Shreyas Royal, who turns 15 this week, at the Hastings international chess congress in Sussex © LFP/Alamy

Hastings is the chess world’s longest-running annual congress, now in its 97th year and played annually since 1920, with a few breaks for the second world war and Covid. Its vintage years were from the 1930s to the 1970s, when world champions and their challengers often took part. Caplin, provider of mobile etrading technology, has been its major sponsor since 2019.

The new director of the latest Hastings, GM Stuart Conquest, won the event twice as a player before organising the Gibraltar Open. His innovations this year have included online commentaries, daily round reports, an X page and evening blitz tournaments.

Grandmasters from India and China finished first and second, but the main story was the attempt by England’s teenage talent Shreyas Royal, who turns 15 on Tuesday, to score his third and final GM norm following on from his recent success at the London Classic.

Royal got very close. He finished half a point short, missing difficult wins in three of his last four games. His time should soon come for a new UK record, breaking the landmark set by David Howell, who became a GM at 16 in 2007.

The John Robinson Youth Chess Trust provided free entry for many other juniors. Scotland’s best talent, Freddy Waldhausen Gordon, 13, missed an IM norm by just half a point, as he and Royal prepared for their opponents together. Oleg Verbytski, 10, from the Charlton club whose young players have a fine reputation, is rated only 1771 but won or drew against 2000+ opponents in every game apart from a narrow defeat by an IM.

For Hastings to make more progress towards its former eminence, the participation of some or all of England’s Olympiad quintet of 2700 and 2600 GMs is important. In its heyday, the top home players always competed, with occasional dazzling successes such as Sir George Thomas, better known for badminton, in 1934-35, and Hugh Alexander, codebreaker and FT chess columnist, in 1953-54.

With the help of the new £500,000 government grant for elite chess, a much stronger home entry should be a realistic target. This would also stimulate more high-ranking overseas GMs to enter, and that in turn would provide fresh opportunities for the rising generation of British talents like Royal and Gordon.

Puzzle 2554

Timofey Ilin vs Zhansaran Tsydypov, St Petersburg, 2016. White to move and win — a puzzle to test your tactical skills.

Click here for solution

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