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

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

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

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?

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

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

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.

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

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

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.

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.

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

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

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