7-Way Tie at 89th Hastings Chess Congress
On Sunday the Hastings Chess Congress, the longest running chess tournament in the world, ended in a 7-way tie for first place. GM Mikheil Mchedlishvili of Georgia, GM Igor Khenkin of Germany, GM Ma Qun of China, GM Mark Hebden of England, IM Jahongir Vakhidov of Uzbekistan, IM Justin Sarkar of USA and FM Jovica Radovanovic of Serbia all scored 6.5 points out of 9 games.
Ma Qun-Mchedlishvili | Photo © Lara Barnes
This Saturday the 76th Tata Steel Chess Tournament starts, the second longest chess tournament in the world. The oldest is of course the one in Hastings.
The first edition, which was held in the summer of 1895, was famously won by Harry Nelson Pillsbury ahead of all the top players: former world champion Wilhelm Steinitz, reigning champion Emanuel Lasker, Mikhail Chigorin, Siegbert Tarrasch, Karl Schlechter, Joseph Henry Blackburne, David Janowski, and others.
The first Christmas Congress was held in 1920-1921. It was a four-player double round-robin of British Champions, won by Frederick Yates 4.0/6 ahead of Roland Henry Vaughn Scott, Henry Ernest Atkins, and Richard Griffith.
Every World Champion before Garry Kasparov except Bobby Fischer played at Hastings and as Leonard Barden notes, the great days of the Hastings congress were in the 1930s, 1950s and 1970s...
“...when the legends of the game felt honoured to be invited while the English masters could boast some memorable giant-killing. In 1934-35 Sir George Thomas, who had been the global No1 at badminton, beat the world champions José Capablanca and Mikhail Botvinnik in successive rounds and in 1953-54 the Bletchley Park codebreaker Hugh Alexander won a 120-move queen ending against David Bronstein which made Fleet Street's front pages.”
This year's event wasn't very strong, but interesting all the same. The four top seeds were not from England: GMs Mikheil Mchedlishvili (2649) of Georgia, Igor Khenkin (2598) of Germany, Ma Qun (2595) of China, and Jacek Tomczak (2569) of Poland. The highest rated local hero was Mark Hebden (2560). Other nationalities included Bangladesh, Jamaica, Kazachstan, New Zealand, Singapore, USA, and Uzbekistan!
It was another English grandmaster who started with three straight wins: Danny Gormally. He fell back slightly with two draws and it was top seed Mchedlishvili who grabbed sole lead with the following win in round 5:
Already in the next round there were some relatively quick draws on the top boards: Mchedlishvili-Pert in 13 moves, Ma Qun-Tomczak in 20 moves and Arkell-Gormally in 15 moves.
A double pawn sacrifice by Mark Hebden in his beloved King's Indian didn't work out well as his opponent did the same later in the game:
In round 7 the highest rated player was under big pressure, but he managed to draw by the skin of his teeth:
Khenkin joined Mchedlishvili in first place with the following win on board 2.
Mchedlishvili and Khenkin belong to the group of what I used to call "open tournament tigers", grandmasters who play a big number of open tournaments throughout the year to make a living. These ultimate professionals don't buy the "fighting chess" argument and simply choose the strategy that will yield them the most money in the long run. And so in round 8, the two leaders drew in 14 moves.
Khenkin drew in just 11 moves in the last round. Stewart Reuben's remarks on the tournament website may sound naive to some:
“I asked both Jovica and Igor about their 11 move draw. Both assured me that it was Igor who had offered a draw. That is right and proper; Igor is the much higher rated player and had the white pieces. But, on the internet, the game is shown as ending on black’s 11th move. Igor told me he had made a mess of his preparation and that he stood worse. It would have been dangerous to continue to try to win. I have absolutely no doubt in my mind it was not a pre-arranged draw.”
And so Mchedlisihvili would have liked to play for a win in the final round to claim the sole first prize, but his 23-year-old opponent from China was in full control from the start.
And so Mchedlishvili, Ma Qun, Hebden, Vakhidov, Sarkar and Radovanovic all got a cheque of 750 pounds sterling. Khenkin's was filled with 100 pounds more, because he also won the best game prize. I presume it's the one I showed in this report, but it doesn't seem to be mentioned on the tournament website.
89th Hastings Chess Congress 2013-14 | Final Standings (Top 30)
|4||Hebden, Mark L||GM||ENG||2560||6.5||2479|
|9||Gordon, Stephen J||GM||ENG||2519||6.0||2421|
|11||Gormally, Daniel W||GM||ENG||2500||6.0||2483|
|13||Flear, Glenn C||GM||ENG||2471||6.0||2558|
|14||Arkell, Keith C||GM||ENG||2438||6.0||2449|
|20||Fernandez, Daniel Howard||IM||SIN||2381||5.5||2401|
|22||Mannion, Stephen R||IM||SCO||2375||5.5||2276|
|25||Sowray, Peter J||FM||ENG||2326||5.0||2388|
|27||Knott, Simon J B||IM||ENG||2317||5.0||2373|
|29||Jackson, James P||ENG||2282||5.0||2132|
Full final standings here.