka chose to give up the queen with 33...cxd4 but lost after 34.Bxe4 dxe4 35.Bxd4 1–0.

Pleasingly, the other two players to reach 2/2 are both English, namely Danny Gormally and Simon Williams. The former relieved Thomas Rendle of two pawns, with almost ridiculous ease, whilst Simon won yet another of his trademark Dutch Defence crushes. When the Black pawn gets to f3 in such positions, it is usually a bad sign for the White player!

Thompson,I (2312) - Williams,Simon (2475) [A81]
Premier Hastings ENG (2), 29.12.2007
1.d4 e6 2.Nf3 f5 3.g3 Nf6 4.Bg2 Be7 5.0-0 0-0 6.Nbd2 Nc6 7.b3 Ne4 8.Bb2 Bf6 9.e3 Nxd2 10.Qxd2 d6 11.b4 Qe8 12.c4 e5 13.b5 Nd8 14.dxe5 dxe5 15.e4 f4

I imagine that round about here, Simon was already mentally chalking up the point.16.Qd5+ Be6 17.Qc5 Bg4 18.Qd5+ Ne6 19.Qxb7 Qh5 20.Qa6 Rae8 21.Qa3 Be7 22.Qc3 Bc5 23.Nh4 f3 24.Nxf3 Total desperation. If 24.Bh1, White's only hope is that his opponent might losing on time, trying to decide whether 24...Nd4 or 24...Ng5 is the more decisive. Bxf3 25.Bxf3 Rxf3 26.Qxe5 Qf7 27.Kg2 0–1.

A particularly welcome visitor to this year's Hastings is Glenn Flear. The English GM was born and grew up in Leicester, where he was an exact contemporary of Mark Hebden, but has now lived for many years in France. Over the past 20 years we have seen far too little of him in England, but, as one of the true "nice guys" of the chess world, he is always a very welcome guest. He has recently written a superb book in which he develops the concept of "nuckie", i.e. NQEs, or "Not Quite Endgames". By this he means those indeterminate positions, usually queenless, but with more pieces on the board than one usually gets in the positions which are covered in most endgame books. Gleen's book is destined to become a classic, and yesterday he gave a small demonstration of his own "nuckie" ability.


Introduced the nookie to chess: GM Glenn Flear

Dickson,G (2160) - Flear,G (2493) [C77]
Premier Hastings ENG (2), 29.12.2007
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.Qe2 Be7 6.d3 b5 7.Bb3 0-0 8.0-0 d6 9.h3 Na5 10.Bg5 h6 11.Bd2 Nxb3 12.axb3 Bb7 13.b4 d5 14.exd5 Nxd5 15.c3 Re8 16.Na3 Bf6 17.Rfe1 Qd7 18.Qe4 c5 19.Qg4 Qxg4 20.hxg4 cxb4 21.cxb4 Nf4

With the better pawn structure, more active pieces and two bishops, this is obviously the kind of nookie that we all dream about. Glenn duly converted his advantage: 22.Bc3 Nxd3 23.Re3 Rad8 24.Rd1 Nf4 25.Rxd8 Rxd8 26.Bxe5 Bxe5 27.Rxe5 Nd3 28.Re7 Bxf3 29.gxf3 Nxb4 30.Re4 Rd1+ 31.Kg2 Nd3 32.Nc2 Rd2 33.Re8+ Kh7 0–1.

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