Hastings 2009-2010: Five GMs lead after four rounds

1/1/2010 – For heaven's sake, somebody take away this man's Christmas present! Our Hastings reporter Steve Giddins continues to challenge his readership with Latin phrases. Ignorantia legis neminem excusat – ignorance of the law excuses nobody. Having said that, Steve's reports are unusually entertaining and a welcome change from the normally staid reporting we see in chess. Pictures by John Saunders.

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Reports by Steve Giddins

Round two: Non Carborundum

Chessplayers tend to be like the fans of other sports, in that they mainly like to see spectacular play, regardless of correctness. Soccer fans are always delighted to see a 4-4 thriller between two top Premiership teams, rather than a dry and correct 0-0 draw, regardless of Alan Hansen's apoplexy over the defensive errors in the former. Most cricket fans would rather watch Kevin Pietersen smash a quickfire 30 and then hole out in the deep, than watch a finely-crafted, technically flawless century by Boycott, just as snooker supporters tend to prefer the sub-four minute centuries of Ronnie O'Sullivan to the 40-minute safety battles of Cliff Thorburn. Chess is no exception, and it is gambit play and sacrificial attacks, which tend to catch the eye, rather than long endgame grinds. But the hard reality of the professional game is that spectacular attacks and sacrifices are very much the exception, rather than the rule. As darts commentators are fond of declaring, with all the solemnity one associates with their breed, "180s for show, doubles for dough!".

Labor omnia vincit, as the Roman poet Virgil observed. It is hard work that wins chess tournaments. The player that wins events such as the Hastings Masters, is not usually the one who wins the highest number of spectacular attacking games, but the one who sits in the tournament hall until 9.00 pm at night, squeezing out those extra half points in long endgames. And when it comes to endgame grinders, there is nobody in England to compare with Keith Arkell, the Cliff Thorburn of British chess. Keith's chess heroes are Ulf Andersson and Valery Salov, both players who could wear opponents down with the remorseless efficiency of water dripping on a stone. In yesterday's second round, Keith gave a perfect demonstration of his approach, playing the longest game of the day, totaling 87 moves, in overcoming the strenuous resistance of Laurence Webb. The final stages of this double rook ending were highly complex, and you may wish to solicit the assistance of your chess engine to uncover the finer points of the ending.

On the other top boards, events concluded more rapidly. Drozdovskij drew a short game with German IM and Playchess trainer, Dennis Breder, whilst Istratescu crushed Richard Bates' King's Indian in very short order. Finally, there was a shock on board eight, where the arbiters' evil intentions of eliminating the last 100% scores in the bottom half of the draw were thwarted by Martin Mitchell. His victory resulted when his IM opponent, Sam Collins, forgot Nunn's First Law of Tactics, which states that "Loose bits drop off" (no, I don't know what it is in Latin...). I presume that Collins was aware of this dictum, and had just forgotten it, although even if he had not come across it before, ignorantia legis neminem excusat, as Fred Reinfeld used to say. The punishment was swift, and after just 30 minutes' play, Collins was already lost.

Round three: Hodie mihi, cras tibi

In all walks of life, the relentless march of youth is inevitable, and each generation must eventually give way to its successors. Nowhere is this more so than in chess, with the average age of the top grandmasters having dropped by 10-15 years, over recent times. Fischer's grandmaster title at age 15 was a sensation in 1958, whereas now, anyone who is not a GM by about 12 or 13 is already in danger of missing the boat.

It seems particularly appropriate to be reflecting on such matters today, as this morning we have seen the publication of the new FIDE rating list. This shows Magnus Carlsen at the no. one spot, aged just 19, the youngest world no. one ever. But there was further confirmation of the triumph of youth in yesterday's third round of the Hastings Masters. Several young players found themselves facing GMs, and despite large rating disparities, they acquitted themselves well. David Howell, himself still a teenager, took the sole lead, by beating the much lower-rated Martin Mitchell, although it was not a vintage performance by the British Champion. Amongst those who reached 2.5 points was the top seed, Yuri Drozdovskij, who found himself playing 13-year old Peter Williams, rated no fewer than 613 points below him! However, the youngster showed no sign of being over-awed, and held his powerful opponent at bay for much of the session.

Another young player to score an excellent result was 15-year-old Samuel Franklin, who defeated an out-of-form Simon Williams. Franklin recently scored an excellent second place at the Guernsey International winning a fine attacking game against the experienced IM, Robert Bellin, in the process. Franklin's reward for beating Williams is a board four pairing today against French GM, Romain Edouard, who was held to a draw by Jonathan Hawkins.

Anyone looking at trends in international chess nowadays would have to conclude that being Norwegian is a significant benefit. Following in the footsteps of Magnus Carlsen, Norway is undergoing the biggest chess boom in its history, and other young Norwegian players are starting to make an impact. The FIDE Open section at the London Classic in December was won by Jon Ludvig Hammer, and here at Hastings we have several Norwegian players present. One of them is Elias Demac, who moved onto 2.5 points, by beating Laurence Webb. For the latter, it was the second day in succession that he had fought out the longest game of the day, and come up short in a rook ending. Another of the day's marathons saw Dennis Breder overcome Bob Eames' resistance, in an ending of Q v R+B, but Danny Gormally will have been disappointed at failing to do the same against Dieter Kolbus.

Sam Collins bounced back from the previous day's opening disaster, to win the shortest game of the tournament so far – just 13 moves, and 30 minutes' play!

Collins,S IRL (2431) - Spanton,T (2026) [C67]
85th Masters Hastings ENG (3), 30.12.2009
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 Nf6 4.0-0 Nxe4 5.Re1 Nd6 6.Nxe5 Nxe5 7.Rxe5+ Be7 8.Nc3 Nxb5? Walking into a trap of Methuselaic antiquity.

9.Nd5 0-0 10.Nxe7+ Kh8 11.Qh5 g6 12.Qh6 Re8 13.Rh5 1-0. Of course, had the black player been familiar with that splendid volume, 101 Chess Opening Traps, this disaster would not have happened to him - another example of the value of being a doctus cum libro...

Round four: Annus mirabilis

So, we've done it. Another year has come and gone at Hastings, and Steve Giddins once again faces the annual problem of finding something original to say about New Year's Eve. Actually, this one proved more pleasant than usual, as, despite emerging from the Horntye only at something after 9.30 pm, your control team went on to enjoy an excellent final meal of 2009, at a Thai restaurant in nearby St Leonards. We then adjourned to the White Rock Hotel, one of the sponsors of our tournament, to see in the New Year over a pint or two of most excellent, locally-brewed, real ale. If it means spending the rest of 2010 consuming pints of Dark Star "Expresso" bitter, I shall be quite happy to accept the truth of the old adage, that whatever one does on the first day of the year, one will do for the remainder of it.

But before any of this entertainment could be enjoyed, there was the small matter of the fourth round of the 2009-10 Hastings Masters. The last 100% score disappeared, after David Howell drew a fascinating see-saw battle against French IM, Christophe Philippe.

This allowed four other players to join Howell in the lead on 3.5 points. Istratescu won one of the day's longest games, against Breder, whilst Edouard won in impressive positional style against Sam Franklin. Drozdovskij capitalised on the white pieces, against the young Norwegian, Elias Demac, whilst Mark Hebden wielded one of his favourite opening lines, to score a crushing win against yet another talented junior, David Grant. Hracek, Gormally and Greet were amongst others who won, to reach 3 points, as did young Peter Williams, whose play so far has been highly impressive. Another young player on 3/4 is Gudmundur Kjartansson from Iceland, who did so well here last year. Today he crushed Jason McKenna, in double-quick time.


Steve Giddins with his Christmas present book – get yourself a copy, quick!

And with that, we say farewell to the year that has passed. All that remains for me is to wish you every happiness and success for 2763, anno urbis conditae!

Top ranking after round four (Thursday, 31 December 2009)

# Player
Points
Nat.
Rating
Perf.
W-We
1 GM Drozdovskij, Yuri
3.5
UKR
2625
2654
+0.08
2 GM Istratescu, Andrei
3.5
ROU
2624
2723
+0.35
3 GM Edouard, Romain
3.5
FRA
2620
2679
+0.19
4 GM Howell, David W L
3.5
ENG
2597
2659
+0.20
5 GM Hebden, Mark L
3.5
ENG
2522
2655
+0.58
6 GM Hracek, Zbynek
3.0
CZE
2624
2530
-0.31
7 GM Gormally, Daniel W
3.0
ENG
2479
2450
-0.08
8 GM Arkell, Keith C
3.0
ENG
2464
2588
+0.64
9 IM Philippe, Christophe
3.0
FRA
2430
2525
+0.52
10 IM Greet, Andrew N
3.0
ENG
2423
2460
+0.26
11 IM Kjartansson, Gudmundur
3.0
ISL
2391
2389
+0.02
12 IM Ansell, Simon T
3.0
ENG
2387
2401
+0.10
13 FM Hawkins, Jonathan
3.0
ENG
2383
2647
+1.37
14 IM Kolbus, Dietmar
3.0
GER
2355
2407
+0.31
15 IM Knott, Simon J B
3.0
ENG
2348
2467
+0.66
16 FM Druckenthaner, Andreas
3.0
AUT
2296
2391
+0.48
17 Talsma, Paul
3.0
NED
2252
2326
+0.43
18 Williams, Peter A
3.0
ENG
2012
2440
+2.14

Picture Gallery from Hastings

By John Saunders


Rating favourite and leader after four rounds: Yuri Drozdovskij of Ukraine


David Howell received a hero's welcome on his first game in his home county since winning the British Championship in August and making his successful super-tournament debut at Olympia in December


This photo is unique for a Hastings Congress - no one has ever seen anyone sweat at the traditional Christmas/New Year tournament before. The Romanian GM Andrei Istratescu seems to find the south coast climate a bit tropical.


Mark Hebden is a regular fixture at pretty well all of Britain's chess tournaments


English GM Keith Arkell, who beat Laurence Webb in 87 moves in round two


Danny Gormally was a late entrant to the Hastings Masters this year but he's a regular competitor here


Associate editor of British Chess Magazine Bernard Cafferty, one of the four "Russian chess translators" (the others are Steve Giddins, John Sugden and Lawrence Webb) present at Hastings. Cafferty lives very near the congress venue and was until very recently president of Hastings Chess Club.


Irish IM Sam Collins has spent a good deal of time in Japan recently, but is now back in Western Europe


WIM Joanna Worek of Poland sprang the surprise of round one, beating...


...IM Andrew Martin, who is a rare visitor to tournaments these days.


Just one letter different... Andrew Green versus Andrew Greet. “T” beat “N” in round one


Zbrynek Hracek versus Bob Eames – White won a pawn but Black put up a gutsy defence to hold the draw


The body language is a big clue. Rasa Norinkeviciute (of Lithuania, but long resident in Hastings) is poised to drive home her advantage against Hugo Devoille of France.


James Jackson (2067) plays Amy Hoare (1797) – the game ended in a draw


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