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!

Christmas at Broadstairs Chess Club always means one thing: the annual Christmas Dinner. This is a tradition that has been going on for about twenty years and for most of that time the venue has been the Tartar Frigate overlooking the harbour. It is one of only a few 18th century flint pub/restaurants in Kent but it is not the oldest in Broadstairs as we found out in Michael Doyle’s splendid quiz during the dinner. Alas, the official photographer neglected to take any photos of the evening itself so instead of a few boozy chess players, you can admire the venue above, strongly recommended if you fancy a cosy pint when you come down for the Thanet Chess Congress in the summer. As usual, it was an excellent evening, subsidised by the club (which always guarantees a good turnout) including the now traditional quiz comprising a mixture of chess and local questions e.g. which 19th century artist is buried in Birchington (and it’s not Turner!)? When was Broadstairs Chess Club founded – an embarrassing question for your correspondent who could not remember even though it is featured at the top of our website; and which Broadstairs church was visited by the Archbishop of Canterbury recently? Congratulations to Tom Lovegrove and David Clifford, joint winners. Excellent food, drink, company and laughter: what more could you want?   The club closes for Christmas but re-opens on January 2nd.

Finally, here is a Christmas teaser for you: White to play and win in two moves. Looks easy, doesn’t it? Surely, you are thinking, White plays 1.Qa1 with mate to follow on h8? But wait….what if Black castles?  Answers or requests for the solution via the Contact link above.

A very Happy Chessmas to our many loyal visitors from everyone at Broadstairs Chess Club.

 

Wesley So completed a very satisfying nine days in London by winning both the London Chess Classic and with it the Chess Grand Tour for 2016.  Victory in the former nets him $75,000 while the latter is worth $100,000. His victory was completed with a round to spare, thereby making Round 9 today something of an anticlimax although the only victory of the round was an achievement of sorts for Veselin Topalov in what has been a wretched tournament for him.  So’s victory takes him over the 2800 barrier and up to fourth in the world rankings. Chess commentators are already talking about a possible world title challenge in the future and, let’s not forget, while people are always talking about the youth of the current world champion, So at 23 is three years younger.

                   Round 6:  Caruana v Nakamura

Runner-up in London was Fabiano Caruana who is only a year older than So and is now just thirteen points behind Magnus Carlsen in the world rankings. His terrific win over Hikaru Nakamura in Round 6 involving an audacious queen sacrifice was the game of the tournament. Caruana was clearly not surprised that Nakamura played a sharp Najdorf as he explained afterwards: “In the US Championship (Nakamura) said it was a must-win game in Round 3, so maybe here he thought it was a must-win game if he wanted to win the Grand Chess Tour.”   The key move was perhaps not 19.Qxf6 or any of those immediately preceding or following but probably White’s 21st.  Mere mortals like your correspondent would no more contemplate sacrificing a queen in White’s position after nineteen moves than they would cutting off their right hand.  However, 21.Nc6, which Nakamura was clearly expecting, would at least win back the queen but with an uncertain advantage. Instead, what followed was 21.Nf5!! after which Nakamura spent 35 minutes realising that he was in serious trouble. Caruana explained: “I’d analysed this and the computer doesn’t show 21.Nf5. The problem is that the computer doesn’t understand that after 21.Nf5 Bxf5 Black is pretty much just lost. It’s one of the saddest positions I’ve ever seen for Black.”  Judge for yourself.

White:  Fabiano Caruana (2823)         Black: Hikaru Nakamura (2779)

London Chess Classic 2016 Round 6

Broadstairs  2½         Folkestone   4½ 

1 David Faldon (179) 0-1         Andy Hammond  (197)
2 Nick McBride (e160) 1-0         Martin Cutmore  (178)
3 Bob Page (141) 0-1         John Atherton (163)
4 John Couzens (125) 0-1         Kevin Smyth (153)
5 Andy Flood (117) 0-1         Mathew Cussens (136)
6 Reg Pidduck (107) 1-0         David Erwee (108)
7 Bob Cronin (103) ½-½         James Smith  (e50)

David Faldon writes:

What do we want for Christmas? A new board 1! And, hey presto, we have one after our latest match. Nick McBride has a new estimated grade of 181 and so he takes over as our board one in the new year (at least until the new grading list is published – Ed). Congratulations! With apologies to Reg, Nick’s game was the highlight of the match for Broadstairs. A slightly odd opening on both sides turned out well for Nick, so much so that his opponent felt compelled to sacrifice a piece to get a passed pawn on the last-but-one rank. For some time the attack appeared dangerous but Nick cemented a knight on a perfect defensive square and his opponent was unable to break through. I’m afraid I didn’t see much of Reg’s game at the other end of the room but I’m told he won a bishop for a pawn early on using his trusty Ruy Lopez . Reg now has three wins from his last three games, all with the Ruy Lopez. Maybe we should all be using it? Anyway, some of the other games were interesting too, especially the game on board 3, but apart from Bob C’s well-played draw on board 7, none of the unmentioned Broadstairs players were able to contribute to the team total and so we lost the match. A shame, but the Folkestone guys played well and deserved their win.

                Wesley So

The 2016 London Chess Classic, the final leg of the Chess Grand Tour, began on Friday and features all of the world’s top 10 apart from Magnus Carlsen and Sergey Karjakin. Wesley So leads the Grand Tour after three of the four rounds and with the World Champion absent, he is the favourite to win the overall prize money of $100,000 ($75,000 for the winner of the London Chess Classic). Hikaru Nakamura, the only person who can stop Wesley from taking first prize, was drawn with the white pieces against him in Round 1 and blundered with 13.Ne2?, giving So a comfortable victory which he followed up with another win in Round 2 after another blunder, this time from Michael Adams. As the only player with a 100% score after two of the nine rounds, So’s position as favourite is even stronger now than it was at the start. In beating Adams, So took his rating beyond 2800, only the 12th player in history to achieve the feat. A draw in Round 3 maintained his half-point lead at the top.

White: Hikaru Nakamura (2779)         Black: Wesley So (2794)  

London Chess Classic 2016 Round 1