Irish Veterans Championship

Úna O Boyle

To those of us under a certain age it may seem that the Irish Veterans Chess Championship operates under the radar of the usual chess tournaments across the country. My naivety is embarrassing! While much talk and adulation is currently directed at the progress and much credited adulation of our young folk it is now time to focus on our veterans. The Irish Veterans Chess Championship takes place in Drogheda on the weekend of September 13th-15th (more details) with support from the Irish Chess Union.

In 1999 the Irish Chess Championships took place in Drogheda, Co. Louth. Sur' it was only up the road from me so I competed in my first ever chess tournament. Andrew Thomson was a seasoned chess player now living in Drogheda, his rating just shy of the 2000 mark in his prime. Andrew "took the bull by the horns" and initiated the Veterans Championship as part of the Irish Championships in Drogheda and he himself became the first name on the now coveted trophy. Andrew was so gung-ho that his new venture would work that he used his skills in woodturning to create a unique trophy for the event. Andrew's family came from Scotland and moved to Wexford when Andrew was a young adult. He was given a present of a chess-board in Scotland but having no one to play with he began investigating on his own when he arrived in Wexford. Within a few years he had won the Wexford Championships.

All participants at the 1966 Havana Olympiad received hand carved wooden chess such as this one belonging to Paul Cassidy

Paul Cassidy is a name that appears on the winners list a number of times so I decided to make some enquiries and talk to the champion. Off I went on my bike to the suburbs of Dublin where I was greeted with a traditional welcome of tea, cake and a hug. Paul spoke proudly of chess stories and his family. His daughter Yvonne Cassidy is a celebrated author now living in New York. Paul represented Ireland twice at the Chess Olympiads. In 1972 he repre-sented Ireland in Skopja, Yugoslavia and in 1966 in Havana, Cuba, where Paul shared accommodation with our former chairperson Eamon Keogh. The stories of the antics in Havana may one day be published but not now!! While in Cuba both Eamon and Paul received quite an extraordinary hand-carved chess set (pictured right, full size) as one of the participants. In the early 60s Paul twice won the Universities Championships and he was runner-up to Heidenfeld in the 1968 Irish Championships. With 7 points in hand all that was needed was a win in the last round but it was not to be and Heidenfeld was crowned Irish Chess Champion.

Below are the winners off the Irish Veterans Championships to date. Paul is pictured to the right (full size) with the trophy that Andrew made.

Paul Cassidy, joint winner of the 2012 Irish Veterans Championship, with his trophy

I hope to see some of our past Olympiad players compete in Drogheda this year, the Centenary of the Irish Chess Union. There is no doubt that Andrew Thompson's initiative in 1999 will grow over the years and I would encourage all of our over 60s to come to Drogheda on September 13th-15th to challenge for the Veterans title.

Created 2013-08-29 ◦ Last updated 2014-09-22 ◦ Editor MO

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