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Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Hastings 1953-54

Alexander
     The 29th Hastings Christmas Chess Festival was held at the end of the year 1953. After resuming annual tournaments in 1945 following World War II the Hastings club had struggled to keep the event going, but without many foreign participants the tournaments hadn't been of much interest to the public. The 1953-54 tournament was a different story.
     The Soviet Chess Federation sent David Bronstein and Alexander Tolush. Other invitees were four time Hastings winner Dr. Savielly Tartakower , C.H.O'D. Alexander, who had won the 1946-47 event, IMs Aleksander Matanovic, Alberic O'Kelly de Galway, and Robert Wade plus Fridik Olafsson, who had placed third in the 1953 World Junior Championship, Rudolf Teschner, the editor of Deutsche Schachzeitung and West German champion of 1951; and a previous Hastings participant and Dennis Horne, another British player.
     The failure of Bronstein and Tolush was an embarrassment by the Soviet Chess Federation, so the following year they Vasily Smyslov and Paul Keres. Those two did what Bronstein and Tolush failed to do; they dominated the tournament and tied for first.
     But for the 1953-54 event, it was C.H.O'D. Alexander who emerged as the hero when he scored 6.5-2.5 to tie for first with Bronstein. Plus, Alexander defeated both Soviet players. Especially notable was his 14-hour, 120-move battle with Bronstein. In the last round Alexander polished off Tolush in 28 moves. His victory prompted one magazine to comment that it was possible for a non-Soviet player to win a tournament when the deck wasn't stacked with other Soviets.
     Alexander's marathon victory over Bronstein stirred a lot of interest in the British press, especially when the multiple adjournments made an ideal day-to-day serial. Excitement was added when, after the first adjournment, Alexander defeated Tolush and so was tied with Bronstein who was adjourned in a bad position against Rudolph Teschner of West Germany.  Both Alexander and Bronstein had scores of 5.5-2.5.  What that meant was that there was a possibility that if Alexander managed to defeat Bronstein, he would capture sole possession of first place.
     In the adjourned Bronstein vs. Teschner game, Bronstein was a Pawn down and had no compensation. Shortly after resumption he had to let go of a second Pawn. When he offered a draw Teschner rightly refused, but then began to play one poor move after another and ended up losing which allowed Bronstein to tie for first.
     At Hastings 1937-38 Alexander tied with Keres for second place behind Reshevsky and ahead of Fine and Flohr. In the 1946 Anglo-Soviet Radio Match he scored a win and a loss against Botvinnik. Had it not been for the Second World War it's possible that Alexander would have reached the highest levels. According to Chessmetrics, between the years 1951 and 1956 Alexander's rating was over 2500 placing him among the top 50-60 players in the world.
     Most of the players in this tournament are familiar names with, perhaps, the exception of Dennis Horne. Dennis M. Horne (1920-2015) came into prominence while a student at Oxford University right after the war in which he served in the army. Probably the highlight of his career was his defeat of Euwe at Plymouth in 1948. At Felixstowe 1949, the first Swiss system British championship, he tied for second with Hooper behind Harry Golombek and he did quite well at the 1949-50 Hastings Premier. He was one of England's top players in the 1950s and played on the 1952 Olympiad team.
     Horne eventually became a prep school master with less time for chess and he began devoting more time to bridge. This tournament was his last major event and although he finished last, he defeated Olafsson and drew with O'Kelly. Horne did pop up again in the late 1970s when he played in the Dubai Open with mediocre results.
     Here is Alexander's crush of the very dangerous attacker Alexander Tolush. Kevin Spraggett has a good post on Tolush HERE.

 

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