Monday, December 30, 2013


Around the Christmas and New Year time, the thoughts of most British chess players turn towards the traditional Hastings event. In the past Hastings has produced some memorable tournaments, and a who's who list of winners from the greats of chess. Like many other chess festivals the tournament has a number of sections with the top section having been traditionally a round robin event. Things have changed a bit, and the top section is now a swiss event, but a pretty strong one nevertheless. There have only been 2 rounds so far, which means that the top players haven't really come into contact yet. That doesn't mean there haven't been some interesting moments.

Harvey-Gordon from round 1 where black is definitely in the driving seat. However, I'm guessing most of us below master strength would be thinking of how to attack white's weak pawns and a plan of 1..Nc5 2.Kc2 Rf1 might come to mind. GM Stephen Gordon preferred to create a mating net in the endgame. 1..Nb4! 2.Kc3 Kc5! [with the threat of Rd1-d3] 3.Bxe6? Rd1 and now mate is unstoppable.

Apparently all the World Champions from Steinitz to Karpov (except Fischer) played at Hastings over the years. I seem to remember Bent Larsen as a star attraction one year I was playing back in the 1980's. It was great as the main tournament was held in the afternoon while the other events (like the one I was playing in) happened in the morning. That meant players like me could play and then watch the top players and follow the commentary. It was a great inspiration, and I hope that one day Hastings returns to its former glory. Still, there are a fair number of Grand Masters and strong players in the tournament, and plenty of interesting games, and upsets, like Martin Schuster's (2209) first round victory over IM Joerg Wegerle (2431) in a rook ending that looked drawish to me. I'll talk about this ending, and a couple of others in a future blog post (see, I haven't lost my procrastinating skills).
But how about this first round effort? In a wild game, Jens Kipper as white saw a way to mate against Francis Rayner. White played the stunning 1.Rb1!! and won after 1..Qxb1 [allowing mate, but nothing else is good anyway] 2.Bxf6+ gxf6 3.Qxf6+ Ke8 4.Nd6+ and black resigned before getting mated on f7.

This position (Burnett-Halfhide) arose from a Queen's Gambit Declined Exchange Variation. I personally like playing the black side of this opening as often black gets the chance to attack on the king side which suits the way I play. Here, Black has sacrificed a piece and hasn't got nearly enough for it. Black has just played..f5 and the question is, should white take the pawn? Unfortunately Burnett saw nothing wrong with the capture: 1.gxf5? [1.Rc3 holds things together, but maybe white had little time] 1..Rg3+ [This must have come as a shock, though we should be on the lookout for checks] 2.Kh2 [2.Rxg3 is obviously met by 2..Qg3#, while 2.Kxh4 is mate in 2 after 2..Qf4+, so white's move was the best except now a discovered check picks up the queen]
2..Re3+ [with an amazing turn around. Black is winning and won after] 3.Kh1 Rxe2+ 4.Rxe2 e3 5.Nf3 Qd1+ picking up more material.

I haven't looked at much of the second round yet, but a 300 point upset victory caught my eye. White just gains a bit of space, develops quickly, letting his higher rated opponent take a poisoned pawn, and then goes for it. Enjoy :)

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