Magesh Chandran clear leader in Hastings

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
1/3/2020 – Six out of nine rounds of the Hastings Chess Congress have been completed, and a player has emerged as the undisputed leader. Indian grandmaster Magesh Chandran Panchanathan has a full-point lead over a five-player chasing pack after having collected an astounding 5½ points. The player from Madurai already faced the three top seeds of the event, beating David Howell and Erik van den Doel, and drawing Romain Edouard, who is currently part of the group on 4½. | Photo: Official site

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Long strategic victories


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.


Magesh Chandran PanchanathanWhen we last reported after round three, a large group of nineteen players was co-leading the event on 2½ out of 3 points. Now, three days later, a player stands alone atop the standings after having won all his games in the meantime. Magesh Chandran Panchanathan (pictured) defeated David Howell (first seed), Martin Petrov and Erik van den Doel (third seed) to enter the seventh round as the clear leader with 5½ points.

The 36-year-old from Madurai became the twelfth Indian grandmaster back in 2006. Once considered a chess prodigy, he nevertheless pursued a career in the United States, getting both undergraduate and graduate degrees at the University of Texas. He then went on to establish the Kings and Queens Chess Academy in New Jersey, in which he successfully coached, among others, Abhimanyu Mishra, the youngest IM-norm maker ever

Magesh Chandran's deep understanding of the game came to the fore in Hastings. In round four, he ground down David Howell with White after the latter incorrectly gave up his b-pawn in a complex middlegame. The very next day, he scored a 78-move victory with the black pieces over Bulgarian IM Martin Petrov, showcasing strong endgame play and the right amount of patience to convert his advantage. You can replay both games in the viewer below:

 

Then came round six, when he had the white pieces against third seed Erik van den Doel from the Netherlands. Another closed pawn structure was established in the middlegame, and this time around Magesh Chandra found a nice tactical shot to claim an advantage:

 

The Indian played 40.h5 in the last move before 50 minutes were added to the clocks, to which Van den Doel responded with 40...xh5 (40...g5 was a better try). White then showed his idea — the game followed 41.ef5+ xf5 42.exf5 b7 43.fxg6 fxg6 44.xh5:

 

Anything other than 44...xc2+ would lead to mate, as the light-squared bishop was a key factor in the whole combination. After 45.xc2 gxh5, White had a small material advantage, but, more importantly, his rooks were much more active than Black's rook and knight. In fact, some five moves later White managed to all but paralyse his opponent's pieces:

 

The knight on b7 simply cannot move. Van den Doel advanced his passers on the e and h-files, but Magesh had no problems stopping them and getting the full point from this dominating position.

 

The only player to have drawn Magesh so far is second seed Romain Edouard. As mentioned above, the French grandmaster is one of five players a full point behind the leader. However, Edouard could have easily got sole second place in round six, when he had a completely winning position with White in his game against Hungarian GM Gergely Kantor:

 

As France's number four explained in a tweet, he wanted to go 31.♔h1, but his hand chose 31.h2, a massive blunder. Edouard was three pawns to the good and an hour up on the clock when he allowed Black to save the game with a perpetual check — 31...xg2+ 32.xg2 g3+ 33.h1 xh3+ 34.g1 g3+.

The Frenchman first had some trouble figuring out how to handle the situation, but then decided the show must go on

Veselin Topalov, Romain Edouard

Romain Edouard (right) recently published a book on his years working as a second for Veselin Topalov | Photo: JM Péchiné

Things have not gone all that well for the top seed either. After his loss against Magesh, Howell defeated Simon Williams, but could not quite complete his recovery in round six, when he entered a losing endgame against veteran Mark Hebden, who showed good technique to get a noteworthy win after 88 moves.

 

Besides Edouard and Hebden, Martin Petrov, Mate Bagi (Magesh's seventh round rival) and Matthew Wadsworth are on 4½ out of 6. Given how the Indian has been playing and the fact that he has already faced the three highest-rated grandmasters in the field, we can only call him a favourite to take the title. But three rounds are left to be played, so anything can still happen.


Standings after Round 6 (top 25)

Rk. Name Pts.  TB1 
1 Panchanathan Magesh Chandran 5,5 0,0
2 Petrov Martin 4,5 0,0
3 Hebden Mark L 4,5 0,0
4 Edouard Romain 4,5 0,0
5 Bagi Mate 4,5 0,0
6 Wadsworth Matthew J 4,5 0,0
7 Merry Alan B 4,0 0,0
8 Brouwer Dennis 4,0 0,0
9 Lyell Mark 4,0 0,0
10 Van Den Doel Erik 4,0 0,0
11 Arkell Keith C 4,0 0,0
12 Williams Simon K 4,0 0,0
13 Willow Jonah B 4,0 0,0
14 Kantor Gergely 4,0 0,0
15 Cherniaev Alexander 4,0 0,0
16 Grieve Harry 4,0 0,0
17 Yao Lan 4,0 0,0
18 Fishbein Alexander 4,0 0,0
19 Petrov Vladimir Sergeev 4,0 0,0
20 Stoyanov Viktor 4,0 0,0
21 Sengupta Deep 4,0 0,0
22 Stany G.A. 4,0 0,0
23 Bates Richard A 4,0 0,0
24 Korneev Oleg 4,0 0,0
25 Flear Glenn C 4,0 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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