Irish championship 1974

The Irish championship 1974 was an 8-round, 28-player Swiss held in the Dublin C.C. clubrooms at 20 Lincoln Place from July 6-13, 1974. A full report has been added to the archives here: see also the Irish championships and Tournaments pages.

Irish chess was in the middle of a major generational transition: the Fischer boom was in full swing, and numbers for the championship were correspondingly up; though many of the players drawn in had still to work their way through the system and it would not be until the end of the decade that numbers would peak. Added to that, almost of the players who had dominated the championship for the previous decade and more almost simultaneously stopped participating. Wolfgang Heidenfeld (champion in 1958, ’63, ’64, ’67, ’68, ’72) had played his last Irish championship the previous year, but it would not have been evident at the time that the defending champion Hugh MacGrillen would never play in another championship, or that Paul Henry (1970) and John Moles (1966, ’71) would likewise drop out.

The proximity of the Nice Olympiad (June 6-30, 1974, ending six days before the championship) must have been a contributing factor: in the event, there were no participants from the Olympiad team (MacGrillen, Michael Littleton, David Cox, Henry, Heidenfeld, Ray Cassidy) in the championship. There were also no former champions.

For all that, the event was roughly as strong as a typical championship of the era, with Bernard Kernan as top seed, and the major challenges expected to come from Tony Dennehy, Paul Cassidy, and Art Coldrick. As it happened, Kernan was off form throughout the event, and Dennehy and Cassidy lost in the first round. This opened the way for Tony Doyle, who raced into a lead with 5/5, and then easily held off Cassidy, Kernan, and Dennehy in the last three rounds to win in a bit of a canter, finishing a point clear of the field. Dennehy finished clear second, and Joe Noone tied for third with Kernan.

No games are available, unfortunately.

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A snapshot from the 1973 Easter Tournament

The 1973 Easter Tournament was similar to previous ones, with a field as strong as any Irish Championship and played in plush surroundings with wooden boards and pieces on every table. Those were the days!

After three rounds, Hugh MacGrillen, two times previous winner, was on full points and heading for a third victory in a row. I also had full points, so we met in the fourth round on the top board. I had the white pieces and the following position arose in which I had an advantage with a piece versus three pawns.

Doyle-MacGrillen, Dublin 1973
Doyle — MacGrillen, Easter Tournament 1973
Black to play

There followed 1… 2. Qe2 Bb2 3. Qh5:! [played almost immediately] 3…. Bc1:? Hugh was misled by the speed of my reply and thinking that I had blundered, blundered himself. After 4. Qg4+ Kh8 5. Bd4+ e5 6. Be5:+ Qe5: 7. Qc8:+ Kg7 8. Qc1:, Hugh resigned in a visible state of shock. Komodo gives 3….f5 as an improvement but after 4. Qe8:+ Re8: 5. Rd1 followed by f4, White will have a big positional advantage.

[Click to replay.]

In the following round I was demolished by Bernard Kernan, who went on to win the Tournament. I had to settle for a share of runners-up. Hugh MacGrillen on the other hand, possibly affected by this loss, failed to get into the placings.

Postscript: Hugh did not remain upset for too long because just a few months later he completely dominated and won the 1973 Irish Championships. The only serious opposition came from fellow-Northerner Paul Henry. Hugh has written that the three Northern-Irish players, John Moles, Paul Henry and himself had International Master potential. I absolutely agree and would add David Dunne to that select group. Bernard Kernan however, had grandmaster potential.

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Karpov-Moles revisited

In his post “Karpov-Moles, Groningen 1967-8”, from 2014, David McAlister discovered surprising and long-overlooked resources for John Moles in his game against Anatoly Karpov, Groningen 1967-68, played fifty years ago this month. His most startling discovery was that Moles had a probable win as late as move 34.

The win was admittedly difficult to find, as it involved a position with just three pawns (including two sets of doubled pawns) against a full rook. And even then, while best play leads to a large advantage for Black, per engines, there remain some significant obstacles to convert that to a win.

Subsequently Tony Doyle found a more direct improvement, and this time there can be no doubt. From the diagrammed position, play continued 29… Be3+ 30. Kh1 Bxb5 31. b7 Rh8 32. b8=Q Rxb8 33. Nxb8.

Karpov-Moles, Goningen 1967-67
Karpov — Moles, European Junior Championship 1967-68
Position after 29. cxb6

But instead Moles had a forced win via the immediate 29… Bxb5!. The key difference compared to the game is that after 30. b7 Rf8! 31. b8=Q Rff2, White is mated. In the game continuation the check on e3 had the effect, via forcing the king to h1, of inadvertently clearing g1 for the rook to come over and defend.

There are other possibilities but as Tony puts it, “all the other winning variations are straightforward enough and are all based on the irreparable back rank weakness of White”: 30. Rxb5 Be3+ 31. Kh1 g3! or 31… Rxa6, or 30. Nxc7 Be3+ 31. Kh1 Rh8 32. Ra8 Rxa8 33. Nxa8 Ba6! 34. Nc7 Rxb2.

A very rich and complex game!

[Click to replay the full game.]

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Irish championship players, updated

The lists of Irish championship players have been updated: see the full list in descending order of number of championships played, and the same in alphabetical order.

Compared with the lists originally posted last July, full names are given for a majority of the players. The 2017 participants have also been included.

In addition, several errors have been corrected:

  • “F. McMahon” in the 1973 championship was previously given incorrectly as “D. McMahon”, as pointed out by Martin Crichton;
  • “Addey, R. G. Dixon”, the finalist in the 1915 championship, was previously incorrectly given as “Dixon-Addey, R. G.”; there is quite a bit of confusion over his name, but it turns out that ‘Dixon’ was a first name;
  • “Hughes, M.” from the 1962 championship was previously incorrectly given as “Heegles, M.”, an error that seems to have originated in the BCM report of the event; there is no other record of any “Heegles” in Irish chess, but the U.C.D. player M. Hughes was active at the time;
  • “James, Kevin” from the 1974 championship was previously incorrectly given as “James, J.”.
  • Corrections are always welcome, so please feel free to comment.

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    Cootes-Heidenfeld, Irish championship 1973

    Wolfgang Heidenfeld’s wild game against Arthur Cootes from the first round of the Irish championship in 1973—discussed by David McAlister in his reconstruction of the event in the previous post—featured a king hunt triggered by an early piece sacrifice by Cootes.

    Heidenfeld seems to have had quite a casual attitude to it all, judging by his description in BCM:

    “The Belfast player had brought his usual sacrifices on spec (a game without at least to sacrifice of a piece on KR7, whence the black King came in this position, is no game at all in his book.

    But was this lack of concern justified? The diagram shows the position with White to move a little earlier.

    Cootes - Heidenfeld, Irish championship 1973
    Cootes — Heidenfeld, Irish championship 1973
    Position after 14… Kxg5

    In this complicated position Cootes seems to be winning with best play: 15. Rh7!, when 15… Qe7? loses quickly (16. Qg3+ Kf6 17. Qh4+ Kf7 18. Rxg7+), as does 15… Rf7? (16. Qg3+ Kf6 17. Qh4+). Black can survive with 15… Kf6, but after 16. Qf3+ Ke7 17. Rxg7+ Kd6 18. dxc5+ Kc6 19. Qg3, but with two pawns for the piece and Black’s development a mess, White is winning. That leaves the unnatural-looking 15… Rg8 as the best practical chance. It’s very murky, but on resorting to engines, White’s best is 16. dxc5 Kf6 17. Rh3! (but not 17. O-O-O? Kf7!, with the idea of …Nd7-f6, about equal) 17… Nc6 18. O-O-O, when again it’s not over but White is winning.

    Instead Cootes played 15. Qh7, after which the position is still about equal. (He only really went wrong with a second piece sacrifice on d5.)

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    Irish Championship 1973

    In a comment about our list of players who have competed in the Irish Championship over the years, Martin Crichton points out that Daire McMahon was unlikely to have played in the 1973 Irish Championship. The error appears to have arisen from a typo, due to the proximity of the letters “d and “f” on the computer keyboard – the McMahon competing in 1973 was F(rank) McMahon.

    Having solving the McMahon conundrum with the aid of contemporary sources, it seemed an opportunity to present some of the extra material uncovered in my search for the correct name.

    Only one game from the 1973 Irish Championship, the Round 8 encounter between Hugh MacGrillen and Arthur Coldrick, is included in the Irish Chess Union database. The original source for that game would appear to be Wolfgang Heidenfeld’s report on the Championship in the October 1973 issue of the British Chess Magazine.

    Heidenfeld’s report also included the latter stages of his game against Arthur Cootes (the chess pseudonym for Victor Coates).

    Arthur Cootes – Wolfgang Heidenfeld
    Irish Championship, Cork (Round 1), 7th July 1973
    [Annotations by Heidenfeld]

    1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Bg5 Be7 5.Bxf6 Bxf6 6.Nf3 0-0 7.e5 Be7 8.Bd3 c5 9.h4 f5 10.exf6 Bxf6 11.Bxh7+ Kxh7 12.Ng5+ Kh6 13.Qd3 Bxg5 14.hxg5+ Kxg5 15.Qh7 Kf6 16.Rh3 Ke7 17.0-0-0 Kd7 18.Rg3 Rf7 19.dxc5 Qf8 20.Nxd5 exd5 21.Rxd5+ Kc7 22.Qh2 

    Cootes-Heidenfeld, Irish championship 1973 (1)

    Position after 22. Qh7-h2

    [Here] is an illustration of the extreme care with which discovered checks must be treated. It shows the position between Cootes and Heidenfeld after White’s 22nd move. The Belfast player had brought his usual sacrifices on spec (a game without at least the offer of a piece on KR7, whence the black King came in this position, too, is no game in his book). I had planned to play 22…Bd7 and get on with my much-neglected development, since no discovery of the Q + R battery seemed to do any particular harm …. until I discovered there was one very nasty discovered check indeed:- 23.Rh3+ !! Kd8 (23…Kc6 is suicidal) 24.Rh8 and White remains with Q + 3P for R, B + N, in a position where the black pieces do not co-operate at all.

    So I had to look for something better and found the paradoxical move, 22…b6 which seems to expose the black K even more. However, with the square b7 available, the poison tooth of the discovered check is well and truly drawn and after 23.cxb6+ axb6 24.Rxg7+ Kb7 25.Rxf7+ Qxf7 26.Rh5 Qxf2 27.Rd5 Qe3+ White resigned. 0-1
    [Sources: Cork Examiner, 9th July 1973, page 5 and British Chess Magazine, Volume XCIII (1973), pages 380-1]
    [Click to play through the game]

    The full score of this game and six others were presented in the daily reports in the Cork Examiner.

    Padraig O Briain – Hugh MacGrillen
    Irish Championship, Cork (Round 5), 11th July 1973

    1.Nf3 d6 2.d4 Nf6 3.g3 g6 4.c4 Bg7 5.Bg2 0-0 6.Nc3 c6 7.h3 a6 8.0-0 b5 9.cxb5 axb5 10.Qc2 b4 11.Nd1 Qb6 12.b3 Bf5 13.Qd2 Be4 14.Bb2 Nbd7 15.Ne1 Bxg2 16.Kxg2 c5 17.Ne3 Ne4 18.Qd3 Qb7 19.Kh2 cxd4 20.Bxd4 Ndc5 0-1

    O Briain - MacGrillen final position

    Final position

    An abrupt end to the game – was White’s resignation premature? After 20…Ndc5 White has a difficult task maintaining a connection between his Queen and Bishop, with both under attack.

    With the assistance of Stockfish 8, let’s look at the main possibilities; a couple of Bishop moves first:
    a) 21.Bxc5 Nxc5 22.Qd1 Bxa1 23.Qxa1 Nxb3 gives up a pawn as well as the exchange.]
    b) 21.Bxg7 Nxd3 22.Bxf8 Ndxf2 23.Bh6 cedes Black a Queen and pawn for Rook and Bishop and after 23…Qb5 another pawn is going;

    There are two Queen moves that manage to protect the Bishop:
    c) 21.Qc4 Nd2 and White is going to haemorrhage material;
    d) 21.Qd1 seems best. Now 21…Nc3 22.Bxc3 (22.Qd2 Bxd4 23.Qxd4 Nxb3 24.axb3 Rxa1 and Black is the exchange and a pawn up) 22…Bxc3 when White can choose from
    (i) 23.Nd3 Bxa1 24.Nxc5 dxc5 25.Qxa1 giving up the exchange, or
    (ii) 23.Rb1 Rxa2 24.Nf3 reducing White’s losses to a pawn but the resulting position is hardly appealing.
    [Source: Cork Examiner, 12th July 1973, page 13]
    [Click to play through the game]

    The other five game scores appearing in the Cork Examiner reports have been added to the IRLchess database:
    John Kennedy – David Blair, Round 3
    Padraig O Briain – Tony Doyle, Round 4
    Paul Henry – Padraig O Briain, Round 6
    Paul Cassidy – Paul Henry, Round 7
    Hugh MacGrillen – Tony Dennehy, Round 9

    From the reports in the Cork Examiner and Irish Times, virtually all the game results are available. The only difficulty with presenting a crosstable (as is often the case) is that the results of a small number of the adjourned games were not reported. However, the British Chess Magazine did give a full list of the players’ final standings. From all the available information, I believe it has been possible to construct a fully accurate crosstable of the Championship.

    Irish Championship, Cork, 7th-15th July 1973

    [Click for expanded version with links.]

    No Name         Total  1    2    3    4    5    6    7    8    9  
    1  H MacGrillen 7     17:W  4:W  9:W  2:W 11:W  3:L  5:D 12:W  6:D
    2  P Henry      6.5   16:W  3:W 10:W  1:L  5:D 11:W  4:L  7:W  9:W
    3  W Heidenfeld 6     15:W  2:L  6:D 12:W 10:W  1:W  9:D  4:D  5:D
    4  P Cassidy    6     14:D  1:L 18:W 15:W  7:D  9:W  2:W  3:D 10:D
    5  D Cox        5.5   11:W  9:L 13:W 10:D  2:D  7:W  1:D  6:D  3:D
    6  A Dennehy    5      7:D  8:D  3:D 16:D 12:D 10:D 11:W  5:D  1:D
    7  M Kennefick  5      6:D 13:D 12:D  8:W  4:D  5:L 10:W  2:L 16:W
    8  F McMahon    5     12:D  6:D 15:W  7:L  9:L 13:D 14:W 11:D 17:W
    9  A Doyle      4.5   18:W  5:W  1:L 11:L  8:W  4:L  3:D 15:W  2:L
    10 C Quigley    4.5   13:W 14:W  2:L  5:D  3:L  6:D  7:L 17:W  4:D
    11 P O Briain   4.5    5:L 17:W 14:W  9:W  1:L  2:L  6:L  8:D 18:W
    12 A Coldrick   4.5    8:D 18:D  7:D  3:L  6:D 15:W 16:W  5:  13:D
    13 M Littleton  4     10:L  7:D  5:L 14:W 16:D  8:D 17:D 18:D 12:D
    14 A Pinkerton  4      4:D 10:L 11:L 13:L 18:W 17:W  8:L 16:D 15:W
    15 A Cootes     3      3:L 16:W  8:L  4:L 17:W 12:L 18:W  9:L 14:L
    16 D Blair      3      2:L 15:L 17:W  6:D 13:D 18:D 12:L 14:D  7:L
    17 J Kennedy    1.5    1:L 11:L 16:L 18:W 15:L 14:L 13:D 10:L  8:L
    18 P Cafferky   1.5    9:L 12:D  4:L 17:L 14:L 16:D 15:L 13:D 11:L
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    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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