Tralee Classic: Round by Round Report

John McMorrow

This article is part of a series - Main | Section A | Section B | Section C | Section D | Chess-Results.

Tralee Classic


The Tralee Classic got underway on Thursday, April 13th with no less than 7 Irish players competing in the top 2 10-player all-play-all sections. IM Sam Collins, looking for his third GM norm, and IM Alex Lopez, recently back from a self-imposed classical chess hiatus, are competing in section A alongside 3 GMs, 3 other IMs and 2 FMs. A score of 6.5/9 from either of Ireland's top home-grown talents would be enough for a norm - but as 7th and 8th seeds, they have a tough task ahead. Their task is made slightly tougher by less than favourable draws with each man having just 4 whites and 5 blacks.

In section B - the IM norm section, FM Conor O'Donnell (arriving at the event with a live FIDE rating of 2390.6) is Ireland's best hope for a Norm but that is not to diminish the chances of the 3 other Irish norm hunters in this section. FM Colm Daly, a 6-time Irish Champion with 2 IM norms to his name, comes into the event as 6th seed and Colm has always seemed to raise his game in 9-round events - his Irish Championship successes being an obvious example. He has admitted to feeling more fatigue than he would have as a younger man of late and the 2 rounds per day format may prove challenging as the event goes on - so Colm may welcome some quick games. Henry Li is on the opposite end of the spectrum - lacking a little experience at this level; closed norm events specifically - as he has represented Ireland on numerous occasions in 9+ round formats as well as attending the ECC and coming within a hair of a norm. What he lacks in experience, he should make up for with youthful exuberance and freshness which may give this event an interesting dynamic between morning/afternoon rounds and games before and after round 5. Killian Delaney, one of the fastest improving non-juniors in the country, comes into this event on the back of a year of consistent improvement. He has set himself the goal of emulating John and Paul Delaney by winning the Irish Championships some day and will see this event as good practice for The Irish Championship 2017 sponsored by Clare County Council and in his quest to become an FM. All of Rounding out the Irish is IM Gavin Wall who, alongside Delaney, Li, Baburin, Lopez, O'Donnell and Daly, has already committed to this year's Irish Championships. Gavin is here to support Irish chess while presumably scoping out his opponents for the event in a few months!

The event was to begin at 6pm and so it did; apart from a fault-start on board 1 of the GM-norm section with FM Charles Storey delayed and arriving 55 minutes or so late. Would this affect his game affect FM Strugnell? We shall see.

The event also featured two other sections - an Open and an over 1900; the u1900 had a late pull-out which means there will be an unfortunate bye throughout (Update a 10th player has since entered, playing from round 2) but the open is to run as advertised with 10 players. ICU Tralee Classic - Section C features 5 Irish juniors and 4 Munster players. ICU Tralee Classic - Section D again features 5 juniors while the other 5 players come from all over the country - Mayo, Galway, Dublin, Kildare and Limerick all represented.

Tralee Classic 1

Round 1

GM Section

So here's how the Irish norm hunters lined out in round one - with two derbys:

Vladislav NevednichyvsSam Collins
Yang-Fan ZhouvsAlex Lopez
Killian DelaneyvsHenry Li
Gavin WallvsMiroslaw Grabarcyzk
Conor O’DonnellvsColm Daly

With the black pieces and tough opponents in round 1, Sam and Alex would likely have taken a draw at the start of their games - especially for Sam as he faced 2547-rated GM Vladislav Nevednichy. However, having played an open Sicilian as opposed to his preferred Caro-Kann, Lopez seems to have unsettled his opponent who went for the ambitious but seemingly dubious Nd5 on move 9. This seemed to hand the advantage to Alex which he did not relinquish - play through their game here and watch Alex expertly take care of business from there. Sam was probably happy with his position throughout his game, eventually grinding out a pawn advantage out of the middle game but leaving himself with a backward d6 pawn and two inferior pieces to his opponent. In truth, these weaknesses in the position would probably always give white enough to hold and so he did.

In the other games of the round - there was no quarter given as all 3 games went deep into endgames with 2 of the games ending in a draw. Having been an hour late, Storey found himself in trouble against Shrugnell in a Queen and pawn ending. Shrugnell made his pawn advantage count and joined Alex as the lone players on 1/1. They are scheduled to play bright and early on Friday morning with Sam facing the dangerous Van Foreest who seemed to have the better of top seed GM Feller in round 1 but let his advantage slip away.

IM Section

In what could be a preview of a critical round in The Irish Championship 2017 sponsored by Clare County Council, Killian Delaney and Conor O'Donnell were white against Henry Li and Colm Daly respectively. However, we are only in round 1 here and so the players were naturally keen to keep their norm chances alive by not being too risky. There was little to separate Colm and Conor throughout their game and a draw ensued but things weren't quite so simple in the other all-Irish clash of the round. Killian held a slight advantage before Henry found a tactic on move 30 which swung the game firmly in his favour and soon put a win in his column.

In the other games of round 1: Gavin Wall fell to co-top seed Miroslaw Grabarcyzk. Dublin CC board 1, Reinhold Mueller defeated Alistair Hill while bottom seed, Conor E Murphy impressively held GM Petr Neuman.

All games here:

Charles Storey0-1Carl Strugnell
Vladislav Nevednichy0.5-0.5Sam Collins
Lucas Van Foreest0.5-0.5Sebastien Feller
Matthew Turner0.5-0.5Hugo Ten Hertog
Yang-Fan Zhou0-1Alex Lopez
Killian Delaney0-1Henry Li
Gavin Wall0-1Miroslaw Grabarcyzk
Reinhold Mueller1-0Alistair Hill
Conor O’Donnell0.5-0.5Colm Daly
Petr Neuman0.5-0.5Conor E Murphy

Round 2

Battle recommenced at 10am on Friday morning in the Rose Hotel and the Irish players faced the following opponents:

Carl StrugnellvsAlex Lopez
Sam CollinsvsLucas Van Foreest
Henry LivsConor E Murphy
Colm DalyvsPetr Neuman
Alistair HillvsConor O’Donnell
Killian DelaneyvsGavin Wall

GM Section

After a successful first round for the Irish in the GM norm section with an overall score of 1.5/2, spirits were high going into round 2.

Alex again played a Sicilian as black and ended up being a piece for 3 pawns up which eventually became a knight, bishop and a pawn versus a knight and two pawns. However, he wasn't quite able to convert and his opponent held on for a draw which leaves both on 1.5/2 and Carl in a good position for an IM norm with a long way to go. Alex would require 5/7 in the remaining games to secure a GM norm and has four whites versus three blacks remaining in those games.

Sam had a far tougher time of things in a complicated Scotch opening. Both players played it fast and loose; the game appeared to be on a knife edge until Van Foreest activated his dark squared bishop. Sam's position quickly unraveled as he was unable to produce any mortal threats to his opponent while LVF's pieces seemed poised to pick up material in short order. Sam was eventually forced to sacrifice a bishop for one last shot at unsettling his opponent's position but Van Foreest calmly closed out the game for an impressive win with black.

In fact, after 2 rounds, black leads games 7.5-2.5 with white yet to win a game! Here's how the three other GM norm matches ended:

Hugo Ten Hertog0-1Yang-Fan Zhou
Sebastien Feller0.5-0.5Matthew Turner
Charles Storey0-1Vladislav Nevednichy

Tralee Classic 2

IM Section

After two grudge matches between the Irish in round 1, our norm hunters were faced with very different tasks in round 2. Conor, black against the 9th seed, probably viewed this match as a must-win in his grand-scheme; which would allow him some leeway in matches vs the titled players. Colm would likely be happy with a draw against a tough opponent - joint top seed, GM Petr Neuman. Following an excellent win in round 1, Henry Li would like to carry that form into this round but his opponent is also on form; having drawn with GM Neuman and had a 2400+ rating performance in his last event. While Killian Delaney must ensure he gets off the mark after a tough round 1 loss - he faces IM Gavin Wall.

Colm was indeed happy with a draw as a draw was agreed after just 11 moves. In an event which may come down to who has the stamina after 5 days of long games, this could prove a very important result and crucial to Colm's chances are the rest as much as the draw against a GM.

In more good news for the Irish camp, Conor O'Donnell picked up his first win of the event and moves to 1.5/2 with a live FIDE rating of 2393.8. This means that a win in the next round will take Conor over 2400 for the first time while a draw against the top seed would see him up to 2395. This was a comprehensive victory for Conor - a 25 move straight forward win where Conor gained a lot of space on the Queenside before punishing his opponent's misplaced pieces on the Kingside. Those pieces were gradually squeezed until his opponent's position had no life left.

Killian Delaney did what needed to be done in round 2 by getting off the mark with a draw against Gavin Wall in another short game - this time 21 moves. So, four of our players (including Gavin) were undefeated and, almost as importantly, had conserved some energy before the afternoon session.

Last to finish of all the games in this round was Henry Li who seems lucky to have escaped with a draw. Two results were possible out of the middle game when Murphy went a pawn up but Henry held on to move to 1.5/2.

Players will now have a few hours before the second round of the day which starts at 4pm.

All games here:

Carl Strugnell0.5-0.5Alex Lopez
Hugo Ten Hertog0-1Yang-Fan Zhou
Sebastien Feller0.5-0.5Matthew Turner
Sam Collins0-1Lucas Van Foreest
Charles Storey0-1Vladislav Nevednichy
Henry Li0.5-0.5Conor E Murphy
Colm Daly0.5-0.5Petr Neuman
Alistair Hill0-1Conor O’Donnell
Miroslaw Grabarcyzk1-0Reinhold Mueller
Killian Delaney0.5-0.5Gavin Wall

Round 3

Round 3 is now underway which gives us our first insight into how the players will deal with double-round days. Will this present a significant advantage for the younger players such as Li, O'Donnell, Van Foreest and Murphy or will the rest many of the players got earlier nullify those potential advantages?

Alex LopezPlayingHugo Ten Hertog
Matthew TurnerPlayingSam Collins
Gavin WallPlayingHenry Li
Reinhold MuellerPlayingKillian Delaney
Conor O’DonnellPlayingMiroslaw Grabarcyzk
Conor E. MurphyPlayingColm Daly

So what do our players need to do in this round? Well, Alex would certainly like to win this round but a draw would keep his score going in the right direction with 6 rounds to go after today. Sam has black against GM Matthew Turner who he should know very well personally as Matthew runs the Millfield International school tournament which Sam has regularly attended for almost 20 years now. A draw would help Sam get back on track after this morning but in reality if he really wants a norm, he'll need to start winning games with 6/7 required in his remaining games. In his favour is that he will have played 3 of the top 4 seeds after today which means life should get easier from here on out.

As for our IM norm-hunters, Conor, Henry and Colm are certainly well placed after 2 rounds. Conor and Henry can afford draws in this round as they face GM Miroslaw Grabarcyzk and IM Gavin Wall respectively. A win takes Conor over 2400 but a draw keeps his norm chances firmly alive while he negotiates the considerable hurdle of one of the two GMs in his section. Henry is black against a higher rated opponent in Wall. What is noticeable about Henry's draw is that he won't face any of the top three seeds until rounds 7-9 and so could potentially build a score before facing them. Colm plays bottom seed, Murphy, who he undoubtedly had singled out as one of his potential wins. But as I've pointed out already, Murphy isn't the whipping boy that his rating might suggest with several good results recently.

Killian Delaney is still searching for his first win but will fancy his chances against similarly rated Reinhold Mueller with the two playing before on a couple of occasions. A win would move Killian to 1.5/3 and back into contention after a tricky start to the event.

GM Section

The first game to finish of round three is the match on board 3 with a 10 move draw:

Yang-Fan Zhou0.5-0.5Sebastien Feller

After 2 hours of play - there are no other results in the GM norm section but games are being updated online if you'd like to follow their progress.

2 more games have just finished up at the 3 hours mark with seeds 2 and 4 taking advantage of the white pieces and defeating seeds 10 and 9 respectively. Lucas Van Foreest moves to 2.5/3 and looks in a great position for a GM Norm after 2 days of play.

Vladislav Nevednichy1-0Carl Strugnell
Lucas Van Foreest1-0Charles Storey

After 3 and a half hours, Sam has secured a draw with GM Matthew Turner. This was really the minimum Sam needed to keep his chances alive. As pointed out before the round, Sam has had a difficult start to the event with three of the top four seeds so perhaps he can pick up some steam when he starts to play the lower seeds.

At the 4 hour mark, a big result for the Irish camp as Alex Lopez picks up another win and moves to 2.5/3. A fantastic start to the event - this time defeating IM Hugo Ten Hertog (2457). Alex will play top seed GM Sebastien Feller in the morning with the big Frenchman having had three relatively straight forward draws up until this point. Will Alex go with the safe option and play things safe or will he feel confident enough to take on the Frenchman?

Matthew Turner0.5-0.5Sam Collins
Alex Lopez1-0Hugo Ten Hertog

IM Section

No results after 2 hours in the IM norm section but Conor O'Donnell has a nice position out of the opening. Although it is not quite at the stage where I would declare that just two results are possible - Conor certainly has an edge and a commanding position as he moves into the endgame against GM Miroslaw Grabarcyzk who is on 2/2.

Killian Delaney should be happy with his opening choice and would appear to have equalised as black against Reinhold Mueller so all results are still possible there.

The only other game which has advanced beyond the opening (according to the live updates) is the game between Wall and Li where Wall has maintained White's advantage to this point.

After 3 hours of play, we finally have some results from the IM norm section. Henry Li has lost to IM Gavin Wall while Killian Delaney drew with Reinhold Mueller. In better news, Colm Daly appears to be winning and Conor O'Donnell is a pawn up against the top seed. In the other match of the round, GM Petr Neuman is a pawn up on Alistair Hill - who is yet to get off the mark.

Gavin Wall1-0Henry Li
Reinhold Mueller0.5-0.5Killian Delaney

Another half an hour passes and we have our third result with Colm finishing off Conor E Murphy (who we can confirm is half Irish) and moving to 2/3. Colm has done exactly what he needs to do so far, taking draws off higher rated opponents and capitalising on his lower rated opponent this evening. Colm is black again tomorrow - this time against Henry Li whose now on 1.5/3 and probably in need of a win if he'd like to keep his norm chances alive. Both will fancy their chances and are likely to go for wins from the off.

Conor E. Murphy0-1Colm Daly

Section C and D

After 3 rounds, Paul Walsh and Bernd Thee lead in section C with 3 points from 3 games, they are closely followed by Gavin Melaugh who is on 2.5/3. Peter Carroll has had impressive results defeating 200 point higher rated Zalan Nemeth and drawing with 300-400 point higher rated Gavin Melaugh before succumbing to Paul Walsh.

In section D, Hugo Fowler (step son of GM Matthew Turner in section A) sits on top with 3/3, while brothers Eoin and Sean Hunter sit on 2/3 alongside Peter Lynch after the second day.

Round 4

Conor's loss last night from a position where he seemed to be in command put a bit of a downer on what should have been a relatively chipped Irish camp after Alex moved to 2.5/3 and Colm moved to 2/3. Conor now has very little room for error in his bid to go over 2400 and get an IM norm - needing 5/6 from the remaining games. Its a big day for Colm who will be looking for 2 points today as he plays lower seeds. A tougher set of games await Conor as he plays stablemate Killian Delaney and IM Gavin Wall. And what about our GM norm hunters? Well, Alex will look to at least hold GM Feller with the black pieces while Sam must post his first win - he plays IM Yang-Fan Zhou. Its possible that Sam has already switched focus to gaining rating points as he hopes to some day cross the 2500 barrier which has so far eluded him - by as little as 1 point at times.

GM Section

LVF continues his almost unstoppable march toward a GM norm (and potentially title if he can also cross 2500 in Tralee) - he agrees a quick draw with co-leader GM Vladislav Nevednichy. There was another draw on board one of the GM section.

Carl Strugnell0.5-0.5Hugo Ten Hertog
Vladislav Nevednichy0.5-0.5Lucas Van Foreest

A mixed round from the Irish as Alex succumbs to GM Feller while Sam notches his first win against Yang-Fan Zhou. This creates an interesting dynamic going into round 5 where the two face-off. Alex had been on a run of form after securing 2 wins and a draw from the first 3 rounds while Sam had a tougher start but a reversal of fortunes in round 4 sets up a fascinating showdown between the Irish in the next round.

Sebastien Feller1-0Alex Lopez
Sam Collins1-0Yang-Fan Zhou
Charles Storey0-1Matthew Turner

IM Section

There was a quick draw between the GMs in round 4 which doesn't affect our norm hunters too much. However, there were two results of consequence just before the 3 hour mark in the rounds this morning. Killian Delaney held Conor O'Donnell to a draw moving them to 1.5 and 2 respectively and Reinhold Mueller pulled off a shock by beating Gavin Wall.

Miroslaw Grabarcyzk0.5-0.5Petr Neuman
Killian Delaney0.5-0.5Conor O’Donnell
Gavin Wall0-1Reinhold Mueller

The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry.. Unfortunately for Colm, its back to the drawing board as he will need to devise a new strategy if he has his heart set on a norm in this event - he can certainly content himself with 3 good results to this point but Henry Li has managed a win over him in round 4. This catapults Henry Li into pole position for a norm among the Irish as he now sits on 2.5/4. Colm (and Conor) will now require 4.5/5 while Henry requires 4/5. They probably view the norm as a luxury bonus at this stage and would likely be happy to gain points - which is certainly not out of the question with Henry securing two good wins and Colm having 3 good results. In the final game of the round, Alistair Hill won the battle of the Englishmen as he defeated Conor Murphy. This gets Hill off the mark and he now joins Murphy on 1/4.

Henry Li1-0Colm Daly
Alistair Hill1-0Conor E. Murphy

Round 5

This is a crucial round for many of the Irish and also for the other norm hunters: Van Foreest, Strugnell and Mueller. LVF and Strugnell play in the GM section with Lucas likely needing a win and Strugnell happy to get anything out of the game - he requires 2.5/5 for an IM norm. The big match from an Irish perspective? Alex Lopez vs Sam Collins of course. These two players are not just competing for norms or fide points but also for the crown of top rated Irish player on the ICU rating list. Despite being the crème de la crème of Irish chess - they actually haven't played in a number of years with Alex being absent from the chess scene for so long and Sam skipping a number of recent events which Alex attended such as The Bunratty International Chess Festival, Cork Congress , and the Galway Chess Congress. So it should be an interesting battle for the two rivals.

Lucas Van ForeestCarl Strugnell
*Alex Lopez**Sam Collins*
Reinhold Mueller*Henry Li*
*Conor O’Donnell**Gavin Wall*
Petr Neuman*Killian Delaney*
*Colm Daly*Alistair Hill

In the IM section, there are also a number of pivotal clashes. Henry and Conor will likely fancy their chances in round 5 as they face high-flying Reinhold Mueller and IM Gavin Wall respectively. Likewise, Colm will be out for blood to recover from this loss this morning and he faces Alistair Hill who got off the mark this morning with a win. Colm will likely view this as a must-win with tough games to come. Finally, Killian Delaney plays GM Petr Neuman with the black pieces. Killian needs to be perfect from here on out and has likely switched focus to gaining rating points in pursuit of his goal of crossing 2300. However, a shock win here could propel Delaney to great things with what he will see as winnable games ahead against Hill, Daly and Murphy. He would then face Miroslaw Grabarcyzk in round 9.

Just over 30 minutes to wait until the round begins and we get some answers to the above questions.

GM Section

Quick draw for Feller and Hugo, Turner and Nevednichy to start the round.

A draw in the big match between the Irish heavyweights: Sam Collins and Alex Lopez. Sam moves to 2.5/5 and Alex moves to 3/5.

Lucas Van Foreest continues to dominate this section with another win and moves to 4/5 - this time around it was Carl Strugnell who fell under LVF's sword. The other result of the round saw Yang-Fan Zhou defeat Charles Storey.

IM Section

There was a mixed set of results with Colm and Gavin enduring an unfortunate day with 2 losses each. However, Conor finishes the day with an impressive win over Gavin after a draw against Killian Delaney which puts him back into contention on 3/5 - and moving to 2393 live.

Henry continued his impressive run of form with a win over Colm and a draw with Reinhold Mueller moving him to 3/5 as well with a live rating of 2261.

Finally, Killian had an impressive day with draws against Conor and GM Petr Neuman. He lies on 2/5 with a live FIDE of 2252 roughly.

Round 6

After round 5, the picture is now a lot clearer of what needs to happen for our players to bring home norms from Tralee. Sam needs to run the table and defeat his last four opponents. How likely is that? Well, he will face the bottom 2 seeds in rounds 8 and 9 so he would fancy his chances if he gets through tomorrow. However, tomorrow is obviously a much tougher affair as he faces Hugo Ten Hertog (2457) in the morning, and GM Feller in the afternoon. Sam will likely have the option of a draw in the afternoon regardless of the result in the morning as Feller has been generous in the tournament so far with 4 in 5 matches but that would obviously take the norm off the table. We'll have to wait and see what Sam's strategy is - it will be particularly interesting if he pulls off a win in the morning.

Alex has a far tougher run-in, with 2 GMs and a future GM (LVF) in his way. He'll need to take it one game at a time with his first match coming against Charles Storey, currently on 0/5. In the afternoon, he'll face Vladislav Nevednichy who has been playing very solidly but Alex will at least have white. Alex can only afford 1 more draw so there is little margin for error and perhaps he's already turned his attention to picking up some rating points in his first classical FIDE tournament in several years.

School-mates Conor O'Donnell and Henry Li are the two remaining hopes for norms in the IM norm section with both sitting on 3/5. However, they face far different tasks. First things first, they will both almost certainly need to win in the morning. Conor faces Reinhold Mueller with the black pieces while Henry faces Alastair Hill. Unfortunately, both of their opponents have hit a run of form in the last few rounds - after a tough start Hill was 2 from 2 today and Mueller beat Gavin Wall before drawing with Henry. Conor and Henry will then play each other in round 7 which may end one or the other's hopes with a loss. Both men will then face Petr Neuman on the last day with Conor also playing the bottom seed, Conor E. Murphy and Henry facing GM Miroslaw Grabarcyzk. Their live ratings are currently 2393 and 2261 respectively so there is of course the chance that one or the other will cross the next barrier (2400 and 2300) before the week is out.

Colm Daly and Killian Delaney can no longer make norms but they obviously still have a lot to play for with rating points on the line. Killian will still be looking to make progress in his pursuit of 2300 - he plays Conor Murphy in the morning before facing Colm in the afternoon. Colm will play Miroslaw Grabarcyzk in the morning where a draw would be a good result.

GM Section

So what should we expect from the games this morning not involving the Irish? Well, we may see a few draws.

Carl StrugnellSebastien Feller
Vladislav NevednichyYang-Fan Zhou
Lucas Van ForeestMatthew Turner

Carl and Sebastien were spotted leaving the hotel bar quite late - so lets assume that might finish quickly. Given Yang-Fan Zhou's chances of a norm are now gone, he may be happy with a quick draw against Vladislav Nevednichy. Finally, Lucas Van Foreest requires just 2.5 from the remaining 4 games so he has two options - risk a loss against the only GM he has left to play or make use of one of his two remaining whites and ensure he can draw his way home in the remaining three games.

Mixed news for the camp in round 6 as Alex continutes his fine play and turns in another win moving to 4/6. However, Sam's norm chances are now gone despite some good results - he drew with the higher rated Hugo Ten Hertog and is now on 3/6 with GM Feller to come this afternoon followed by the bottom seeds. Perhaps it would have suited Sam to have built up momentum against those players in the earlier rounds rather than been put into a difficult spot after his early loss to Van Foreest. Alex plays GM Vladislav Nevednichy this afternoon - which will of course be very difficult but he may need to target that match for a win and give himself some leeway tomorrow against Turner and LVF.

However, the surprise of the round came in the match between Van Foreest and Turner. Lucas has been in imperious form and we had almost assumed he could earn his 3 GM norm and go over 2500 at a canter - but never underestimate a GM. Matthew Turner won the match which means that he now needs 2.5 from his last 3 matches - a much tougher task. This may also be seen as good or bad news for Alex Lopez. On the one hand, Alex may need to win that match so this will make LVF more likely to go for it in their match which could leave opportunities for Alex. However, Alex may have been happier with a draw in that match and going for wins in the other two matches.

IM Section

As I did with the GM section, I will comment on some likely quick draws. Colm's norm chances are now gone unfortunately so a draw against a GM would be a good way to rebound and conserve energy. IM Wall and GM Neuman are also not playing for much in this round and a draw would again conserve energy.

Miroslaw GrabarcyzkColm Daly
Gavin WallPetr Neuman

More mixed news in the IM norm section with a win for Killian Delaney and draws for O'Donnell and Wall. However, the poor run of form continued for Colm Daly who lost his third on the bounce while Henry Li lost his norm chances with a loss Hill. This should prove a good experience for Li who hasn't played in a norm event before and I'm sure it won't be long before his converting missed chances into wins and rating point gains into norms. Of course, Delaney and Li are also closing in on FM titles - an exclusive club on the island of Ireland with less than 20 others.

Round 7

Matthew TurnerCarl Strugnell
Yang-Fan ZhouLucas Van Foreest
Alex LopezVladislav Nevednichy
Hugo Ten HertogCharles Storey
Sebastien FellerSam Collins
Conor O’DonnellHenry Li
Petr NeumanReinhold Mueller
Conor E. MurphyGavin Wall
Colm DalyKillian Delaney
Alistair HillMiroslaw Grabarcyzk

Last chance saloon for Irish norm chances. Conor will need a win and although Alex can afford a draw, he'd probably like to save that draw for tomorrow when he'll have equally tough games. Conor faces school-mate Henry Li who of course have their own rivalry for best-in-school with Conor looking to hold onto his undisputed crown until he graduates in May with the Leaving Cert to follow in June.

Elsewhere, rivalries are also renewed between Killian Delaney and Colm Daly who have played twice already in the last year. Killian won their match in Malahide '16 and had chances to beat Colm in last year's Irish Championship but blundered in a drawn ending to hand Colm the win.

Sam Collins plays GM Feller and Gavin Wall plays Murphy in the other Irish ties of the round.

GM Section

Where do we start with what was a hectic and unpredictable seventh round in the GM norm section. Its all change since round 5 where I essentially assumed that Lucas Van Foreest was a shoe-in for a GM norm - requiring just 2.5/4 from his remaining games after a blistering start. I also had Sam Collins as a more likely candidate for a norm than Alex Lopez - it turns out I'm wrong sometimes.

Before we get to the games involving those players - there's time for an update on Carl Strugnell's pursuit of an IM norm. Unfortunately for Carl, he ran into a resurgent Matthew Turner (who finishes the day with 2/2) and puts his IM norm chances on the brink - requiring 2 wins from his 2 remaining games.

Next to finish turned out to be the shock of the day with Yang-Fan Zhou battling past Lucas Van Foreest and ending the 16 year old Dutchman's pursuit of a GM norm (and title) here. We're sure it won't be long before LVF does seal his GM title - one only has to consider that he just picked up his IM title officially this year and has already added another 100 points to his rating since.

Unfortunately for the Irish camp, Sam Collins went down to GM Sebastien Feller but there was some excellent news elsewhere for the Irish with Alex Lopez defeating GM Vladislav Nevednichy and moving to within 1.5 points of a GM norm. Alex badly needed to win this game to give himself a realistic chance on Day 5 of a norm but odds are still not in his favour as he must navigate the aforementioned Van Foreest with black before playing a suddenly in form GM Matthew Turner. Best of luck, Alex!

IM Section

Many of the round 7 games in the IM norm section were over in a flash with Alistair Hill and Miroslaw Grabarcyzk agreeing a quick draw, Colm Daly exploiting a mistake by Killian Delaney to pick up a quick point and Conor O'Donnell crucially defeating Henry Li. That was all before we'd even hit the two hour mark!

What does it all mean? Well, most importantly it means that we go into day 5 knowing that Ireland has a chance of norms in both the IM and GM norm sections as Conor O'Donnell can claim an IM norm with 2 wins tomorrow. He will need to defeat GM Petr Neuman in round 8 and Conor E. Murphy in round 9.

Colm Daly's win stops the bleeding and hopefully can boost his confidence before tricky games tomorrow against Gavin Wall and Reinhold Mueller. Henry Li and Killian Delaney are stuck on 3/7 and will face GMs three times between them over their last 4 matches with Killian also facing the surging Alistair Hill who is 3.5/4 in the last 2 days.

Round 8

GM Section

The crucial game in this round was of course the match between Alex Lopez and Lucas Van Foreest but it seems Alex felt his winning chances were better against GM Matthew Turner in round 9 as a draw was quickly agreed. This means that Alex will earn a GM norm with a win in round 9.

Elsewhere in this round, Carl Strugnell kept his IM norm chances alive by beating our own Sam Collins. Carl will need to beat Yang-Fan Zhou with the black pieces in round 9 for an IM norm. Charles Storey recorded his eight loss of the event, this time against Sebastien Feller. Vladislav Nevednichy lost his second in a row with Hugo Ten Hertog the beneficiary while Matthew Turner and Yang-Fan Zhou agreed a quick draw.

IM Section

It wasn't to be this time around for Conor O'Donnell who threw everything at GM Petr Neuman in trying to find a win but it just wasn't to be. We're sure its just a matter of time before Conor does start notching norms and goes over 2400.

Elsewhere, Henry Li had an impressive draw against GM Miroslaw Grabarcyzk, Gavin Wall got the better of Colm Daly and Killian Delaney drew with Alistair Hill who both must be kicking themselves for their slow starts to the event.

Carl Strugnell1-0Sam Collins
Charles Storey0-1Sebastien Feller
Vladislav Nevednichy0-1Hugo Ten Hertog
Lucas Van Foreest0.5-0.5Alex Lopez
Matthew Turner0.5-0.5Yang-Fan Zhou
Henry Li0.5-0.5Miroslaw Grabarcyzk
Killian Delaney0.5-0.5Alistair Hill
Gavin Wall1-0Colm Daly
Reinhold MuellerConor E. Murphy
Conor O’Donnell0-1Petr Neuman

Round 9

GM Section

An unfortunate end to a great week of chess in Tralee - Alex gave it his all in pursuit of a last round dramatic win to seal the GM norm but GM Turner had enough to repel those attacks and come away with the victory. Norm aside, it was an excellent return to FIDE rated classical chess for Alex who hadn't played an event of this sort in 3 years. There's no doubt that his first GM norm is only around the corner when he was able to produce a performance like this with so much rust to shed.

There was one norm won over the weekend with Carl Strugnell picking up an unlikely IM norm with a 4.5/9 made all the more impressive as he had to get 2/2 on the final day and did. Those games were against players rated over 200 points higher rated than him.

It was a disappointing week for Sam Collins but it probably all hinged on his match with Lucas Van Foreest. If that match had ended in a draw or Sam had managed to win it, perhaps Sam wouldn't have had to go for so many wins later in the event making 6.5 not so daunting.

IM Section

Conor O'Donnell recovered well from the disappointment of round 8 to win his last match and finish just a point shy of the IM norm. Its likely that Conor will now have a short break from chess with his Leaving Cert looming but it should go down as a terrific season for him personally - he moved into the world's top 100 U18s, represented Ireland at the Olympiad for the first time and came within a whisker of 2400 FIDE.

Colm Daly finished the event with a win over Reinhold Mueller. Unfortunately its a case of what could have been for Colm after one bad day. He was on course for a norm through 3 rounds, doing exactly what he needed to do but day 3 proved his undoing and may have caused him to chase games later in the event which he otherwise might have played more conservatively in.

A good learning experience for Henry Li and Killian Delaney who had some bright spots but ran out of steam toward the end of the event. We're sure both will soon cross the 2300 mark and join the ranks of the less than 20 FMs on this island and there'll be more opportunities like this to come in the future.

Created 2017-04-14 ◦ Last updated 2017-04-17 ◦ Editor JMM

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