The Bunratty International Chess Festival

Gerry Graham

The Bunratty 2017 event was the 24th in the series, and was a great success with over 330 players participating in the 4 tournaments.

The top seed in the Masters was the returning champion, Nigel Short but there were quite a few strong players planning to thwart his attempt to replicate Peter Svidler and Micky Adams's record of the only players to retain the title of Bunratty Masters Champion.

Chief among these was Jontahan Speelman, a man with whom Nigel has played no less than two matches in the qualifying stages for the World Chess Championship 1990 and 1993 cycles, they won one each. Mark Hebden, Bogdan Lalic, Alex Baburin and Peter Wells were the other grandmasters who would have their say over the weekend’s play, all previous Bunratty Masters winners with the exception of Peter Wells. Though Peter has come second on a number of occasions, he’s yet to win the title, an issue he was here to remedy.

I can’t proceed to talk about the Chess event itself without mentioning the opening ceremony, usually if one is held at all at Bunratty, it’s always been a very small, short affair. Not this year though, the Limerick Musical Society’s stars of their upcoming production of “Chess” came along to give us a few songs from the musical and this went down very well. The cast of the show were very impressed with the layout of the Chess event and the players themselves really enjoyed the performance. Their show is on in the University Concert Hall in Limerick and runs from March 30th to April 1st.

Down to the Chess, the first round in the Masters went pretty much to seeding, but not all. On board 11, Alina L’Ami ( 2324 ) lost to David Murray of Gonzaga while on board 19, Peter Cafolla held Killian Delaney to a draw. On board 3 there was a repeat pairing of Mark Hebden with Henry Li ( a repeat from the recent Kilkenny Masters where the young Henry scored a famous victory over the wily Grandmaster ) which raised a few eyebrows. Henry was unable to repeat the giant killing of last November though, as can be seen in the game here.

Adam Hunt IM at the Bunratty Masters 2017

There were five “Shorts” in the playing hall for the first round, and all 5 of them won. For those who’re not familiar, these are Nigel and Philip Short, both in the Masters, Jack, Don and Stephen Short, all in the Challengers. Nigel is not related to the others but the four other Shorts are brothers.

The second round pairings for the top boards in both the Masters and Challengers raised no end of Short jokes. Top board in the Masters, Philip Short vs Nigel Short, top board in the Challengers, Stephen Short vs Jack Short, all on live boards. Poor Don drew the short straw ( sorry ) as he was the only Short not on a live board. Both Nigel and Jack won the “Short” battles while Don won his game in round 2 to end up on the second live board in round three.

English IM Adam Hunt ( pictured right ) was paired against Nigel Short in round 3 and the following exciting game resulted. This left Nigel on 3 / 3, but he was not alone on this score, Bogdan Lalic, Peter Wells, Alex Lopez and Richard Bates were also on maximum going into the 4th round. The top boards draw for the 4th round looked like this;

1Peter Wells 3Nigel Short 3
2Alex Lopez 3Bogdan Lalic 3
3Mark Hebden 2Richard Bates3

Richard Bates has a great record at Bunratty, often the bridesmaid, he's never won it but comes second or joint second on nearly every attempt. He obviously wants this to continue as he beat Mark Hebden in this round. I don't have this game yet but I will add it sometime over the next day or two as it has a very instructive ending. Alex Lopez tore through Bogdan Lalic in a nice attack, while Nigel beat Peter Wells in this game.

Jon Speelman at the Bunratty Masters 2017
Pictured above is Jonathan Speelman, the famous English Grandmaster, finding the pace of a 6 round weekender a bit tough.

A funny story was relayed to me by Tim Wall over a pint in the bar after round four. Tim is an English FM, playing his second Bunratty. His first was in 1999 and in his first round opponent then was Eamonn Keogh, and Tim had Black. This year, he arrived to find that his first round opponent was Eamonn Keogh again, and Tim also Black again!

The draw on the top boards for the fifth round looked like this;

1Nigel Short 4Alexander Baburin 3
2Richard Bates 4Alex Lopez 4
3Bogdan Lalic 3Matan Prilleltensky3

Bogdan Lalic outplayed our visitor from the USA, Matan Prilleltensky in the following game. Matan was not only having a good event, he was also impressed with the Irish Chess scene. This was the Marshal Chess Club members's first Bunratty but I suspect it won't be his last.

Matan Prilleltensky, USA at the Bunratty Masters
This is a picture of our Marshal Chess Club member, Matan, playing in his first Bunratty Masters ! On the next board is WGM Alina L'Ami, who will be doing a far better report than this one on the Bunratty Masters for Chessbase so keep any eye out for this. Alina is not only a great Chess player, she is also a great photographer and I'm sure her Chessbase report will have a lot of great images.

Richard Bates vs Alex Lopez was a game that almost went into overtime, it was a very tough battle and for those of you who want to play through it without knowing the result, here is this exciting game.

Nigel Short got the better of Alex Baburin in an interesting ending, the game can be seen here. This left us with two Shorts on maximum points going into the last round, Nigel, plus the leader in the Challengers, none other than Don Short. You may remember this name, he was the only Short not on a liveboard in round 2!

Our final round pairing looked like this;

1Alex Lopez 5Nigel Short 5
2Bogdan Lalic 4Adam Hunt 4
3Jonathan Speelman 3.5Richard Bates4

Richard Bates continued his fine form in his board 3 game against Jon Speelman while there was a relatively quick draw on board 2, but I think, at least for me, the game of the event was also the game that decided the title, the titanic struggle on board one between the defending champion, Nigel Short, and the inform Irish IM, Alex Lopez. I suggest you take out a board, grab a drink of whatever your having yourself and play through this great game

Nigel Short at the Bunratty Masters

A lovely portrait of a delighted, and slightly relieved Nigel just after retaining the Bunratty Masters title on 6 / 6. Thanks to Alina L'Ami for this fine photo.

Alex Lopez IM at the Bunratty Masters 2017

Results & Prizes of Bunratty 2017


First Place: Nigel Short

Joint 2nd / 3rd: Alex Lopez (pictured right) & Richard Bates

Grading Band 1 Nikolas Pogan

Grading Band 2 Sylvester Sudolski


First Place: Mikhail Pavlov

Joint 2nd / 3rd: Don Short, Eric Bennett & Constantin Vogel

Grading Band 1 Diana Mirza

Grading Band 2 Pearse Dunne

Grading Band 3 Daniel Dwyer


First Place: Aram Hakobyan

Joint 2nd & 3rd: Sanjay Menion, James Naughton & Utkarsh Gupta

Grading Band 1 Daniil Zelenchuk

Grading Band 2 Patrick McGowan

Grading Band 3 John Phillips


Joint First Place: Eoin Callinan(Trophy) & Heironymus van der Belt

Joint 3rd: Rian Mollette & Aidan O’Sullivan

Grading Band 1 Leo Phelan

Grading Band 2 Tyrone Winter

Grading Band 3 Rian Wood

Grading Band 4 Cathal McDonnell

Best Unrated Player Paul Hehir

Second Best Unrated Player Hari Prasad

Nigel Short winning his second Bunratty Masters
Nigel Short GM is presented with the trophy by Cllr. Ann Norton, Mayor of Ennis at the closing ceramony of the Bunratty Chess Festival. Photo by Alina L'Ami

This year was the 24th Bunratty, next year will obviously be the 25th and a special event is planned. The dates will be 23rd to 25th February 2018 and we hope to see you all there. I'll leave you with a few more images to enjoy.

Peter |Wells at the Bunratty Masters 2017

Peter Wells GM from England, a regular at the Bunratty Chess Festival. On the next board you can see Malcolm Pein

Richard Bates at the Bunratty Masters 2017

Richard Bates IM, also from England, and also a regular at the Bunratty Chess Festival

Don Short at the Bunratty Challengers 2017

Seated is Don Short, playing the final round of the Challengers, being watched by his brother, Stephen Short

Created 2017-02-18 ◦ Last updated 2017-02-26 ◦ Editor GG

New Search
© 2004-2020 Irish Chess Union ● Contact UsPrivacy Policy