Ex-director of Hastings International Chess Congress dies

Con Power in 2012
Con Power in 2012

The former director of the world-famous Hastings International Chess Congress has died.

Con Power, who led the event from 1983 to 2015, passed away on Friday (May 6) after a short battle with cancer.

His funeral takes place tomorrow (Wednesday, May 11) at noon at St Mary Star-of-the-Sea Roman Catholic Church, High Street, Old Town.

The service will be followed by a gathering in the church hall when there will be time for his friends and family to share their memories and celebrate his life.

Pam Thomas, spokesman for the chess congress, said: “Con was one of the unsung heroes of British chess. He devoted hours of time and effort to keeping the congress alive and maintaining its reputation as one of the major international chess events.”

Con took up chess aged 14 and later joined the Hastings and St Leonards Chess Club.

He first became involved in chess administration in the 1970s when he ran the Hastings Junior Chess League consisting of 20 school teams from a wide area ranging from Rye to Eastbourne.

He became secretary of Hastings Chess Congress in the late 1970s and succeeded Jack Hatton as congress director in 1983. He was also a trustee of the Hastings Junior Education Fund.

Con also organised the Muffin Club and Maureen Charlesworth chess events for novice and social players.

Pam added: “Since 1983 Con worked quietly and inconspicuously to ensure the smooth running of the annual Hastings event.

This was no easy task. He coped with regular changes of venue and financial situations, ranging from the glittering events in the days of the commercially sponsored Premier Tournament at the Queens and other hotels, to battling with high tides on the pier.

“Highlights must include the centenary year in 1995 when a summer congress was also held including the Intel World Qualifier, Living Chess on the Pier and a world-class rapidplay event on the George Street open-air board.

“Whatever the event, Con always made time for players of all levels – grandmasters and newcomers to the game alike.

“It was this quiet, fair approach that was appreciated by congress participants as became evident in feedback after each event. His wife, Claire, was also a great support and became a familiar contact with players as she managed the ‘switchboard’ that was their home telephone, at times deluged with calls.”

In 1995, Con’s dedication was recognised when he was awarded the British Chess Federation’s Award for Services to Chess.

Last year, at the time of his resignation, he was awarded the English Chess Federation’s President’s Award for Services to Chess.

He was also the first to receive the FIDE International Organiser title.

Con was born in Deal in Kent and attended Dover Grammar School. He worked for the civil service and moved to Hastings where he married his wife. His two sons and two daughters completed the family.

Chess remains in the family with his son now a chess organiser and grandson playing competitively.

Pam added: “Con retired as congress director following the 2014-15 Congress and was diagnosed with cancer early in 2016. He remained at home facing his illness with dignity and courage and died with his family by him on Friday.

“Con’s calm exterior belied the hours of anxiety he went through in the weeks and months before each event.

“However, despite the difficulties of running an international event with ever diminishing funds, Con was an easy colleague to work with who will be sorely missed by them and all those chess players around the world for whom the name ‘Con Power’ will continue to be synonymous with ‘Hastings’.”

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