Round 1 report – from Stewart Reuben

Yue Wang (CHN) 2697 is the first Chinese player to have taken part in Hastings for some years. He is also the highest rated player ever to have participated in the Masters. In Britain we don’t believe in absurd first round clashes with a difference of over 400 rating points. But with such a high rated player as Yue Wang it is impossible to avoid very nearly such a difference in rating. There are other reasons for using Accelerated Pairings: it is more likely players will be able to achieve a GM norm; the disconcerting and unfair bouncing effect for players jut below the top of the second half is reduced. It is quite likely that mismatches will occur later in the event. But by then, the lower rated players will have earned their right to a place in the sun, and their higher rated opponents won’t be doing so well and will welcome the chance to recharge their batteries.

That the congress starts as soon after Christmas as possible enables many people to take part using their holiday time efficiently. Ambitious players, who travel from a long distance, should arrive at least two days in advance. But travelling in England on 26 December is a nightmare. Thus many arrive on the 27th. You can expect an unusual number of upsets in the first round.

That was written before the first round and thus without the benefit of hindsight. The real upset was only on board 5 where Michael Massoni beat the older Vovk brother Yuri. Both Yue Wang and Andrei Istratescu put in very smooth performances with the Black pieces, David Haydon played well to gain an advantage against GM Nicholas Pert, but then copped out and agreed a draw against Nick while he still stood better in a murky position. Later in the evening Nick told me about a very special ambitious rapidplay/training weekend he is running on a weekend in 2012. Only 10 of the GMs won their first round games. Two drew and of course one lost. Would you have preferred to see more blood spilt in the first round or more competitive chess? It is a matter of taste. Round 2 will see GM Arkell against GM Edouard. There are 22 players left with 1/1 from the top fraction and 19 due to be chopped down by the acceleration.