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!