Francisco Vallejo Pons
Instead of being a slow time of the year for chess, the holidays are among the busiest, and they have been for decades.
Among the many tournaments with long holiday traditions, the grand daddy of them all is the Hastings International Chess Congress in England. It has been held every year since 1920-21, with a break during World War II. At one time, it was the pre-eminent holiday tournament and many of the world’s top players competed in it. Among the winners were JosÃ© Raul Capablanca, Max Euwe, Mikail Botvinnik, Vasily Smyslov, Mikhail Tal, Boris Spassky and Anatoly Karpov.
The tournament is no longer as prestigious as it once was, but it still attracts some very good players. In this year’s event, which ends Wednesday, the top seeds are Romain Edouard of France, Andrei Istratescu of Romania and David Howell of England. After seven rounds, Edouard and Howell were tied for the lead with Sundar Shyam and Rao Prasanna, two international masters from India, each with 5 points.
While it is not as old as Hastings, the Reggio Emilia tournament in Italy, which is named after the town where it is held, has surpassed it in prominence. This year is the 53rd edition of the event and it includes some of the world’s top players, among them Vassily Ivanchuk of Ukraine, Vugar Gashimov of Azerbaijan, Sergei Movsesian of Slovakia and Fabiano Caruana of Italy.
Surprisingly, after five rounds, Francisco Vallejo Pons of Spain is the leader with 4 points. He has beaten Nigel Short of England, Michele Godena of Italy and David Navara of the Czech Republic. Ivanchuk is in second with 3 points. The tournament ends Thursday.
The Rilton Cup in Sweden, which ends Wednesday, is in its 40th year and also has a rich history. This year, the field includes Arkadij Naiditsch of Germany, Ivan Sokolov of the Netherlands, Bartlomiej Macieja of Poland and Emanuel Berg of Sweden.
After six rounds, Naiditsch and Macieja are tied for the lead with Nils Grandelius of Sweden and Sergey Volkov and Aleksandr Shimanov, two Russian grandmasters, each with 5 points.
Chess players have also been busy in the United States.
At the 20th North American Open in Las Vegas, which ended Dec. 29, Giorgi Kacheishvili of the Republic of Georgia (who is now living in New York City) and Jiri Stocek of the Czech Republic tied for first. The field of 131 players included 12 grandmasters.