Lack of sponsors hits chess congress

THE Hastings International Chess Congress opened yesterday with its premier tournament shorter and less powerful than in recent years.

A lack of commercial sponsorship has forced a cut from 14 to nine rounds and a clash in dates with the Professional Chess Association world championship qualifier in the Netherlands has resulted in the absence of most of the world's top grandmasters.

Nevertheless, with contestants of the calibre of John Nunn (England) and Dibyendu Barua (India), and a supporting cast including England's youngest grandmaster, Matthew Sadler, and one of the world's strongest women players, Ketevan Arakhamia (Georgia), the tournament promises to be as fiercely contested as ever.

With next year's tournament being the centenary year, organisers are optimistic of raising the pounds 75,000 sponsorship needed to mount a worthy event in celebration, but for the time being Hastings survives thanks to support from the local council.

In the Netherlands, 54 grandmasters are fighting for their places in the final stages of the Professional Chess Association world championship, for which the computer chip company Intel has apparently guaranteed up to dollars 7m ( pounds 4.6m) in sponsorship. The latest results have been encouraging for the English players, with Michael Adams confirming his leading place with a draw against Viswanathan Anand, and Julian Hodgson coming back into contention with two consecutive wins.

Leading scores with two rounds to play: Anand and Gulko, 61 2 ; Adams, Kamsky and Kramnik, 6; Belyavsky, Shirov, Tiviakov, Benjamin, Piket, Dolmatov, Nikolic and Hodgson, 51 2 .

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