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Tournament: Evening Standard Islington Open • 100+1 games/part-games plus 6 from associated events
Venue: Islington, London • Dates: 7-9 December 1973 • Download PGNupdated: Wednesday 17 February, 2016 11:03 AM

1973 Evening Standard / Guardian Royal Exchange Islington Open, 7-9 December

BCM, January 1974, ppn 16-19

Evening Standard London Chess Congress by Stewart Reuben

This event could be regarded as being divided into four phases this year. Weekend events from 7-9 December as in previous years, international tournaments from 11-20 December, junior championships 31 December - 5 January and qualifying tournaments for the Under-12 and Under-10 championships which took place on Saturdays in late November and December. Well over 2,000 people took part in these events, a substantial world record. The actual number is not known at the moment as, at the time of writing, the Junior Championships have yet to take place.


There were 1,500 entrants for the nine championships which took place from 7-9 December. Although still not as big as the Liverpool Junior Congress, it is still the biggest gathering in the world at one time for an open congress. It is impossible to start setting up the playing rooms before 4.00 p.m. for a 7.00 p.m. start as Islington Green School does not finish until then. With an enormous number of different rooms to cope with in addition, disaster seemed likely, yet everything went smoothly. No doubt this was due to our bringing in every available experienced controller in the country and to the help from the Inner London Education Authority. Considerable interest had been expressed over the actual number of participants to be expected, predictions varying from 600 (Leonard Barden) to 1,500 (me) to 2,000 (Hymie Spivack) to 2,400 (Leonard Barden). Leonard’s two were made within approximately two weeks of each other. Naturally the preparations must be enormously inefficient when faced with most of the entry coming in just two weeks before the actual event. Anyway 1,500 was a satisfying number. It suggests that the increase in interest in chess in England due to the Spassky-Fischer Match has not yet gone backwards and that the 300 extra players over last year was just a natural 25% rise for any healthy event.

The main tournament was the Guardian Royal Exchange Assurance Open Championship with 212 entrants. The prizes of £600, £300, £150, £80, £40, £20 were a European record for an open event and attracted an extremely international entry such that the nine highest graded players were all foreigners. I made International Master Jan Timman of Holland favourite to win but the chances of Grandmasters Pal Benko (USA), Hans Hecht (W.Germany); International Master Bojan Kurajica (Yugoslavia); U.S.Champion John Grefe; and Internationals Antunac, Hulak (Yugoslavia), Todorcevic (France), Formanek (USA), Akvist, Eslon (Sweden) could not be discounted and, of the English players, Robert Bellin and Simon Webb have shown frequently that they have the knack for this type of event. Then also it would have been most unwise to discount the chances of English Internationals such as Basman, Eley, Botterill, Littlewood, Mestel, Phillips. Clearly there was no outstanding favourite and equally clearly nobody under 200 grading was about to be reaching first place.

Each round produced a crop of surprises. In the first John Grefe refused a draw against Alan Phillips and went on to lose. By the end of the second round none of the titled Internationals had 2/2. There were only 3 players with 100% by round 3, Antunac, Vujacic (Yugoslavia) and Saverymuttu. Vujacic had already beaten Hecht and Hulak by this time, this resulting in the unusual sight of the former, a Grandmaster, languishing in the middle of the tournament hall with 1½/3. Vujacic and Antunac had a quick draw in round 4, a rather unusual thing to do in a six-round Swiss with so much money at stake, but perhaps they were tired after two hard games already that day. Benko beat Saverymuttu and Timman, Formanek, Bellin and Akvist also won to join these three on 3½/4. Thus there was only one Englishman left who had a chance of winning first prize outright. Benko beat Akvist in round 5, Vujacic beat Timman, Bellin beat Antunac but Formanek lost to Hulak, this leaving three players with 4½/5. In the last round Bellin lost fairly rapidly to Kurajica whilst Benko built up what looked like an impregnable position against Vujacic. Since it was 'impossible' for Vujacic to win, I had already discussed the details of Kurajica’s playing in the G.R.E.Masters. Then Benko blundered a rook away and with it £600. Other results with a bearing on the prize list were:

Grefe (4) ½-½ Saverymuttu (4)
Hulak (4) 1-0 Eales (4)
J Littlewood (4) 1-0 Quinn (4)
Bohm (4) ½-½ Mestel (4)
Povah (4) 0-1 S Webb (4)
Basman (4) 0-1 Sherman (4)
T B Bennett (4) 0-1 Holloway (4)
Timman (3½) 1-0 Eslon (4)

Thus the final results were:

Rank 1973 'Guardian Royal Exchange' Islington Open, 7-9 December Prize  Total 
1 Borivoje Vujacic (YUG) £600 5½/6
2-7 Krunoslav Hulak, Bojan Kurajica, John E Littlewood, Nigel J Holloway, David Sherman, Simon Webb £98.50 5
8-23 Pal Benkö, John Grefe, Ed Formanek, Hans Bohm, Jan Timman, Hans Joachim Hecht, Hakan Akvist, Robert Bellin, George S Botterill, Michael V Lambshire, Andrew P Law, A Jonathan Mestel, Alan Phillips, Arthur H Pope1, Seth Saverymuttu, Daniel Wright 4½ (Bohm, Lambshire and Phillips shared the £30 prize for grades 210-200 and Pope won the £30 grading prize for 199-190)  
24-47 Dr. Abtahi, Michael J Basman, Roy A Batchelor, Robert Bellinger, Terence B Bennett, Richard G Eales, Brian R Eley, Jaan Eslon, A Goldsmith, Timothy D Harding, Stuart J Hutchings, Jonathan Kinlay, William A Linton, Edward G Lea, E A McCarthy, Nigel E Povah, Michael J Prizant, John M Quinn, Anthony J Stebbings, A Tanasjevic, Marshall W J Thompson, B Todorcevic, John Watson, Sunil Weeramantry   4

1 The BCM report gave simply 'A Pope' here. I think this was the Australian player Arthur Harrison Pope but there was another Australian player called Alistair Pope who was active around this time and I can't be 100% certain which one it was.

Borivoje Vujacic was a last-minute entry and a Yugoslav Candidate Master [n.b. this must have been a Yugoslav national title as the FIDE Candidate Master title did not exist until much later - JS]. This title varies in strength considerably (I, for example, have achieved the norm required and have a British grade of 193, others are of international master strength but are not Yugoslav masters due to lack of opportunity). His estimated grade for the tournament was thus 205 but his actual result proved to be 270 (Elo 2760)! Opinions varied on whether so much money should depend on somebody blundering a rook away and as to whether the result was a fair one. It is really up to the sponsors where they put their money and one must try to provide as attractive an event as possible for them in a publicity sense. News items just do not last four weeks usually without sub-editors cutting them out of their newspapers. At least this way nobody can complain that British Chess is a closed shop. The money was available to anybody who could take it and there were two qualifying places for the Guardian Royal Exchange Assurance Masters which followed. These were won by Vujacic and Webb and they could not expect to be invited to such events normally. Speaking to some of the very leading British players it was clear that the prospect of playing for such large sums of money disturbed them. Is not one of the troubles in British Chess that our best players often fail at the crucial moment?

Just how much luck is involved? Both Benko and Hecht blundered badly against Vujacic, on the other hand he had to play five of the nine highest graded players. The only player to score 4½ or better, with a grade less than 200, was A Pope and his grade is 199. Nobody with a grade less than 180 managed to score 4. Robert Bellin has scored 5, 5, 6, 4½ in the last four of these tournaments and Simon Webb has scored 5 on each of the last three occasions. Clearly then, anybody graded over 200 may score 5/6 on his day (well, weekend) but it requires something very special to do better. It is not like winning the pools but the differentials in grading, determined after all from tournaments played at a much more leisurely pace, are less pronounced.

Other results: Amateur: (1-2) Michael Singleton, T Welsh 5½6. Major: E Jones and C Plasa 5½. Main: B Cooke, Larry Marden, J Noble, R Reid, P Smith 5½. Minor: M Camochan 6; N Barltrop 5½. Novices: N Noronha 6. Beginners: L Lepley, P de la Mothe 6. 2-Day Open: John B Atherton 5/5. 2-Day Minor: P Andrews, G Stern, I Raindle, G Quilter, E Lindley, W Holden, P Ludlow 4½. The prizes in the six 3-day events were £60, £40, £25, £15, £10. 2-Day Open £40, £25, £15, £10. 2-Day Minor £30, £20, £10. They were increased from those advertised for the latter two events to make up for the inconvenience caused by playing them at Hanover School rather than Islington Green Youth Centre.

In addition there were many non-cash prizes, resulting in prizes of total worth approximately £4,000 being distributed. The Time Sharing Ltd. prize of a year’s free Computer time for the best combined school team result was won by City of London School. Brigg Grammar, Lincolnshire actually totalled more points from their three players but the prize is only of value to a London school. Susan Caldwell won the Women’s Championship for the second year in a row with 4½/6 in the Major, thus she won the first Nina Ricci perfume prize. The Cutty Sark Veterans Championship (for players over 40) was won by H Herbst. Hamleys contributed board, set and clock prizes for leading juniors Under 21, 18, 16, 14, 12, Girls Under 21, and magnetic sets for Under 10, 8. Perhaps the most meritorious of these results was 12-year-old Mark Dubey’s score of 5/6 in the Main. Cases of Vintage Kriter French sparkling wine were awarded to the winners of the Novice, Beginners championships, the best woman Novice and the best Novice in the 2-Day Minor. Prizes were also donated by Country chess weekend, and most of the chess publishing houses.

To talk about plans for next year usually leaves me nauseated at this time. Certainly we are fed-up with December and its invariable attendant strikes and power cuts, we also feel that it is extremely illogical to bring 1,500 people together for just one weekend a year.

File Updated

Date Notes
17 February 2016 89 games plus 6 from subsidiary events. My thanks to Richard James for the loan of the bulletin.
23 December 2023 Added the games T.Harding 1-0 A.Fulton, Islington rd 5, and S.Hutchings ½-½ T.Harding, rd 6. Many thanks to Tim Harding for sharing his games.
5 January 2024 Now 100 games and 1 part-game from the GRE Islington Open, plus six games from subsidiary events and the London Junior championships. The additional games are those played by Paul Littlewood and James Aitken, already available in their respective player files.