1919 Hastings Victory Congress

At the time of the signing of the Armistice at Versailles on 11th November 1918, the Hastings Chess Club Committee took the decision to hold a Victory Congress in Hastings as early as possible.  There would be six prizes from £100 – £15 for the Premier event.  It was hoped all the victorious nations and those which had remained neutral would be represented.  The total cost was estimated to be £500 and the Club guaranteed to pay half.  The date chosen was 11th August 1919. At this time the Club President was Harley Rodney, formerly President of the London Metropolitan Club who had retired to Hastings. The Club Secretary was Herbert Dobell who played such an important part in the organising of the 1895 Hastings Congress. He was also Treasurer of the BCF.  On the 11th January 1919 he was able to announce that the Club’s proposal was accepted.

The town were very supportive of the idea and generously responded to what would now be a “crowd-funding” exercise. The Hastings Drill Hall was secured as a suitable venue and the Town Hall loaned  tables, chairs and even bunting.  Catering and accommodation were slightly more of a problem given that it was so soon after the end of the war. The national flags of all countries represented were flown at the front of the drill Hall.

A Cuban flag was not available so one of the Club members made one. This was fortunate as the 11 round Premier was won by Capablanca with 10.5 points. He won all rounds except for Round 9 when he drew against Serbian International Grandmaster Boris Kostic in 29 moves.

It was suggested that a commemorative Centenary Victory Chess event be held this year – even a one day event.  However, the 11th August  is in the midst of summer holidays, very soon after the British Championships and on the last day of Hastings Carnival and it seemed the calendar was a little crowded.   However, we can mark another notable date in Hastings chess history as well as recalling the world events of the time. There is a good deal of information regarding the Victory Congress on the internet with details of the games.