Tuesday, February 21, 2017

The return of the Ulster Chess Chronicle

In 1999, to provide an internet presence for chess in Northern Ireland, I started a website called the Ulster Chess Chronicle. It was a mix of chess results, news, articles and history. It also included the official webpages of the Ulster Chess Union.

After the UCU set up its own website in 2004, I still continued with the Chronicle but on a reduced scale. A couple of years after that I decided to start this blog which allowed me to put a more personal slant on things. When the service provider for the Ulster Chess Chronicle discontinued its service in 2014, I moved the contemporary results & reports and articles to NI Chess News.

I've now re-started the history part at a renewed Ulster Chess Chronicle. There will be brand new posts on the history of Ulster chess, but my intention is also to incorporate, albeit re-formatted and often with additions and revisions, all the old material.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Good results for NI players in Bunratty

We have already reported on Mikhail Pavlov's victory in the Challengers. I would have gone as far as describing it as "brilliant" but apparently the UCU website has copyrighted that word😃

However that was far from the only prize taken home by the Northern contingent. The rapidly improving Rian Mellotte won third prize in the Minor, there were grading prizes for Daniil Zelenchuk and John Phillips in the Major and also for Tyrone Winter in the Minor.

Brendan Jamison over at Chess Northern Ireland has a complete rundown on how the Ulster players got on.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Pavlov wins Bunratty Challengers

After his Round 5 victory, the subject of our previous post, Mikhail Pavlov was in second place on his own and a half-point behind leader Don Short. The result in the their Round 6 game would decide the overall winner - Short only needed a draw whereas Pavlov needed a win.

Just like Round 5, Pavlov went for a sacrificial opening line - this time the Albin Counter Gambit - and once again play got complicated. Here's how the game went.
Games
[Event "Bunratty Challengers"] [Site "?"] [Date "2017.02.19"] [Round "6.1"] [White "Short, Don"] [Black "Pavlov, Mikhail"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "D08"] [PlyCount "66"] [EventDate "2017.??.??"] [WhiteClock "0:52:33"] [BlackClock "0:03:26"] 1. d4 d5 2. c4 e5 3. dxe5 d4 4. a3 Nc6 5. Nf3 Bg4 6. Nbd2 Qe7 7. Qa4 O-O-O 8. b4 Kb8 9. Qb3 Nxe5 10. Nxe5 Qxe5 11. Bb2 f5 12. O-O-O Nf6 13. Nf3 Qe8 14. Rxd4 Ne4 15. h3 Nxf2 16. Rg1 Bh5 17. g4 Rxd4 18. Bxd4 fxg4 19. hxg4 Nxg4 20. Bh3 Nf6 21. Qb2 Qe4 22. Ng5 Qh4 23. e3 h6 24. Bxf6 hxg5 25. Bxg7 Qxh3 26. Bxh8 Qxe3+ 27. Qd2 Qxg1+ 28. Kb2 Kc8 29. Bf6 Qd1 30. Qxg5 Bf7 31. Qf5+ Kb8 32. Bc3 Qe2+ 33. Ka1 Qxc4 0-1
Congratulations to Mikhail on his victory. His only draw came in Round 1 against his fellow Northern raider, Sergio Esteve Sanchez. Sergio followed up with two more draws before storming home with three straight wins to finish tied fifth. Here's that Round 1 encounter.
Games
[Event "Bunratty Challengers"] [Site "?"] [Date "2017.02.17"] [Round "1.1"] [White "Esteve Sanchez, Sergio"] [Black "Pavlov, Mikhail"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "A01"] [PlyCount "75"] [EventDate "2017.??.??"] [WhiteClock "0:31:24"] [BlackClock "0:14:09"] 1. b3 e5 2. Bb2 Nc6 3. e3 Nf6 4. Bb5 Bd6 5. Na3 a6 6. Bxc6 bxc6 7. Nc4 O-O 8. Ne2 Re8 9. Ng3 e4 10. Nxd6 cxd6 11. f3 d5 12. O-O d6 13. fxe4 Nxe4 14. Nxe4 Rxe4 15. Qh5 Qe7 16. Rf4 Rxf4 17. exf4 Bb7 18. Qf3 f6 19. d3 c5 20. Qf2 d4 21. Re1 Qf7 22. Bc1 Qd7 23. Qe2 Bd5 24. Bd2 Rb8 25. a4 Bc6 26. Ba5 Qf7 27. Qe6 Re8 28. Qxf7+ Kxf7 29. Rxe8 Bxe8 30. Kf2 h5 31. Bb6 Ke6 32. Bc7 h4 33. a5 Bh5 34. Ke1 Bg4 35. Kd2 Kd5 36. Bb6 Bh5 37. Bc7 Bg6 38. Bb6 1/2-1/2

Sunday morning slugfest in Bunratty

Northern Ireland's adopted son Mikhail Pavlov, on 3.5 points out of 4, was on the live boards in Round 5 of the Challengers. The Russian opera singer was already fine tuned for his 9.15am (!!) start. In typically enterprising style he essayed the Morra Gambit and brought off a sparkling win. Games
[Event "Bunratty Challengers"] [Site "?"] [Date "2017.02.19"] [Round "5.2"] [White "Pavlov, Mikail"] [Black "Mirza, Diana"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "B21"] [PlyCount "55"] [EventDate "2017.??.??"] [WhiteClock "0:01:59"] [BlackClock "0:32:36"] 1. e4 c5 2. d4 cxd4 3. c3 dxc3 4. Nxc3 Nc6 5. Bc4 d6 6. Nf3 a6 7. O-O Nf6 8. Bf4 Bg4 9. h3 Bh5 10. g4 Bg6 11. Nh4 e6 12. Re1 Ne5 13. Bb3 Nxe4 14. Ba4+ Nc6 ( {I suspect that after} 14... b5 {we would have seen} 15. Nxb5 axb5 16. Bxb5+) 15. Nxe4 Bxe4 16. Rxe4 d5 ({Probably best here is} 16... Qxh4 {but after} 17. Rc1 Rc8 18. Bxc6+ bxc6 19. Rxc6 $1 Rxc6 20. Qa4 Qd8 21. Qxc6+ Qd7 22. Qxa6 { White must have good winning chances.}) 17. Re2 b5 ({Now if} 17... Qxh4 { White has} 18. Qxd5 {exploiting the pin along the e-file.}) 18. Rc1 Nb4 19. Nf5 $1 g6 20. Nd4 Bg7 ({After} 20... bxa4 {now} 21. Rc7 {threatening Qxa4+ looks very strong.}) 21. Nxe6 fxe6 22. Rxe6+ Kf7 23. Rd6 Qe7 24. Bb3 Rad8 25. Bxd5+ { The computer tells me there's a forced checkmate from here.} Kf8 26. Qf3 Bf6 27. Rxf6+ Qxf6 28. Bh6+ 1-0

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Large contingent at Bunratty Festival

The Bunratty International Chess Festival is now firmly established as Ireland's biggest weekender. This year over 300 players are competing in the four sections. In recent years more and more Northern Ireland players are making the journey to County Clare.

According to Brendan Jamison's new Chess Northern Ireland website 36 local players are in the lists. If you want an easy way to find out how they are doing, Brendan has a dedicated page following their progress.

For an overview of the whole tournament action then go to the organisers' own website or the Irish Chess Union page on the event. At both you'll get all the round-by-round results, standings and also 7 "Live Boards", 3 from the Masters, 2 from the Challengers and one each from the Major and Minor.

In Round 1 young Ballynafeigh CC player Daniil Zelenchuk featured in the live transmission when he was facing the top seed in the Major. Daniil was clearly unfazed by the experience, winning with the Black pieces and still having more than an hour on his clock at the end.

Games
[Event "Bunratty Major"] [Site "?"] [Date "2017.02.17"] [Round "1.1"] [White "Smith, Jonathan"] [Black "Zelenchuk, Daniil"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "D71"] [PlyCount "92"] [EventDate "2017.??.??"] [WhiteClock "1:10:52"] [BlackClock "0:08:04"] 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. g3 Bg7 4. Bg2 O-O 5. Nf3 d6 6. O-O c6 7. Nc3 Bd7 8. e4 a5 9. Qd3 Na6 10. a3 Rb8 11. h3 Qc8 12. Kh2 b5 13. cxb5 cxb5 14. Be3 b4 15. axb4 axb4 16. Qxa6 Qxa6 17. Rxa6 bxc3 18. bxc3 Bb5 19. Ra7 Bxf1 20. Bxf1 e6 21. Nd2 Rfc8 22. c4 Ne8 23. Kg2 Nc7 24. Ra5 Kf8 25. f4 Rb2 26. e5 dxe5 27. dxe5 Rd8 28. Kf3 Rbxd2 29. Bxd2 Rxd2 30. Rc5 Rd7 31. Rc6 f6 32. Rd6 Rf7 33. exf6 Bxf6 34. Ke4 Be7 35. Rd7 Bc5 36. Rxf7+ Kxf7 37. g4 Ne8 38. f5 Nd6+ 39. Ke5 gxf5 40. gxf5 Nxf5 41. Bd3 Bd4+ 42. Kf4 Kf6 43. Ke4 Bc5 44. Kf4 h5 45. Be2 Bd6+ 46. Kf3 Nd4+ 0-1

Monday, February 13, 2017

Forthcoming events page

I have added a new page to publicise future events in the local chess calendar. You can access it by clicking on the "Forthcoming Events" button in the crossbar above.

It seems to be a good time to start this listings service as March promises to have a feast of quick-play chess to savour. On Saturday 4th March Chess NI (no relation!) is organising a Belfast Blitz and Bullet Championships at the ground floor conference room of the Good Shepherd Centre, 511 Ormeau Road.

The very next day the NI Civil Service Chess Club is running the second of this season's Rapidplays in the Alan Burns Grand Prix - that takes place in the Maynard Sinclair Pavilion, Stormont.

You then have two weeks to catch you breath before the UCU Rapidplay on Sunday 19th March in the Belfast Room of the Ulster Museum.

I'll also mention here two events taking place in February featuring simultaneous play. These both have maximum numbers for participants and may already be "full up" so I haven't put them on the new page. However, in case it's not too late to get on board with these events, below are the links to the organisers' webpages:

Ross Harris 24 hour Chess-A-Thon

Starting at 8am on Saturday 11th February and continuing right through the night until 8am on Sunday 12th, Ross Harris took on all-comers in a non-stop 24 hour "Chess-a-thon". In doing so he has raised over £500 for a new children's chess club at Strand Arts Centre in East Belfast.

There's a report by Brendan Jamison at the UCU website that provides the context for this prodigious effort. I caught some of the action at various times on the Saturday and managed to download a couple of games from the UCU Live transmission.

On the Saturday morning Ross got the better of Brendan Jamison after a capture threatened a mate in two. Brendan managed to bailout into an inferior ending but Ross's technique was up to the task.

Games
[Event "24 hour Chess-A-Thon"] [Site "?"] [Date "2017.02.11"] [Round "1.1"] [White "Jamison, Brendan"] [Black "Harris, Ross"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "A45"] [PlyCount "108"] [EventDate "2017.??.??"] 1. d4 Nf6 2. Bf4 e6 3. e3 c5 4. c3 Nc6 5. Bd3 d5 6. Nd2 Bd6 7. Bg3 O-O 8. Ngf3 Re8 9. Ne5 Qc7 10. Ndf3 h6 11. h4 Ne4 12. Bf4 cxd4 13. exd4 f6 14. Nxc6 Bxf4 15. Nb4 a5 16. Nc2 Bd7 17. Ne3 Bxe3 18. Bxe4 (18. fxe3 Qg3+ 19. Ke2 Qf2#) 18... Bxf2+ 19. Kxf2 dxe4 20. Nd2 Qf4+ 21. Kg1 Bb5 22. c4 $2 e3 23. Nf3 Bxc4 24. Qc2 Bd5 25. Rh3 Bxf3 26. Rxf3 Qxd4 27. Qe2 Qd2 28. Rxe3 Qxe2 29. Rxe2 e5 30. Rc1 Rac8 31. Rec2 Rxc2 32. Rxc2 Kf7 33. Kf2 Kg6 34. Rc5 b6 35. Rb5 Re6 36. g4 Rc6 37. Ke3 Kf7 38. g5 hxg5 39. hxg5 Ke6 40. gxf6 gxf6 41. b4 axb4 42. Rxb4 f5 43. a4 Kf6 44. Kf3 Kg5 45. Rb5 e4+ 46. Ke3 Rc4 47. Rxb6 Rxa4 48. Rb8 f4+ 49. Kf2 Ra2+ 50. Ke1 f3 51. Rf8 Kg4 52. Rf7 Kg3 53. Rg7+ Kf4 54. Rf7+ Ke3 0-1

Screen grab from UCU Live of Jamison-Harris
On Saturday evening Ross faced off against Ulster Champion Stephen Rush and I managed to catch this well-played effort that ended in a draw.

Games
[Event "24 hour Chess-A-Thon"] [Site "?"] [Date "2017.02.11"] [Round "1.1"] [White "Harris, Ross"] [Black "Rush, Stephen"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "A40"] [PlyCount "92"] [EventDate "2017.??.??"] 1. d4 e6 2. Nf3 Nf6 3. Bf4 c5 4. c3 Be7 5. h3 b6 6. e3 O-O 7. Nbd2 d5 8. Bd3 Ba6 9. Qe2 Bxd3 10. Qxd3 Nc6 11. O-O Qd7 12. a4 Rfc8 13. Ne5 Qb7 14. Nxc6 Qxc6 15. Qb5 a6 16. Qxc6 Rxc6 17. Nf3 Rcc8 18. Ne5 h6 19. f3 b5 20. axb5 axb5 21. Nd3 c4 22. Ne5 Kf8 23. Kf2 Ke8 24. Ng4 Nxg4+ 25. hxg4 b4 26. e4 Kd7 27. exd5 exd5 28. Rfe1 Bf6 29. Be5 b3 30. Bxf6 gxf6 31. Rxa8 Rxa8 32. Kg3 Ra2 33. Re2 Ra1 34. f4 Rc1 35. Kf3 Rf1+ 36. Kg3 Kd6 37. f5 Kd7 38. Re3 Rd1 39. Re2 Rh1 40. Kf3 h5 41. gxh5 Rxh5 42. Kg4 Rh1 43. Kf3 Rf1+ 44. Rf2 Rc1 45. Re2 Rc2 46. Kf2 Rc1 1/2-1/2

Sunday, February 05, 2017

QUB Tourney final standings and prizewinners

Childreach International Chess Tournament
Students Union, Queen's University, Belfast,
3-5 February 2017

Prizewinners (from l to r) Rajan, Mellotte, Rodriguez, Lavery, Doak, Jamison, Newman

Final standings

Rank Player            Rtg  Points Prize 

1    Brendan Jamison   1743   5.0  Champion
2    Mark Newman       1724   4.5  2nd Senior
3    Clark Rodriguez   ----   4.0  Junior Champion
4    Edward Doak       1362   4.0  Intermediate Champion
5    Ram Rajan         1368   3.5  2nd Intermediate
6    Daniil Zelenchuk  1260   3.5  3rd Intermediate
7    Robert Lavery     1649   3.5  3rd Senior
8    Rian Mellotte      987   3.0  2nd Junior
9    Dmitry Zelenchuk  1223   3.0
10   Martin Kelly      1416   2.5
11   Utkarsh Gupta     1490   2.5
12   John McKenna      1510   2.5
13   Tyrone Winter      944   2.5  3rd Junior
14   Geoff Hindley     1040   2.0
15   Bhudhav Singh      624   2.0
16   Jasper Ramsey      835   1.5
17   Rhys McLean        692   1.0
18   Ben Campbell      1010   1.0

Rian Mellotte also received a "Giant Slayer" certificate
for his win against John McKenna
Brendan Jamison, the overall winner receiving his prize from Mark Newman
Edward Doak - Intermediate Champion
Clark Rodriguez - Junior Champion
Mark Newman had presented all the prizes on behalf of the organisers. Mark also played in the tournament and finished second in the Senior section. Someone else would have to award this prize and it appears QUB CC Treasurer, Ben Campbell stepped up to handle the formalities. As reported on the QUB CC Facebook page, Ben is taking part in a Childreach project in Nepal in the near future that focuses its efforts to fight child trafficking. He is heading out to work with the kids and also climb part of Mount Everest as a challenge to raise further funds for the charity. Below is the moment where Mark learns that his prize is to accompany Ben on the climb up Everest.😈
Gotcha!
Click on the images for larger versions

Thanks again to Brendan Jamison for his help with photographs and results

Final round pairings from QUB tourney

Play underway in Round 6

QUB Charity Tournament

The QUB Chess Club are organising a tournament new to the calendar this weekend. Round 1 was on Friday night (3rd February) with three rounds following on Saturday. The tournament finishes with morning and afternoon rounds today.

The event is being held to help the Childreach International charity and £200 has been raised. Traditional money prizes are not being offered, but the overall victor and the Intermediate (under 1500) and Junior (under 1200) prizewinners will all receive a free entry to the Mark Hebden GM Simultaneous, being held at RBAI later this month.

Round 1 action (Photo courtesy of Brendan Jamison)
A study in concentration from Round 1 (Photo courtesy of Brendan Jamison)
Going into the final day, top seed Brendan Jamison leads with 3.5 points but there is still plenty to play for as the Pairings for Round 5 show.
My thanks to Brendan Jamison for sending me reports on the tournament. Hopefully I will have more to post late Sunday or some time on Monday.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Williamson Shield Day 2

At the end of Day 1 Gareth Annesley had enjoyed a full-point lead over his six nearest pursuers. However that buffer zone disappeared when he lost to Nicholas Pilkiewicz in the Sunday morning round.

Annesley got back on track with a win over WFM Karina Kruk in Round 5 and going into the final round he was joined on 4 points by Pilkiewicz and John McKenna, Only these three could still win the Shield. 

Pilkiewicz had already played his two joint-leaders, so he floated down to play Kruk in Round 6. Their game ended in a draw and Annesley's win against McKenna gained Gareth his fourth Williamson Sheld title.

Final crosstable

No Name                  Rtg  Club          Total  1    2    3    4    5    6  

1  Gareth Annesley       1908 Muldoons      5      7:W  6:W  5:W  2:L  4:W  3:W
2  Nicholas Pilkiewicz   1847 Muldoons      4.5    8:W  9:D  3:D  1:W  7:W  4:D
3  John McKenna          1510 Belfast South 4     14:W  4:D  2:D  6:W  5:W  1:L
4  Karina Kruk           1646 Ballynafeigh  3.5   12:W  3:D  9:D  8:W  1:L  2:D
5  Mikhail Pavlov        1766 Ballynafeigh  3.5   11:W 10:W  1:L  9:W  3:L  8:D
6  Richard Gould         1536 Belfast South 3.5   16:W  1:L  7:D  3:L  0:W 12:W
7  Modestas Razbadauskas 1346               3.5    1:L 16:W  6:D 12:W  2:L  9:W
8  Patrick McKillen      1334 Muldoons      3.5    2:L 13:W 10:W  4:L 14:W  5:D
9  Robert Lavery         1649 Ballynafeigh  3     13:W  2:D  4:D  5:L 10:W  7:L
10 John Phillips         1392 Enniskillen   3     15:W  5:L  8:L 11:W  9:L 16:W
11 Gary Johnston         1275 Bangor        3      5:L 15:W 12:L 10:L 16:W 14:W
12 Roy Stafford          1243               2.5    4:L 14:D 11:W  7:L 13:W  6:L
13 Adrian Dornford-Smith 1155 NICS          2.5    9:L  8:L 14:D 16:W 12:L  0:W
14 Vincent O'Brien        955 Ballynafeigh  2      3:L 12:D 13:D 15:W  8:L 11:L
15 Rhys McLean            692 Ballynafeigh  1     10:L 11:L  0:W 14:L  0:   0: 
16 Geoff Hindley         1040 NICS          .5     6:L  7:L  0:D 13:L 11:L 10:L

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Numbers down at Williamson Shield

Recent editions of the Williamson Shield have been very well attended but this year's renewal has run into something of a perfect storm. The Williamson is clashing with the Gonzaga Classic - while I think this has happened before, this time the marketing onslaught for the Dublin event has launched it into a different league. At least five local players decided to head south to see what all the fuss is about.

Perhaps even more significant for the Williamson numbers is that running next weekend is another local six-round Swiss, new to the calendar - a charity event run by the burgeoning QUB Chess Club. It will be interesting to see how many turn out for this newcomer.

Two former winners of the famous Shield, Gareth Annesley (2009, 2014, 2016) and Nicholas Pilkiewicz (2000), are competing again this year. After close of play on Day 1 Gareth was leading after three straight wins. Six players share second place, a full point behind. The UCU live pages should have regular updates

Your correspondent had time for a couple of friendly quickplay games with Brendan Jamison before taking these photographs of the Round 3 action.
Nicholas Pilkiewicz

John McKenna
Razbadauskas (White) -v Gould
Dornford-Smith (White) -v- O'Brien

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

Curiosity killed the cat

On the Ballynafeigh CC website, its "Off The Chest" page has a rather curious comment from "Baseball" which is date-stamped December 23, 2016 at 22:07.
However will we make the tea now?
The comment did not seem to refer to anything further up the page and to date there have been no further comments of any nature at "Off The Chest". Of course, sometimes late at night people say the strangest things on social media, even people about to obtain very high office. Still, "Baseball", whoever they might be 😕, usually seems to be someone out to make a point. So was there something of significance behind the comment? Oh, it is irritating when you are outside the loop.

Anyway,  I was researching for a future blog post about ratings (coming soon to this blog) when I came across, on another emanation of Ballynafeigh chess, something that might resolve the issue of the curious comment.

That "something" was that two members of the UCU Board, the Chairperson of Code of Conduct Committee, Brendan Jamison and National Arbiter, Richard Gould had both resigned on 21 December 2016. As far as I can see, there is nothing to confirm this on the official UCU website but as the news of the resignations appears on the emanation hosted by Brendan Jamison, I dare say this is reliable information.

This out of the loop cat is still curious.

Monday, December 12, 2016

NICS Rapidplay series resumes

Apart from a few games with the computer I hadn't played a game of chess, competitive or otherwise, for some time. My last tournament chess dated back to the 2013-4 season, when I played in a couple of Rapidplays, organised by my own club - Civil Service (NICS). Not without considerable qualms about my form, I decided to re-enter the arena on familiar ground at the first of four quickplays in the 2016-7 NICS Alan Burns Grand Prix.

NICS have two speed settings for their rapid tournaments and this was the slower "Lackadaisical" - five games of 20 minutes, plus 5 second increment, each. The entrants were remarkably closely bunched together on rating - so there were likely to be plenty of close-fought games.

Controller Mark Newman played in Round one to avoid a bye, but when David Jackson arrived shortly after the start, he was allocated a half-point bye and from Round 2 Mark was able to fully concentrate on his administrative duties. These took an unusual turn in Round 3 when a loud voice at the door demanded entry. When Mark opened the door he was confronted by a young man wielding a cutlass. Mark defused the situation by firmly indicating the potential intruder could not come in because this was a chess tournament. The pirate then returned with his plastic sword to the children's party happening elsewhere in the Maynard Sinclair Pavilion.
Woodfield (White) v Jackson
Returning to the chess battles: after two rounds only the first and third seeds, John Bradley and Robert Lavery had full points. Their top board encounter in Round 3 was won by Robert and after he won again in the fourth round against Ram Rajan, he was a full point ahead with only Bradley capable of catching him.
Gould (White) v Bradley, Rajan watching on
In the final round, a quick draw between Lavery and Daniil Zelenchuk secured overall victory for Robert and gave Daniil good chances of taking the grading prize. Martin Kelly was still in with a chance of the GP, if he could beat Ian Woodfield. Martin went the exchange up but a hasty move, failing to protect a vital pawn, was his undoing, and he slowly went under in a knight and pawns endgame. Meanwhile the host club's David Jackson defied his lowly seeding to checkmate Bradley and take second place honours.
Troughton (White) v Kelly

NICS Lackadaisical Rapidplay, 11 December 2016
Final standings

Place Name             Rtg  Club          Score Prize

  1   Robert Lavery    1539 Ballynafeigh  4.5   First
  2   David Jackson    1374 NICS          3.5   Second
 3-5  John Bradley     1629 Ballynafeigh  3     
      Richard Gould    1517 Belfast South 3    
      Daniil Zelenchuk 1484 Ballynafeigh  3     Under 1500
  6   Ian Woodfield    1502 QUB           2.5  
 7-9  Ram Rajan        1532 QUB           2    
      Martin Kelly     1456 Belfast South 2    
      David McAlister  1455 NICS          2    
10-11 William Storey   1279 Belfast South 1.5  
      Dmitry Zelenchuk 1147 Ballynafeigh  1.5  
12-13 Niall Troughton  1583 Ballynafeigh  1    
      Mark Newman      1522 NICS          1   
Prizewinners (l to r) Zelenchuk, Lavery & Jackson

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Rookie reports from the seaside

" Bourne" Again in Bournemouth?

Having finished second recently in the Winter Belfast South, City of Belfast and Spring Ballynafeigh tournaments, Martin Kelly decided to have a go at the British Chess Championship after a quarter of a century's absence. He had won the under-1600 event in Brighton in 1984 and this year it was held in another lovely and lively seaside resort on the English south coast, Bournemouth. He entered a weekend event and a weekday event, held in the mornings which allowed one to do other things the rest of the day, including karaoke (but I don't want to make a "song and dance" about it)!

As the bottom seed, Martin got a bye in Round 1 of the weekender, then met Peter Harrington in Round 2. The latter started off well but later he was to "peter" out to a draw. Round 3 gave Martin a slight edge against Michael Davidson but he didn't take the "michael" out of it- so another draw. His last two opponents were both 1520. The first, Nigel Redmond, lost to Martin in 58 moves- a "Nigel long" game rather than a Nigel Short game! The second, Paul Collins, played an "appaulingly" quiet line against Martin's Marshall Attack, but the resulting draw gave Martin 3.5/5 and third place overall.

"Life's a beach" but the Bournemouth weather encouraged one to relax near the water's edge and encourage one to kick the proverbial sand in the chess bullies' faces- so Martin, anxious to to win more than draw in the weekday tournament, decided to "force it in Dorset"! Again he met Peter Harrington, who this time played more like Padraig Harrington (if Padraig was playing chess, I mean) in losing to Martin's Budapest! Round 2 opponent was second seed Julian Hawthorne(1544)-" a thorny" set of complications by Martin meant he couldn't see the " wood from the trees" and lost! Exhausted next day against Alastair Drummond, Martin "summoned" all his energy, but it wasn't there and a 13 move draw resulted! Just as well, because the next game on Board 2 was the last to finish in the whole venue- 5 hour, 112 move win by Martin, "packing them" in against ex-Dubliner John Pakenham! The last day on top board against John D. Clapp,the top seed, saw Martin's French Advanced line pressurise his worthy opponent with the unfortunate name, but after a 37 move draw, " D. Clapp" from the audience was much appreciated as Martin clinched second prize ( and yes, that was the clean joke)! All in all, with 2 prizes and an unbeaten run of 9 games, I'm looking forward next year to Llandudno with the whole family- even though the "clan dudno" where it is or how to spell it!

PS Graeme McCormick got 5 out of 10 in the under 1880 and under 2040 events!

Thursday, March 17, 2016

New tournament, new websites

Nearly all of the local clubs close over the summer at the end of the Belfast Leagues. For many years now the UCU has catered for a continuing demand for competitive chess by running the Summer Tournament, originally at the Maynard Sinclair Pavilion on the Stormont Estate and more recently at the Bankers' Club on the Malone Road.

The Summer Tournament lasts for about 20 weeks with one round each Wednesday evening. It is a so-called "flexible" tournament - players dip in and out of the competition as often or as little as they want, with prizes based on percentage scores. There are a number of organisational rules peculiar to the flexible format, the most important probably being the requirement to play a minimum of games to be eligible for a prize. Pairings are made on the night with players allocated as far as possible opponents of roughly equal strength.

The only trouble with the Summer Tournament is that it tends to suck all competitive chess at longer time-limit into a black hole on the Malone Road. The possibility of running shorter, snappier events on a once or twice weekly basis, particularly in the Spring and early Autumn has always been there and now Ballynafeigh Chess Club has seized the initiative with a weekly tournament running on Tuesday nights, the first round having just taken place.

Instead of going for a five or six round Swiss, the Ballynafeigh organisers led by Arbiter Brendan Jamison, have opted for an eight-round Swiss/Flexible hybrid. Hopefully, Brendan will not need a supply of headache tablets in these uncharted waters. He certainly wasn't overly pre-occupied with the birth of his brain-child, sweeping all before him at Civil Service's recent rapidplay before taking the lead in the percentage table in the Belfast South flexible tournament by beating previous leader and top-seed John Masterson on the Monday immediately before the first night of the new tournament on the Tuesday.

Jamison has set up a dedicated website for the Ballynafeigh Spring Tournament and apart from all the detailed information on the event, there is already a short report there on the first round. The event must already be considered a success story with 40 entrants, of whom 38 participated in the first round. There are three free weeks within the schedule so play continues until Tuesday 24th May.

The title of this piece promised new websites and I found a link at the Spring Tournament to the second one, which incidentally also has a Jamison connection. Brendan has used his skills connected with his "day job" to design a logo for Childrens Chess Northern Ireland which has also just established its own web presence. CCNI has been going now for about 15 years and is run in conjunction with the UCU. The CCNI website also has information on the recently established Strandtown Chess Academy. This is based at the eponymous primary school where coincidentally your author spent two years of his education - if the Academy had been there then, I might have less excuse for the standard of my play!

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Missed opportunity at the Ulster Masters

The live coverage of the Ulster Championship Congress proved a great success. The Ulster Chess Union has brought out all the technology again for the Ulster Masters this weekend. After technical problems defeated coverage of Round 1 on Saturday morning, normal service was restored in the afternoon with six games online, plus webcam and results.

One of the pleasures of watching the live games is to put the moves into an engine and bask in "your" superiority to those playing the games by seeing something they missed! Games
[Event "Ulster Masters 2015"] [Site "Belfast"] [Date "2015.10.18"] [Round "4.1"] [White "Lavery, Robert"] [Black "Leitch, Calum"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "B00"] [Annotator "McAlister"] [PlyCount "24"] [EventDate "2015.10.17"] [EventType "swiss"] [EventRounds "6"] [EventCountry "NIR"] [WhiteClock "1:12:12"] [BlackClock "0:51:11"] 1. e4 a6 {Looks like a beginner's move, but better than its appearance.} 2. d4 d5 ({The most common continuation here is} 2... b5 {as in the sensational win by the English No.1 over the World Champion at the 1980 European Team Championship:} 3. Nf3 Bb7 4. Bd3 Nf6 5. Qe2 e6 6. a4 c5 7. dxc5 Bxc5 8. Nbd2 b4 9. e5 Nd5 10. Ne4 Be7 11. O-O Nc6 12. Bd2 Qc7 13. c4 bxc3 14. Nxc3 Nxc3 15. Bxc3 Nb4 16. Bxb4 Bxb4 17. Rac1 Qb6 18. Be4 O-O 19. Ng5 h6 20. Bh7+ Kh8 21. Bb1 Be7 22. Ne4 Rac8 23. Qd3 Rxc1 24. Rxc1 Qxb2 25. Re1 Qxe5 26. Qxd7 Bb4 27. Re3 Qd5 28. Qxd5 Bxd5 29. Nc3 Rc8 30. Ne2 g5 31. h4 Kg7 32. hxg5 hxg5 33. Bd3 a5 34. Rg3 Kf6 35. Rg4 Bd6 36. Kf1 Be5 37. Ke1 Rh8 38. f4 gxf4 39. Nxf4 Bc6 40. Ne2 Rh1+ 41. Kd2 Rh2 42. g3 Bf3 43. Rg8 Rg2 44. Ke1 Bxe2 45. Bxe2 Rxg3 46. Ra8 Bc7 {0-1 Karpov,A-Miles,A: Skara 1980}) ({If you're looking for something really provocative, then try} 2... h6 {which another top English GM (and ironically a noted opening theoretician) tried out on his return to chess after retiring to an ordinary work-life:} 3. Bd3 c5 4. dxc5 e6 5. Be3 Qc7 6. b4 Nc6 7. c3 d6 8. cxd6 Bxd6 9. Nf3 Nf6 10. h3 g5 11. a3 g4 12. Nd4 Ne5 13. Be2 Nxe4 14. hxg4 Bd7 15. g5 O-O-O 16. gxh6 Bc6 17. Nxc6 Qxc6 18. Qb3 Bc7 19. a4 Ng3 20. fxg3 Qxg2 21. Rf1 Nd3+ 22. Bxd3 Rxd3 {0-1 Van Oosterom,C-Sadler,M: Haarlem 2010}) 3. Nc3 dxe4 4. f3 exf3 5. Qxf3 ({Sacrificing not one but two pawns. I would have expected} 5. Nxf3 {which would be similar to a reasonably respectable gambit against the Caro-Kann: 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 dxe4 4.f3 exf3 5.Nf3}) 5... Qxd4 6. Be3 Qb4 7. O-O-O Bg4 {Oops! Looks like White is going to lose the exchange, but in fact Black's move should lose.} 8. a3 ({The players had been moving quickly up to here and in so doing missed a tactical shot. Counter-attacking the opposing queen is the right idea, but this is the wrong method. Correct was} 8. Nd5 $1 {threatening both Nc7 checkmate and the Black queen - plus Qxg4 winning the bishop if he loses the protection from his queen. The best try is} e6 {but then} 9. Nxc7+ Ke7 10. Qf2 $1 {(threatening Bc5+ forking king and queen)} Nd7 {and now} 11. Rd4 $1 {allowing White to capture the a8-rook.}) 8... Bxf3 9. axb4 Bxd1 10. Nd5 Kd7 11. Kxd1 e6 12. Nf4 Bxb4 { Black is the exchange and three pawns up and he went on to win without any further alarms.} 0-1

Monday, August 24, 2015

Hi-tech record-breaking Ulster Championships

The Ulster Championships have gone from strength to strength since 2007 when the tournament was moved to the August Bank Holiday weekend and found a great venue in Belfast's Europa Hotel. This year, however, there was a little fly in the ointment with the Europa unable to accommodate the Championships in its usual holiday weekend slot.

The Ulster Chess Union decided to move the event to the previous weekend of 21-23 August, but this necessitated a change to the schedule. Instead of two games each day on morning and afternoon, 2015 saw a Friday night start followed by three games on the Saturday and then two more on the final day. The triple-header on the Saturday meant that the playing session had to be reduced for all rounds but sensibly the organisers retained a 30-second increment.

The good news is that the enforced change of date did not impact on the number of entries with a new record high of 62 for the three-title Championship Congress.

Play taking place in the early stages of the final round
The Ulster Chess Union organising team produced a really top-notch event. Investment in equipment saw the Championship games being played on top quality wooden boards and sets and there were also DGT boards relaying a number of games each round. Also going out to the audience outside the playing room was a live webcam feed. Add in that results and standings were regularly updated on the new UCU live webpages after each round and it can safely be asserted that this was a 2015 Championship well up to 2015 hi-tech standards.

DGT Boards
The Senior Championship was spiced up for the local players by the appearance of one of Munster's best in Rory Quinn plus the promising young Blanchardstown player, Luke Scott.

Quinn (left) and Scott awaiting their opponents just before the start of Round 2
Quinn finished top of the final standings with 5.0 out of 6 with defending Ulster champion Gabor Horvath second, a half-point behind. With Quinn ineligible for the title, Horvath retained the Dr McSparran Cup for a second year.

Dr McSparran Cup - awarded to the Ulster Senior Champion
The Intermediate Championship was won by the young Ballynafeigh player, Thomas Donaldson who conceded only a single draw - to Stephen Rush - in finishing 1.5 points ahead of his nearest challengers - Eoin Carey (last year's Junior champion), David Ruben and Chris Kelly - all of whom he defeated in individual combat.
Donaldson (left) in play against Ruben in Round 2.
In the Junior Championship, which had an impressive number of 32 competing, there was an even more emphatic winner with David Barr, still very much a newcomer on the UCU tournament scene, finishing with a 100% record.
Round 2 in progress in the Dublin Room of the Europa Hotel. 2015 Junior Champion David Barr is facing the camera on the outside of the the second row on the right.
Click on the photographs to enlarge the images

Thursday, July 16, 2015

A little bit of history

Nowadays, no major chess tournament is complete without live transmission of the games on the internet. It is even quite commonplace now in Ireland. though this year the recently completed Irish Championships did not have live coverage, apparently because the ICU  has no electronic boards of its own.

The UCU recently announced that they had bought a number of electronic chess boards and it had already been trailed that the Ulster Championship is likely to have 6 games transmitted each round.

It's probably a good idea to trial the system in advance of the UCU's top tournament and the UCU did just that last night. Perhaps understandably (in case things went wrong) there was no big fanfare for the first outing of the UCU's new toy. However, I picked up a tip on Facebook and logged on yesterday evening to events at the Summer Tournament in the Bankers' Club where the top game of the night was all plugged in. The game can still be found here and it's a nice touch that the game can be downloaded in a pgn-file (which I hadn't seen before with the DGT Boards). So making use of that facility, I thought I'd treat you to an annotated version. This comes with a health warning, because I've never been able to play the Modern Benoni well with either White or Black.

Games
[Event "UCU Summer Tournament"] [Site "Belfast"] [Date "2015.07.15"] [Round "11.1"] [White "Pilkiewicz, Nicholas"] [Black "Masterson, John"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "A67"] [Annotator "McAlister"] [PlyCount "53"] [EventDate "2015.05.06"] [EventType "tourn"] [EventRounds "21"] [EventCountry "NIR"] [WhiteClock "0:37:21"] [BlackClock "0:48:51"] 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 c5 4. d5 exd5 5. cxd5 d6 6. e4 g6 7. f4 Bg7 8. Bb5+ Nfd7 9. a4 O-O 10. Nf3 Na6 11. O-O Nc7 12. Bc4 a6 13. Qe1 Re8 14. Qg3 b6 ({ Snatching a pawn here with} 14... Bxc3 15. bxc3 Rxe4 {would give White plenty of attacking compensation after} 16. Bd3 Re8 17. f5) ({However} 14... b5 {was more thematic. Now after} 15. axb5 Nb6 $1 16. Bd3 axb5 17. Rxa8 Nbxa8 18. f5 c4 19. fxg6 hxg6 ({but not} 19... cxd3 20. gxf7+ Kxf7 21. Ne5+ Kg8 22. Rf7 $18) 20. Bb1 b4 {Black has counterplay}) 15. Re1 (15. e5 {seems more in keeping with the previous moves. After} dxe5 16. d6 Ne6 (16... exf4 17. dxc7 $1 fxg3 18. cxd8=Q Rxd8 19. hxg3 $18) 17. fxe5 {White would have a clear advantage}) 15... f6 {Heading to a hedgehog-type formation seems completely wrong in a Modern Benoni.} ({Black probably had to try} 15... Bd4+ 16. Kh1 (16. Nxd4 cxd4 17. Ne2 Rxe4 18. Bd3 Re8 19. f5 Ne5 {and Black should be OK}) 16... Nf6 {and if now} 17. e5 Nh5 $1 18. Qg5 Qxg5 19. Nxg5 Bf5 {with counterplay}) 16. f5 $1 { Black is in real trouble now} Nf8 17. Bf4 {The threat of Bxd6 is so strong that Black decides to give up the exchange. However it is to no avail as White plays very accurately from here on.} Re5 18. Nxe5 fxe5 19. Bg5 Bf6 20. Bxf6 Qxf6 21. Rf1 g5 22. h4 h6 23. hxg5 hxg5 24. Nd1 Ra7 25. Ne3 Ne8 26. Ng4 Qg7 27. f6 ({After} 27. f6 {White might try sacrificing his Knight for two pawns. One nice line now would be} Qg6 28. Nxe5 dxe5 29. Qxe5 Bg4 30. d6+ Kh7 31. Qe7+ Rxe7 32. dxe7 Qh6 33. f7) 1-0

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

A new kid on the block

Does the Ulster Chess Union have a competitor?

Looking through the forthcoming events Calendar at the Irish Chess Union website, I came across Northern Ireland Chess Grand Prix 4, Northern Ireland Chess Grand Prix 5 and Northern Ireland Schools Rapidplay Chess Championships 2015, all organised by the Northern Ireland Chess Association.

These three events are confined to schools (or if you prefer, junior or youth) players, though there could also be an intention to organise adult chess - the NICA membership page hints at this with a "normal" membership outside the two youth categories of Under 12 and Under 18.

Since the breakaway of the UCU from the ICU ten years ago, the ICU has been conspicuous by its absence from any attempt to organise in Northern Ireland. However this new body seems to have links with the ICU, perhaps through Moves for Life which is headed by Kevin O'Connell, long-time ICU Delegate to FIDE.

My understanding is that the UCU was aware of those behind the NICA and their plans for junior chess in Northern Ireland but had decided not to engage with their project. Now it looks like the NICA organiser may have gone elsewhere for assistance. Which, of course, leads us to this question: If the NICA is successful in recruiting a large number of junior members, in the medium-term will the ICU return to local chess through this newly-created portal?

Monday, April 13, 2015

City of Belfast wrap-up

After my visit to the City of Belfast Championships on Saturday, I didn't find the time to pay a visit on the second and final day to see how things turned out . However, UCU Tournament Director, Ross Harris, very kindly e-mailed me the results. Pending what I am sure will be a more comprehensive report at the UCU's official website, here's a summary:

Nemtzov Cup

WFM Karina Kruk during Round 1
Going into the final round, Gareth Annesley had a half-point advantage over Ulster Champion, Gabor Horvath, They had drawn their individual game but Horvath had also conceded a draw to John O'Doherty in Round 5. However, Gareth went down  to a last round defeat to Stephen Rush while Gabor won against Mark Newman to move into the top spot. Karina Kruk has won the supporting Henderson Cup on no less than four occasions but this time she was just above the grading limit. However she kept up her good form in these Championships by finishing in third place after holding Ulster Masters winner, Calum Leitch, to a draw in the final round.

Henderson Cup

Pat McKillen first won the Henderson back in 2006 and took the title again last year. The defending champ was only seeded ninth but romped home to a three-timer, conceding just one draw and finishing a full point ahead of 2000 winner Stewart McConaghy with Richard Gould, Robert Lavery and John McKenna a further half-point behind. Only unbeaten player other than McKillen in the Henderson was Martin Kelly, joint winner with Kruk in 2011.

Final Crosstables for the Nemtzov and Henderson Cups

Saturday, April 11, 2015

City of Belfast 2015

The City of Belfast Championships are being held over the 11-12 April weekend at the Maynard Sinclair Pavilion. 29 players have entered the lists, a bit down on the numbers playing in the Ulster Masters and Williamson Shield earlier in the season. However, it's still up on the recent editions of the City of Belfast - sufficient to return to the usual two sections.

There are eight players in the Nemtzov Cup with the top four in the Williamson Shield - Gabor Horvath, Gareth Annesley, Calum Leitch and Mark Newman - renewing their rivalry.

Nemtzov Cup players
No Name            Rtg  Club        

1. Gabor Horvath   2098 Lindores    
2. Gareth Annesley 1976 Muldoons    
3. Calum Leitch    1889 Lindores    
4. Mark Newman     1760 NICS        
5. Stephen Rush    1664 Ballynafeigh
6. John O'Doherty  1655 Ballynafeigh
7. Martin Sloan    1621             
8. Karina Kruk     1610 Ballynafeigh

Nemtzov players in action during Round 1
There are 21 competing in the under-1600 Henderson Cup. Pat McKillen is defending his title and three other previous winners - Stewart McConaghy, William Storey and Martin Kelly - also play.

Henderson Cup players
No  Name                Rtg  Club         

1.  John McKenna        1513 Belfast South
2.  Richard Gould       1510 Lindores     
3.  Robert Lavery       1504 Ballynafeigh 
4.  Stewart McConaghy   1403 Bombardier   
5.  Jim McLean          1331 Lindores     
6.  Cathal Murphy       1326 Belfast South
7.  William Storey      1324 Belfast South
8.  Martin Kelly        1311 Belfast South
9.  Patrick McKillen    1289 Muldoons     
10. David Barr          1251 Lindores     
11. Robert McDonald     1244 Belfast South
12. Roy Stafford        1206 Bombardier   
13. Stephen Scarborough 1171              
14. Christopher Roe     1163 QUB          
15. Andrew Todd         1128 Bangor       
16. Edward Doak         1076 Ballynafeigh 
17. John McGann         994               
18. Paul Anderson       753  Ballynafeigh 
19. Norman Rainey       698  Ballynafeigh 
20. Ben Campbell        610  QUB          
21. Craig Stevenson    

Monday, February 02, 2015

Irish Chess Union - interesting times

On the 27th January 2015 this official announcement appeared on the ICU website, authored by its Chairman:
"Rules Governing ICU Membership and Participation in Tournaments
Pat Fitzsimons
With effect from the 1st of February the following rules will apply to all tournaments (other than international team tournaments held under the auspices of the ICU, such as The Glorney Gilbert International) held in Ireland which are ICU rated:

All participants in such tournaments, irrespective of their nationality or native chess federation, must be fully subscribed members of the ICU.

No person can be accepted as a participant in any tournament governed by these rules unless he/she fulfils the above condition.

The responsibility rests with the organisers of the tournaments in question to ensure that these rules are fully implemented.

Where a person wishes to become a member of the ICU in order to participate in a tournament or event, the organisers should facilitate the collection of the requisite fee prior to the commencement of the tournament or event through the use of the ICU online subscription form.

Where a player who is not a member of the ICU participates in a tournament governed by these rules, the tournament or event organisers will be liable.

The ICU reserves the right to take action in cases where it perceives that the organisers of a tournament have been negligent in applying these rules or have been persistent offenders in this regard. Such action may include refusal to rate the tournament as a whole, withdrawal of grants to the organisers in question, and any other action which the ICU deems appropriate."
Essentially, despite the ICU Executive's two well-known attack dogs blithely claiming tht the ICU was merely implementing existing policy, this was an attempt to make tournament organisers cough up membership fees for players resident outside Ireland (and for "Ireland" read "Republic of Ireland"). Previously players from outside the island of Ireland had never been required to become ICU members if competing in ICU-rated tournaments. The position with regard to Ulster Chess Union players is admittedly more complex and I'll come back to it later.

However, to return to the general point, it does seem extraordinary that the ICU would change membership rules in the middle of the season and particularly without any consultation with tournament organisers. It may also have been in breach of Article 5.2 its own Constitution. The suspicion is that the ICU saw how many non-ICU players were entering Bunratty, Ireland's biggest Congress, and decided it would like to get a bigger cut of the money flowing into the Congress coffers.

Well, Bunratty was having none of it: this appeared on its website
"Due to some uncertainty regarding the recent posting by Pat Fitzsimons on the ICU web regarding ICU membership and entry into chess tournaments I have set out below the position regarding the upcoming Bunratty Chess festival. 
We have a contract with players who have entered the event, these are set out in our Terms and Conditions and are binding on all players; http://www.bunrattychess.com/terms.php.
We also have a contract with the ICU in their Bye-laws for Membership of the Irish Chess Union http://www.icu.ie/icu/membership_byelaws particularly paragraph 10.
Therefore we will run Bunratty 2015 as we have run the event since 1994 namely:
  • Foreign based players including those of the Ulster Chess Union will be exempt of ICU membership as per the aforementioned Paragraph 10.
  • First time players and those with no rating will not be required to have ICU membership.
  • Established players resident in the Republic of Ireland will be subject to our aforementioned Terms and Conditions.
We will assist the ICU Membership Officer in these matters as we have done in the past. 
Signed, Ted Jennings FA
On behalf of the Bunratty Chess Festival Committee."
Rumour was that Bunratty was heading up a number of major Irish Congresses who were making it plain that they wanted this new edict withdrawn - and were just as happy as the ICU to play hard-ball. The ICU quickly had a re-think; this announcement went up on its website on 1st February, the day the amended Membership Rules were intended to kick in:
"Since announcing the decision to strictly apply the above policy with effect from 1 February 2015, a number of concerns about its operational impact have been expressed to the ICU Executive by tournament organisers. Having regard to these concerns, the Executive has decided to: 
  • defer the implementation of the decision; and 
  • establish a working group representative of the ICU Executive and tournament organisers to examine all of the issues involved and to report back to the ICU Executive with recommendations/options for the implementation of the policy.
The terms of reference and the membership of the working group will be posted on the website in due course."
Now to return to how this affects Northern Ireland players. In 2005 the Ulster Chess Union left the ICU. When that happened, attempts by the UCU to forge a new relationship with the ICU got nowhere. The UCU Constitution was changed so that it became a Northern Ireland-only body. Also, despite expressing its regret at the UCU move, within months of the split the ICU Constitution was altered significantly: Article 2 had read:
"GENERAL POWERS AND AUTHORITY OF THE UNION

2.1. As the Union is affiliated to and officially recognised by the International Chess Federation (F.I.D.E.) it shall have the sole power and authority to confirm the entry of all individual Irish players and teams invited to tournaments or events directly sponsored by that body and shall have the right to confirm the entry of any Irish player or team invited to compete in an International tournament or event as a result of F.I.D.E. membership. It shall also have all necessary powers to enable it to act as the supreme authority in Irish Chess (including the power to award national chess titles and other titles connected with Irish Chess and to recommend to F.I.D.E. the award of F.I.D.E. titles) provided however that in the exercise of such powers it shall have due regard to the powers and duties existing at the date of adoption of this constitution of: 
(a) The Leinster Chess Union, the Ulster Chess Union, the Munster Chess Union and the Connacht Chess Union in their own functional areas. 
(b) The Irish Correspondence Chess Association. 
(c) The Braille Chess Association of Ireland. 
(d) Any club or other organisation involved in Irish Chess. 
2.2. The Union shall also have the power to bestow honorary offices in or honorary membership of the Union for Life or otherwise on any person whether such person is a fully paid-up member of the Union or not."
This was changed to:
"2. The Union is the governing body of chess in Ireland, and is affiliated to the World Chess Federation (FIDE) and the European Chess Union. In this capacity it has the sole responsibility to nominate individual players and teams to represent Ireland in international chess tournaments or events organised under the auspices of these bodies."
Article 4 had read:
"MEMBERSHIP 
4.1. Individual membership of the Union shall be open to all persons who agree to be bound by the provisions of this Constitution (which shall be deemed to include any amended version which may be duly passed in accordance with rule 15) and who comply with the bye-laws of the union. In addition the Leinster Chess Union, the Ulster Chess Union, the Munster Chess Union, the Connacht Chess Union, and such other bodies or organisations connected with chess in Ireland as the Executive Committee of the Union may from time to time decide to admit to membership, shall on payment of their affiliation fees as prescribed by the bye-laws mentioned in rule 4.2. be members of the Union and shall be entitled to send two voting delegates to every general meeting of the Union. 
4.2. The fees and subscriptions to be paid for such membership, the subscription years, the affiliation regulations for affiliated bodies and the venues for general meetings of the Union shall be regulated by bye-laws entitled "Bye-laws for Membership of the Irish Chess Union". Notwithstanding the powers of the Executive Committee in relation to bye-laws generally the said bye-laws shall only be made repealed or amended by the Committee after 8 weeks notice of the intention to make or repeal the same and the text of any intended amendments have first been given to members of the Union."
A new Article 4 was inserted in relation to a Code of Good Conduct for Children and the old Article 4 was replaced by new Articles 5 and 6:
"MEMBERSHIP 
5.1 Membership of the union shall be open to all persons who agree to be bound by the provisions of this constitution and who comply with its bye laws.
5.2 The fees and subscriptions to be paid for membership shall be determined by the Executive annually in advance of the Annual General Meeting and shall be reported to that meeting in the Treasurer’s Report. 
PROVINCIAL CHESS UNIONS 
6. The Union recognises the special role played by provincial chess unions in helping it to promote the sport. These bodies are affiilated to the Union and have a right of representation on its Executive and to send two delegates each to General Meetings of the Union. The Union may recognise other bodies or organisations connected with chess in Ireland as affiliates."
In relation to Provincial Chess Unions, at this page on the ICU website, it is explained that Bye-laws for affiliation are "rules for bodies such as the Connaught, Leinster and Munster Chess Unions." ]

So, post 2005, it is clear that in its formal documents that the ICU has removed any reference to the Ulster Chess Union. Also the ICU has not made any attempt to organise in Northern Ireland. The one place where a different approach is taken is at the heart of this recent dispute - Article 10 of the ICU's Bye-laws for Membership of the Irish Chess Union:
"Foreign players whose ordinary residence is outside the island of Ireland shall not be subject to payment of any fee or subscription to the ICU for participating in Irish tournaments (other than the Irish Chess Championships), upon production of proof that they are affiliated to another national body which is a member of FIDE."
When the UCU left in 2005 it was with the intention of becoming a member Federation of the world governing body, FIDE. However, with amendments made to FIDE Rules, this became an impossibility and the UCU will have to accept that, despite England, Scotland and Wales all having separate membership of FIDE, this will not be extended to Northern Ireland.

It may well be that Bunratty and other Congresses in Ireland will push to retain the status quo since 2005 of not requiring Northern Ireland players to be ICU members and that they get their way. However, if the outcome of the negotiations between the ICU and tournament organisers results in a membership fee being payable by "foreign" players, Northern Ireland competitors would just have to accept it.

However, at the moment, my understanding is that the ICU proposal is that "foreign" players would pay a reduced 20 euro fee, whereas UCU players would be required to pay the full 35 euro fee. So, while this membership issue is being addressed by the ICU, it may be a good time to re-examine the precise nature of the 2005 split and finally to establish a sensible working relationship between the ICU and the UCU.

It seems to me that such a relationship must accept that the ICU and UCU are separate bodies but that they would mutually recognise that members of one body would be eligible (without any additional fee) to compete in competitions in the other jurisdiction. [In view of the lower membership fees in the UCU, it would probably be necessary to restrict UCU membership to those born or resident in Northern Ireland].

I would also suggest that, as proposed by it in 2005, the UCU accepts the right of the ICU to organise various "all-Ireland Championships" - the advantage to the ICU would be that if these events were to be held in Northern Ireland, the financial responsibility would be borne by the UCU.

There is a small window of opportunity here - I reckon it would be a good idea for the UCU Executive to take action as soon as possible on this.

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Williamson wrap-up

Round 2 action
Ulster champion Gabor Horvath conceded only a single draw to Lindores club-mate Calum Leitch on the way in adding the Williamson Shield to his growing palmares in Ulster chess. It was a 1-2-3 in matching order for the top seeds with defending champion Gareth Annesley second and Leitch third.

In the Challengers section John Phillips overcame his surprise first round loss and executed a perfect submarine gambit with five straight wins to take first prize in the Challengers. John McKenna was a half-point behind in the runners-up spot.

Crosstables for both sections and more photographs

Saturday, January 03, 2015

New Year Williamson

The Williamson Shield has moved in 2015 to the first weekend of the year and there were sufficient entries to run a Challengers section. The Williamson Shield itself has 14 competing, including four young Dublin players - the Gonzaga CC trio of Ben Cullen, Andy Keenan and Marc Lincoln, plus Fiachra Scallan from Rathmines CC. Top seed is Gabor Horvath, who last weekend added the UCU Blitz title to his 2014 Ulster Championship win, Second seed is the defending champion Gareth Annesley and third is Calum Leitch, winner of the Ulster Masters in October 2014.

In the first round all the games were won by the higher-rated players. During my visit during Round 2 Annesley was well on his way to a win over Brendan Jameson, a sharp kingside attack having netted a piece; Horvath had a Knight firmly entrenched deep in Cullen's territory and was typically taking his time to work out the most precise way to cement his advantage; Leitch had reached a Rook and 5 pawns endgame against Mark Newman with the latter having a number of weak pawns - however it might well be a difficult task to disprove the old adage that all Rook endings are drawn.

Annesley, Jameson, Cullen and Horvath (left to right)
There are 24 competing in the Challengers. Play in Round 1 was less predictable that in the Shield: although top seed Richard Morrow won, youth upset experience (and the seedings) on boards 2-4 with Chris Roe and Andrew Todd both drawing with John McKenna and Peter McGuckin respectively, while Paddy Magee went one better by beating John Phillips.

Round 2 panorama

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Christmas chess cornucopia

The Belfast and District Leagues will soon be taking a short Christmas break but local chess players can enjoy a veritable feast of festive chess. In the space of three weeks all three formats of the game can be consumed.

First up is NICS Lackadaisical #1, the initial event in the returning Civil Service CC Rapidplay Grand Prix series, now renamed in honour of Alan Burns. There will just be room for a final week of league fixtures for 2014 before tucking into turkey in all its forms for a few days. After that it will be time for the 4th UCU Blitz Championship, now a regular feature in the immediate post-Christmas slot and returning this year to the Belfast Boat Club.

The final offering in this particular menu is the main course and it's back to the Civil Service Pavilion. Having been played in February or March for the past three years, the Williamson Shield will this time round occupy the first weekend of the New Year. So just enough time to recover from celebrating the arrival of 2015 before tucking into two days of the long form of the game. After that there might just be enough time to take down the decorations before getting stuck into the second half of the League season.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Good turn-out in Omagh

The decision of the Ulster Chess Union to hold a new rapidplay event in Omagh was vindicated with 34 players competing in two sections. There was a good geographical spread of entrants and the turn-out would be viewed as excellent if the event had taken place in Belfast - further evidence of both the growing enthusiasm for tournament chess and the strides being made by the Omagh club.

I'm sure there will be a full report in the new few days at the official UCU website but while you're waiting for that, here's a listing of the results from both sections.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Confused@Ballynafeigh.com

Regular readers will remember Tweedledee and Tweedledum. Last year the League Controller aka the Ballynafeigh supremo seemed to forget the League Rules before just giving up on trying to adhere to them. This year we have a new League Controller (in fact more of a dynamic duo). He/they decided the floating juniors were turning up everywhere like wild mushrooms and the League Rules for 2014-5 needed a bit of a tweaking.

After viewing the new Rules the Ballynafeigh supremo complained that the dynamic duo had sunk the floating juniors. Batman and Robin replied that the under-1350s were still allowed to float but there was a restriction on doing it within the same week. In fact, the privilege granted to under-1350s has been extended to a wider group of players (but indeed everyone is confined to playing for only one team within the same week).

Looking at the Squad Lists for this season, the Ballynafeigh supremo still seemed to be having trouble with the designated player rule. Instead of just assigning 5 players to each team, he went overboard with 7 for each of his Division 1 teams. Having realised the error of his ways, he then sought the permission of the dynamic duo to amend his designated player lists. My understanding is that two players, one from the Ballynafeigh 1 list and one from Ballynafeigh 2 have been re-designated to Ballynafeigh 3 and perhaps there have been further consequential amendments. However, as far as I can see, nothing has been published at the official UCU website about any of this, though perhaps the various team captains have at some point been made aware of the changes.

Anyway, looking at this week's results, either the Ballynafeigh supremo is still confused (or I am!)
Wednesday 19th November, Division 2
Belfast South 2         Ballynafeigh 3 
Green, Neil        =-=  Lavery, Robert
Jaffa, Bernard     1-0  Black, Chris
Critchlow, Stephen 0-1  Carey, Eoin
Storey, William    1-0  Lavery, Bill
Murphy, CJ         1-0  Bannon, Gerard

Thursday 20th November, Division 1
Lindores 1              Ballynafeigh 1
Horvath, Gabor     0-1  Houston, David
Leitch, Calum      1-0  Jensen, Søren 
Harris, Ross       =-=  Rush, Stephen 
MacDonald, Fred    0-1  Jamison, Brendan 
Kilpatrick, Ian    1-0  Lavery, Robert

Monday, October 20, 2014

Ulster Masters finale

Senior Section
On the top two boards in Round 5 Gareth Annesley and Calum Leitch won respectively against Soren Jensen and Brendan Jamison, leaving them a full point ahead of Jensen, Gabor Horvath and Mark Newman going into the final round.

Normally players on the same points total play each other in a Swiss but the two leaders had already played earlier in the tournament - Leitch apparently had a winning advantage but Annesley conjured up a check and Leitch chose the wrong King move and went on to lose. Therefore they both floated down to players on 3 points, leaving five players still in with some sort of shout at winning the Alex Beckett Trophy. Making things interesting was that the leaders would both have to play the Black pieces, Leitch against Jensen and Annesley against Newman.

Horvath, the third player on 3.0 points, floated down to Robert Lavery and won to end the tournament on 4.0. Any chance of the defending champion making a successful defence was scuppered when Jensen-Leitch was agreed drawn in an endgame where neither player could risk more.

Now if Annesley could draw, his tie-break would almost certainly be better than Leitch's. However Mark Newman was not playing ball, having won an exchange and also having a dangerous passed pawn. Both players had little time left, Leitch was too nervous to watch his rival's game, fearing that Annesley would turn the tables but Newman found a quick way through to a victory.

So the 2014 Ulster Master title went to Leitch with Annesley having the consolation of taking second prize on tie-break from Horvath and Newman.

The Alex Beckett Trophy was in hiding on the day...

... but I was able to get this close-up of the impressive Des Forson Memorial Trophy

Intermediate Section
In Round 5 the sole leader Peter McGuckin lost to Pat McKillen. So going into the final set of games, McKillen, Matthew Chapman and Andrew Todd were in the lead on 4.0. McGuckin, William Storey and Martin Kelly, last year's Intermediate champion, were half-a-point back and still in with a chance for the prizes.

The three top games all ended in White wins. McGuckin beat Todd, but the young Bangor player had the consolation of picking up a grading prize. McKillen got the better of Chapman to secure outright victory and possession of the Des Forson Memorial Trophy for a whole year.

In the final game to finish in this section, Kelly had lured Storey into grabbing a poisoned pawn and went on to join McGuckin on 4.5, but there was to be no prize this year for Kelly with McGuckin's front-running securing second prize on tie-break.

Final Crosstables and photographs of the Senior and Intermediate winners

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Ulster Masters prizewinners

(l to r) Leitch, Rush, Annesley, UCU Chairman Hindley, McKillen and McGuckin
Senior
First Calum Leitch
Second Gareth Annesley
Grading Stephen Rush

Intermediate
First Pat McKillen
Second Peter McGuckin
Grading Andrew Todd, Joshua Geary

Ulster Masters on the up

I paid a flying visit to the Ulster Masters today. The event has been moved a month earlier this year. and whether it was the change in date or the generally vibrant club scene at the moment, numbers were well up on the three previous editions.

Play in the Senior section during Round 4
There are 12 players in the senior section, headed by Ulster champion Gabor Horvath, defending the title he won in this event last year. In Rounds 1 and 3 he was held to draws by Brendan Jamison and Gareth Annesley. The latter went into Round 4 on 2.5 points, just ahead of a chasing posse of Horvath, Jamison, Soren Jensen, Calum Leitch and Mark Newman.

I arrived just as the Round 4 games were reaching a climax. First Jamison and Annesley drew in a Queen and 5 pawn ending. Then Jensen with Rook, Bishop and 2 pawns versus Newman's Rook and 2 pawns was saved any technical difficulties, when Newman, short on time, blundered away his Rook.

Final game to finish was between Lindores team-mates Horvath and Leitch. Horvath had an open h-file for his two Rooks aiming at Leitch's h7-pawn. Calum was trying to counter with his two Rooks and Queen lined up on the e-file. Gabor piled further pressure on the h7 pawn with a Knight going to g5. In a surprising but effective manoeuvre Leitch abandoned the pawn, moving his own Knight, stationed at f6, to g4 and then f2, which ultimately allowed a decisive penetration by his Queen and Rook, forcing resignation from the defending champion.

Going into Round 5 Annesley has been joined in the lead by Jensen and Leitch on 3.0 points, with Jamison on 2.5 and Horvath in a group of four on 2.0.

In the Intermediate section, 25 players are taking part. Top seed Peter McGuckin is in the lead after 4 rounds with 3.5, only half-a-point ahead of a group of six, comprising of John McKenna, Paddy Magee, Andrew Todd, Stewart McConaghy, Matthew Chapman and Pat McKillen.

Top boards in the Intermediate section during Round 4