Round 9 report – Stewart Reuben

There is nothing wrong with a draw in chess or course. But, when 6 of the top 7 games are drawn it is inevitably disappointing. On examination there was less to be concerned about than at first appeared to be the case.

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.

Mikheil Mchedlishvili became affectionately known as Mr M in the Commentary Room. Qun Ma had the tiniest of edges with the white pieces, but could make no progress against Mr M’s fortress.

Had Jahongir played 12 Qxd5, perhaps Justin would have got too much play after 12…Qb6. The game became really quite romantic after 17…g5. Do play through it. But by move 24 it had become more prosaic and drawn.

Mark Hebden and Jens Kipper went for each other, no holds barred. Black was perhaps somewhat over-optimistic in assuming his passed a-pawn would come home to roost. Jens stood somewhat worse. But why did he resign? Or was that another game lost on time that isn’t indicated on the website?

Ke Mu and Nicholas Pert also tried their best to win. In view of the score situation this was hardly surprising. A win would have secured a prize; instead all the draws on 6/9 went home with nothing.

Jonathan Hawkins tried very hard to win, but Sophie Milliet put up stern resistance. 47…Nb7, setting up a fortress after losing a pawn, was particularly fine. There was a great deal of chess in this encounter.

Naturally Glenn Flear would have liked to have won in order to finish first equal. Ovidiu was half a point behind and could have no such ambition. It is unusual for two bishops against two knights to reach stasis so early, but black had the position under control.

No doubt the moaning whingers will complain about seven people tying for first. They are the same people who would have moaned that the fix was in and games thrown, had any player won.

There are, of course, ways of resolving the situation so that there would have been just one winner. It wouldn’t have done at all to have a playoff. This would have meant play had to start in the morning, thus upsetting all the players’ biorhythms and leading to poor quality games.

All tiebreak systems are inferior, but some are more inferior than others. Eliminating all the players who had five whites would at least make sense. I regard Sonneborn-Berger as less accurate than tossing a coin and Bucholz as hardly better. For people to have to sit around waiting for others to decide their fate is absurd. More acceptable might be average of opponents’ ratings. Robert Byrne told me in 1963 that Arpad Elo had said all tiebreak systems are unfair. The arbiter has chosen the nine opponents, not the player. Here we are 50 years later and I see no reason to change my mind.

As the Chairman of the Hastings Chess Congress Committee, Paul Smith, pointed out, there were seven winners from seven different countries. It was a truly international event. The Prizegiving was attended by both the Mayor of Hastings and the local MP. Both regard the whole event with great affection.

Callum Brewster won the £200 Rating Improvement Prize of £200 with 4/9 and a gain of 2.93 x k. He was a well-deserved winner, but naturally children are more likely to win such a prize than adults. Perhaps in future it should be divided into players U16 and players 16+.

Horntye Park presented a £100 Best Game Prize for the Masters. This was decided by the audience in the Commentary Room, led by Chris Ward. Possibly some of the online spectators also had their say. Igor Khenkin received it for his 7th round win over Joerg Wegerle.