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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D. Dunne-N. Short, Glorney Cup 1977

In 1977 the Glorney Cup was held in Ireland (Gormanston College), and six teams competed, including the Netherlands and France. The English team included Nigel Short, Nigel Davies, Glenn Flear, Daniel King, and William Watson—and they didn’t even win. (See summary results.)

Here’s a game from the event that appears in no databases, featuring future Irish champion David Dunne against a 12-year-old Nigel Short. The source is J. J. Walsh, whose records had an undated scoresheet in his writing.

Dunne-Short, Glorney Cup 1977
David Dunne-Nigel Short, Glorney Cup 1977

The opening was a French Winawer with 7. a4. At various times this has been thought to be the best move, occasionally being awarded a ‘!’. It’s a little hard to see why: I’ve always found Black comfortable enough. The critical stage of the game starts at the diagrammed position. The continuation was 18. a5 fxe5 19. Nxe5 Nxe5 20. dxe5 g5 21. Rb2 g4 22. Bd6? Nxd6 23. exd6 Qxd6 and White was lost. Even without giving up the pawn White was in trouble, with no prospects on the Q-side and a K-side attack looming.

Where to improve? Komodo 9.3 suggests the key moment was at move 20, where 20. Qxe5! Qxe5 21. dxe5 would still have been roughly equal. Makes sense, I suppose: exchanging queens eases the sting of Black’s attack, and incidentally opens up the square c5 to White’s bishop.

[Click to replay the full game.]

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Glorney Cup 2016

The Glorney Cup 2016 has concluded with a victory for the Irish team (Tom O’Gorman, Henry Li, Luke Scott, Ross Beatty, Scott Mulligan), retaining the trophy from last year, and finishing clear first for the first time since Cardiff 1958 (when England did not send a team). Congratulations on an historic achievement!

All Irish games have been added to the games archive here. As the tournament was held in Daventry, England, the other games are not included in the archive, but here is the full pgn file for the event.

Update, July 24, 2016: the Irish games from the Gilbert Cup have also been uploaded. Once again, this only includes games involving Irish players, but here is the full pgn file for the event.

Update, August 1, 2016: only one match in each round of the Robinson Cup appeared on live boards, and the Irish team featured in only one of the available matches. All 6 available Irish games have now been added to the archive here. In all, 24 games from the event are available, compiled into this pgn file. No live boards were available for the Stokes Cup.

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Joe Ryan achieves final IM norm

Congratulations to Joe Ryan who has achieved his third and final IM norm at the 4th Montcada IM Tournament near Barcelona, June 25 to July 3.

Many thanks to Daire McMahon and Martin Crichton for supplying the news; so far there’s nothing on the ICU website.

As a non-Spanish FM living in Barcelona he naturally has had many opportunities to participate in IM norm events there. He has gone close to a norm before. But more recently he seems to have hit a run of bad form and discouraging results, with corresponding fall in rating. At 2149, he was the lowest-rated player in the event.

As far as I know, he has never reached 2400 on any list, so that is the last remaining obstacle to the IM title. According to the link above, he gains 79 from this event alone.

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Irish championship 2016

The Irish championship runs from July 2 to July 10 at U.C.D. (Student Union building in Belfield).

Already the tournament is causing a great deal of discussion, though unfortunately for all the wrong reasons: this year almost all players who would normally be considered contenders have chosen to sit out, with the result that there are only two players rated over 2300 in the event, and none between 2200 and 2300. And even apart from this the field is quite small for a tournament in Dublin at 16: just two years ago there were 30 at Trinity for the 2014 championship.

A preliminary tournament report has been posted here and will be updated round by round. After the third round Stephen Jessel leads on 3/3, a full point ahead of a group of 7 players on 2/3, including Colm Daly.

Update, July 6, 2016: Round 4 results and games have been added. Stephen Jessel was held to a draw by Gerard O’Connell in the last game to finish. (So Paddy Kennedy’s record of the only 100% performance in an Irish championship will stand for yet another year.) In the second-last game to finish Colm Daly beat Gerry MacElligott; a missed opportunity for Gerry as he was fine even half a dozen moves from the end. Next round: Daly-Jessel, which could decide the entire championship.

Update, July 7, 2016: Rounds 5 and 6 have been added. In round 5 Colm Daly had White against Stephen Jessel on the top board, in the most crucial game of the event. Daly was pressing for a long while in a blocked position, well past the first time control, but eventually slipped near move 60. Both players were down to their last minute and living on the 30-second increment but Jessel duly converted. It’s still not over as Jessel has a lead of only ½ over Killian Delaney, and they have already played each other.

Update, July 8, 2016: Stephen Jessel did not have it all his own way against Anthony Fox, who was doing fine until he allowed his bishop to be trapped, but it ended as yet another win for the tournament leader. On board 2, Killian Delaney had Black against Colm Daly and seemed to have had marginally the better of it for a long time; but late on in a drawn ending he blundered and lost. So Jessel is 1&frac; points clear of the field and has played all his rivals. With White tomorrow against Paul O’Neill, a win will clinch the title.

Update, July 10, 2016: Ça y est … Stephen Jessel recorded a convincing victory with 8½/9, equalling the Irish championship 9-round record, and more importantly becoming Irish champion for the first time. Congratulations on a well-deserved victory!

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Brian Tomson, series helpmate in 26

We’ve written previously here about the Irish player and problemist Brian Tomson. He played in the Glorney Cup, Armstrong Cup (for T.C.D.), finished equal 4th in the Irish championship in 1965, and represented Ireland in the Student Olympiad in 1967, before emigrating to Australia in 1968. He died in Newcastle, Australia in July 20, 1986, thirty years ago today.

Here is another of his problems:

Tomson, Series helpmate in 26
Series helpmate in 26 (Tomson, 1981)

For those unfamiliar with this problem type, it’s a helpmate, so White and Black are working together to help White mate Black. It’s also a “series” problem: Black will play 26 consecutive moves, with White’s pieces remaining static. All Black moves must be legal, and all but the last must leave a position where Black could legally move next, i.e., there can be no checks in Black’s first 25 moves. Then White plays one move to checkmate Black.

The length of the solution may make the problem seem daunting, but in fact Black has so few choices that it’s quite accessible. Answer in a few days.

[Update, June 25, 2016: see comment for solution.]

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5 years of IRLchess

Today marks the fifth anniversary of IRLchess. The very first post was a short one, to whet the appetite, before moving to more substantial topics. Many thanks in all this to my co-author David McAlister, who has contributed many articles over these years.

Many thanks also to all readers—I hope you’ve enjoyed what you’ve read—and to all those who have contributed comments, information, photographs and games.

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A famous ending—epilogue

I had never seen the original article in “the Irish chess magazine” that Golz and Keres quoted, but now it has been supplied by David McAlister, for which many thanks. The article appeared in Chess in Ireland, September 1959, p. 7. The author isn’t listed, but J. J. is listed as the general editor of the magazine, so it’s reasonable to assume he wrote this article.

Respect the endgame (B. O'Sullivan-Walsh, Leinster Championship 1952)
From Chess in Ireland, September 1959, p. 7

The content of the article came as a surprise to me. I had always assumed from the description in Chess Combination as a Fine Art that the analysis in the original source was faulty, and that the solution given by Golz and Keres corrected the errors. That’s not stated explicitly, perhaps, but I had always read it as implied.

But as we see from the full text above, the analysis given by Golz and Keres was in fact taken entirely from the original article by J. J. Walsh. Their only further reference to the original comes at the end of their solution (pp. 236-7):

“This instructive endgame shows the uselessness of the knight in a defensive role!,” comments Chess in Ireland. Yes, but at the same time its skilful application in attack!

It’s not explicitly claimed that the original missed both stalemate and improvement, but that would be consistent with what is quoted.

There is one other point that struck me as unusual. The question as posed by Golz and Keres (see clipping two posts back) comments that the endgame “is particularly interesting because of the number of mistakes it contains”. But according to their own solution, there were two errors (1. … Ne4+? and White’s resignation). Tablebases have shown the modern reader that multiple errors are commonplace even at the very highest levels, but even without this information, would a pair of errors really seem so unusual? It seems a rather sour comment to make.

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A famous ending—III

J. J. Walsh has scorebooks covering all of his games, going back to the late 1940’s, and in the collection is included the full score of the game from the last two posts. White was Barney O’Sullivan, and the event was the Leinster Championship.

Most of the game was unremarkable: O’Sullivan tamely lost a pawn in the opening, and everything simplified quickly to a knight ending. It could have been a routine win, but instead turned into something much more interesting right at the end. Winding back a few moves from the widely publicised ending, the position below was reached after White’s 60th move.

B. O'Sullivan-Walsh, leinster Championship 1952, after 60w
B. O’Sullivan-Walsh, Leinster Championship 1952
1. … ?

This ending is within range of the 7-man Lomonosov tablebases (subscription required), which show that Black has the unique winning move 1. … Nb4!!.

With the various solutions to the puzzle given in the earlier posts to hand, the reason is clear enough: from either b4 or c5 the knight is poised to come to d3, but from b4 the knight additionally covers d5, cutting out the drawing line given by van Perlo: after 2. Nf5+ Kxh3 3. Kf2 Kg4 4. Ne3+ Kf4 White has no useful checks.

One exclamation mark or two? Without the benefit of the solution to the later puzzle, it seems an exceptionally difficult puzzle, so the double exclamation seems justified.

[Click to reply the full game.]

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