In the world of chess Christmas and the New Year, of course, means the Hastings Congress and, as I write, Round 6 out of the nine rounds in the Masters is under way with Jakhongir Vakhidov of Uzbekistan the leader on 4½ with four others on 4 including Keith Arkell and Danny Gormally. There are 86 entries in the Masters which seems pretty good to me although I notice that last year there were 99. The official title of the tournament is ‘The Tradewise 93rd Hastings International Chess Congress’ and it is fortunate that the congress has managed to secure funding from Tradewise as its future seemed under threat a few years ago. It was said that Hastings Borough Council would be withdrawing its support although that has certainly not happened yet. Hastings truly is an international congress – of the 86 players listed in the Masters, I counted 24 different nationalities which can’t be bad for business at an English seaside resort in winter. Top seed is the Indian GM Deep Sengupta and, as last year’s winner, the probable favourite. However, he came a cropper at the first hurdle.
White: FM Adam C. Taylor (2242) Black: GM Deep Sengupta (2586)
Hastings International Chess Congress (Round 1)
For anyone who has never been to the Hastings Congress, there is plenty going on. Apart from the Masters, there have been up to six separate Christmas tournaments and the New Year equivalent is now under way. There were also two blitz tournaments played over the New Year, one of which was a pairs blitz which sounds fun, even awarding a prize to the team with the best name which went to ‘Lord Voldemort Plays Chess’. This may not seem too catchy at first until you learn that the two players were Tom Thorpe and Alan Riddle so I think there is a Harry Potter joke here more apparent to some than others. Personally, I liked ‘Glaring Howlers’ (Chris and Oliver Howell). Eventually, there were four joint winners including ‘The Gorm’s Bollocks’ – can’t believe I have just typed that on a family-friendly website – consisting of Danny Gormally and Lee Bullock. I hope I am not being too unfair in suggesting that most of the credit here should go to Danny as I have beaten Lee yet I would not come within a gnat’s crotchet of beating ‘The Gorm’ even if it were a blindfold simultaneous and I was given queen odds. The congress ends on Sunday and there is still time to enter the weekend tournament, five rounds starting on Saturday morning. Failing that, pop down to watch the games and listen to the commentary. Not sure if it is the usual Chris Ward but if it is, he’s very entertaining.