The annual Chess pilgrimage to Kilkenny in November is normally a treat for both the Irish and visitors alike, the welcome extended by Jack Lowry and his team is legendary. However, the 2016 version of this famous tournament was a record breaking event, no less that 9 Grandmasters took part!
Much as we'd like to have played the event in such a beautiful venue as the glorious Kilkenny Castle ( pictured left ), we couldn't, I'm afraid. However, both Butler House for the Masters and Major events and the Club House Hotel for the James Mason and Challengers were both lovely venues, appreciated by both the players and parents alike.
A total of over 220 players participated in the 4 events from as far away as the US and Asia, with quite a few joining us from both France and Holland. There were a lot of first time visitors too for whom the unusual time control ( from an International point of view ) took a bit of getting used to. We play a one period time control, 1:30 per player, with a 15 second increment from move 1. This relatively short time control allows the Irish Chess scene to have weekend events that have 6 rounds ( 3 on the Saturday ) as opposed to the more popular 5 round weekenders in the rest of Europe.
Top seed and red hot favorite to win the title was Mickey Adams, playing his 4th Kilkenny ( I think ). But the other GMs in attendance were certainly going to have their say, they included many former Kilkenny masters champions, Gawain Jones, Mark Hebden, Alexander Baburin, Bogdan Lalic and Tony Kosten. Other GMs vying for their first Kilkenny title included Sebastien Maze, Matthiueu Cornette, Fabien Libiszewski, all from France, could this be considered the French attack?
Sebastien Maze ( pictured right ) spearheading the "French Attack" at Kilkenny 2016 is obviously dressed for the occasion ! This photo was taken just before his round 2 game against Mark Quinn.
Former winners also included IMs Sam Collins and Mark Quinn so the lineup was truly staggering for a weekend Chess event. The first round pitted the top rated 15 players against the bottom 15 so our regular Dutch visitor, Peewee Van Voorthuijsen was up against Mickey Adams while Paul Wallace faced Gawain Jones. John Anderson regularly visits Kilkenny from England and this reward for doing this again this year was a round 1 games against Sabestien Maze !
There were a few "upsets" in round 1, though none on the first 3 boards. Jos Teeuwen, one of our Dutch visitors ( 2109 ) held GM Fabian Libiszewski to a draw on board 5 while on board 6, our own 14 year old Henry Li achieved his second GM scalp this month by beating the defending champion, Mark Hebden!
On board 11, Bartlomiej Cichonski ( 1968 ) also beat a far higher rated seed by getting the better of FM David Fitzsimons ( 2329 ). The rest of the seeds came through unscathed but as early as the second round we got our first all GM clash. It didn't happen on board 1 though, Sam Collins got the privilege of facing Mickey Adams with the black pieces with a fairly predicable result to the game, while Bogdan Lalic vs Gawain Jones was the all GM clash on board 2. Gawain played a typically aggressive KID system and the following wild game ensued. I won't spoil the fun for you by telling you the result, it's well worth playing through.
The round 3 draw saw all GM clashes on all 3 live boards, here was the draw;
|1||Matthieu Cornette 2599||2||Michael Adams 2754||2|
|2||Alexander Baburin 2481||2||Sebastien Maze 2617||2|
|3||Tony Kosten 2461||1.5||Bogdan Lalic 2438||2|
Mickey Adams ( pictured left ), shown here at the beginning of his smooth win over Ireland's own Sam Collins, had an altogether tougher round 3 prospect, black against the reigning French Champion, Matthieu Cornette. Interesting enough, Mickey is the current British Chess Champion, so we had a clash of the national Champions, which ended in a relatively peaceful draw. Tony Kosten, maybe unwisely, went into a theoretical line of the English against a well booked up Bogdan and a draw was also recorded in this game. However, Sebastien made a path for himself to a clear lead by beating Alex in the following encounter
The top 3 boards were all drawn in round 4 but they were certainly not all quiet draws. There was no shortage of excitement on board 2 where Matthieu Cornette pushed hard for the result he wanted in the following exciting clash.
Here was the 5th round draw for the live boards in the Masters;
|1||Matthieu Cornette 2599||3||Sebastien Maze 2617||3.5|
|2||Michael Adams 2754||3||Bogdan Lalic 2438||3|
|3||Tony Kosten 2461||3||Fabien Libiszewski 2543||3|
This round began at 9:00am, a time that didn't quite suit all the players, it must be said! At 9:15am, there were still a lot of empty seats, however, by 9:30am or so, they were all filled.
The French have always been known for their resourcefulness, and the players on board 1 this morning were a perfect example of this. I simply don't know how they managed to get a pint at 10:00am on a Sunday morning in Kilkenny but here they are, pictured left, enjoying a drink during their round 5 clash.
Board 3 ended in a short, peaceful draw but the certainly wasn't the case for boards 1 and 2. On board 2, I think Mickey went a bit astray in the opening to allow Bogdan to go a pawn up, however, he later took more control of the position to eventually go a pwn up. However, with much reduced material, this wasn't enough to claim the full point in this game.
However, beyond a doubt, the game of this round was the French clash on board 1, as Sebastien proved that even a late alarm call wasn't going to deny him moving to 4.5 / 5, to view this game, please click here.
Other results from this round included Alex Baburin beating Mark Quinn, Gawain Jones beating Sam Collins, Mark Hebden beating Scott Mulligan and Colm Daly beating Tim Wall.
The final round top pairings looked like this;
|1||Sebastien Maze 2617||4.5||Tony Kosten 2461||3.5|
|2||Fabien Libiszewski 2543||3.5||Alexander Baburin 2481||4|
|3||Michael Adams 2754||3.5||Gawain Jones 2647||3.5|
The last round was a particularly exciting affair, the struggles for the top prizes were so hard fought that the last 3 games to finish were the live boards! Michael Adams had white against Gawain Jones and he was in no mood to share the point, and you can see what happened in this game here.
Fabien Libiszewski vs Alex Baburin was a fascinating struggle and is worthy of careful study, you can see this game here.
The top board was also a long hard fight, Sebastien needed to win in order to ensure 1st place on his own but Tony Kosten had other ideas and he was certainly better for a lot of this struggle
1st = Sebastien Maze Alexander Baburin 3rd Michael Adams
Jack Lowry, the man who has run all of the 40 Kilkenny Chess Congresses, a man who normally keeps his feet firmly on the ground, is pictured left between the joint winner of the Masters, Alexander Baburin and Maurice Buckley. Maurice has also been involved in running the Kilkenny Chess Congress but certainly not all 40 of them !
The other joint winner of the Masters was French Grandmaster, Sebastien Maze, pictured right.
If you're wondering what Sebastien is holding in his hands, he was one of the lucky recipients this year of the much coveted Kilkenny jumpers. They are awarded to a select few and what the criteria is for being considered to receive one is a closely guarded secret but I can tell you that Sebastien was not the only one to get a jumper this year. Kilkenny decided to award a record 5 jumpers this year and your author was one of those lucky enough to receive one.
Mark Hebden also received one and I will tell you more about this at the end of this article.
1st = Stanley Yin Mark Collins 3rd = Lawrence Cohen Eoghan Casey Grading section 1 Sean McLoughlin Grading section 2 Hanna Lowry O’Reilly
A record 52 players competed for the Kilkenny Major title, it was not only very large, it was also very strong, the top 16 players were all over 1800. The final result was in doubt right up to the final game of the event, where on board 2, Mark Collins beat Constantine Vogal to tie for first place with Stanley Yin. Left to right in the photo on the left are Stanley Yin, Jack Lowry, Mark Collins and Maurice Buckley.
Pictured right is the sole winner of the James Mason, Cian Murphy, Curragh Chess Club, with a fine score of 5.5/6.
Pictured below is the winner of the Challengers, Zalan Nemeth, sole winner also with a fine score of 5.5/6.
1st Zalan Nemeth 2nd = Vinayak Unnithan Seamus Carroll Jonathan Kiely Mark Cummins Grading Section 1 Michael McCluskey Grading Section 2 Tim Casey Best Unrated prize 1 Ollie Sinnott Best Unrated prize 2 Jana Solomatina