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

Saturday, October 11, 2014

In through the out door

A story often has two sides, as Michael Waters' comment to Whither Fisherwick tends to confirm. However, it's not my intention to get into any polemics. Rather it is to run with the idea of what should be the essence of local club chess today.

If we concentrate on extremely lengthy competitions (however popular), is there sufficient variety and enough space for clubs to provide their own product to attract newcomers, returners or even current players looking for something different.

So, whatever the precise circumstances of Fisherwick taking a new path, here is an opportunity to see if renewal and regrowth will work by concentrating on building a sound club structure and offering more variety. Waters' final throwaway line might even be the most revolutionary thought. Will the first club to open its doors on a Saturday hit the jackpot?

Saturday, October 04, 2014

Whither Fisherwick

It's not surprising that people are annoyed about Fisherwick's sudden jumping ship from the UCU Leagues. There's also talk about ulterior motives. Before everyone gets worked up into a frazzle, it might just be worth pointing out a few things.

Nobody complained when Fisherwick used to run its open-to-all club championship during the League season - and nobody does now, when its near-neighbour does the same thing now. If Fisherwick CC wants to run its own competition(s), let them get on with it. If the UCU is confident that it's putting together a good programme of events, what is there to be concerned about? If Fisherwick's events go down like a lead balloon, nothing will have been lost. On the other hand if they complement the UCU ones, that will be a bonus and the UCU might even learn something useful.

Fisherwick CC has made (and can still make) a significant contribution to Ulster chess. It has had a long-held reputation as a strong club in both quality and quantity but it might now need a period of regrowth. About eights years ago Fisherwick opted not to play in the Silver King (though in those days they still had a "second" team) but the following season they were back. Let's hope that will happen again (and indeed encourage them to re-engage rather than treating the club as some sort of pariah).

All change


After Fisherwick's sudden exit from Division 1 subsequent to the fixture list being published, League Controller Calum Leitch has acted very swiftly to the collateral damage, in particular the issue of too many byes week-on-week in both Divisions.

Fruithill has been moved up to compete for the Silver King producing a sensible 7-8 split between the Divisions. The League Controller has also rejigged fixtures to eradicate those pesky byes that had suddenly appeared like green balls on an Australian beach.

While I'm on record about the Leagues being overlong, I would concede that it was also logical in the changed circumstances to add a third round of fixtures in the Strawbridge Cup so that the two Divisions now dovetail nicely together.

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Interesting times

About a week ago the new fixtures for the 2014-2015 local league season were posted at the Ballynafeigh CC website. Of course, we were used to official UCU announcements appearing there when its supremo was also the League Controller. Obviously old habits die hard.

A couple of days later the fixture list then appeared at the Lindores CC website, home of the dynamic duo who have taken over control of UCU team and individual tournaments. Obviously continuing the privatisation of their predecessor.

Finally the Division 1 and Division 2 fixtures did appear at the official website. A day or so later there was even an announcement there which, however, bizarrely referred the reader back to the Ballynafeigh CC website for the details.

Anyway the good news was that (despite the hibernation of Lagan CC) with the revival of the Queen's University Chess Club (or to be precise, now re-branded Society) and an extra couple of "second teams", total entries amounted to 16.

When planning this piece, I was going to inquire what was wrong with 8 teams in each Division rather than the announced 7+9 (with the top Division adding a third round of fixtures). Under the UCU plan there will be a total of 21 weeks for Division 1 and 18 for Division 2.

With an even split of teams we could have had a double-rounder for each Division over only 14 weeks. The advantage of this would have been to leave time for some further team competitions with a different format (eg all-NI, rapidplays, handicap, knock-out) which the chattering classes seemed keen on in the Spring.

Still, the announcement over at Fisherwick CC puts this all into perspective. Despite being the reigning Silver King champions and announced as an entrant on all those outlets mentioned above, Fisherwick CC "will not be participating in the Ulster Chess Union organized Belfast & District Chess League 2014-15". However, this is not some Lagan-style hiatus because a full programme events is planned, including "inter club competition."

"Cat among the pigeons" springs to mind.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Cathal Murphy bags the City Of Dublin Junior chess title

A quartet of Ulster players took part in the recent City Of Dublin championships at the Gresham Hotel in O’Connell Street. Two of The three musketeers Murphy and Kelly (Morrison sat this one out) were joined by another regular southern traveller Gareth Annesley  and southern debutant Siebran Westra.

Cathal and Martin both decided to play in the junior section and strictly to their southern ratings of 1190 and 1160 respectively. Cathal  topped the 55 player section, finishing on 5.5 from 6, while Martin finished just out of the prizes with a respectable 4 from 6, just managing to hold on to his “unbeaten” record against Irish females with a win over Katherine Bolger in round 1.

Although Cathal won his first five games, two of these, against grading prize winner Suzanne Barry and second placed Adam Murphy (grand prix and Vienna attack respectively) were on a knife-edge throughout with several tactical and checkmate threats and positions played out (see below)  Barry actually missed 38...Qf3+  leading to mate in 3, while Cathal missed 22.Qxf8, while under time pressure against Adam Murphy, but went on to win and then closed out the tournament with a win against unknown Polish player Filipski and a closing draw against John Halpenny.

Gareth and Siebran finished with 3.5 and 2 respectively in a tough under 2000 Major section. Siebran started brightly with a win over Denis O’Connell, but suffered two losses and was then drawn against Gareth in round 4 and managed to succumb to Annesley “G-force”.  Gareth himself recovered from a slow start to finish on a respectable 3.5 with wins over Siebran, Tom O’Gorman and three draws.

Chess “analysis” was continued late into both evenings in Doyle’s bar, as a great weekend was had by all.

Full results and cross tables can be found on the ICU website.

Any comments and analysis on the appended games are more than welcome.

Games
[Event "City of Dublin Junior"] [Site "Dublin"] [Date "2014.09.13"] [Round "2"] [White "Murphy, Cathal"] [Black "Barry, Suzanne"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "B23"] [WhiteElo "1190"] [BlackElo "970"] [PlyCount "81"] [EventDate "2014.09.12"] [EventType "swiss"] [EventRounds "6"] [EventCountry "IRL"] [SourceDate "2014.09.22"] 1. e4 c5 2. Nc3 Nc6 3. f4 d6 4. Nf3 Bg4 5. Bc4 e5 6. O-O exf4 7. d3 g5 8. Qe1 Bg7 9. Bd2 Bxf3 10. gxf3 Qd7 11. Kh1 O-O-O 12. Rb1 Ne5 13. Bd5 Qh3 14. Qf2 Ne7 15. b4 b6 16. bxc5 dxc5 17. Qe2 Kb8 18. a4 Nxd5 19. Nxd5 Rd6 20. a5 Nd7 21. axb6 axb6 22. Rb3 Kb7 23. Rfb1 Re8 24. Nc3 Ne5 25. Na4 Nd7 26. Nc3 Be5 27. Nb5 Rg6 28. Ra3 Bb8 29. d4 cxd4 30. Qc4 Rc6 31. Qxf7 Rec8 32. Nxd4 $2 Rd6 33. c3 Rf8 34. Qc4 g4 $2 35. Qa6+ Kc7 36. Nb5+ Kd8 37. Nxd6 Bxd6 38. fxg4 $2 f3 $4 39. Bg5+ Ke8 40. Qc8+ Kf7 41. Qxd7+ 1-0

Games
[Event "City of Dublin Junior"] [Site "Dublin"] [Date "2014.09.13"] [Round "4"] [White "Murphy, Cathal"] [Black "Murphy, Adam"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "C25"] [WhiteElo "1190"] [BlackElo "1050"] [PlyCount "59"] [EventDate "2014.09.12"] [EventType "swiss"] [EventRounds "6"] [EventCountry "IRL"] [SourceDate "2014.09.22"] 1. e4 e5 2. Nc3 Nc6 3. f4 Bb4 4. Nf3 d6 5. Bc4 Nf6 6. O-O Bg4 7. d3 Nd4 8. fxe5 dxe5 9. Bxf7+ Kf8 10. Bb3 Bc5 11. Kh1 Nxf3 12. gxf3 Bh3 13. Re1 Qe8 14. Be3 Bxe3 15. Rxe3 Qg6 16. Qg1 Qh5 17. Qf2 Ke7 18. Rg1 g6 19. Ree1 Rhf8 20. Qc5+ Kd7 21. Rg3 Ne8 $2 22. Nd5 $4 Rf7 23. Nxc7 Rxf3 24. Ba4+ b5 $2 25. Bxb5+ Kd8 26. Nd5 $1 Rxg3 27. Qe7+ Kc8 28. Qxe8+ Kb7 29. Qc6+ Kb8 30. Qc7# 1-0

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

A small announcement

In 1999 I started the Ulster Chess Chronicle to provide a contemporary record of Ulster Chess on the internet. My interest in chess history soon meant that I started writing about past events and players too. After a while the website became a little unwieldy and with off-the-shelf templates like blogger available, I started NI Chess News, so that hopefully it would be a bit easier to edit for me and to navigate for readers.

I've decided now to incorporate the contemporary material accumulated over 15 years at the Chronicle into this website and to create a new Ulster Chess History website for the historical material. Some reports and articles will go to the Ulster Chess Union website which seems only fair because the Chronicle also hosted official pages before the UCU got its own internet presence.

So, for the next while NI Chess News will resemble a construction site, so please be patient while I'm at work on all this. In the meantime you'll notice a change of colour scheme here as I try to replicate the Ulster Chess Chronicle look.

Monday, June 23, 2014

NICS June Rapidplay

Civil Service Chess Club yesterday staged the fourth and final event in its 2013-2014 rapidplay series at the Maynard Sinclair Pavilion. There's already a full report up at the UCU website; you'll also find links there to the results and the final Grand Prix standings over the four events. To that, I'll add here the final crosstable.
No Name                  Rtg  Total  1    2    3    4    5    6  

1  Nicholas Pilkiewicz   1862 5      8:W  7:W  2:W  4:W  5:W  3:L
2  Damien Lavery         1749 4.5   11:W  4:W  1:L  6:W  7:W  5:D
3  Robert Lavery         1481 4     10:W  6:L  4:L 11:W  8:W  1:W
4  David McAlister       1218 3.5    5:W  2:L  3:W  1:L  6:W  9:D
5  Mark Newman           1627 3.5    4:L  9:W  6:W  7:W  1:L  2:D
6  Steven Eachus         1645 3      9:W  3:W  5:L  2:L  4:L 12:W
7  Richard Gould         1555 3     12:W  1:L  8:W  5:L  2:L 10:W
8  Alan Burns            1339 3      1:L 10:W  7:L 12:W  3:L 11:W
9  Peter Wilson          1246 2.5    6:L  5:L 12:W 10:W 11:L  4:D
10 Adrian Dornford-Smith 962  2      3:L  8:L 11:W  9:L 12:W  7:L
11 Drew Ferguson         1251 1      2:L 12:L 10:L  3:L  9:W  8:L
12 Geoff Hindley         1010 1      7:L 11:W  9:L  8:L 10:L  6:L
As part of the organising team for these events, thanks to all those who competed throughout the series and we hope to do the whole thing again next season.

Sunday, June 01, 2014

League retrospective and suggestions for the future

Belated congratulations to Fisherwick for winning the Silver King for the fourth time in a row and to Bangor for lifting the Strawbridge Cup. The general consensus is that this has been the most interesting League campaign in some time. I agree with that sentiment - everyone will have their own views about exactly why this was so, but for me the reasons were:
  • the exciting tussle for the Division 1 title (despite - or maybe even enhanced by the bizarre events of the last two weeks);
  • the arrival of a new powerhouse in the East (Lindores) and an enhanced and rebadged stalwart (Muldoon's) putting extra pressure on the imperious Fisherwick;
  • the general increase in strength on the top boards of a number of teams, with a number of strong local players tempted out of retirement and an influx of foreign talent;
  • the extraordinary and continuing ability of Ballynafeigh to add extra numbers to the overall equation (some of the other clubs are catching on here too);
  • the revival of second teams at the coaxing of the League Controller.
The temptation might be to leave things exactly the same, but there is a danger that the success of this season means that we have outgrown the current format. The League season consisted of 25 weeks of play, which might well make it into the Guinness Book of Records. There was talk early in the New Year of having some extra team events in the Spring but, not surprisingly, these never eventuated. It was therefore not that surprising either that there were a few defaults late in the season.

So here, for what they're worth, is a set of proposals for the Belfast and District Leagues 2014-2015: 
  • League competition again to be between all the Belfast and District clubs, but over a single round and with no split into two Divisions for the rest of the season. Each club would have to list five designated players. 
  •  Therefore this competition would end about the end of January and the winner would receive the Silver King (Division 1 Championship). 
  • Alongside the competition for the Silver King would be a revamped Strawbridge Cup which would be contested between reserve teams. As some clubs would not be able to field a team in this, the format would probably be a double rounder but whatever format was used, this also would finish approximately end-January. A club could play all but its five designated players in this subsidiary event. 
OK, we all know that, due to the way many of our clubs are organised, there is a considerable appetite for a lengthy League season. So what happens when February arrives? Here's part two of NI Chess News' prospectus. 
  • The top four teams in the Silver King would take part in a new competition - let's call it the "Top 4" or maybe the "Premiership" - in a double rounder over 6 weeks of competition. Not dissimilar to the part 2 of the League as presently organised, but with all the teams starting from scratch. Maybe we could make this over 4 or 6 boards just to change the dynamic a little bit. 
  • The remaining clubs (plus perhaps any second teams from the Top 4) would compete in a separate competition. We could perhaps revive the "UCU Plate" name and trophy, last played for about a decade ago, for this. 
  • Finally, to accommodate the increasing numbers of newbie adult players and also to help existing lower-rated "reserve" players, we could add a second subsidiary event for all clubs - an under 1500 Cup, limited naturally enough to players rated under 1500 (and unrated ones). 
  • So that clubs would be encouraged to enter these new competitions without worrying about having the numbers to fulfill fixtures, players would be able to compete without restriction in all three competitions (except - with the aim of creating a reasonably level playing field - for the designated players in the Premiership). Also, we might arrange these "sub-Premiership" competitions into 4 player events to assist with numbers. 
  • Finally - as I've probably cut off at least 6 weeks of the season - if there's sufficient appetite for it, we could make good use of the remaining time by reviving some sort of province-wide Cup competition.
So, if you haven't lost your way, or the will to live, through all these suggestions, I encourage the UCU universe to have a look at these ideas. Any improvements or alternatives are welcomed.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

City of Belfast postponed

Just in case you haven't seen this elsewhere, the 2014 City of Belfast Championship, due to take place this weekend at Ballynafeigh Community Centre, has had to be postponed for two weeks to allow for emergency maintenance at the venue. New dates are 7th-8th June, still at the Ballynafeigh clubroom, with the same format as previously announced by the UCU.

Friday, April 11, 2014

UCU Rapid and Spring Simul

The Ulster Chess Union has recently announced two events for the post Easter period. First up will be the Ulster Rapidplay Championship which first moved to a Spring date two years ago. Last year's renewal was held on Easter Monday and saw a significant increase in numbers. Let's hope that this year's slightly later date continues that healthy trend.

The other event is the Grandmaster Spring Simul. Over the years, when club players were asked what they would like to see the UCU organising, a substantial number suggested a simultaneous exhibition by a GM. Of course good players don't come cheap and you'll only get sufficient numbers turning out if the GM opponent is a well-known figure. Last year, Damien Cunningham took the plunge and came up with former World Championship Challenger Nigel Short. Definitely a good choice and the event got an impressive amount of TV coverage. Even a year later, acquaintances are mentioning that they saw me on TV playing chess - always good for the ego! This year the simul-giver is another English GM - Gawain Jones, well known to Irish players, having lived in Ennis, County Clare for part of his teenage years and still a regular (and very successful) competitor in Irish events. Can he match Short's whitewash of last year?

Monday, March 24, 2014

High speed chess

I dropped in at the Maynard Sinclair Pavilion towards the end of the 3rd NICS Rapidplay and was witness to some high velocity activity. Hoping to take some photographs of the beginning of the final round, I had positioned myself beside the top boards. Immediately after my first attempt, I heard Adrian Dornford Smith say sorry to me for having moved across my sightline. He kindly posed for a close-up to make amends.


However when I checked the "spoiled" pic, there was no sign of Adrian, just a very blurry image. Has Adrian discovered how to move faster than the speed of light? Unlike Adrian, physics is not my strong point but I seem to remember there was once a theory that if you ran backwards sufficiently quickly you could travel back in time. It appears fast-draw Ferguson has been working on this.


Here Drew (spot his speedy right hand) is just completing his journey backwards in time to a point where Ian Woodfield has played his first move but is yet to press his clock. Meanwhile Paul Anderson and Mike Redman are trying to work out what has just happened with their clock display.

Anyway, back to a more conventional report: top seed Redman put in a blitzkrieg of his own on his six opponents to finish with a 100% score. Here's the final standings direct from the Controller's laptop (BTW Mark, ever thought of cleaning the screen?)

Click on the photos to get full-size images

Saturday, March 08, 2014

More musings on the Leagues

To postpone or not to postpone
And what should the penalty be?

Fisherwick still go on their imperious way in Division 1, but Lindores continue to dog their footsteps. Their recent drawn encounter at the East Belfast coffee house still leaves everything to play for. Lindores are definitely pulling out all the stops - not content with dragging former Williamson Shield winner Fred MacDonald from retirement to fill Board 3, they then found another person to fill that space - no less than 2012 Ulster Masters champion Alan Delaney, who seems to have been carelessly left unattended by another Belfast club.

Still, to get back to the question at the top: a little of the momentum has gone out of the top tier with the recent postponements of Muldoon's v. Lindores and Fisherwick v. Ballynafeigh 2. Our local players are not professionals and there will be occasions when ordinary life gets in the way and a team captain is left scrambling about for players. However the default position ought to be that if you can get 5 bodies out, whatever their standard, the match must go ahead.

There will be occasions when a team captain really can't get a full squad out, and the Controller will consider it reasonable to grant a postponement. However, just to make sure these occasions are few and far between, should there not be some sort of penalty for an "offending" team? Might I suggest that the team responsible for the postponement shall not be entitled to any bonus match points when the match is eventually played.

One more suggestion: if the Controller agrees to a match postponement, in the spirit of openness and transparency, he should place the reason for it on the official UCU website.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Pictures from the Williamson Shield

Rumours before the event suggested that this weekend's Williamson Shield was headed for a good turnout. I decided to head over to the Maynard Sinclair Pavilion, home of the Civil Service Chess Club, just in time to catch the beginning of Round 5 and found a packed playing-room. Add this to the extra numbers seen in this season's Leagues and it seems clear that the local chess scene is on the up.

45 players had entered the lists, ten more than 2012' s successful centenary edition, and the organisers decided to separate off the top ten (unfortunately later reduced by two) to compete for the Shield itself, while the remaining 35 formed a second section for Intermediate and Junior players. Look out for the results soon at the usual sources.

Click on the images below to view full size pictures

Waiting to start

Games underway

Opening moves

Top boards

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Butterflies And Hurricanes

Change everything you are
And everything you were
Your number has been called
Fights and battles have begun
Revenge will surely come
Your hard times are ahead

Best,
You've got to be the best
You've got to change the world
And use this chance to be heard
Your time is now
Some musings on the League's floating players

The perennial underdogs of Ballynafeigh 3 recorded their first ever victory this week. Just in case you might have missed this important occasion, it was trumpeted on both the Ballynafeigh and UCU websites. A source close to the League Controller had the following to say:
"The entire Ballynafeigh 3 team is a by-product of the Ulster Chess Union's floating system where players under 1350 can gain valuable match experience by being permitted to play for different teams within the same club in the same week, thus effectively doubling their opportunities of a seat at a board under competition conditions. This has meant inexperienced and novice players get the over-the-board match practice they need to progress at a much faster rate than would have been possible under a more rigid system. One of the better ideas to come out of the UCU in many a year."
As the man in the Marmite advert says, this attempt to foster new growth "must be applauded. Literally." However the system is actually a little more rigid than the League Controller realises. Let's have a quick look at the Rules:
"4.f. The Secretary of each club must submit to the League Controller 7 days in advance of the start of the League season a list of players (to be called the squad list) who will play for the club. Any team failing to do so before League fixtures begin will be penalised 5 League points.

4.g. If a club enters more than one team, the Secretary of that club must also specifically allocate 5 named players from the club's squad list for each team. Players specifically allocated to a particular team within a club shall not represent any other team of that club.

4.i. No player with a rating over 1350 may play for more than one team within the competition. Junior players, not specifically allocated to a particular team under 4g., are permitted to float and this permission is granted solely on a players rating (i.e. less than 1351) and not age."
The "junior floaters" of Ballynafeigh 3 have been playing for their 1 and 2 sister teams throughout the season in such an indiscriminate manner that it seems that the League Controller must have forgotten about the rule that junior players are only allowed to float if they are not specifically allocated to a particular team. I would be very surprised if a list of designated players for Ballynafeigh 3 could be produced without breaching the Rules or otherwise failing to produce 5 eligible players each week.

Moreover, the plot thickens. Now Ballynafeigh 4 have entered the fray and another 5 players should be designated. Even allowing for the frequency of new member uptake at Ballynafeigh, they'll be very hard-pressed to do that. Its newly-appointed supremo Dennis Wilkinson (a warm welcome back to one of the great captain/managers), had a busy first week because he also turned out for Ballynafeigh 2s, so even he can't be part of any list.

So, under this laissez-faire system, can we expect the Division 2 teams to live in a fantasy world, where, like Alice, they can't distinguish between the Tweedledum and Tweedledee of Ulster chess.
Ballynafeigh 3 and 4 with Alice

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Civil Service Rapidplay 2

The second in the series of Civil Service Rapidplays took place at the Maynard Sinclair Pavilion in the Stormont estate today. "Intensive" is the buzzword for this series (translating to plenty of games within a short time frame) but this second edition also sported the paradoxical "lackadaisical" in its title.

The idea this time was to allow intending participants a lie-in on a Sunday morning, a leisurely breakfast and time to read the newspapers before setting forth to battle over the chessboard. An alternative suggested by the organisers was to turn up early at the venue and make use of its facilities to prepare for the games ahead. No, not a quick trip to the fitness suite, but something instead designed to take in calories. When I arrived at the venue, a number of players were taking this option, availing of the Sunday lunch in the Whistles Restaurant.

During a rapidplay there is usually very little time to observe what your rivals are up to, but what was abundantly clear was that top seed Michael Waters was cutting a swathe throught the opposition. After the penultimate round he had a perfect 100% score having dispatched Alan Burns, Calum Leitch, Nicholas Pilkiewicz, Damien Lavery and Ian Woodfield along the way. At that stage Michael and his victims filled the top seven positions in the standings with one interloper in the shape of yours truly.

My reward was a final round top-board pairing with the leader. In a Queens Indian, while pursuing as White an apparently logical positional path, I was suddenly subjected to a small tactical demonstration and had to resign immediately. Waters thus finished with a perfect 6 out of 6 and overall victory. Meanwhile on board 2, second place was decided in the game between Leitch and Pilkiewicz with the former prevailing in a hard-fought struggle by weaving a mating net in a Rook and minor piece endgame which forced the win of a Rook.

The Civil Service Club hope to run their next rapidplay towards the end of March with the finale of the series probably late May/early June (depending on exactly when the UCU organise the City of Belfast Championships and the rumoured revival of a Cup competition).

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Groundhog day

About a month and a half ago, the League Controller woke up one morning and decided it was time for him to make a decision about the "Divisional Split". Something along the lines of doing something unexpected, like 7-4. The next morning he woke up to find himself reliving the day again, and it kept happening, morning after morning. So he reckoned this must be occurring because of his decision on the composition of the Leagues after the preliminaries. So one morning he decided to change his mind and offer up a different scenario, but he was still stuck the next day, and the next day.....So he made another different decision, and then another. He tried everything, adding an extra team, then two, then three. However, nothing could get his League Controlling life going forward from that fateful day in early December 2013.

Meanwhile, in the real world, the chess players of Belfast and its environs were getting on with their lives. League matches were played, Christmas came and went and the New Year was welcomed in. League matches resumed, getting ever closer to the end of the preliminaries. Throughout all this, they were receiving the League Controller's increasingly desperate attempts to find his route into the future. The most recent announcement that permeated into the real world was the confusingly titled "7+7=12" - the poor lad must be in a terrible state by now.

Anyway ("Final answer?"), apparently it's to be the Magnificent Seven in Division 1 (he always did hanker after that) and a different, slightly less magnificent, seven in Division 2, with 3 of those starting from zero. However, I'd keep checking the Ballynafeigh blog, just in case the League Controller is still having trouble rejoining us in 2014.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

The greater good

My last two posts had focussed on the divisional split in the Belfast and District League. Since then there has been a dizzying sequence of events apparently orchestrated by the League Controller. Like a music-hall conjurer producing rabbits out of a hat, he has foreshadowed and then announced the arrival of extra teams into the League. Well done to him for not merely adminstering the League, but going out of his way to expand the number of teams. Muldoons and Belfast South have each sprouted a second team and the Controller's own Ballynafeigh has gone as far as reaching a number 4.

Rumour has it (and seeing it emanates from the Controller himself, presumably it will come to pass) that there will be 8 teams in Division 1 after the split. So it seems, after all, that the Magnificent Seven will compete for the Silver King, along with plucky Bangor. This will then leave Division 2 populated by the bottom three from the preliminares plus the three "newbies".

The greater good may well be served by this increase in teams for the second part of the season. In recent years the League has diminished in size as clubs have shied away from entering more than one team. With his recent efforts the Controller has decisively reversed this trend and hopefully the future will see increased levels of competition in the League.

However, someone concerned with process (and your correspondent confesses to being such a person) cannot help point out that the League Controller (and/or the UCU Board) has driven a coach and horses through the League protocols. When a query was raised earlier ths season as to when the rules governing the League would be published the Controller trenchantly pointed out that they remained those propogated by the UCU Board on the 22nd October 2011. The assumptions underlying those rules no longer seem to apply and the bold step to jettison certain parts of them has been taken to what seems to be large-scale approval. Obviously a re-write will be needed next season.

However, it doesn't stop there. The revival of interest in team chess is bringing forward new ideas. The Champ (over at Off the Chest) has floated an interesting suggestion for an experimental half-hour League at the end of the regular season. At the same forum the League Controller has unveiled a few radical ideas for a Cup competition. I'm not sure about these: 3-player teams - sorry, no; genetically engineered line-ups - a bit too Brave New World for me. Still, the return of a Cup competition is definitely to be applauded, but my own view is that the emphasis here should not be so much on gimmicks (though I'm not against a sensible handicapping system) but in achieving a greater geographical spread with matches (or at least some of them) played at the weekend to facilitate this.

Anyway, seems like we live in interesting times!

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

An early morning Christmas present

The local chess population has been waiting with bated breath for the big decision. Where would the axe fall in the divisional split?

Well, very early on Christmas Day, Santa Claus (aka the League Controller) announced to the team captains that it is to be a 6-6 split. So one of the Magnificent Seven is to lose out on the kudos of playing for the Silver King but will then inevitably become the favourite for Division 2 glory. Looks like my previous blog hoping for that decider between Lagan and Ballynafeigh 2 will come to pass.

Hey, but hold on a minute, what's this about 6-6? Surely only 11 teams entered the League. There had been a few rumours, fuelled by some teasing by the League Controller over at the Ballynafeigh blog, that an extra team could be on the cards. So where's this mystery team coming from. The best clue appears at the Belfast South blog and so it looks like a second team from that quarter is entering the fray. Considering the number of players that have flocked there recently, they have the spare capacity.

From that blog we also learn that Belfast South teams will now be named BSI 1, BSI 2 etc. The "I" apparently stands for International. Still it seems a shame to go for an abbreviation that sounds like some disease found in cows or sheep. Much friendlier to my ear would have been Belfast South and Malone - after all their blog has the words "malonechessteam" in its web address. Maybe the émigrés don't want a copyright war with the team across the road!

One final point is how Division 2 will accommodate the newbie. League points gained from the preliminary all-play-all are carried over into the divisions. So does the new team start from scratch, effectively giving it no chance of winning Division 2 (admittedly that's probably the same hope that NICS and Ballynafeigh 3 have) or will the League Controller have come up with an imaginative solution?


Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Is a 7-4 League split coming?

This is now the fourth season in which the Belfast & District Leagues have had a preliminary section in which all teams compete, followed by a split into separate Divisions to decide the League titles. For the first two seasons, there was a 4-4-3 split while last season the Controller went for 2 Division 6-5 separation.

Whether the split was into 2 or 3 Divisions, there seemed to be a mathematical validity to it - equal sized Divisions, in so far as that can be managed with 11 competing teams. Your correspondent had assumed, albeit without any official word on it, that we would get something similar this year. 6-5 seemed the more likely with "newbies" Muldoons and Lindores, and a strengthened Belfast South, adding a greater competitive edge to the top of the preliminary section.

Everybody seems to agree that this is the most exciting League for some time with a number of teams keen to have a crack at Fisherwick, the Red Bull Racing of Ulster chess. However, with a 6-5 split could perhaps a genuine title contender find itself in Division 2, come separation-time? Seems this thought is doing the rounds in Belfast chess circles.

Nick at "Off the Chest" at the Ballynafeigh CC website raises this issue:

"Can the league split of either 7 4 or 6 5 be decided before the league season starts? It isnt fair to be decided in january."

Seems the League Controller, aka Ballynafeigh Chess, has already seen all this coming - here's an excerpt from his reply to Nick at "Off the Chest."

"the league controller must be allowed discretion to decide the separation line between teams that are or are not in contention, the controller must evaluate the prospects of team considering their points tally and proximity to the team above them if you want an exciting and competitive competition."
So, reading between the lines, 7-4 looks to be on the cards, particularly after Lagan, who were perhaps the most likely of the Magnificent Seven to miss out under 6-5, drew their match last night with Ballynafeigh 1.

Still a couple of points might be raised.

  • How much more "exciting and competitive competition" could you have than the final week preliminary section match-up between Lagan and Ballynafeigh, 2 if sixth place and entry into Division 1 depended on it? 
  • What about plucky Bangor and a possible 8-3 split - is the reward for the seasiders in being the only team this season to even share the points with Fisherwick to be a favourite's chance to win the silverware in Division 2 rather than have a few more shots at the big stars in Division 1?

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Martin on the move - Rookie reports

Four days - eight games. That was the unlikely scenario for Martin Kelly, chess captain of Belfast South. Last Thursday, his team stormed to a 5.5-1.5 victory over Muldoons, with Rev. Ray Devenney "collaring" Gareth Annesley and Flying Dutchman Siebren Westra "nicking" a point from Nicholas Pilkiewicz. Martin lost in a friendly on board 6 against Rodney Orr - "orr" did he?

Last weekend, Martin won the Ulster Masters Junior title with 3.5/6, including draws with Damien Cunningham, Mark Newman and Robert Lavery. He also beat Stephen "Scarborough fair" and square! Some people wonder why Martin's rating is still only 1335 and they are quite right to wonder!

On Monday, Belfast South played champions Fisherwick with a second Dutchman, Maxim Le Clercq, "thrown into the deep end" against Michael Waters. With the Fisherwick big two top boards both winning and the other boards drawing, they won 5.5-1.5. Where was Martin? Across the road in the Belfast South Monday Tournament, drawing with Chris Armstrong. No rest for the wicked, as he heads off this weekend with Cathal Murphy and Philip Morrison - The Three Musketeers - to Kilkenny. A report will follow.

Friday, October 18, 2013

League begins, intensity and flexibility beckon

Monday night saw the Belfast and District League get underway with defending champions Fisherwick just getting the better of one of the three Ballynafeigh entrants. On Tuesday another Ballynafeigh team lost at home to Belfast South, the latter boosted by the acquisition of Bruce MacLean and with webmaster Sam Flanagan finally making his debut, Hat tip to the latter for alerting us to the presence of two new club websites - newbies Lindores and the imperious Fisherwick.

On Wednesday Lindores put out a strong line-up and thumped Fruithill 5-0 while on Thursday the revived Civil Service suffered a heavy 1-4 home defeat to Lagan. The third Ballynafeigh team was also in action on Thursday night against Bangor, but no word yet on the result from the furthest reaches of the League (err, that's Groomsport). One piece of good news from the grapevine is that despite my earlier concerns, it appears the seasiders will be putting out a very decent side this season. Further reaction to opening week coming here soon.

So the 2013-2014 season is now in full swing and tournaments are coming thick and fast. The intensity bit is this Sunday's (20th October) Civil Service Rapidplay and the flexibility is Belfast South's so-called "Autumn Tournament" which stretches a marathon 20 weeks from Monday 21st October until (and here's an intriguing choice for the finale) St Patrick's Day 2014.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

New League Season

The fixture list for the 2013-14 Belfast and District Leagues has been posted at the Ballynafeigh CC website, the mouthpiece for League Controller, Damien Cunningham. Hats off to him for getting the whole thing started a week earlier than last year - with Easter 2014 at a late date, there should be no problem fitting in even 21 games before then. Good news is that there are an even number of 12 teams, one up from last year.

Two new entrants, from opposite ends of the Upper Newtownards Road, join the lists. An old name, Civil Service, returns. About 5 years ago the club members decamped to another multi-sports club, the Belfast Boat Club, where they now play under the Lagan designation. There hasn't been a mass return, because apart from UCU Chairman, Geoff Hindley, it's an entirely new group that has set up shop at the Maynard Sinclair Pavilion. At the other end of the road Calum Leitch has gathered a group of coffee house players for his team at the Lindores Cafe. Another watering hole, this time in the city centre (well more or less), Muldoon's Pub, provides another new name for the League, albeit this is the former Mallusk team in disguise, though we are promised that they have added 2 or 3 heavy-hitters to their squad.

New clubs and rejuvenated teams are very welcome news, but where have they got their players from? Answer, in the main, seems to be from Ballynafeigh. This club, still in infancy itself, has very rapidly become the big club in Belfast. It's perhaps not surprising that some of its members may want to try to do the same trick somewhere else, and we understand the leavers go with the good wishes of Ballynafeigh supremo Cunningham. Perhaps he was just delighted not to have to employ his carpentry skills to build a mezzanine floor in the Ballynafeigh clubroom to fit everyone in. Does all this mean Ballynafeigh will have to reduce its teams for the new season? Not at all - such is Cunningham's ability to attract new members, it will still be three teams turning out this season for the Ormeau Road club. How they all fare in the League will depend on whether one of their teams is loaded with their top-rated players.

Last year the new boys on the block were Belfast South, mainly made up of Fisherwick émigrés. They set up in the equally new Agape Centre on the Lisburn Road, but rumour has it that they were pining so much for the Malone Road, that they have moved back to just across the road from their old club in the Bankers Club, where the Summer Tournament was held this year. Despite the loss of players, Fisherwick easily retained the League title in 2012-13, though not without the schizophrenic situation of the new boys webmaster turning out for his "old" team. I expect Fisherwick to be once again the team to beat this season.

Fruithill were another "new" club last year, essentially a reincarnation of RVH, the big team of the "noughties". Their results were variable as they often put out under-strength teams but if, and it's a big if, they can get their best team out every week they could spring a surprise.

After Fisherwick, Bombardier and Bangor are the oldest-established clubs. Both are usually solid performers and it will be interesting to see if Bombardier can come ahead of their new east Belfast neighbours, Civil Service and Lindores. Bangor put out two teams last year, but there were worrying rumours that mass apathy might see them fail to enter the League, but the Groomsport-based club will after all have one team representing their interests. Hopefully, a bit of consolidation will lead to an improved commitment.

So, good luck to all the teams. With a lot of changes in the line-up of clubs in recent times, an interesting season beckons.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Kelly excels in Dublin

While many preferred the Ulster Rapidplay on Easter Monday, one hardy soul ventured South for the whole holiday weekend and picked up some prize-money for his efforts. Rookie reports:

At Easter in Dublin, Martin Kelly (Belfast South) followed up his 4/6 in the Gonzaga Under-1800s with 5/7 in the e2e4 Under-1750 Major. He was unbeaten in the 7 round event.


After a first round travelling bye, Kelly was full of the "joyce" of spring after a difficult draw with Stephen Joyce. After a win and draw in the next two rounds, he was able to "waltz" past Cathal Walsh in Round Five in the game below:
A game that I liked (ChessBase 12)
[Event "e2e4 Major"] [Site "Dublin"] [Date "2013.03.31"] [Round "5"] [White "Kelly, Martin"] [Black "Walsh, Cathal"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "B90"] [Annotator "Kelly"] [PlyCount "74"] [EventDate "2013.03.29"] [SourceDate "2013.04.11"] 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 a6 6. a4 e5 7. Nb3 Be7 8. Be2 Be6 9. Bg5 Nbd7 10. f4 h6 11. Bxf6 Nxf6 12. f5 Bd7 13. O-O Rc8 14. Kh1 Rxc3 $5 15. bxc3 Nxe4 16. Qd3 Nf6 17. Bf3 Qc7 18. Nd2 O-O 19. Ne4 Nxe4 ({Not} 19... Bxf5 {because} 20. Nxf6+ {wins a piece.}) 20. Bxe4 f6 {To avoid 21.f6.} 21. Qd5+ Kh8 22. Qxb7 Qxb7 23. Bxb7 a5 24. c4 Rb8 25. Ba6 Rb2 26. Bb5 $1 Bxb5 27. axb5 Rxc2 28. Rxa5 Rxc4 29. b6 Kh7 30. Ra7 Bd8 31. b7 Bc7 32. Rb1 h5 33. Ra8 Kh6 34. Rc8 $1 Kg5 35. Rxc7 Rxc7 36. b8=Q Rc4 37. Qxd6 Kxf5 $2 {38. Qd3 wins the Rook.} (37... Rf4) 1-0

In Round Six on Board Two, joint leader Ronan Murphy was "groanin'" after losing to Kelly in a swashbuckling, sacrificial game, not for the fainthearted. The final round saw Kelly on Board One face last year's winner, Bulgarian Atanis Kouthev, nicknamed "Attack" or "Attila the Hun", who was a half point clear and needed only a draw to win. Kelly remembered losing on Board Two in the last round at Gonzaga but knew a win this time would get him a first prize of 400 Euros. Instead, he chickened out with a Grandmaster draw to finish second. What would you have done in the final position in the game below? Answers on a postcard to......ROOKIE.
A game that I liked (ChessBase 12)
[Event "e2e4 Major"] [Site "Dublin"] [Date "2013.04.01"] [Round "7"] [White "Kelly, Martin"] [Black "Kouthev, Atanas"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "B07"] [Annotator "Kelly"] [PlyCount "18"] [EventDate "2013.03.29"] [SourceDate "2013.04.11"] 1. e4 d6 2. d4 Nf6 3. Nc3 c5 4. dxc5 Qa5 5. cxd6 $5 Nxe4 6. dxe7 Bxe7 7. Bd2 ({ White considered} 7. Qd5) 7... Nxd2 8. Qxd2 Be6 9. Bb5+ Nc6 1/2-1/2

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Ulster Rapidplay Championship

Dennis the Menace gently enquired about the health of this blog at the recent Nigel Short simul. Well, good news, despite the unseasonal weather, its long hibernation has ended as your blogmaster ventured forth to the Ulster Rapidplay Championship at Ballynafeigh Chess Club.

I cannot remember the Ulster Chess Union putting on an event over the Easter weekend before, but this innovation seems to have been a success with numbers up on recent rapidplay events. Whether this was in fact due to the supposed emergency meeting at the event in support of the Hollywood Two (Clooney and Alba), no-one at the venue was prepared to admit to overlooking that Easter Monday this year was also April Fool's Day.

My own play confirmed once again that my brain requires a turbo-booster and that my black openings need a considerable overhaul. Of course, playing in a quickplay event means that you don't get much of a chance to see what's happening on the other boards, but I did catch the closing stages of the Round 5 game between the top two seeds Gareth Annesley and John Masterson, which was pivotal to the overall outcome of the Championship. My first look at the game came with Masterson down to his last minute and a half with Annesley having about three times that amount of time. However John is renowned for whipping up attacks with his flag hanging even in longer time limits and so it proved here also. About five minutes later it was clear, based on the constant bagging of pieces and clock, that both players were very short of time, and Masterson delivered checkmate with one second only left! (Don't you just love these digital clocks.) Going into the sixth and last round Masterson had a 100% score of 5 wins, a full point ahead of a trio of players from the host club - Danny Mallaghan and the two Damiens, Cunningham and Lavery.

Masterson was paired with Cunningham and the latter, finding himself in a difficult situation, cleverly offered a draw which guaranteed Masterson the Championship while also ensuring third place for himself. In the other battle for the top prizes, Mallaghan overcame Lavery to take the second spot on the podium. The under 1600 (or was it 1500?) Grading Prize was won by Steven Eachus, while even three tie-break methods could not separate Stephen Critchlow and Mond Parissis for the under 1200 equivalent.

The new date was not the only change for this year's Championship. Instead of starting play at 10.00am, registration for the event didn't even start until midday. Instead of having a lunchtime break, players could have a leisurely morning, get themselves a big breakfast and still get home at a decent hour for their evening meal. If by any chance anyone got a bit peckish, the traditional Ballynafeigh coffee and biscuits were available. The event was run very efficiently by Ballynafeigh's resident fairy tale teller Damien Cunningham and UCU Secretary Mark Newman and even finished about 10 minutes ahead of the scheduled 6.30 pm finish time. So, a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon's entertainment and the when the sun eventually came out in mid-afternoon, you could even gaze over to Ormeau Park at the host of golden daffodils, beneath the trees, fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

No Name                  Total  1    2    3    4    5    6   Prize

1  John Masterson        5.5   21:W 14:W  6:W  4:W  5:W  3:D First
2  Danny Mallaghan       5     27:W 15:L 20:W 11:W  8:W  4:W Second
3  Damien Cunningham     4.5   13:W  6:L 21:W 12:W 14:W  1:D Third
4  Damien Lavery         4     20:W  8:W 15:W  1:L  7:W  2:L
5  Gareth Annesley       4      0:D  9:W 12:W  7:W  1:L  6:D
6  Steven Eachus         4     26:W  3:W  1:L 17:W  9:D  5:D Grading
7  Ian Woodfield         4     19:W 11:W 16:W  5:L  4:L 15:W
8  Thomas Donaldson      4     23:W  4:L 31:W 13:W  2:L 16:W
9  Paul McLoughlin       4     22:D  5:L 27:W 16:W  6:D 13:W
10 Mark Newman           4     18:W 16:L 13:L 29:W 19:W 14:W
11 Mohamed Saad          4     28:W  7:L 24:W  2:L 25:W 20:W
12 Chris Armstrong       3.5   24:W 17:W  5:L  3:L 20:D 22:W
13 Mathew Chapman        3      3:L 25:W 10:W  8:L 17:W  9:L
14 Karina Kruk           3     25:W  1:L 19:W 15:W  3:L 10:L
15 Tony Redden           3     29:W  2:W  4:L 14:L 18:W  7:L
16 Robert Lavery         3     30:W 10:W  7:L  9:L 26:W  8:L
17 David McAlister       3     31:W 12:L 18:W  6:L 13:L 25:W
18 Steve Critchlow       3     10:L 26:W 17:L 22:W 15:L 24:W Grading
19 Mond Parissis         3      7:L 28:W 14:L 24:W 10:L 26:W Grading
20 William Storey        2.5    4:L 23:W  2:L 30:W 12:D 11:L
21 Colin Fenton          2.5    1:L 22:W  3:L 25:L 28:W 23:D
22 Stephen Scarborough   2.5    9:D 21:L 29:W 18:L 31:W 12:L
23 David Seaby           2.5    8:L 20:L 26:L 27:W 30:W 21:D
24 Adrian Dornford-Smyth 2     12:L  0:W 11:L 19:L 29:W 18:L
25 Ram Rajam             2     14:L 13:L 28:W 21:W 11:L 17:L
26 Patrick Magee         2      6:L 18:L 23:W 31:W 16:L 19:L
27 Iza Bujak             2      2:L 29:L  9:L 23:L  0:W 30:W
28 Dayna Ferguson        2     11:L 19:L 25:L  0:W 21:L 31:W
29 Paul Anderson         2     15:L 27:W 22:L 10:L 24:L  0:W
30 Daniel Ferguson       1     16:L 31:L  0:W 20:L 23:L 27:L
31 Honor Parissis        1     17:L 30:W  8:L 26:L 22:L 28:L

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Ballynafeigh Super Series 2012 finale

The final event in the Ballynafeigh Super Series took place last night. Many of the usual suspects had returned but there were a couple of newcomers too. 27 souls in total eventually turned up, the second-best attendance of the four tournaments. These included Gareth Annesley, who just happened to be walking past the Ballynafeigh Community House, saw the lights in the upstairs windows, remembered it was Tuesday night and reckoned "there be chess players up there". The Beard welcomed him like a long-lost relative and asked yours truly was there any way we could squeeze Gareth into the draw. Even though we'd been going nearly half-an-hour, I was up for the challenge and gave the big man a travelling bye for Round 1. Trouble was, with the accelerated draw already underway, there was a danger of him stomping all over a couple of 1100s for the next two rounds, but after fiddling with the innards of SwissPerfect, I found a solution that allowed him to roam with the other big beasts without troubling the impalas.

Anyway, enough of the preliminaries, the first few rounds seemed to have less shocks than some of the previous editions, and in this calm state it looked as if the Round 4 showdown between the top two seeds, Michael Waters and Steve Scannell, would decide the winner.

Throughout the evening, I had become aware of rock music seeping through the windows but it was very difficult to pinpoint exactly where it was coming from. It was almost as if Chris Millar, fabled promoter of the quick chess-background music combination, was influencing events. When I raised this conundrum with the Sultan, Ballynafeigh's eminence grise, he informed me that the music was drifting over from the other big event of the evening in Belfast, an open air concert being given by the Foo Fighters to 30,000 fans in Boucher Road.

Back in our own little Nirvana, things had taken an unexpected turn. Scannell had beaten Waters in the battle of the giants and general expectation was that he would go on serenely to take the top prize. But we had reckoned without Stephen Morgan, making his debut in the Ballynafeigh Super Series. After a theoretical Gruenfeld Defence (something of a rarity in Ulster chess) Scannell seemed to have Morgan in a spot of bother in the endgame (two bishops, passed pawn) but the latter had other ideas, creating a passed pawn of his own which was to cost Scannell one of his bishops and ultimately the game. When I mentioned to Scannell that he seemed to have lost a theoretically won ending, he good-naturedly put this patzer in his place by telling me I needed to study some of the 1990 World Championship Gruenfeld endgames before making such sweeping statements.

So instead of a single winner and a nice easy prize allocation, we had four players tied first. Oh, dear, only two main prizes to give out, so recourse had to be made to the dreaded tie-breaks. Unfortunately for the gallant Morgan, the tie-break placed him third and therefore out of the prizes. Scannell had just hung on for first with Waters second. Ian Woodfield, who had beaten Super Series One winner Damien Lavery in the final round in a flurry of hands moving pieces and pressing clock-levers, was fourth in this tie-break evaluation but had the considerable consolation of winning the under 1900 Grading Prize.

The other two Grading Prizes also went to tie-break with Niall Troughton just edging out Tony Redden for the under 1600 Section with Ram Rajan marginally ahead of John Monaghan in the under 1300s. In what I hope is a small consolation for missing out in a prize by the slimmest of margins in each case, our three unlucky tie-break losers were offered free entry next time they come to a Ballynafeigh-organised event. Hopefully, we can give them that opportunity next Summer when, all other things being equal, the Beard and I plan to run the Super Series again. However, before that comes around, we are hoping to do something in October before the league season starts, something a little different which hopefully will be sufficiently interesting to attract our faithful participants back to the Ormeau Road. Look our for details here or at the Ballynafeigh CC website (or possibly a personal e-mail from the Beard himself).

Having finished the prizegiving and made a desultory attempt to help in putting away the tables and chairs, it was time to wend my way home. As I drove up the Malone Road and then on to Balmoral Avenue and Stockmans Lane I passed many happy concert-goers walking home from their night-out listening to Dave Grohl and co. Hopefully our own little events have given our paying customers an equally good time.

No Name              Rtg  Total  1    2    3    4    5   Prize

1  Stephen Scannell  2046 4     12:W 15:W  4:W  2:W  3:L First
2  Michael Waters    2132 4      5:W 23:W  3:W  1:L  6:W Second
3  Stephen Morgan    1969 4     17:W  6:W  2:L  7:W  1:W
4  Ian Woodfield     1689 4      9:W  8:W  1:L 13:W  5:W Grading U1900
5  Damien Lavery     1725 3      2:L 13:W 11:W 10:W  4:L
6  Damien Cunningham 1649 3     16:W  3:L 15:W 14:W  2:L
7  Gareth Annesley   1921 3      0:D 16:W  8:W  3:L  9:D
8  Mark Newman       1781 3     10:W  4:L  7:L 19:W 18:W
9  Eamonn Walls      1954 3      4:L 18:D 14:W 25:W  7:D
10 John McKenna      1633 3      8:L 19:W 23:W  5:L 21:W
11 Niall Troughton   1562 3     15:L 12:W  5:L 16:W 17:W Grading U1600
12 John Bradley      1723 3      1:L 11:L 22:W 27:W 20:W
13 Tony Redden       1537 3     22:W  5:L 26:W  4:L 15:W 
14 Mathew Chapman    1345 2.5   26:W 17:D  9:L  6:L 24:W
15 Danny Mallaghan   1780 2     11:W  1:L  6:L 22:W 13:L
16 Desmond Moreland  1801 2      6:L  7:L 19:W 11:L 27:W
17 Sam Flanagan      1706 2      3:L 14:D 20:W 18:D 11:L
18 Steven Eachus     1546 2     23:L  9:D 21:W 17:D  8:L
19 Colin Fenton      1356 2     27:W 10:L 16:L  8:L 25:W
20 William Storey    1329 2     24:D 25:W 17:L 21:D 12:L
21 Ram Rajan              2     25:D 24:W 18:L 20:D 10:L Grading U1300
22 John Monaghan     1110 2     13:L 27:W 12:L 15:L 26:W
23 Callum Ormerod    1756 2     18:W  2:L 10:L 26:W  0: 
24 Paul Anderson     671  1.5   20:D 21:L 25:L  0:W 14:L
25 Gary Johnston     1167 1.5   21:D 20:L 24:W  9:L 19:L
26 Paul Logan        1007 1     14:L  0:W 13:L 23:L 22:L
27 Patrick Magee     1039 1     19:L 22:L  0:W 12:L 16:L

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Third Ballynafeigh Super Series quickplay


The June 2012 edition of the Ballynafeigh Super Series was slotted neatly between the Euro2012 football semi-finals, and for July it was placed between the end of the Tour de France and the start of the Olympic Games. This time quality and quantity were even better than before; 32 players taking part, with big-hitters like Michael Waters, Stephen Scannell, Eamonn Walls and Gareth Annesley vying with quickplay specialists Des Moreland, Damien Lavery and Damien Cunningham plus strong Intermediate players like Danny Mallaghan, Mark Newman, Ian Woodfield and Sam Flanagan. Throw into the mix a host of competitors fighting for three grading prizes and an exciting tournament was almost guaranteed. There were plenty of upset wins by lower-rated players (as a careful perusal of the crosstable below will show) but most of the usual suspects rose to the top in the battle for first place. In the end the tight nature of the contest was shown when three players - Scannell, Waters and Walls - tied for first on 4 points from 5 games. Scannell, Ballynafeigh's principal standard-bearer, had the best tie-break and was awarded first place, while even the tie-breaks couldn't separate the two Fisherwick players, Waters and Walls, who therefore shared the second prize. Grading prizes went to David Conlon, Matthew Chapman (both of the host club) and RVH's John Monaghan.

No Name                  Total  1    2    3    4    5   Prize

1  Stephen Scannell      4      7:W  4:W  2:D  3:W  6:D First
2  Michael Waters        4     15:W  8:D  1:D 21:W  7:W Second equal
3  Eamonn Walls          4     11:W 16:W 20:W  1:L 10:W Second equal
4  Desmond Moreland      3.5   26:W  1:L  8:W  5:D 16:W
5  David Conlon          3.5    6:W 15:L 12:W  4:D 17:W Grading U1700
6  Damien Lavery         3.5    5:L 18:W 23:W 24:W  1:D
7  Ian Woodfield         3      1:L 10:W 21:W 20:W  2:L
8  Gareth Annesley       3     23:W  2:D  4:L 25:D 15:W
9  Mark Newman           3     16:L 17:W 11:W 10:L 21:W
10 Mathew Chapman        3     32:W  7:L 27:W  9:W  3:L Grading U1500
11 Damien Cunningham     3      3:L 22:W  9:L 26:W 25:W
12 John Monaghan         3     24:W 23:L  5:L 19:W 20:W Grading U1200
13 Tony Redden           3     17:D 20:L 28:W 14:D 22:W
14 Colin Fenton          3     22:L 32:W 18:D 13:D 24:W
15 Sam Flanagan          2.5    2:L  5:W 16:D 29:W  8:L
16 Niall Troughton       2.5    9:W  3:L 15:D 28:W  4:L
17 Danny Mallaghan       2.5   13:D  9:L 25:W 18:W  5:L
18 Robert Lavery         2.5   30:W  6:L 14:D 17:L 29:W
19 Ram Rajan             2.5   29:D 25:L 26:W 12:L 28:W
20 Richard Gould         2     27:W 13:W  3:L  7:L 12:L
21 Martin Kelly          2     31:W 27:W  7:L  2:L  9:L
22 Paul Anderson         2     14:W 11:L 24:L 23:W 13:L
23 Paul McLoughlin       2      8:L 12:W  6:L 22:L 30:W
24 Mohamed Saad          2     12:L 31:W 22:W  6:L 14:L
25 Chris Armstrong       2     28:D 19:W 17:L  8:D 11:L
26 Dennis Wilkinson      2      4:L 30:W 19:L 11:L 31:W
27 Callum Ormerod        2     20:L 21:L 10:L 30:W 32:W
28 Paul Logan            1.5   25:D 29:W 13:L 16:L 19:L
29 Garry Johnston        1.5   19:D 28:L 31:W 15:L 18:L
30 Adrian Dornford Smith 1     18:L 26:L 32:W 27:L 23:L
31 Patrick Magee         1     21:L 24:L 29:L 32:W 26:L
32 Charlie Logan         0     10:L 14:L 30:L 31:L 27:L

Top seeds Waters and Scannell fought out an entertaining draw in Round 3.
A game that I liked (ChessBase 12)
[Event "Ballynafeigh Super Series 3"] [Site "?"] [Date "2012.07.24"] [Round "3"] [White "Waters, Michael"] [Black "Scannell, Stephen"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "A04"] [PlyCount "68"] [EventDate "2012.??.??"] [Source "ChessBase"] [SourceDate "1997.11.17"] 1. b3 c5 2. Bb2 d6 3. e3 Nc6 4. Nf3 e5 5. d4 e4 6. Nfd2 d5 7. c4 Nf6 8. cxd5 Qxd5 9. Bc4 Qf5 10. O-O cxd4 11. exd4 Bd6 12. g3 O-O 13. Re1 Re8 14. Nf1 Qh3 15. Ne3 Bg4 16. Bf1 Qh5 17. Nxg4 Nxg4 18. h3 Nf6 19. Qxh5 Nxh5 20. Nd2 f5 21. g4 fxg4 22. Nxe4 Bb4 23. hxg4 Bxe1 24. Rxe1 Nf6 25. Nxf6+ gxf6 26. Bc4+ Kg7 27. Rd1 Rad8 28. d5 Ne5 29. g5 fxg5 30. Bb5 Re7 31. d6 Re6 32. Bc4 Ree8 33. Bb5 Re6 34. Bc4 Ree8 1/2-1/2

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Ballynafeigh Super Series - June edition

With the European Football Championships taking a short break before their semi-finals, we cunningly scheduled the second edition of the Ballynafeigh Super Series for Tuesday 26th June. Interest is high in the Series so Damien Cunningham tries to ensure we don't overtax the capacity at Ballynafeigh Community Centre. So it was a disappointment that four players had to cry off on the night but Damien still conjured up four replacements.

I was again controlling the event and decided on experimenting with an accelerated draw in the five-round Swiss to get the main contestants for the first prize to meet each other a little earlier and also give the lower rated players a more equitable list of opponents in their search for grading prizes. Overall, I think it worked quite well and more than likely I will give the system another chance next time.

Ulster Champion Michael Waters had one of his rare off-days at the May Super series event but looked in determined mood from the off this time, in particular showing good time management, and raced to four wins out of four. Nearest pursuers were on three points so Waters only needed a draw in the final round. Despite this he didn't go for safety first and rolled out the risky Albin Counter Gambit - game on! Waters had clearly equalised by move 12 but then Masterson "started sacrificing pieces like Tal" as his opponent put it. It didn't look sound (but then Tal's attacks often didn't) and Waters, with his eye firmly fixed on overall victory, decided discretion is the better part of valour and allowed a perpetual check which Masterson had no option but to take.

Now to the grading prizes: Damien Lavery, winner of the May event, conceded draws in Rounds 1 and 3 to Steven Eachus and Damien Cunningham, but wins in the final two rounds, brought him the over 1700 Grading Prize and he was the only other unbeaten player after Waters. Karina Kruk beat Ballynafeigh Rascals team-mate Robert Lavery in the final round to secure the 1400-1700 Prize. However Robert's overall efforts (which included a brave attacking effort against May runner-up Des Moreland) secured the Under 1400 Prize on tie-break from Chris Armstrong.

Ballynafeigh Super Series - June 2012
Final Crosstable
No Name                  Total  1    2    3    4    5   Prize

1  Michael Waters        4.5    8:W 15:W 14:W 12:W  5:D Winner
2  Karina Kruk           4     20:W 10:W  7:L  6:W  9:W 1400-1700 Grading
3  Damien Lavery         4     13:D  4:W 12:D 16:W 11:W Over 1700 Grading
4  Gareth Annesley       3.5    0:D  3:L  8:W 15:W 12:W
5  John Masterson        3.5    6:W 12:L 18:W 17:W  1:D
6  Sam Flanagan          3      5:L 11:W 15:W  2:L 14:W
7  Desmond Moreland      3     12:L 17:W  2:W  9:L 18:W
8  John Bradley          3      1:L 16:W  4:L 22:W 17:W
9  Robert Lavery         3     23:W 18:L 13:W  7:W  2:L Under 1400 Grading
10 Danny Mallaghan       3     14:L  2:L 21:W 19:W 16:W
11 Chris Armstrong       3     22:   6:L 20:W 14:W  3:L
12 Damien Cunningham     2.5    7:W  5:W  3:D  1:L  4:L
13 Steven Eachus         2.5    3:D 14:L  9:L 21:W 20:W
14 Chris Black           2     10:W 13:W  1:L 11:L  6:L
15 Mark Newman           2     18:W  1:L  6:L  4:L 23:W
16 Mohamed Saad          2     21:W  8:L 19:W  3:L 10:L
17 Richard Gould         2     19:W  7:L 22:W  5:L  8:L
18 Paul McLoughlin       2     15:L  9:W  5:L 23:W  7:L
19 Dennis Wilkinson      2     17:L 23:W 16:L 10:L 22:W
20 Garry Johnston        1.5    2:L 21:D 11:L  0:W 13:L
21 Patrick Magee         1.5   16:L 20:D 10:L 13:L  0:W
22 Adrian Dornford Smith 1     11:L  0:W 17:L  8:L 19:L
23 Paul Anderson         1      9:L 19:L  0:W 18:L 15:L
A game that I liked (ChessBase 12)
[Event "Ballynafeigh Super Series"] [Site "Belfast"] [Date "2012.06.26"] [Round "5"] [White "Masterson, John"] [Black "Waters, Michael"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "D08"] [PlyCount "47"] [EventDate "2012.06.26"] [Source "ChessBase"] [SourceDate "1997.11.17"] 1. d4 d5 2. c4 e5 3. dxe5 d4 4. Nf3 Nc6 5. a3 Bg4 6. Nbd2 Qd7 7. g3 Nge7 8. Bg2 Ng6 9. O-O Be7 10. b4 O-O-O 11. c5 Ncxe5 12. Nxe5 Nxe5 13. f4 d3 14. fxe5 dxe2 15. Qb3 Qd4+ 16. Kh1 exf1=Q+ 17. Nxf1 Qxa1 18. Qa4 Kb8 19. Bxb7 Qxc1 20. Bg2 Qc4 21. Qc6 Kc8 22. Qb7+ Kd7 23. Qc6+ Kc8 24. Qb7+ 1/2-1/2