The National Club Championship 2017 sponsored by AwardsAndGifts had more of a festival feeling with no less than 7 other events piggy-backing on the main event including 3 chess events, 2 Go events and 2 Chinese Chess events. The weekend was to kick off with a 9 round FIDE rated blitz event on Friday night which would be held alongside Go and Chinese Chess Rapid events (which also featured some ICU members). These events were all to be held in the upstairs ballroom together before splitting into two rooms on day 2. In the downstairs venue (the O'Connell suite), there would then be a 5-round U1600 event starting bright and early on Saturday morning before the NCC itself began at noon in the same room. At the same time, an international match between Ireland and Sussex juniors started early on Saturday morning and was played alongside the main events in Chinese Chess and Go - with each occupying about one third of the main Gresham ballroom. Each of these events were to conclude on Sunday afternoon.
However, on the Friday night, we were fully focused on a highly competitive blitz event which featured many of Ireland's top blitz players as well as Kilkenny Chess Congress Champion, GM Sebastien Maze, who arrived as hot favourite. His main competition for the title were two teammates from The 2017 Chess.com PRO League; IM Alex Lopez and current Irish Rapid and Blitz Champion, Killian Delaney. They were by no means the only contenders though with Irish Women's Champion, WFM Monika Gedvilaite, the highest rated female player living in Ireland, Ioana Gelip, 6-time Irish Champion, FM Colm Daly as well as many others in the 44 person field. The arbiter for the event was Ivan Baburin pictured below alongside ICU Women's Officer, Hannah Lowry-O'Reilly.
One of the biggest early games of the event was played in round 4 and featured club-mates, Maze & Delaney with Delaney beating his significantly higher rated opponent. Delaney would follow this up with a grudge match victory over childhood "friend", IM Alex Lopez, and also FM Colm Daly before drawing with man-of-the-moment, Tom O'Gorman; whose gained no less than 150 FIDE points in the last month. This left Delaney on an excellent 6.5/7. But how were his other rivals fairing? Maze and Lopez recovered from their early losses to keep the pressure on at just 0.5 points behind on 5/6 - before facing each other in round 7. Maze emerged the victor in that game and claimed control of second place. Stephen Moran also found himself in the mix with a strong start to the event and he has a good track record in similar ICU events with second place finishes in both of our Bray Rapid and Blitz events last year. Others tracking close-by were Tom O'Gorman, Colm Daly, Jacob Miller and Gerry MacElligot.
And so it appeared as if Killian Delaney was on his way to the 400 euro top prize as he'd beaten the top three seeds and would face an easier run-in than his rivals. In round 8, he was paired with Moran while another featured game was Lopez vs O'Gorman. Alas, it wasn't to be for Killian as Stephen Moran got the better of him which left the door wide open for Maze to march through which he duly did - moving into first place by half a point. Tom O'Gorman had another excellent result in holding Alex Lopez to a draw and effectively taking Alex out of the final reckoning. Gerry MacElligot placed himself well for the final round on 6/8 which would earn him a pairing against Maze on board 1. 17th seed, Sylwester Sudolski also won, moving him to 5.5/8 and earning a final round match against Killian Delaney.
Everything was still all to play for coming into the last round with 17 players on 5/8 or better. However, Maze, black against Gerry, soon came up trumps and put the event to bed with an overall score of 8/9. Killian will be slightly aggrieved not to have won the event but there is no shame in finishing second to a top GM like Sebastien and that is exactly what Killian did when he beat Sudolski in round 9 - finishing with a score of 7.5/9. Board 3 had an intriguing match between Tom O'Gorman (white) versus Stephen Moran which Stephen would eventually win and thereby secure third place. 2nd and 3rd seeds, Lopez and Daly, rounded out the top five with wins over Bennett and Gedvilaite, and finishing on 6.5/9. On board 8, Jacob Miller defeated Jakubauskas Zygimantas to secure the first grading prize with 6/9 while Jan Zvolanek had already sewn up the second grading prize with 5 points and so could afford a round 9 loss. All the winners are pictured above and the final standings can be viewed here.
Sir Patrick Moore Cup (Ireland Vs Sussex ) 2017
ICU Junior Officer, Desmond Beatty, has prepared a Sir Patrick Moore Cup (Ireland Vs Sussex ) 2017 - Tournament Report. I won't say too much on this as Desmond already has but we were delighted to resurrect this event after a ten year gap. Sussex are one of the top English counties in junior chess terms so it is always a good test of our juniors. I, myself, played in the first of these matches where Sir Patrick Moore presented the "Sir Patrick Moore Cup" to the winners and it was a great chance to play for Ireland when there were less opportunities to do so. Moreover, it is a tremendous chance to get to know your fellow juniors and make friends who'll keep you coming back to the board/raise your spirits even after a tough loss or share in your victories.
Well done to both sets of juniors, the parents/coaches of both teams, Desmond Beatty, and arbiter, Colm O'Muireagain; who'll be running The CPL Irish Junior Championships 2017. Full results from the weekend here.
ICU U1600 Event
The third event of the weekend was another new event which was designed to give those not able to play in the NCC the chance to play in an event and be part of the action. The event featured two of Ireland's very best junior prospects; Sean Hunter and Dayna Ferguson - both already internationals with Dayna playing at the recent World Cadet Championships 2016 - Tournament Report and Sean playing at the ECU EU Youth Championships 2016. However, the top seeds were mostly made up of experienced players with Gabriel Mirza on board 1, Panagiotis Papadopoulos on 2 and Tom Fitzpatrick on 3.
After the first day of play, Sean had established himself as the man to beat with 3 wins on the bounce; leaving him a half a point ahead of the field. However, there were 4 in the chasing pack including Dayna, third seed - Tom Fitzpatrick, Eugene Donohoe and Diarmuid Reidy - the 2015 Joe Browne Cup winner. After round 4, that chasing pack was whittled down somewhat as Sean did the business once more on board one, defeating Tom. Diarmuid Reidy won on 2 with black against Eugene Donohoe which meant he was destined to play Sean in the final round for the title. Elsewhere, Panagiotis put himself into contention by defeating Pauraic Neely on board 4 meaning he was just 1 point behind the leader.
Round 5 was a tense affair with Sean requiring a draw to claim the title but Diarmuid was hellbent on derailing those plans as he had his eyes on the title and the cheque for 450 euro. Diarmuid was able to take a slight advantage out of the opening which meant that Sean had to chase the game to some degree. Unfortunately for Sean, Diarmuid was able to convert his edge into a win and claim the title. However, I'm sure the U14 Leinster Champion has an incredibly bright future ahead of him and will use this experience the next time he's within touching distance of a title. Well done to Diarmuid who adds to his trophy cabinet with an excellent display as the 14th seed. Dayna and Panagiotis both won their final rounds to join Sean on 4/5 and claim a share of second place.
As mentioned in our National Club Championships Preview, there were a lot of viable candidates to either be this year's NCC Champion or claim one of the three coveted spots at this year's European Club Cup 2017. However, there was a lot more to look forward to at this year's event including commentary from IM Alex Lopez and current Irish Champion, FM Stephen Jessel, new Irish-made Live-boards which would be used to broadcast the games and a strong field of 13 teams - the largest since 2011.
Round 1 raised some interesting pairings with top seeds Gonzaga facing Balbriggan, Dublin University facing Rathmines, Dublin facing local rivals Elm Mount, Bray and Armstrong-newbies Blanchardstown, St Benildus and Enniscorthy, and finally 5 time winners Adare facing Dun Laoghaire with Ballinasloe having a first round bye.
Although the score will read 5.5-0.5 - that does not tell the whole story on board 1 where Gonzaga faced real problems and looked shaky early on. GM Sebastien Maze was finding it very difficult to get an edge against Bartlomiej Cichonski and after 50 moves, a draw still looked like a distinct possibility if not probable. However, the Grandmaster had a 20 minute time advantage on the clock and used it wisely with Bart in time-trouble. A stronger knight against a weaker bishop would eventually prove telling. Pat Hogan held Conor O'Donnell on board 2 until the 4 hour mark but again, Gonzaga eventually made the breakthrough. Balbriggan's only reward came on board 4 where Aleksejus Pachalov probably had the better of things but couldn't quite get by Henry Li who held for a draw. And so the defending champions were up-and-running after a stern test but without too much damage done.
On board 2, Dublin University showed their class to go into an early lead but they did not have things all their own way. Promising junior, Mustakim-Ul Haque defeated Rory Delaney on board 4 to avoid a whitewash in their match - as the rest of the Dublin University team made good on their rating advantage to win the match 5-1. In the other matches in round 1, Bray defeated Blanchardstown 5.5-0.5 to join Gonzaga on top of the leaderboard, while Benildus' 5 points against Enniscorthy were good enough for them to join Trinity in tied 3rd on game points. In the remaining matches of round 1, 3rd seeds Dublin CC and 6th seeds Adare won 4-2 against Elm Mount and Dun Laoghaire respectively.
Gonzaga had things more their own way in round 2 with a comprehensive 6-0 win over Bray. Benildus and Dublin University faced each other on board 2 with the winners putting themselves in an excellent position to claim one of the three ECC spots at the halfway point. These teams have been Armstrong heavyweights for years and although Benildus were not at full-strength, they still posed a significant threat to Dublin University who out-rated them by about 100 points per board. Crucially, Gerry O'Connell pulled off a shock on board 1 against Karl McPhillips which meant the match points were truly up for grabs. Unfortunately for them, Benildus were unable to back-up Gerry's win initially, with Dublin University claiming wins through Ioana Gelip and Stephen Moran. UCD student, Constantin Vogel, tied things up at 2-2 before Jacob Miller and Christopher Young brought things home for Dublin University.
Elsewhere, Adare and Dublin made it two match wins from two with wins over Rathmines (3.5-2.5) and Ballinasloe (5.5-0.5) respectively. Despite his team moving to 0/2 following a 4.5-1.5 loss to Elm Mount, Tom O'Gorman of Dun Laoghaire remained perfect through 2 rounds and with Balbriggan having a bye, the last match was between Enniscorthy and Blanchardstown who fought to a 3-3 draw.
The fixtures for round 3 paired long-term rivals and ECC regulars - Gonzaga and Adare together on board 1 and the other undefeated teams, Dublin and Dublin University on 2. This round would see Gonzaga lose their first game with Jan Heinrich defeating Eoghan Casey who was subbing in for Henry Li - but there would be no further joy for Adare who went down 5-1. In the marquee game of the round between seeds 2 and 3, Dublin University raced to a 3.5-0.5 lead over Dublin with boards 1 and 5 still playing. It was decided before the event that we would try to display as many players as possible on the live-boards over the two days and so they had been moving round-by-round; with boards 5 and 6 of each match shown in round 1, boards 3 and 4 in round 2 and now boards 1 and 2 of each match shown in round 3. This meant that we could watch FM Reinhold Mueller take on Tim Harding in an interesting game which the FM would eventually win. In the last game of the match, Rory Delaney picked up his first point against Mark Collins.
Unfortunately, Bray defaulted two games in round 2 which gave Balbriggan a significant advantage. Bart continued his excellent form from round 1 and was slightly unlucky to not get more than a draw out of his game with FM Colm Daly - which was also featured on the live-boards. Balbriggan claimed 2.5 points from the remaining three games for a 5-1 win. After their loss in round 2, Benildus got back on track with a dominant 5-1 win in round 3 over Ballinasloe - placing them on 2/3 points going into the final round. The final two matches of the round finished 4-2 with Elm Mount and Dun Laoghaire claiming wins and Tom O'Gorman making it to 3/3. That meant after 3 round, 7 teams were still in with a chance of claiming ECC sports while Gonzaga and Dublin University would fight it out for the title for the second straight year.
The showdown between the top two seeds had seemed somewhat inevitable throughout the tournament with the way in which they had seen off each opponent round after round and now the match was finally here. IM Alex Lopez and FM Stephen Jessel can take you through the action as it unfolded here as the top two matches were on the live-boards this round. It had certainly been looking touch and go for the first few hours with Karl McPhillips finding a tempo which meant he was better against Conor O'Donnell, with the black pieces no less. Rory Delaney also looked to have the upper hand against David Murray while there was no clear advantage on boards 3 and 6. However, Gonzaga put the first point on the board which may have been significant psychologically to settle the team down. After that, everything seemed to go right for the Ranelagh team. Henry Li outplayed Stephen Moran on 4 to pick up the second point, Killian Delaney got the better of Ioana Gelip and David Murray turned things around against Rory Delaney to claim a full point. And so, Gonzaga retained their title but there was still the matter of the additional ECC places to be decided with several teams still vying for the two remaining spots. Dublin University would need to do some damage control to ensure their spot while several teams started to surge forward.
Conor O'Donnell found a defense to earn an unlikely draw against Karl McPhillips while Gordon Freeman and Jacob Miller drew on 6. This left Dublin University with 14.5 game points and it was unclear at that time if this would be enough. Benildus had already surged into second spot with an impressive 5.5-0.5 win over Elm Mount, leaving them on 17.5 game points. In fact, that score guaranteed Benildus second spot on tie-break over the other teams regardless of how the other matches ended due to their superior game points.
The next 2 games to finish were 4-2 wins for Rathmines and Balbriggan over Dun Laoghaire and Ballinasloe respectively which pushed Balbriggan into a tie for second alongside Dublin University and Benildus but with inferior game points. The match on board 6 would have no bearing on the ECC places but did have a match which ran well over 5 hours between Eric Bennett and Robbie Kildea - eventually ending in a draw on that board and an overall 4.5-1.5 match win for Bray.
However, the undoubted game of the round was between Diana Mirza and Eddie O'Connor with the match score between Adare and Dublin evenly poised at 2.5-2.5. A win for either team would give them a share of second place and Dublin even had a chance of earning an ECC spot if they won the match. This seemed unlikely however as Diana had a significant advantage over Eddie but both were edging toward time trouble. At one stage Diana even appeared to lose track of her time and get down to one second before calming making a move - it was heart-stopping stuff for the gathered crowd which had assembled once they realised the significance of the match. Diana held a R+3 vs R+2 lead which eventually became a R+3 vs R+1 advantage with 2 advance pawns for white before becoming a R+1 vs R ending - which all occurred while Diana had no more than 90 seconds on her clock. The junior and former Irish Women's Champion held her nerve to win an important point for Adare and seal a mini-shock over third seeds Dublin and finish in a share of second.
This meant that Dublin University did cling on to third place and joined Gonzaga and Benildus in receiving an invitation to the ECC in October. Well done to all those who participated and made it such a special and exciting weekend!
Go and Chinese Chess Events
Below are some photos of the 2017 Irish Confucius Cup which was held alongside our events all weekend. Details of the event for those interested are here while you can see results here and a report here. Several ICU junior members took part in the Chinese Chess event including Henry Li Jnr and Lorenz Cuffe, while many ICU members were involved in the Go events including John Courtney, David Murray, John Gibson and Connor Gilvary. We're delighted with the continued growth of our partnership with both associations and are already looking forward to next year's event which will obviously feature a different showpiece chess event as the NCC will be held in Ballinalsoe in 2018.
Our thanks to the countless people who helped with this event; our sponsor: Awardsandgifts.ie, our arbiters: Ivan, Herbert and Colm, our photographer: Ioana Gelip, our commentators: Alex and Stephen, our broadcasters: James and Sean, the Irish Go Association, the UCD Confucius Institute for Ireland, our friends from Sussex Junior Chess led by team manager, Mike Forster, who travelled over for the weekend, Desmond Beatty for his resurrection of the Sir Patrick Moore Cup, and of course all the players who participated over the three days.
Read similar articles here such as:
The 2016 National Chess Club Championships which was held in the Red Cow Hotel in April '16.
Details of The Cork Congress 2017 which has a 3,000 euro prize fund and is just a few weeks away.
Details of the Tralee Classic which will feature many of Ireland's top players as they attempt to secure IM and GM norms.
And finally, The CPL Irish Junior Championships 2017 which is a little under one month away and should feature many juniors who will be hoping to represent Ireland this summer.