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79th Hastings International Congress, 28 December 2003 - 5 January 2004

Last Edited: Friday March 26, 2010 0:12 AM

Stewart Reuben reports: The 79th Hastings International Congress takes place at the Horntye Sports Centre, Hastings, from 28 December to 5 January. We will be covering the tournament on the BCM website.

The line-up for the Hastings Premier, the world's longest-running international event is as follows: Alexander Cherniaev (RUS), Vladimir Epishin (RUS); Stuart Conquest, Danny Gormally, Mark Hebden (ENG); Vasilios Kotronias (CYP); Abhijit Kunte (IND); Kateryna Lahno (UKR) (who celebrated her 14th birthday at the drawing of lots ceremony on 27 December); Peter Heine Nielsen (DEN) and Jonathan Rowson (SCO). The average rating is 2552 (category 13) making this the strongest all-play-all event in the English chess calendar.

Download PGN FilePlay through Games in JavaOfficial website & Live Games: www.hastingschess.org.uk
Round 1 •   Round 2Round 3Round 4Round 5Round 6Round 7Round 8Round 9
General View of the Hastings Premier - Round 3 (© BCM)
General View of the Hastings Premier - Round 3 (© BCM)
79th Hastings Premier, 28.xii 2003 - 5.i 2004         cat. 13 (2552)
Final Table                           1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0
 1 Rowson, Jonathan       g SCO 2541  * = 1 = = 1 = = = 1  6.0  2678
 2 Kotronias, Vasilios    g CYP 2626  = * = = 1 = = = 1 1  6.0  2669
 3 Epishin, Vladimir      g RUS 2658  0 = * = = = 1 1 1 =  5.5  2620
 4 Kunte, Abhijit         g IND 2535  = = = * 1 0 = = 1 =  5.0  2597
 5 Nielsen, Peter Heine   g DEN 2626  = 0 = 0 * = 1 = 1 =  4.5  2544
 6 Hebden, Mark           g ENG 2560  0 = = 1 = * 0 1 = 0  4.0  2508
 7 Lahno, Kateryna        m UKR 2486  = = 0 = 0 1 * = = =  4.0  2516
 8 Conquest, Stuart       g ENG 2545  = = 0 = = 0 = * 0 1  3.5  2473
 9 Cherniaev, Alexander1  m RUS 2476  = 0 0 0 0 = = 1 * 1  3.5  2480
10 Gormally, Daniel       m ENG 2471  0 0 = = = 1 = 0 0 *  3.0  2436
Round 1 (2003.12.28)

Epishin, Vladimir      -  Lahno, Kateryna        1-0   59  E18  Queen's indian
Conquest, Stuart       -  Kotronias, Vasilios    1/2   51  A48  Torre
Nielsen, Peter Heine   -  Rowson, Jonathan       1/2   68  D71  Gruenfeld
Gormally, Daniel       -  Cherniaev, Alexander1  0-1   45  C67  Ruy Lopez Berlin
Kunte, Abhijit         -  Hebden, Mark           0-1   72  C91  Ruy Lopez

Report by John Saunders: Not much of a 14th birthday present for Kateryna Lahno: on Sunday she drew Black versus the top seed for her Hastings debut. She played to swap off material but was soon saddled with a passive position. Epishin resembles one of those armoured bears in Philip Pullman stories, and today he was equally relentless. Nielsen-Rowson was an interesting struggle, with Nielsen pressing hard but the Scottish number one defending imaginatively. Both of them look to be in good fighting form. I wonder: did anyone tell Abhijit Kunte that it is traditional for the British Champion to do badly at Hastings? Hopefully he is not superstitious, but today he threw away his game against Mark Hebden. He seemed to have the better of things for some time but eventually most of the pieces came off. On move 47 he made a little slip in a level position and was soon in a lost rook and pawn ending. Conquest held an extra pawn against Kotronias, but the Cypriot grandmaster generated enough play to keep him at bay. Danny Gormally weakened his queenside pawns against Alexander Cherniaev and there were some inaccuracies in time trouble. Leaders: Cherniaev, Epishin, Hebden 1/1.

Round 2 (2003.12.29)

Hebden, Mark           -  Conquest, Stuart       1-0   30  D30  QGD/Tarrasch
Epishin, Vladimir      -  Nielsen, Peter Heine   1/2   20  E22  Nimzo-Indian
Kotronias, Vasilios    -  Gormally, Daniel       1-0   29  C67  Ruy Lopez Berlin
Rowson, Jonathan       -  Kunte, Abhijit         1/2   20  E32  Nimzo-Indian
Lahno, Kateryna        -  Cherniaev, Alexander1  1/2   53  B33  Sicilian Sveshnikov

Report by John Saunders: Just after writing the round one report, I was given the sad news that Frank Parr had passed away in hospital, aged 85, on what was the opening day of this year's congress (28 December). Click here to read his obituary. The news also reached Hastings and a one-minute silence was observed in his memory immediately before the second round. Frank Parr's first Hastings Congress had been the 16th, back in 1935/6, when he competed in the Premier Reserves, and his last was 2002/3, the 78th. I don't have the statistics in front of me to tell me precisely how many of the intervening 61 congresses Frank played in, but I'm guessing that it was a lot. The sight of Frank Parr playing chess at Hastings was like a fixed point in a changing universe. Empires have waxed and waned, world wars been fought, at least one world chess champion has been born, come to Hastings, dazzled us with his brilliance, then grown old and died in the intervening years... but, come the New Year, Frank would be sat there at his appointed board on the South Coast. Mostly Frank played in the Hastings Challengers. Just once, as war broke out, he got the chance to play in the top tournament. On leave from the London Irish, Rifleman F.Parr took his one chance of glory - and won the 1939/40 Premier. He never played in it again, though returning year after year to do battle in the Challengers. Sadly, no more. RIP.
    After an astonishingly hard-fought first round, in which all the games went to 45 moves or more, some of the players took it slightly more easily in round two. Last year's winner, Nielsen, and the top seed, Epishin, tiptoed warily round each other before opting for a repetition. Ditto, Rowson-Kunte, a game which also ended in 20 moves. Lahno-Cherniaev actually started on move 20 - or at least that's when they departed from the book. Cherniaev tried an interesting pawn sacrifice which Luke McShane has been playing a lot in his annus mirabilis. Cherniaev seemed to have an edge for a long while but Lahno proved her skill and resilience under pressure. Gormally lost to a Berlin Defence in round one and today tried his hand on the black side. Things became very difficult for him once Kotronias had established a knight on d4 and threatened the advance of the f-pawn. Gormally's attempt to complicate just weakened his position and a pawn was lost. Hebden played an old Korchnoi idea against the Tarrasch which gave him some pressure against the d-pawn. Conquest seemed to get confused in the complications and hung a piece. Leaders: Hebden 2/2, Cherniaev, Epishin, Kotronias 1½, etc.

Round 3 (2003.12.30)

Nielsen, Peter Heine   -  Lahno, Kateryna        1-0   46  A17  English; 1.c4
Cherniaev, Alexander1  -  Kotronias, Vasilios    0-1   38  B31  Sicilian
Conquest, Stuart       -  Rowson, Jonathan       1/2   47  B50  Sicilian
Gormally, Daniel       -  Hebden, Mark           1-0   42  C91  Ruy Lopez
Kunte, Abhijit         -  Epishin, Vladimir      1/2   18  D15  Slav

Just one quick draw in this round, with all the other games providing much interest for the goodly crowd of spectators present at the venue and no doubt on the internet. Kunte and Epishin played down what is an interesting line of the Slav should the players choose to make it so. Cherniaev's early queenside advance looked unconvincing against Kotronias, who quickly built up a more formidable attack against Cherniaev's denuded king and which ended in a mate. Danny Gormally tried an exchange for pawn sacrifice against a known Hebden line. It looked rather shaky when it meant that Gormally's kingside pawn cover was broken up, but things are not always what they seem. Hebden's mistake was probably moving his c6 knight to the edge of the board as, after this, White always seemed to have a good answer to Black's tricks and there was no perpetual check escape clause for Hebden. Thus the man with 0% beat the man with 100% to knock him off his perch and allow Kotronias to take over. It is difficult to pinpoint where Kateryna Lahno went wrong against Nielsen. The Danish grandmaster smoothly converted his first-move advantage into a lasting initiative and a superior pawn structure, then won a pawn and finished off crisply. Last game to finish, Conquest-Rowson, became very complicated leading up to the time control, and Conquest's slight edge evaporated during a time scramble. Shortly afterwards Rowson was able to play a perpetual check. Leaders: Kotronias 2½/3, Epishin, Hebden, Nielsen 2.

Round 4 (2003.12.31)

Epishin, Vladimir      -  Conquest, Stuart       1-0   36  E91  Kings Indian Classical
Hebden, Mark           -  Cherniaev, Alexander1  1/2   31  A80  Dutch defence
Rowson, Jonathan       -  Gormally, Daniel       1-0   52  C69  Ruy Lopez Exchange
Nielsen, Peter Heine   -  Kunte, Abhijit         0-1   60  E07  Catalan
Lahno, Kateryna        -  Kotronias, Vasilios    1/2   46  B65  Sicilian Richter

Plenty of action to end the year 2003. Credit to organiser Stewart Reuben for putting together such a good group of fighting chess players. Hebden-Cherniaev kicked off with that amusing line of the Dutch where White gets to threaten mate in one as early as move five. Perhaps a hung-over Black player might have missed that on 1 January, but not on 31 December. Hebden gave up a pawn for a queenside attack and it was very interesting while it lasted. White lined up a couple of big threats down the a-file and on the light squares round Black's king but accompanied his menacing Nb4 move with a draw offer, which Cherniaev accepted. Watching spectators might have wished for the position to be played out to the end. Lahno-Kotronias lasted beyond the time control but somehow never caught fire. Credit to Kateryna Lahno for such an accurately-played game against a 2600+ player. We have to keep reminding ourselves that she has only just turned 14. Epishin played a very odd move in the opening: 9 g3. What was that about? It didn't seem at all relevant to the position. Around the 18th move one could have cited a number of 'general principles' to indicate that Black was a bit better but a handful of moves later Epishin has established his knight on c5 and seemed to be in the box seat. 22...Nb6 looked like a bad idea, but maybe Conquest should have played it the move before. Soon Epishin's advancing a-pawn succeeded in undermining Conquest's queenside. One of the snags of the Exchange Ruy Lopez for Black is that White has an extra pawn on the kingside, whereas Black's extra (doubled) pawn on the queenside can often be neutralised by White. Jonathan Rowson proved this point extremely well in a bishop and pawns ending in which he was effectively a pawn to the good. When the queens came off in Nielsen-Kunte, things looked approximately level but it gradually dawned that Black's h-file rook play was a bit more menacing than it looked. Perhaps Nielsen's early h4 was a mistake? Black's minor pieces were much better co-ordinated and eventually White found himself in a position with an enfeebled bishop which was unable to cope with a strong knight. Nielsen may have been able to improve towards the end but the advance of Black's d-pawn did for him. A fascinating day's chess, and I only wish I could been at the venue to hear what tournament commentator GM Chris Ward had to say about it all to his audience. Chris is a tremendously entertaining speaker who really knows how to interact with his audience, and I urge anyone within reach of Hastings to go there and follow the action with Chris. It's the best show in town! If the Hastings organisers are reading this: what about a live webcast from the commentary room? Leaders: Epishin, Kotronias 3/4, Hebden, Rowson 2½.

Round 5 (2004.01.01)

Kotronias, Vasilios    -  Hebden, Mark           1/2   52  C96  Ruy Lopez
Kunte, Abhijit         -  Lahno, Kateryna        1/2   19  E03  Nimzo indian
Cherniaev, Alexander1  -  Rowson, Jonathan       1/2   35  B22  Sicilian 2 c3
Gormally, Daniel       -  Epishin, Vladimir      1/2   26  D15  Slav defence
Conquest, Stuart       -  Nielsen, Peter Heine   1/2   45  A06  Reti (1.Nf3)

And after all those nice things I said about the tournament, too... The games were slightly less hard-fought but it was more that the defenders were on better form. Kunte got himself into slight difficulties against Lahno and baled out with a draw offer. Gormally-Epishin was soon so blocked that it would have taken a visit from Dynarod to open the position up. However, there was lively chess played in the other games. Cherniaev-Rowson was quite interesting, with Rowson chancing his arm with a temporary pawn sacrifice to take the sting out of the position. Conquest-Nielsen suddenly came to a head when the Dane went in for a risky queen sacrifice to gain a monstrous passed pawn. Conquest rounded up the pawn efficiently but Nielsen could still count on rook, knight, pawn and a stout defence to keep the queen at bay. Kotronias-Hebden was also highly tactical, or at least it could have been had Kotronias gone for a line where he would have had rook and two bishops for his queen; but his rook would have been bottled up and he opted not to take the risk. Even so the line he chose looked very promising and could have netted him a safe pawn. As it was, it soon came down to a fairly level rook ending. I cannot help feeling Kotronias could have made more of this game. Leaders: Epishin, Kotronias 3½/5, Hebden, Rowson 3.

An interlude: one of the attractions of the Hastings Congress is the blitz and novelty events held in the local hostelries. These are convivial, but also highly competitive and strong. Paul Buswell has kindly sent me the following results. Bryant & Buswell 'Carlisle Blitz' (5 mins per player per game), at the Carlisle pub, Hastings, 29 Dec 03 (A BCF Grand Prix event, prize fund £100): 1st C Hanley (Lancaster) 6/7, 2nd E Player (Stowmarket) 6/7 (£35 each, Hanley won the play off for the trophy and honour); 3rd= L D'Costa (Royston), N Pert (Ipswich), T Sarbok (Germany) 5.5 (£10 each); 6rd= C Bleis (Germany), D Gormally (London), M Hebden (Leicester), H Rudolf (Germany), D Spence (Ipswich),  L Webb (London) 5 - entry fee refunded. 58 players played. Best female: Meri Grigoryan (London) 4.5, Best Hastings:  = M A Bryant, T Rendle 4. Bryant & Buswell 'Palace Bars Hourglass' at the Palace Bars, Hastings, 1 Jan 04 (A BCF Grand Prix event, prize fund £100) sponsored by the Palace Bars: Hourglass mode:  each player starts with 1 min 15 secs.  As player A thinks, their time goes down and B's goes up, so that the total time is always 2.5 mins.  If a player's time reaches zero, they lose. 1st A Cherniaev (USSR) 6.5/7 (£40), 2nd S Williams (Guildford) 6 (£30), 3rd= C Hanley (Lancaster), T Kaimer (Germany), R Pert (Ipswich) 5.5 (£10 each), 6rd= C Bleis (Germany), A Chahine (Southampton), M Lyell (London), P Poobalasingam (London) 5 - entry fee refunded. Best female: Meri Grigoryan, Best Hastings: A Luaces 4. 42 players.

Round 6 (2004.01.02)

Epishin, Vladimir      -  Cherniaev, Alexander1  1-0   34  D30  Queen's gambit
Rowson, Jonathan       -  Kotronias, Vasilios    1/2   24  E81  Kings indian Sämisch 6...c5
Kunte, Abhijit         -  Conquest, Stuart       1/2   19  D94  Gruenfeld indian
Nielsen, Peter Heine   -  Gormally, Daniel       1/2   32  E15  Queen's indian
Lahno, Kateryna        -  Hebden, Mark           1-0   47  C92  Ruy Lopez

Well I never... I would have staked money on 'Little Red Riding Hood' Lahno being beaten by Mark 'Big Bad Wolf' Hebden. Instead it was a case of "what sharp teeth you have, Kateryna". Actually, Mark was devoured in this line by another Woolf - Patrick - a few years ago in London. That was the year after Kateryna was born, in fact. Hebden's 14...d5 was a flawed idea and the desperate 16...Nxc3, played to muddy the waters rather than just lose a pawn, was comprehensively refuted by the young Ukrainian. The game was resignable from about move 22. Stuart Conquest seemed to have more than equalised as Black against Kunte when he offered a draw. The position was fairly quiet but it might have been worth playing on a little longer. Kotronias played the pawn gambit line (6...c5) against Rowson's Sämisch King's Indian. 17 a4!? is a new move and Kotronias' reply 17...bxa4 will no doubt have the opening experts scratching their heads. Rowson still had his extra pawn in the final position but a draw was probably a sensible outcome. Fritz would disagree with this assessment but it should be noted that the silicon monster once sustained a heavy defeat in this line at the hands of Israeli GM Har Zvi. Nielsen seemed to have a slight edge from the opening but Gormally defended actively. Maybe Nielsen should have exchanged the light-squared bishops when he had the chance. Epishin-Cherniaev revolved around the fate of Black's isolated d-pawn. Black tried pushing it forward but Epishin just surrounded it with more and more material until it dropped off. Don't you just hate it when that happens? Anyway, this seemingly effortless piece of positional technique has propelled the burly Russian into first place. Kotronias is second while Jonathan Rowson, proudly flying the Scottish flag and leaving the fading Sassenachs in his wake, is third. The two leaders meet tomorrow, while Rowson has White against Epishin in the last round. Leaders: Epishin 4½/6, Kotronias 4, Rowson 3½.

Round 7 (2004.01.03)

Kotronias, Vasilios    -  Epishin, Vladimir      1/2   44  B42  Sicilian
Hebden, Mark           -  Rowson, Jonathan       0-1   45  D00  Queen's pawn
Conquest, Stuart       -  Lahno, Kateryna        1/2   33  B07  Pirc
Gormally, Daniel       -  Kunte, Abhijit         1/2   54  B82  Sicilian
Cherniaev, Alexander1  -  Nielsen, Peter Heine   0-1   30  B14  Caro-Kann

Apologies for the 'break in transmission': I've been away from my desk for a couple of days. Some more good action in round seven. Conquest-Lahno was interesting with the initiative first going to the English GM and then swinging back to the young Ukrainian. But Lahno let it slip when she might have had winning chances. Kunte sacrificed rook and bishop for queen versus Gormally, then Gormally sacrificed the exchange, then Kunte sacrificed it back. Eventually Kunte gave up his bishop to achieve a fortress position where Gormally couldn't cross the frontier to support his queen in attacking the black king. Nielsen took a very hot pawn against Cherniaev, but it cooled down rather surprisingly, with Nielsen's queen sneaking its way back to safety. Cherniaev, in frustration, tried a very desperate lunge which was comfortably refuted. Kotronais reached a good-N v bad-B position against Epishin but the knight wasn't so good, nor the bishop so bad. Epishin fought back to win a pawn but it was of no use to him as White could easily neutralise Black's queenside. Jonathan Rowson closed to within half a point of the lead with a well-played positional game against Mark Hebden. Rowson attacked Hebden's weak e-pawn but in the end it was White's h-pawn that fell. White could have resigned 20 moves earlier. Leaders: Epishin 5/7, Kotronias, Rowson 4½, Nielsen 4, etc.

Round 8 (2004.01.04)

Epishin, Vladimir      -  Hebden, Mark           1/2   42  E97  King's Indian Bayonet
Kunte, Abhijit         -  Cherniaev, Alexander1  1-0   54  A87  Dutch Defence
Nielsen, Peter Heine   -  Kotronias, Vasilios    0-1   41  E99  King's indian, Main
Lahno, Kateryna        -  Rowson, Jonathan       1/2   26  B80  Sicilian
Conquest, Stuart       -  Gormally, Daniel       1-0   50  E42  Nimzo indian

In-form Jonathan Rowson tried hard to rough up Kateryna Lahno but could make no impression on her. He's still half a point behind the lead, and cannot be caught by any of the English contingent. Hebden held out against Epishin's Bayonet Attack, although his pawn structure was a tad straggly. Nielsen-Kotronias was a more traditional King's Indian, with White attacking down the queen's wing and Black trying to break through down the other side. White may have been able to hold out but a slip on move 33 allowed a monster assault by the Cypriot, and Nielsen's exposed king was no match for Kotronias' marauding queen. This took Kotronias into a tied lead with Epishin. Gormally seemed to be doing well until Conquest's connected passed pawns started rolling. In fact the whole game looked slightly hysterical. Kunte seemed to be struggling against Cherniaev, and was a pawn down for much of the game. But he engineered a strong attack against the black king to break through and win. Leaders: Epishin, Kotronias 5½/8, Rowson 5. As I write this, Round 9 is in progress - Kotronias has drawn, while Rowson-Epishin is still in progress. The Scot needs a win to tie Kotronias for first place.

Round 9 (2004.01.05)

Rowson, Jonathan       -  Epishin, Vladimir      1-0   57  E36  Nimzo indian
Kotronias, Vasilios    -  Kunte, Abhijit         1/2   13  C67  Ruy Lopez Berlin
Hebden, Mark           -  Nielsen, Peter Heine   1/2   36  C03  French; Tarrasch
Cherniaev, Alexander1  -  Conquest, Stuart       1-0   88  B22  Sicilian 2 c3
Gormally, Daniel       -  Lahno, Kateryna        1/2   26  E18  Queen's indian

Kotronias took a quick draw with Abhijit Kunte in the last round, which meant he was sure of a tie for first place unless Epishin could beat Rowson. Judging from the opening, Epishin was minded to do so, playing a new move (8...Nh5) and then a speculative pawn sacrifice (12...b5). Rowson had to suffer slightly to hold his material but by move 25 he had seen off the worst of Epishin's queenside assault. Thereafter some good technique saw the Scottish grandmaster through to the full point, and enabled him to tie with Kotronias for first place. Both of them were making their debuts in the Hastings Premier; and Rowson became the first UK player since 1939/40 to win on his Hastings debut. The previous winning debutant was Frank Parr, who sadly died on the opening day of this congress. But first and foremost Jonathan Rowson is a Scot, of course, and he has the honour of becoming the first Scottish player to win the Hastings Premier. Well done to him.

The Challengers was won by Zahar Efimenko of Ukraine on 7½/9 and there was a tie for second place on 7 between Bogdan Lalic (ENG), Colin McNab (SCO) and Bartosz Socko (POL).

There are many other tournaments open to all strengths of player. Further details: Con Power power@hicc.demon.co.uk, telephone 01424 431970. Official website www.hastingschess.org.uk

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