Missed opportunity

The very welcome news that the ICU is offering two norm events in Tralee in April brought back memories of other recent norm events and opportunities. One such event was the City of Dublin IM Norm Tournament 2011. No norms were achieved; Stephen Brady finished on 6/9, ½ point short of recording his first IM norm.

Stephen had one missed opportunity, late in the event, that I have never seen pointed out. In his game in the penultimate round, as Black against the Scottish IM Stephen Burns-Mannion, the following position was reached after White’s 81. Bc6-b5.

Burns-Mannion - Brady, City of Dublin IM Norm Tournament 2011
Burns-Mannion – Brady
City of Dublin IM Norm 2011

Stephen now played 81… Kc3?, after which the Lomonosov tablebases show that there is no win; the game dragged on to move 112 before the draw was agreed.

But in the diagrammed position, there was a momentary opportunity for a knockout blow. After 81… Nd5! (and if 82. Ba6 Nc7 etc.), Black wins a second pawn or liquidates into an easily won pawn ending. White’s best appears to be 82. Kf1, but after 82… Ne3+! it’s hopeless, e.g., 83. Ke2 Nxc4 84. Be8 g2! 85. Kf2 Ne3 and White can resign.

[Click to replay the full game.]

[Update, January 27, 2017: It later occurred to me that the ‘etc.’ above was too casual: Black is indeed winning but it’s not a simple matter of being two pawns up, since the g-pawn will soon drop. After 81… Nd5! 82. Ba6 Nc7, if we placed the white king on g1 it would be a draw, whereas on e1 White is lost. The difference? On e1 White will be one tempo short of being able to stop the b-pawn. So: 83. Bc8 Kxc4 84. Kf1 (84. Bd7 Nd5) 84… b5 85. Kg2 b4 86. Kxg3 b3 87. Kf3 Kd3! (the only move to win; 87… b3? 88. Ke2 b2 89. Bf5 Kc3 90. Kd1; 87… Kc3? 88. Ke2 Kc2 89. Bf5+ Kc1 90. Kd3 b2 91. Kc3) 88. Bf5+ Kd2 89. Ke4 Nb5 90. Kd5 Na3 91. Kc5 b2 92. Kb4 Nc2+. In the game, once the white king got to g1 it was never going to be possible to set up the same opportunity.]

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Opportunity and chance, contd.

From the position in the last post, after 1…. Qg3+!! 2. Kh1, Black could have won by 2… e3!!.

The immediate threat, which is enough to account for White’s tries 3. Be2 and 3. Ra3, is 3… Qh3+ 4. Kg1 Rxf2 5. Rxf2 exf2 mate. On the other hand 3. f3 is met by 3… Qh3+ 4. Kg1 Rxg4+! 5. fxg4 Rxf1 mate.

The toughest defence is 3. Ra7 (threatening mate), when Black wins via 3… Qh3+ 4. Kg1 exf2+ 5. Rxf2 Qg3+! 6. Rg2 (6. Kh1 Qh4+) 6… Rf1 mate.

[Click to replay.]

For the chess history questions, the event was the Irish Open Tournament 1964. This was held in conjunction with the Irish championship, at Newman House, St. Stephen’s Green, from July 11-18 (or -19), 1964. Despite the name, therefore, it seems much closer to a modern Irish championship weekender than to other Irish Opens.

The event resulted in a resounding victory for R. H. W. Polly (Lincolnshire) on 7½/8. Equal second, on 6/8, were the contestants in this game, Eamon Keogh and Keith M. Oliff (Essex), BCF Under 18 champion in 1959.

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Opportunity and chance

From Chess Combination as a Fine Art (Pitman, 1976) by Golz and Keres, which we’ve mentioned here before, another Irish game and a puzzle:

Oliff-Keogh, Dublin 1964
Oliff-Keogh, Dublin 1964

We’ll take up the story as Golz and Keres present it:

“Black, who had for some time been playing a losing game with one piece down was suddenly presented by “chance” with a trump card 1… Qg3+!! which naturally shattered White’s dreams of victory; however he saw that 2. fxg3? leads to mate by 2… Rxf1+ 3. Kg2 R8f2+ 4. Kh3 Rh1 mate. (Here his piece superiority was a nuisance as it hindered the collaboration of his rooks!) The only move left to him was 2. Kh1 and as he faced his difficulties White offered up a prayer to heaven that his opponent would be content with the small mercy of perpetual check (2… Qh3+ 3. Kg1 Qg3+! etc.). His prayer was heard and the game ended in a draw, Black being very glad to get off so easily.

From the psychological point of view this was understandable but in fact Black could have won (after 1… Qg3+ 2. Kg1)!


To this purely chess puzzle, let’s add a chess history one: who was White in this game, and what was the event?

Answers in a few days.

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Wilkes-Doyle, EU/M/633 corr 1983

And here is one more game from the same event as for the last two posts; thanks again to Tony for supplying notes.

Wilkes-Doyle, EU/M/633 corr 1983Günter W. Wilkes (GER) — Tony Doyle
EU/M/633 ICCF corr 1983

1. e4 e5 2. f4 exf4 3. Nf3 d5 4. exd5 Nf6 5. Bb5+ c6 6. dxc6 Nxc6 7. d4 Bd6
8. O-O O-O 9. Nbd2 Bg4 10. Nc4 Bc7 11. c3


11… Qd5 12. Qa4?
12. Bxc6!
12… Bxf3 13. Rxf3 Nxd4! 14. cxd4 a6 -+
White is lost and the rest is easy to understand.
15. Ne3 Qxb5 16. Qc2 fxe3 17. Qxc7 Nd5 18. Qg3 f5 19. b3 Qd3 20. Ba3 Qxd4 21. Re1 f4 22. Qh4 Rf6

[Click to replay the full game.]

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Doyle-Bodisko, EU/M/633 corr 1983

Here is another game from the event mentioned in the last post; thanks again to Tony Doyle for providing notes:

Tony Doyle — Alexanadr Petrovich Bodisko (USSR)
EU/M/633 ICCF corr 1983

Doyle-Bodisko, EU/M/633 corr 19831. Nf3 d5 2. g3 Nf6 3. Bg2 Bg4 4. c4 c6 5. O-O e6 6. b3 Nbd7 7. Bb2 dxc4 8. bxc4 Qa5 9. d4 Qa6
This manoeuvre with the queen is dubious.
10. Nbd2 Rd8 11. e4 Nb6 12. Qb3 Na4 13. Rab1 Bxf3 14. Bxf3 (diagram)

14… e5?
14… Nxb2.
15. Ba1!
This sly retreat gives White a clear advantage.
15… b6 16. dxe5 Nd7?
Black should interpose 16… Nc5 17. Qc2 Nfd7 but White’s extra pawn and two powerful bishops must prevail in the long run. Now Black’s position collapses quickly.
17. e6 fxe6 18. Bh5+ Ke7 19. Qf3 Nf6 20. Rbd1 Nc5 21. Nb3 Rxd1 22. Rxd1 Qxc4 23. Bxf6+ gxf6 24. Nd4 Qa4 25. e5

[Click to replay the full game.]

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Voss-Doyle, EU/M/633 corr 1983

My playing career, roughly 1974-1985, overlapped significantly with the over-the-board portion of Tony Doyle’s, 1970-1983, when he was one of the top players in the country. He was Irish champion in 1974, and played in three Olympiads, among many other distinctions.

But many readers, even those who knew him well as an over-the-board player, will be unfamiliar with his record in correspondence chess. He won a World Championship semi-final (1985-1995) without losing a game, and scored +3 in the later World championship 3/4 final (1989-1996), finishing in 7th place, 1 point short of a GM norm. He became a Correspondence Chess IM in 1991 and was one of the initial awardees of the Correspondence Chess Senior International Master (CC-SIM: between IM and GM) title when it was created in 1999.

Here, with Tony’s notes, for which many thanks, is a game from his early CC career, from an event in which he recorded his first CC-IM norm.

Günter Voß (GER) — Tony Doyle
EU/M/633 ICCF corr 1983

Voss-Doyle, EU/M/633 ICCF corr19831. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. d4 exd4 6. O-O Be7 7. Re1 b5 8. e5 Nxe5 9. Rxe5 d6 10. Re1
10. Rxe7+ winning material is not a good idea—after 10… Qxe7 11. Bb3 c5 White is facing an avalanche of pawns.
10… bxa4 11. Bg5
Better is 11. Nxd4=.
11… O-O 12. Qe2 h6 13. Bh4 g5 14. Qxe7 Qxe7 15. Rxe7 Nd5 16. Re4 c5! (diagram)
If now 17. Bg3 then 17… f5 and … f4.
17. Nxg5 hxg5 18. Bxg5 Bf5 19. Re2 Rfb8 20. b3 axb3 21. axb3 d3 22. cxd3 Bxd3 23. Re1 Rxb3
Black is winning and the rest of the game is a matter of technique.
24. Nd2 Rb4 25. f3 f6 26. Bh6 Kh7 27. Be3 f5 28. Ra3 Bb5 29. Bf2 Rb2 30. Nf1 f4 31. g4 Nb4 32. Rd1 Re8

[Click to replay the full game.]

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C.C., R.I.P.

I switched from O.T.B. to C.C. in 1983 and played this wonderfully rewarding form of chess until 1992, which was just before the introduction of computer programs which radically altered the nature of the game. These “engines” have eliminated all tactical errors and oversights and have raised the level of C.C. enormously. However there is a huge problem here which can be seen by the posing of one simple question. Who (or what) found the moves which constitute the game that was played? It is a fundamental question of identity and the “debate” about computers in C.C. is a phoney debate—the beautiful game of correspondence chess is dead. None of the proposed solutions are even remotely convincing—one cannot go back.                                                                                                                                             The game below was played without computer assistance but hopefully is not too shabby despite that. It was John Gibson who persuaded me to take up C.C. and no good deed goes unpunished. This game decided the 1983 Irish C.C. Championships.

Tony Doyle — John Gibson
Irish Correspondence Championship 1983

Doyle-Gibson, Irish Correspondence Championship 19831. d4 g6 2. c4 Bg7 3. Nc3 d6 4. g3 Nd7 5. Bg2 e5 6. Nf3 Ne7 7. dxe5 dxe5 8. O-O O-O 9. Qc2 h6 10. Rd1 f5 11. Be3 c6 12. Rd6 (diagram)
A nuisance or a target for Black?
12… e4
With the idea that White cannot play 13. Nd4 because of 13… Qc7, trapping the rook.
13. Nd4 Qc7 14. c5! Nf6
14… Nxc5 15. Ncb5 cxb5 16. Nxb5 Qa5 17. Qxc5 with a big advantage. The original notes to the game give 17. Qc4+, which can be met by 17… Be6! If now 17… Bxb2, then 18. Rb1 Qxa2 19. Rxb2! (19. Qc2) 19… Qxb2 (19… Qa1+ 20. Bc1) 20. Bd4.
15. Bf4 Qa5 16. Nb3 Qa6 17. f3 exf3 18. exf3 Qc4
A forced regrouping of the Queen but it is probably already too late.
19. Re1 Qf7 20. Be5 Re8 21. f4 g5 22. fxg5 hxg5 23. Qd2 Ng6 24. Bxf6 Rxe1+ 25. Qxe1 Bxf6 26. Nd5! Bxb2 27. Rxg6+ Kf8 28. Rd6 cxd5 29. Rd8+ Kg7 30. Bxd5 Qc7 31. Qe8 Bf6 32. Qg8+

[Click to replay the full game.]

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Michael V. O’Nolan

The last post mentioned M. O’Nolan, saying that he was very probably a brother of Brian O’Nolan. Indeed the name is very uncommon in all of Ireland, let alone in Blackrock. And Brian O’Nolan had many brothers: he was from a family of twelve children.

It struck me later that Brian O’Nolan was born in 1911, and I gather he was one of the older children; given that there were far fewer young players in that era than there are now, perhaps M. O’Nolan was not a brother but Brian O’Nolan’s father?

And indeed that turns out to be the case. Michael Victor O’Nolan was a Revenue Commissioner, and the family lived at 4 Avoca Terrace, Blackrock.

From his obituary in the Evening Herald, September 25, 1937:

Publication of the second number of the new monthly, “Irish Chess”, has been overshadowed by the regretted demise of its principal patron, Mr. M. V. O’Nolan, Commissioner of Revenue and Customs, the result of a sudden seizure on July 29. Greatly respected, apart from his high position, he was in manner kindly and unobtrusive. He played a first-class game of chess, and supported both Blackrock and Dublin clubs, the former possessing prior claims on his service for match play.

He was a member of the Blackrock team that won the Armstrong Cup in 1935-36, bridging a 33-year gap to the previous Blackrock victory and also breaking the longstanding Dublin & Sackville monopoly on the cup. He played on various boards from 4 to 8, with overall record either +4 = 1 -3 or +5 =1 -2 (records are contradictory for one match), with one adjournment and one walkover.

A picture of the winning team appeared in the Irish Independent. Michael O’Nolan is seated in front, at left:

Blackrock, Armstrong Cup champions, 193536

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N. McCluskey-M. O’Nolan, Armstrong Cup 1932-33

The Armstrong Cup has received excellent coverage in the papers down the years, and for many seasons we even have most match scorecards. However actual games from long-ago seasons are still quite rare and so it’s difficult to judge the standard and the style of play.

Archives for the Evening Herald up to 1949 have recently been made available on-line, and there is much new material. Many of the games given are from Irish Correspondence Championships, but there’s the occasional over-the-board game, as well as pictures of players and biographical summaries.

In 1933-34, four teams entered: Dublin (holders), Sackville, Blackrock, and Colmcille. Matches were over eight boards, each team played each other home and away, and only match results counted. Dublin won again, by a wide margin.

McCluskey-O'Nolan, Armstrong Cup 1933-34The diagram at right is from a Colmcille v. Blackrock match. White was Nicholas McCluskey, c. 1873-1956; Black was M. O’Nolan, very probably one of the brothers of Brian O’Nolan, a.k.a. Flann O’Brien, a.k.a. Myles na gCopaleen [but see following post (August 23, 2016)]. This was one of the few matches that season for which a scorecard does not seem to be available, unfortunately, but both players played for middle boards, somewhere between 3 and 6.

Black got into severe difficulties in the opening and had ongoing problems achieving any reasonable development and coordination. In the diagram White has just played 19. a4 and there followed 19. … bxa4? (but Black was probably lost anyway) 20. Bxa4+ b5 21. Bxb5+ axb5 22. Rxa8+ Bxa8 23. Rc8+ and 24. Rxa8 and White soon won.

[Click to replay the full game.]

[Update, August 21, 2016: The Evening Herald articles gave this as ‘played in an Armstrong Cup match’, without specifying that it was from the ongoing season. I’ve now found references to both Colmcille-Blackrock matches from 1933-34, and neither lists McCluskey as a winner. But he did win versus M. O’Nolan the previous season. It’s most likely that the game is from that match. I have updated this post and the playable game accordingly.]

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Daly-O’Connor, Irish championship qualifier 1986

In 1986 it was decided to make the Irish championship a 10-player invitational all-play-all. There was also a separate qualifying tournament that decided at least some of the places (one?). In the last round Colm Daly (White) and Jonathan O’Connor met, with Jonathan on 4½/5; I’m not sure what Colm’s score was.

Daly-O'Connor, Irish championship qualifier 1986
Daly-O’Connor, Irish championship qualifier 1986 (6)
56. ?

It was an odd game. Jonathan gave away an exchange for no particular reason (19 … Qf6?) and was dead lost. In the diagrammed position, White, to move, can finish off nicely via 56. Nxf6! Bxf6 57. h5, e.g., 57. … Be7 58. hxg6 (and if 58. … Nh6, 59. Qxf7+! is quickest). Instead Colm blundered with 56. h5?, and after 56. … Ng5 57. h6+ Kh8 compounded the error with 58. Qg3? Nxe6, losing. Instead 58. Bxg8! would have kept him in the game, e.g., 58. … Nxf3+ 59. Rxf3, when 59. … Kxg8 60. Nxf6+ is about equal. Thus it was that Jonathan qualified for the 1986 championship proper.

[Click to replay the full game.]

(The source is a collection of almost four hundred of Jonathan’s games from 1978 to 1996 that he gave me some considerable time ago, for which many thanks.)

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