Kilkenny Chess Club - Carlsen & Kasparov

John Bradley

This article part of the series: History of Kilkenny Chess Club - 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6


Blue and white. A very light blue. Socks. The legs with short hairs were clearly those of a young man. Sandals. Antalya-Kemer 2007. Sitting at the end of a table of six, I was focused, absorbed in my game. Oslo. The position seemed to be lost. The legs stayed there for so long that I eventually looked up. They belonged to a golden-haired young man, all of 16, Magnus Carlsen. He did not move. He kept looking at the board. Why, I regretted to myself, had he not come five moves earlier when my position was good? He kept looking. Why? To be honest, although I had played myself into the position, I did not understand it. He just stood there. And stood and stood. I thought I was lost. Then it occurred to me it was one of those occasions of 'White to move and win'. He could see something, which is why he remained looking, something I did not see. Then it hits you. It was a rook move. Once I played it he left. It saved the game. It obtained a draw, a draw that meant we finished ahead of a great English team.

Later in the analysis room he sat beside Mark Heidenfeld and went through his game in detail.

Later again, on his way back to the hotel room, he was diverted into playing pool with the members of Rathmines CC. He lost.

He maintains a blog. The literature on him is enormous. He is the sixteenth world champion, a fashion model, a celebrity welcome on every TV channel in the world.

More, being both ordinary (his interest in heraldry, for instance) and extraordinary, he is the embodiment of the aspirations of humanity.

But, for me, what I remember are his socks.


On Saturday 29 March 2014 I shook the hand of God.


Four Kilkenny CC players were present, John Courtney, Eamon Keogh, Mark Quinn and myself together with about 100 others.

Garry Kasparov was in town, not to play but to meet with delegates of the Four Nations as part of his bid for the presidency of FIDE.

I arrived early. Unusual for me but using public transport you have to go when it goes. It keeps you to time. It was hard to know what part of O'Donohue's, Merrion Row, in which to sit, upstairs or downstairs. The bar was on the ground floor. My back was aching. I propped myself up against a divider that was set at right angles to the counter. I ordered a glass of wine.


We had been talking about him a week before en route to an Armstrong match in Kildare. 'Who was the greatest Irish chess player?' Alexander McDonnell (d.1835) I said without even having to think.

'No, no', I was corrected, 'of the present'. Mark Quinn was sitting in front of me. Of course he is the greatest Irish player of modern times. I said this. He laughed and with typical modesty, denied it. I thought of Brian Kelly, with whom I have played from dusk until dawn on more than one occasion. I thought of Baburin (surely the greatest). Nostalgia hits you or is it perspective? I thought of Kernan, the greatest player of my generation. I said Kernan.

'No, there was one better' was the response. 'Excluding Baburin'. A former Irish champion was talking.

I listened. 'David Dunne', he said.

Carlsen & Kasparov

I had played David Dunne on several occasions in the 1970s and 80s. I always lost. He deprived me of the Leinster Intermediate Championship of 1974. Second place was rewarded by £10. I bought two books, both rare. I still have them. David, who played for Rathmines CC, went on to come first at Cavan (1978), Cork (1979), Dublin (1979, 1981, 1082, 1984, 1987, 1988) and Kilkenny (1984). He shared the Irish championship with Eamon Keogh in 1979, with Philip Short in 1981 and won it outright in 1983.

I had not seen him in over twenty years. He had not aged a day. The hair was shorter, the ringlets were gone. In the old days, when he twilled his fingers into his hair you knew you were lost. He ordered a tea or perhaps a coffee. 'John Bradley, Kilkenny', I said. He clearly did not recognise me. We rarely remember the people we win against. I reminded him of 1974. He was polite. 'I play bridge nowadays ... I played him, you know'. Who? 'Kasparov, in the World Junior Championship of 1976 at Groningen. I played through the game yesterday, a Sicilian, it was fairly level. In the endgame he had only one move to save the position [40 ...Rc3, I presume]. He found it'. Tim Harding appeared. I congratulated him on his most recent chess book *Eminent Victorian chess-players*, which contains an excellent chapter on Captain Evans, noting his connection with Sir John Blunden. Tim and David talked about the old times. There were two Belfast players, one of whom I think was Mark Newman, Fisherwick, that great club, anyway. John Courtney came along, recently accepted to study medicine in London. I suppose Kilkenny will lose him as we have lost Ryan Rhys Griffiths to the University of London. But, on reflection, they are part of a tradition. After all, it was in London that Sir John Blunden honed his chess skills before returning to Kilkenny. 'John', I said, 'say hello to David Dunne, a former Irish champion and winner of the Kilkenny Tournament'. They shook hands.

The crowd built up

About 2.45 the doors opened. There was a hush, yes, an audible hush, followed by a round of applause as the great man entered, smiling, arm raised, used to such occasions. The trajectory brought him past me. I stretched out my hand. 'Welcome to Ireland', I said. He shook it. 'Here is a man who has played you'. He stopped, turned round, reached out his hand. 'Doan', he said, 'D U N N, Bishop B5 check, I remember'. 'You caught me with a rook move in the ending'. 'I do not remember that', he said, before the crowd, as in a wave moved him on.

David was puzzled. Did Kasparov actually remember the game? David is probably the only Irish player to have faced him one-to-one over the board. Had Kasparov looked up a database before coming or did he actually remember? If he had looked up the database he would have got the spelling of David's name right. Was his memory so powerful?

Introductions. Photographs. More photographs. Autographs.

After about half-an-hour, a sense of history overcame me. I grabbed David by the arm. 'Come on', I said, knowing that a photo of the thirteenth world champion and his Iris opponent would be significant forever. I cut through the crowd. 'Perhaps we might have a photo of you with David Dunne?' 'Of course'. John Courtney took the photo ... on a friend's phone...

Kasparov looked into my eyes and shook my hand. 'You should be a president', he said.

Created 2014-05-21 ◦ Last updated 2014-07-23 ◦ Editor UOB

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