Hastings Chess Congress regains strength

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
12/31/2019 – The long-established Hastings International Chess Congress has reached its 95th edition, and the newly obtained sponsorship from Caplin Systems Limited has reinvigorated the end-of-year event. The 2019/20 tournament includes 123 players from 27 countries, with 17 GMs and 7 IMs in the mix. After three rounds of play, no fewer than nineteen players are sharing the lead on 2½ out of 3, including top seeds David Howell and Romain Edouard. | Photo: Official site

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The 95th edition of the traditional Hastings International Chess Congress is taking place at the Horntye Park Sports Complex from December 28th, 2019 until January 5th, 2020. The Masters is a 9-round Swiss open with a rate of play of 40 moves in 100 minutes, followed by all remaining moves in 50 minutes, with the addition of 30 seconds for each move from the start. Rounds kick off at 15:15 CET and can be followed live at Live.ChessBase.com.

Back in 1895, Harry Nelson Pillsbury, a young unknown American, won a 21-round single round robin in Hastings, outscoring the likes of Mikhail Chigorin, Emanuel Lasker, Siegbert Tarrasch and William Steinitz. Over a century has passed and Hastings continues to receive chess professionals in an event that now takes place at the turn of each year.

Thanks to new sponsorship, the organizers have managed to attract stronger players than last year, but unlike the 2018/19 edition they have decided to reduce the number of rounds from ten to nine. Once again there will be no rest days, with the players fighting over the board both on New Year's eve and on the first day of 2020. 

Hastings International Chess Congress 2019/20

Councillor Peter Chowney, leader of the Hastings Borough Council speaking at the opening ceremony | Photo: Dr John Higgs

The first two rounds of the event saw some of the favourites losing against lower-rated opponents, with unrated John Merriman and Maaike Keitman taking down grandmasters on boards five and nine. 

Meanwhile, top seeds David Howell and Romain Edouard won games of very different nature. Howell needed 69 moves to defeat Chinese WIM Lan Yao from a closed middlegame position in which the Englishman correctly sacrificed an exchange. Edouard, on the other hand, succeeded in attacking Viktor Stoyanov's king:


16...xa2+ was the beginning of the end for White. There followed 17.a1 a4 18.b5 xb5 19.xa2, and Black brought his knight to the attack with 19...d5 and 20...b4+. Edouard's queenside pawns moved forward until pushing White to resign on move 26.

David Howell, Lan Yao, Erik van den Doel

The top boards during round one | Photo: Dr John Higgs

Howell and Edouard also won in round two, as did the third and fourth seeds, Erik van den Doel from the Netherlands and Deep Sengupta from India. Simon Williams a.k.a. Ginger GM, in the meantime, arrived as the thirteenth seed and, true to his style, managed to score a second victory of the event on Sunday with a fine tactical shot:


The author of a number of ChessBase DVD series needed a little over a minute to find the killer 29.c8, and Ranesh Ratnesan accepted defeat immediately.

The second day of action saw no upsets on the top boards, although some of the strongest players in contention only scored half points against local representatives. Round three, on the other hand, saw five draws on boards one to five, which meant no one managed to keep a perfect score after merely three rounds. As plenty of players on 1½/2 scored wins, no fewer than nineteen participants are now sharing the lead.

Among the nineteen co-leaders is IM Richard Bates (2342), who got both to sacrifice his queen and give mate to veteran Mark Hebden, a seven-time British Rapidplay Champion. It is White to move, and there is mate-in-three on the board:


Hebden allowed Bates to show the combination in full: 36.e6+ xe6 37.dxe6+ d8 38.f7#.

Hastings International Chess Congress 2019/20

The playing hall | Photo: Dr John Higgs

Standings after Round 3 (top 25)

Rk. Name Pts.  TB1 
1 Sengupta Deep 2,5 0,0
2 Howell David W L 2,5 0,0
3 Edouard Romain 2,5 0,0
  Panchanathan Magesh Chandran 2,5 0,0
  Swayams Mishra 2,5 0,0
6 Van Den Doel Erik 2,5 0,0
  Williams Simon K 2,5 0,0
8 Petrov Martin 2,5 0,0
  Bagi Mate 2,5 0,0
  Bates Richard A 2,5 0,0
11 Korneev Oleg 2,5 0,0
12 Arkell Keith C 2,5 0,0
13 Willson Ollie 2,5 0,0
14 Pekin Tolgay 2,5 0,0
15 Pavlov Mikhail 2,5 0,0
16 Shivika Rohilla 2,5 0,0
17 Chapman Matt 2,5 0,0
18 Fryer David W 2,5 0,0
19 Akeya-Price Robert 2,5 0,0
20 Yao Lan 2,0 0,0
  Lyell Mark 2,0 0,0
22 Gormally Daniel W 2,0 0,0
  De Coverly Roger D 2,0 0,0
24 Wall Tim P 2,0 0,0
  Comellas Blanchart Jordi 2,0 0,0

...123 players

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Carlos Colodro is a Hispanic Philologist from Bolivia. He works as a freelance translator and writer since 2012. A lot of his work is done in chess-related texts, as the game is one of his biggest interests, along with literature and music.


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