I come from a house full of chess players. We were not so rich and chess has provided a gateway to many later achievements. There were 9 kids, who all played chess. It was a perfect way for our mother to keep us indoors, and away from "trouble". And with 9 kids, you had a complete junior chess club meeting daily.
The explanations of the types of chess openings we played as a group might surprise you. But before I tell you that story, I might as well introduce the Delaney family members who played chess and say something about their chess style.
- is the real chess player of the family, a talented aggressive player. Irish champion in 1980. He played the Sveshnikov when it was barely discovered and had a great draw against Hort many years ago when Hort was at his prime. I know because Chessbase attributes the game to me (John) so I am not complaining. He continues to be a fine player and interesting analyst, with a solid insight into attacking plans. I do hope he returns to play.
- was always a good player and reached 1900 or so at age 16. He still enjoys the occasional social game but doesn't play club chess.
- was the only one of us who didn't really play all that much. She played in the under 19 Senior B back in the 1970s though and did OK.
- was our family chess organiser. Every clubs need a manager/leader! Very much the strategic manager/organiser, always looking for ways for his team to win! Stills plays well and is a sharp player. Perhaps around 1700. He has tremendous organising skills which are currently devoted to Irish boxing, so that is a clear loss to the chess world.
- Well, I gave up chess in 1990 but dawdled for a few years. Having won the Irish championship in 1982, 1986, 1987 and 1990 I felt it was all enough and there was little else to do. I played in Lucerne 1982, Thessoliniki 1984, Dubai 1986 and Novi Said 1990 Olympiads. I won a silver medal on Board 3 in the 1984 Thessoliniki Olympiad and got an IM norm. This is useful as it means I hold a double norm, which is still relevant. I took up chess again recently, and I am in the short period of adjusting to the new conditions. I think I will look for opportunities to get the final norm, as I only need that over 7 games. So, I am beginning to take chess seriously again and to enjoy that.
- my twin, has been ladies champion a number of times. Still active but probably more interested in the social side of chess than devoting herself to hours of study. She has represented Ireland at a lot of Olympiads and is a really good, thoughtful player. She has a penchant for the Botvinnik English. She brings a very intense level of concentration to chess. I think she is potentially still the best female player in Ireland. It would be interesting to hold a Women's Irish championship.
- got to around 1500 but was too busy training for Dublin GAA and so while he enjoys chess, he is based in Bilbao in Spain and provides English language training. Another Botvinnik English player! Too busy succeeding in many other aspects of life to devote too much time to chess.
- played in the Ladies Olympiads and around 1800 at her peak. Still an active player and very good as a chess coach and teacher. Yet another Botvinnik English player. I think she might play again soon as it would show her three boys and Aisling, her new baby, that Mam was a top chess player!
- is a good player but she only toyed with chess when young. She may well start playing now, and I want to push her to think about that. She was the baby of the Delaney house and we other kids used to complain that she only played because all the older chess players (the 1970s were a different era!) gave her sweets if she cried when she lost. It was certainly a different era and being aged 5 with long blond pig-tails and a dimply smile was a sure way to get a draw offer, and instill guilt in middle-aged male opponents.
It's a quick pen picture of the Delaneys and their chess playing. The Delaney flag is now held aloft by Killian (Paul's son) and Rory (Ann's son). I think they could try to hold it a bit higher! A few other Delaneys are en route to the chess scene. For example, my own kids like chess. It would be good if there was an active and enjoyable chess scene for juniors that would attract their and other kid's interest.
Above I said that I wanted to make a small point about the chess openings we Delaneys played as kids, and to some extent as adults. We completely avoid 1.e4 e5 and 1. d4 d5.
I could say that this was because of a deep appreciation of the fine qualities of the Indian openings, or because, after deep discussion, we concluded the open games led to rather difficult middlegames.
A different explanation is that we had all learnt chess from a book Paul took out from Raheny library. We entirely failed to notice that pawns took sideways not forwards.