Irish championship 2001

A report for the Irish championship 2001 has been added to the archives here: see also the Irish championships and Tournaments pages.

This was the first of three consecutive championships that were held in Greystones. In a field of 20 players, Sam Collins, playing in his second championship, made a strong start and was sole leader after three rounds, but he then drew against defending champion Mark Heidenfeld and lost to Stephen Brady. Brady in turn was clear leader after round 5, but suffered a nightmare as White against Heidenfeld in round 6. Heidenfeld was clear leader after 7 rounds but could only draw his last two games, whereas Brady and Collins finished with consecutive wins. So Stephen Brady won his third championship, and his first for nine years.

There were many interesting games. One that caught the eye was the last-round games between Brendan Lyons (white) and Stephen Scannell.

Lyons - Scannell, irish championship 2001
Lyons — Scannell, Irish championship 2001
Position after 22. Kg1

Play continued 22… Nc6 (only move) 23. Qd1 (23. Qd3! was better, when White is winning) 23… Be4 (23… Nd4!? leads to complications where Black doesn’t have too much the worse of it) 24. Bd6 Bd4+?? 25. Qxd4+! 1-0.

It’s all immensely complicated but it seems Black was fully in the game right to the end. A sample line from the engines is 24… Qb7 25. Rb1 Qg7 26. Rxb2 Qxb2 27. Bd5 Bxd5 28. Qxd5 Qc1+ 29. Kf2 Qxc2+ 30. Kg3 Qc3+ 31. Kg4 h5+ 32. Kg5 Kg7 33. Bf8+ Kxf8 34. Qxc6 Qe5+ 35. Kxg6 Qxh2, when White’s advantage has dissipated.

[Click to reply the full game.]

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Armstrong Cup 1967-68

Today marks the official start of the new season for the Armstrong Cup, and indeed for all the Leinster leagues. Best of luck to all concerned!

Gonzaga, of course, is aiming for three in a row, having run away with the Cup over the past two seasons. But there have been dominant teams before. Fifty years ago, in 1967-68, Dublin started the season having already completed three in a row, and they would go on to complete another in the following three seasons: so six wins in seven seasons.

But 1967-68 was an exception. It’s possible to reconstruct almost the entire season from newspaper reports, and the results have been added to the Armstrong Cup page here. Ten teams competed (Collegians, Cúig Cúigí, Dublin A, Dublin B, Eoghan Ruadh, Kevin Barry, O’Hanlon, Rathmines, and St. Columba’s), in the same general format as today (single round all-play-all, 8-board matches, competition decided on game points). The final scores were:

  • Eoghan Ruadh   50½
  • Dublin ‘A’  47
  • Collegians   45½
  • U.C.D.   41½ (2 adj.)
  • St. Columba’s   34½
  • Kevin Barry   33 (1 adj.)
  • O’Hanlon   31
  • Rathmines   25½
  • Dublin ‘B’   24
  • Cúig Cúigí   23½ (2 adj.)

And so Eoghan Ruadh won, for the fourth (and last) time. The winning team, in rough board order, was Eamon Keogh, Ray Cassidy, P. J. Murphy, Des de Loughry, John Corcoran, Malachy Doherty, Brian Reid, Seán Gilroy, and Pat Dillon.

Eamon Keogh had a great season, scoring 6 wins and 2 draws on board 1 out of the 8 matches for which scorecards are available (missing only the round 6 match against Kevin Barry), and winning the board prize.

The full set of board prize winners was: Eamon Keogh (Eoghan Ruadh), Ray Byrne (U.C.D.), Raphael Farina (Kevin Barry), Seán Loftus (O’Hanlon), Oisín Ó Siochrú (Collegians), Seán Gilroy (Eoghan Ruadh), Malachy Doherty (Eoghan Ruadh), and John Frain (Collegians). Amazing to think that the first two will be playing again this season.

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O’Hanlon-Cox 1936 Challenge Match revisited

In my article on the 1936 O’Hanlon-Cox Challenge Match I was able to present six of the seven games played in the match. I have now unearthed the game-score of Game 1, the one that had previously eluded me. It is not a complete game but the available moves do go as far as the winning manoeuvre.

Position after 28…Nf8

John J. O’Hanlon – Thomas Cox
Challenge Match, Dublin
Game 1, Thursday 4th June 1936

1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Bg5 Be7 5.e5 Nfd7 6.Bxe7 Qxe7 7.Nb5 Nb6 8.c3 a6 9.Na3 c5 10.f4 Nc6 11.Nf3 Nd7 12.Be2 0-0 13.0-0 b5 14.Nc2 f6 15.Ne3 Rb8 16.Rc1 fxe5 17.fxe5 c4 18.Qd2 Nb6 19.Bd1
Commencing a re-routing of the bishop on to the important b1-g7 diagonal.
19…Bd7 20.Bc2 Be8 21.h3 Bh5 22.g4 Be8 23.Ng2 Nd7 24.Ng5 h6 25.Nh7 Rxf1+ 26.Rxf1 Bf7 27.Qf4 Nf8 (diagram) 28.Nf6+! Kh8
Black wisely declines the Knight sacrifice. If 28…gxf6 29.exf6 Qd7 30.Qxh6 Be8 31.g5 White has an unstoppable attack.
However O’Hanlon now won a pawn with this move (29…exd5 30. Qxf7) and Cox resigned on move 48. 1-0 [Click to play through the game]

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A puzzle

“You can never have enough puzzles”, I read in a recent article. It’s hard to argue with that!

In that spirit, and also in an attempt to remain true to the theme of this site, you may like to compare your abilities to those of Irish players and puzzle solvers from 65 years ago. The Evening Herald of November 5, 1952 posed the following question:

Evening Herald puzzle 1952
Irish correspondence championship 1951-52, group F
1… ?

The puzzle was submitted by one of the players, Gerard Mac Gartain, of Drumcondra, Co. Dublin. “It is Black’s move, but the question is: Who wins?”

One of the difficulties of puzzles, problems, and studies is that the solver is usually on notice that there is something of interest present: there is a warning bell that isn’t there during a normal game. So for this puzzle I won’t say whether it is very hard or very easy or something in between.

Answer in a few days.

Update, July 27, 2017: see comment for answer.

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Irish championship players

John O’Hanlon’s long-standing record of nine Irish championship wins has been equalled by Stephen Brady, but O’Hanlon still holds one record: he competed in 29 championships.

Even here his record is in some danger, with many currently active players nipping at his heels. The next highest numbers are: Eamon Keogh (28), Colm Daly (27), Anthony Fox and Philip Short (25), Gerard O’Connell (24), and Stephen Brady (23).

For these and other facts, see the full list, and the same in alphabetical order.

I haven’t fully checked other records, such as longest span between first and last championships or most consecutive championships played. For the first, I think Eamon Keogh holds the record (54 years: 1962 to 2016), followed by J. A. “Porterfield” Rynd (48 years: 1865 to 1913) and O’Hanlon (43 years: 1913 to 1956). The second is complicated by the fact that in many early years no championship was held; if we limit it to number of consecutive years in which a player competed in an Irish championship, then O’Hanlon has 13 (1928 to 1940), equalled by John B. Reid, Irish champion in 1961 and 1962 (1951 to 1963), both exceeded by Anthony Fox’s 17 (1995 to 2011).

The list is based on the Irish Championships page at David McAlister’s Irish Chess History website, which contains player lists for almost all championships, making it possible to run scripts to extract number of championships played.

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Roycroft-Walsh, Tormey Cup 1952

The renowned endgame study composer A. J. Roycroft was born in London in 1929. He’s probably best known for his founding and long-time editing of EG, a long-running journal devoted to endgame studies; he also wrote the book Test tube chess: a comprehensive introduction to the endgame study (1972), among others.

It’s not as widely known as it might be that he has a strong Irish connection. He was an undergraduate at Trinity College, Dublin from 1949 to 1953 (French and German Languages and Literature), and throughout those years he was an active player in the local chess scene. Only one game of his is given in the ICU games archive, though to make up for the sparsity it’s a spectacular win against three-time Irish champion Dónal J. O’Sullivan, from the Armstrong Cup 1952-53.

Roycroft-Walsh, Tormey Cup 1952Here’s one more game, versus J. J. Walsh in the Tormey Cup 1952 (source: J. J. Walsh scorebook). This time it’s a loss: from the diagrammed position play continued 16… Be7, and then Roycroft snatched a pawn with 17. Qb8+ Qd8 18. Qxb7 but quickly ran into trouble.

[Click to replay the full game.]

A. J. (“John”) Roycroft also has one other strong link to Ireland I wasn’t aware of before I read his on-line bio: his father Benjamin Francis Roycroft, was born in Killarney in 1896.

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Irish championship 1999

A report for the Irish championship 1999 has been added to the collection here: see the Irish championships and Tournaments pages.

The tournament was held in Drogheda for the first, and so far only, time ever. The turnout was excellent for a non-Dublin venue at 18 players, including 5 former champions, and was hard-fought with the result in doubt until the end. The late Tom Clarke had a clear lead with two rounds to play, but lost the critical round 8 game against Colm Daly, who won again in the last round to record his second consecutive championship, with Clarke in clear second.

There were many interesting games, but one that particularly caught my eye was the penultimate round game between John Nicholson and Peter Cafolla. After some eventful play, the following position was reached, with White to play. How should the game continue with best play?

Nicholson-Cafolla, Irish championship 1999
Nicholson – Cafolla, Irish championship 1999
27. ?

I confess I did not find this too easy, and I was taken by surprise by engine analysis, which seems to me to be not too obvious. I think it’s a good exercise and readers are encouraged to give it some serious thought.

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Armstrong Cup 1948-49: Sackville

Congratulations to Gonzaga, who have clinched the Armstrong Cup for the third time in a row, with a round to spare.

Details of another past season have been added to the Armstrong Cup page. In 1948-49 the event had eight teams: Dublin (holders), Colmcille, Dublin University A & B, Eoghan Ruadh, Sackville, Setanta, and U.C.D.. Matches were over six boards, each team played each other once, and the competition was decided by match points.

(It’s striking how the scale has changed over the years. The Armstrong has essentially doubled in size—12 8-board teams instead of 8 6-board teams—and in 1948-49 there was just one lower division, the Ennis Shield. The season was also compressed, running from mid-November to the beginning of February.)

The event was well covered in the papers, and we have partial scores of all but three matches, though results of adjourned games were not reported and no final table appears to be available. Dublin lost to Sackville and later to Dublin University A. Colmcille were strongly in the running, and were joint leaders with Sackville after three rounds. They drew against Sackville, and either drew or lost against Dublin. In the end Sackville won, for the 15th time, with an undefeated record, though they drew at least one match, possibly two.

The Sackville team was Charles J. Barry (7-time Leinster champion, starting in 1912), D. G. Jackson, Matt Ryan (later Leinster champion (1958)), Paddy Duignan (Irish champion 1947), Tom Tormey, M.[aurice] Sheehan, and Barney O’Sullivan (Irish champion 1939 and 1946). O’Sullivan played two games, and apart from those exceptions Sackville fielded the same team in every match.

Note (July 16, 2017): modified to add Sheehan’s first name.

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National Club Championship 2017

Congratulations to Gonzaga, convincing winners of this year’s National Club Championship, retaining the title they won for the first time last year.

The event has greatly improved over the past couple of years; this must be due in significant part to the rule changes brought in that make teams more representative of the clubs throughout the year. This year the event was almost too successful, since with only 4 rounds it was not possible to distinguish well between the teams that finished in 2nd-5th places.

One of the best aspects of the entire event was the live commentary by Alex Lopez and Stephen Jessel. I only caught the last half an hour or so, but is was very well done and entertaining. Here’s hoping we will see more such coverage for future events.

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Tournament reports have been added for the Bunratty Masters 1999 and 2006 editions. As always, there was much interesting chess in both.

But there were also some puzzling games. Now it must be emphasized that even when a game is available, it isn’t always the full game, and even when all the moves are present, the reason for the game’s end may be missing. For example, sometimes one player loses on time. Or the game continues but both players are short of time, stop recording moves, and one player blunders. Although it’s possible to record all this information, for various reasons it’s often lost in databases.

Van Voorthuijsen - Kane, Bunratty Masters 2006 In the Bunratty Masters 2006 there was one very striking example. In the first round the English player Robert Kane, as Black against the Dutch FM Peewee Van Voorthuijsen, reached the diagrammed position after 31… Qh3, when the game breaks off. White is utterly lost, e.g. 32. Qb5 Qxh2 33. Qf1 Bg2.

(Put it this way: Komodo 9.3 evaluates it at -28.45 after 31… Qh3.)

But the result was 1-0!

The version in the ICU games collection ends with “…”, indicating that some moves have been omitted. It would be interesting to see how White could have recovered. Does anyone have information on what exactly happened?

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