In the gap between Christmas and the New Year the thoughts of many chess fans turns to Hastings and its annual chess congress. This is one of the oldest tournaments in the world and over the years has attracted some of the world’s greatest players.  Possibly the most famous is the 1895 tournament which has claims to be the strongest ever held in England. The then World Champion, Emanuel Lasker, and the former World Champion, Wilhem Steinitz, took part alongside Chigorin, Tarrasch and a number of other world-class players. To everyone’s surprise, however, the tournament was won by the American, Harry Pillsbury, in his first international competition.    Personal memories either as spectator or player include seeing Glenn Flear beaten by a young Judit Polgar in the 1989 Challengers, watching the top players in the Premier fight it out in the comfortable surroundings of the Cinque Ports Hotel and – at the other end of the scale – trying to concentrate on playing chess on the pier while the waves (visible through the cracks in the floorboards) were crashing around beneath us.

This year, thanks to some generous sponsorship resulting in a first prize of £2000, the organisers have managed to attract a sizeable number of GMs and IMs. Top seed is the Indian GM S.P.Sethuraman but he was surprisingly beaten in the first round. It was not the only early upset with the result that by round 3 there were only nine players out of the 97 with 100% scores. One of these is the rising English star, FM Ravi Haria.  At 17, he is currently graded 228 and has been on the radar since his annus mirabilis of 08/09 when his grade shot up from 95 to 169 and he was still only ten years old! He attracted attention in 2015 when he beat GM Gawain Jones in the Politiken Cup and in round 2 at Hastings this year he came up against another formidable opponent in GM Danny Gormally.

White:  Ravi Haria (2382)   Black:  Danny Gormally (2493)       

Hastings International Chess Congress 2016/7

Spolier alert! If you have not had a chance to have a go at the Christmas teaser in the last posting, now is your chance because the answer is about to be revealed. Otherwise, look away now… For the rest of you waiting on tenterhooks for the answer – and there might be one or two of you curious to know – it is annoyingly simple. In the puzzle Black cannot castle because as both pawns are on their original squares, Black’s previous move must have been with either rook or king, thereby disallowing castling.  Therefore, 1. Qa1 followed by 2. Qh8 wins. Happy New Year!

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