World chess masters gather at Hastings tournament

The 87th Hastings International Chess Congress at Horntye Park, Hastings.
The 87th Hastings International Chess Congress at Horntye Park, Hastings.

PLAYERS from across the world checked in to Hastings this week to battle it out at the 87th International Chess Congress.

This year the competition at Horntye Park has seen a record number of 115 grandmasters enter the Masters Tournament, all competing for the top prize of £2,000 and the Golombek Trophy.

The Hastings Congress, which runs until Thursday (January 5), is the oldest in the world and is open to players of all levels with competitions ranging from novice to expert.

Hastings Borough Council leader, Jeremy Birch, who opened the event on Wednesday, said: “The Congress is an economic boost for the town in the mid-winter and keeps the guest houses going.

“It’s part of the identity of our town and Hastings Borough Council is very pleased to be supporting it.”

Hot favourite Wang Yue from Beijing has been ranked among the top players in the world.

The 24-year-old grandmaster and professional chess player is playing in the Hastings tournament for the first time.

He decided to take part while in England visiting his girlfriend of four years, Jingo Wei, 23, who is studying at Leicester University.

He said: “I began playing at five-years-old and I thought it was a really interesting game, which I loved from the beginning.

“To be world number one is every player’s dream but it’s hard and you have to be lucky.

“I practise every day online and work very hard.”

The competition this year is tough, with reigning champions Deep Sengupta and Arghydir Das from India returning to defend their Masters title. The pair were joint winners last year.

The format used in the Masters Tournament is Swiss Pairing, where points are awarded each time a player wins and the overall champion scoring the highest number of points.

French competitor Antoine Canonne from Normandy, said: “I like to play here at the oldest competition in the world and I just love to visit this part of England.”

International chess tournaments began in Hastings in 1825, with the current Congress starting in 1920.

The Congress has advanced since then; now games and commentary are broadcast live on for fans to watch.