We have just hit 38 entries for The Irish Championship 2019 which means we can have a look at the runners and riders so far. We currently have the top 6 Irish players confirmed to play and in all there is 1 GM, 4 IMs and 6 FMs in the field. When the time comes, The Irish Championship 2019 pairings will be available here. The first round is at 3pm on Saturday, August 3rd. Entries are also open for the supporting events with a full list of those here:
We start our preview with the top ranked IRL-player in the FIDE database, IM Sam Collins, and continue down in rating order based on the May 2019 rating list.
Our top seed for The Irish Championship 2019 is Sam Collins who will remember the last 18 months as one where he took a big step toward his ultimate goal of becoming Ireland's first home-grown Grandmaster. Sam scored an undefeated 7/9 in the ICU's GM norm event at New Years 2018 which you can read about in The Philip Hogarty 10 Year Memorial 2018: Round by Round Report. At the time, Sam was within 33 points of the title but has slipped back slightly since and now requires 52 points (on the live FIDE list) which is of course still within his endless abilities.
In 2014, Sam claimed the title with a massive score of 8/9 in one of the stronger Irish Championships but didn’t have it all his own way last year finishing joint fifth. He will face an equally tough task this year with the average rating of the entire field over 2100. However, Sam is certainly carrying better form this year having gained about 20 points thanks to the Armstrong (9/10) and NCC (4.5/5).
Can Sam claim his third Irish title and move even closer to his GM dream?
Ireland's only GM and current second seed will be returning to play in The Irish Championship 2019; his fourth appearance in the Irish in 11 years. Reports from the Irish Chess Championships 2008, which Alexander won with a spectacular 8/9 against very strong opposition, can be seen on the ICU site and Sean Coffey's IRLchess.. That would be his one and only win but he is back for more this year.
Since that win, Alexander has many titles to his name including last year's Kilkenny International Chess Congress (his third Kilkenny title in a row!), he drew with super GM (2750+ at the time) Sergey Karjakin at the Batumi Chess Olympiad 2018, he has taught countless juniors and is currently ICU Vice-Chairperson. He has also been known to do the odd blindfold simul.
But will he be able to claim his second Irish title? Time will tell.
IM Alex Lopez (2431)
Where do you start a piece about our third seed, IM Alex Lopez? Well, first off, he’s coming into this event looking for his third Irish in a row – a feat which hasn’t been accomplished since the 1920s. He has mixed in some events this year; most notably winning his 13th Mulcahy title – his 13th title in 13 attempts in 16 years that is (his third came joint with GM Gawain Jones who just this month crossed 2700 for the first time!). But he has not seemed to hit top gear this year like he did in his 2018 season.
2018 was highlighted by his first GM norm which he made at The ICU Easter Festival by scoring 7/9 against a very strong field. Alex's rating reached a peak after that event of 2461 live and he seemed poised for more. He then went in search of his next norm but ran out of steam on foreign ground with results not going his way. He returned home to lap the field at the Irish with a massive score of 8/9 – a full 1.5 ahead of his nearest challenger. Alex is a three-time Irish winner who has won on his last three appearances; you can read a report on his first win here.
Alex’s form on Irish soil is beyond reproach, but can he go to the well one more time to see off his Irish rivals?
IM Mark Quinn (2380)
This will be Mark’s first Irish in 10 years which was also the year he’d his best finish; 2nd. Despite drastically scaling down the amount of chess he plays (and celebrating the birth of his first child in the last year), Mark still made his first appearance in a “major” in some time this January by playing in The Irish New Year Norm Events 2019 where he defeated the legendary GM Igor Glek and was another who scored very well on board one of the Armstrong league with 6.5/9 including a win over 5th seed, Conor O’Donnell (who had beaten him in the GM norm in January).
Mark has amazingly never won this event despite 25 years in the top tier of Irish chess, can he set the record straight in 2019?
FM Conor Murphy (2361)
Conor is back for more this year after making his Irish debut last year. Some may be unfamiliar our 5th seed who transferred from England to Ireland last year but he has been active on the Irish chess seen with appearances at The Irish Rapid and Blitz Championships 2017, Tralee Classic and The Blackthorne Irish Championship 2018. Conor carries arguably the best form of anyone into this year’s event having recently won the legendary Hastings Masters – beating one 2525 GM and drawing with 2 others on the way to a 7/10 finish; good enough for his first IM norm and a share of the first place winnings. Last year, Conor (6th seed on that occasion) had two standout results; a win over IM Sam Collins and a draw with GM Alex Baburin but he suffered losses to fellow child of ’99, FM Conor O’Donnell and the eventual champion, IM Alex Lopez.
He’s certainly a dark horse for this year’s title but will he have learned from last year’s outing?
FM Conor O'Donnell (2341)
In each of the last 4 years, Conor O’Donnell has added another string to his bow in his progression to the top tier of Irish chess. 2015: claimed the FM title. 2016: makes his first Olympiad appearance. 2017: crosses 2400 for the first time. 2018: two IM norms in Irish events and other near misses. Will 2019 be the year that he claims his first Irish and/or the IM title? He’s been close the last two years; finishing half a point behind Short and Lopez in 2017 and finishing second in 2018 (and half a point off an IM norm each time). Suffice is to say that the man has unfinished business in this event and will be determined to claim his first Irish.
Conor will be fairly active between now and the Irish compared to the top three seeds so we can’t say for certain the form he’ll carry in. So far this year, he has had a decent year highlighted by a very impressive performance in the Armstrong Cup; finishing as the league’s top scorer on 9.5/11 for newly promoted Gonzaga B whom he also captains.
3rd in 2017, 2nd in 2018 – will Conor continue that trend and pick up the fabled Irish trophy this year?
IM David Fitzsimons (2317)
This is David’s first appearance in an Irish since 2015 and therefore his first since becoming Ireland’s latest International Master! Up until that point, David was a long-time regular of the Irish Championship with his last 4 finishes in consecutive years being: 4th, 4th, 3rd, 3rd – the latter two being his best finishes to date.
David’s FIDE rating has dipped slightly of late but this hides some terrific performances. He finished joint first in Kilkenny International Chess Congress, had another great performance in the Bunratty Chess Festival and finally had a score of 4.5/5 in the NCC which helped his club secure a place at this year’s European Club Cup.
In the last few years, David has wins against several of the top seeds and was the last Irish person to beat Alex Lopez – in Bunratty this year. Can David win his first Irish?
FM Stephen Brady (2282)
The 9-time Irish champion is back for more having played in the event last year after a few years away from the Irish. Stephen has been extremely active by his standards, notably winning the Drogheda Congress in a strong field over the June bank-holiday. He also played in Malahide, the Irish Open, the NCC, the St Andrew’s Classic and 2 ICU norm events since last year’s Irish.
Stephen's wins came in '91, '92, '01, '03, '06,'07, '11, '12, and '15.
Will he be able to add '19 to that long list?
FM Joe Ryan (2268)
The two-time champion is back for a long-awaited return to the Irish – last appearing in 2004 when he won the event (tying with Gawain Jones in the process!) In fact, Joe has won the event on two of his last three appearances (’04, ’97) and must be considered a serious threat to do so again. Although Joe hasn’t played an Irish in 15 years, he did play in the ICU GM norm event last Easter. In that event, Ryan, Fitzsimons and Daly went some way to cancelling each other’s norm chances out, picking up a win apiece in that mini-round robin. However, Joe doesn’t require norms for his IM title having already secured more than enough IM norms – he just needs to get to 2400. In that regard, it has been a good year for Joe as he gained 37 rating points in an event in Spain a few months ago.
Joe has more pedigree in this event than many of his younger rivals – will that experience be enough to make it his third title in his last four attemps?
FM Henry Li (2249)
This is Henry's fourth Irish Championships having competed as a wildcard in 2015 and as a 2200+ in 2017 and 2018. It was an excellent season for Henry as he picked up Armstrong, NCC, and Millfield winners medals yet again and he also became Ireland’s latest FM! He has showed that he is ready to even kick on to the next level by lapping the field in the Galway Congress with a score of 5.5/6 – a full 1.5 points ahead of second.
Henry is currently the 10th seed and will be up against it when it comes to winning the event but he can look back to those season highlights for some belief! Will that give him the confidence to go out and upset the odds in The Irish Championship 2019?
Tarun Kanyamarala (2244) & Trisha Kanyamarala (2196)
Tarun, and his sister Trisha, will be making their Irish debuts this August but they are well used to the big stage having already represented Ireland internationally in European and World events. They have both been on fire of late each gaining about 200 rating points in the last few months and edging closer and close to FM titles. They both also finished tied for first in the Drogheda Congress (with Stephen Brady) in a very strong field which featured many other Irish entrants.
Many of you may be unfamiliar with the incredibly talented pair as they have mostly played internationally over the past 5 years having emigrated from Ireland at the ages of 8 and 9 respectively. They are now back living in Ireland and will compete for Irish chess’ biggest prize. They will be the biggest unknown quantity in this year’s event being the highest rated debutantes but could have a real say on whose hands are lifting the trophy on August 11th.
Killian Delaney (2238)
Killian has consolidated his place at the top-table of Irish chess over the past two years having made a rating surge up to that point - just six years ago he started the year as a 2012 (ICU) rated player but he now sits among the top Irish players with an ICU & FIDE rating of 2206. He's been driven by 6 Armstrong titles in 8 years, 4 NCC titles, several trips to the European Club Cup and by the goal of emulating fellow Delaneys, John and Paul, by becoming Irish champion and an FM.
Killian came close in the 2016 Irish - eventually finishing third - and he will fear no one having secured results against many of the players currently entered. But will Killian be able to put 9-rounds together and really push for the title?
FM Tom O'Gorman (2227)
This is Tom's third Irish Championships having competed last year and as a wildcard in 2015 - since the latter he has gained over 400 rating points and became one of Ireland’s youngest FMs ever. Last year we mentioned that Tom had a fairly topsy-turvy year with big rating losses followed by big rating gains. This season was much the same with slightly less volatility, dipping to 2150 before rebounding to 2250. Like 2018, Tom used the ICU norm event to springboard himself back up the Irish rankings with a score of 5.5/9; netting himself 96 rating points. Tom’s most recent success was The Leinster Blitz Championship 2019 where he blew away the field with a perfect 11/11; comfortably ahead of his nearest rival.
Tom has the talent to break-out and make another leap forward in his progression; but will it come at The Irish Championship 2019?
FM Colm Daly (2213)
The 6-time champion was one of the first to commit to playing and will surely fancy his chances of adding to his haul in this year's event. Colm has struggled for form of late having taken a short break from chess but there are signs that Colm is getting back to himself with a second place finish in the Ennis Open.
Colm was again one of the most active players in Irish chess over the past 12 months (even with his break) and has possibly won more Irish events than any two other players. He has the pedigree in this event but will Colm do it?
Stephen Moran (2186)
Stephen formed part of the "Gonzaga" team which claimed promotion to Division 1 of the 4NCL this year while he was also active on the domestic front, competing in many weekender events and trotting out for Trinity College on a weekly/monthly basis. He has flirted with going over 2200 for the first time for quite some time now and perhaps this will be the week he makes the leap if he can string results together like he did last when he had 2300s dreading a pairing with him. 2186 is a peak rating for Stephen.
Paul Wallace (2171)
Paul was fairly active on the domestic chess seen this year with many appearances at weekenders and as usual, he was one of the first names on the team-sheet for Kilkenny CC in the LCU leagues. Paul is back for more having played in the Irish last year.
Jonathan O’Connor (2165)
The 2018 Irish 50+ Champion will be playing in his first Irish Championships since 2014 and we’re sure he’ll be looking forward to bringing his charismatic analysis to the commentary booth after his games; win, lose or draw. Jonathan hasn’t been particularly active on the chess playing scene since that last Irish appearance but has managed to make it to Bunratty each year and be a regular for Dublin CC in the Armstrong and NCC.
Gavin Melaugh (2153)
Gavin was our only debutante at the 2017 Irish Championships and although he has already been on the Irish chess scene for 10 years, he is still just 15 years old. However, this will be the first time Gavin will not be the youngest participant in his three Irish championship appearances with that honour taken by Trisha Kanyamarala. It was a tremendous year for Gavin which was headlined by a first master section win in Malahide. However, his best rating performance actually came in the NCC where Gavin finished with 3.5/4 against an average opponent rating of 2100+ gaining 58 FIDE points in the process.
Shane Melaugh (2126)
20th seed Shane Melaugh, will be returning for his fourth Irish Championship; having played the last 3 years. In 2018, Shane had a top 10 finish but his two best performances of the season came in Malahide, like his brother Gavin, and at the ChessMates event playing for Team Ireland in Paris.
Shane rocketed up the Irish rankings in 2018 with many impressive performances including at Bunratty, Kilkenny, and Gonzaga but the most pivotal events for his progress were the European Youth Chess Championships 2017 and Glorney Cup where he gained over 200 points in all. He'll be on the bubble in round 1; either being top of the bottom half or bottom of the top half.