A record Bunratty turnout of more than 350 players was bolstered by 22 from St Benildus. The weekend started in an interesting fashion when the pyrex dish containing the bolognese for the Friday dinner blew up in the oven. This rather delayed dinner as the oven was cleaned out entirely; the bolognese ended up in the bin and we started again from scratch. Still, all players did arrive for the first round safely fed.
We had no players in the top section, but the rest of the tournament indicated that we’ll maybe have a couple of players ready to make the ultimate step up in a couple of years’ time. In the Challengers, we had four players. I had an interesting tournament which included the following two spectacular blunders from my opponents –
Here, white played 23. NxB??, planning on meeting 23. … Qd2 with 24. Qc2. What had white missed?
Lightning struck twice in round 3 – another bit of a mad Dutch game – where this position was reached –
White played 20. BxB?? and immediately realised his mistake. What was it? Answers to both at the end!
Anyways, in between was a wild Caro-Kann game which I resigned while still two pawns up and with a pawn on f7 – post-match analysis shows I maybe underestimated how good my position was and could well have won – before I slumped back to my traditional 2½/6. Ciarán ended on the same score, though from the other end of the draw, having started with three straight defeats. Mihailo beat two 1800s in the first three rounds, but that was as good as things got there. However, the performance of the section was undoubtedly from Dylan. Playing up for the first time, he stormed to 3½/4, and then drew with one of Gonzaga’s all-conquering Armstrong in the fifth round. Unfortunately, a Sicilian went horribly wrong in the final round against Scott Mulligan – who ended up joint first and winning the crystal trophy on tie break after his opponent – the Gonzaga player Dylan had just drawn with – was found to be on his way home when all of Bunratty was looking for him to play the blitz play-off. Dylan’s first-round opponent also wound up with a grading prize (as indeed did Dylan), giving Dylan a draw composed half of prize winners. An impressive 149 points was the gain, meaning he’s up over 300 points since Christmas! A place on the Glorney team in the summer isn’t entirely out of the question now, though there’s a lot of games to go between now and then.
Playing three prize winners wasn’t by any stretch the toughest draw any player had all weekend – Alex Byrne somehow managed to play five of the top six seeds! He got to 3/3 – including a remarkable win on the live board when Stockfish gave him -10 after 15 moves against the top seed – before dropping back to 3½/6, not helped by not being 100% on the Sunday.
We had nine players in the Major, including Seán Devilly, who must be one of very few players ever to play up in their debut weekender. After hanging material in his opening two games, he was undone only by a nice rook sac in round 3 before winning round 4. Unfortunately, he got about the worst round 5 draw possible, when paired with Jack, who was on 1/4 after arriving in Bunratty at about 3am on Friday night, having flown back into the country earlier in the day. He blamed a poor Saturday showing on a resultant lack of sleep, although I can confirm that the hotel bar was still fairly lively at that time, so it’s not as if he was the only tired player on the Saturday! Jack recovered to beat Seán and win round 6, while Seán beat the 1525-rated tenth seed in the final round – and was then rated against the player’s performance rating of 890… Still, the experience is more important than the rating.
Odhrán didn’t have a great tournament, only picking up 3½, including a half-point when his opponent offered a draw and then looked again at the position before asking “Wait – am I a piece up?” She was, so Odhrán took the draw. William finally won his first game in this section at the 11th time of asking, although his round 1 opponent later apologised to me for a complete swindle of a win. Anastasija also scored 2½, including a loss in the other club derby of the section, against American newcomer Matt, who picked up 3½ including a bye, having only decided to enter on the Thursday and who actually found accommodation at that short notice.
Further up the draw, Mariusz survived the claim of a win against him to get to 3/4 – his neighbour had knocked over a glass, toppling Mariusz’ opponent’s king and h-pawn. Mariusz reset them, which his opponent – away from the board at the time – saw, and on returning to the board, insisted that Mariusz had touched the h-pawn, and so must capture it with his queen. Mariusz, not unreasonably, refused, saying he was clearly adjusting the pieces. His opponent said he hadn’t said “Adjust”; Mariusz said of course he hadn’t – there was no-one at the board to say it to. At this, his opponent stopped the clock, called the controller and claimed a win. The controller obviously turned down the claim, and Mariusz – who was fairly livid at this stage – went on to win. However, a disaster in round 5 meant he slipped out of contention for prizes altogether and ended on 4/6.
Meanwhile, Brendan was playing his first weekender since Mullingar in 1994 (which may be of interest to Irish Chess History, which only notes the tournament as having lasted until 1992). As top seed, he started on the live board, but maybe the pressure of knowing his kids were watching on the internet got to him, as he was booted off after round 2, never to return; he also ended on 4/6. But we had the live board back in the final round, when Ross reached it, having taken a travelling bye in round 1 and having won all his games since. The last game to finish in the entire hall, he was down to his last two minutes for at least 15 minutes, getting by on the 15 second increments. In an opposite coloured bishop ending, he played excellently under the pressure of time, the title, the live broadcast and the growing crowd around the board to completely tie his opponent down, stroll his king up the board and force his opponent to give up his bishop on a pawn, at which point, his opponent threw in the proverbial towel.
Amazingly, dad Desmond matched Ross’ 5/5 record over the weekend, having also taken a travelling bye. The bottom section was big enough that this wasn’t enough for a tournament win – 6 players reached 4/4 – but it did ensure him outright second place. We finished off the clean sweep of prizes – first, second, third and grading prize – when Finn was one of ten players to come joint third on 5/6; after a couple of grading prizes were divvied out, the rest shared a bumper €15 between them.
Liam and Ben came closest to a grading prize, finishing on 4/6; Ben lost to Finn in one of two derbies in the section – a curious game in which he was at one stage piece for queen down, and later was rook and two pawns down. The other derby saw Finn beat Daniel in the latter’s first game in a weekender; Daniel ended on 2/6, as did Richard, who was a rook up against one of the top seeds before dropping it back again. Declan – who did win a grading prize last year – lost his last game to finish on 3/6. Diarmaid (3/6) and Tim (2½/6) rounded off the Benildus contingent. Next year’s crowd may be bigger again after Frank Kelly and Cathal McDonnell shook on an agreement to both play next year – so watch this space!
There was still time in the weekend to pass the rather bizarre sight of a lorry reversing along the M50, the driver having missed his turn and not having the patience to get to the next exit…
As always, big thanks to those who made the weekend possible – Cathal McDonnell, Frank and Sinéad Kelly and, of course, Frank Scott.
We’ll have a couple of games from the weekend in due course, but for now, the solutions to the not very difficult puzzles above. In the first position, the game continued 23. … Qd3+ 24. Ke1 Qe3+ 25. Kd1 Rd8+ 26. Kc2 Qd3#. And in the second position, the ending was 20. … Qe3+ 21. Kh1 Nf2+ 22. Kg1 Nh3+ 23. Kh1 Qg1+, and white resigned, happy that I knew 24. N (or R) x Q would be met with Nf2#