The Irish Chess Union
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A chess board had been around the house since I was a very young child since my father had been given a beautiful wooden one as a leaving present from a work place. I cannot remember when he first taught me to play but I remember being very annoyed at losing to him whilst he watched TV over my head; I was about 11 or 12 at the time. A year later my family moved to Malahide which had a thriving junior chess scene and I got involved. I was a little intimidated by the predominance of males but my love of the game was enough to keep me going and I have lovely memories of walking down arm in arm with my father to the chess club. My wish to do well at chess was very closely associated with my relationship with him.
I played in my first international school girl event in 1978 in Gormanstown. Teams from England, Ireland, Wales, France and Ireland played. Subsequently I played in other Faber cups in Scotland, England and Wales. These events were great fun socially and gave me an opportunity to meet people from other countries. I also really enjoyed the chess and would come back from every event determined to improve by learning more about the opening! It has been a feature of my chess career to come back from every international event full of enthusiasm and good intentions!
In 1979 I was selected to represent Ireland in the under-16 team championship: I was the only girl in the whole tournament which I found rather daunting. Maybe if I had been older and more self assured I would have thought that great fun. Some of the people who played in that tournament I know now as adults and it is always fun sharing our different experience of the event. In 1981 I played in an international under-20 event in Belgium which I won. I still have a beautiful trophy of a queen and another one of a pawn which I received for a brilliancy prize. My memories of that event are very happy one because about ten of us from different countries hung around together socially and had a great time. I always play my best chess when I am enjoying myself socially!
Representing Ireland in the Olmypiads has been the highlight of my chess career. I have played every board: one, two, three and four. One of the highlights for the Irish womensí team was in Dubai 1986 (see picture right) when at one stage we were placed 8th and playing in the top team enclosure. Karpov and Kasparov both strove casually over and looked at our games. OK, they didnít stay long but they still looked! Mairead O'Siochru and I were the two left playing and we were like Cheshire cats relishing in the experience. I think our optimism and elation effected the capacity of our German opponents to concentrate on beating us and we both drew our games!
There are many stories and not all specifically related to chess which could be told about Olympiads but we have this unwritten rule that only chess results get reported on!
Chess means many things to me: firstly it was taught to me by my father who died when I was 15. It remains a precious reminder of my close relationship with him, his pride when I won a game and his concern when I lost. Parents beware: your children do know how you feel! I also have met many people through playing the game and some of the people I am or have been closest to in my life have been fellow chess players. It is such a wonderful game and I will always play although probably with a more and more social and less and less competitive approach as the years goes by. I already draw a remarkable amount of games!