Archive for February, 2012

Blitzed in Bunratty

I made my first visit to the Bunratty event at it’s 19th edition, this was more my fault than theirs as I have been invited on a few other occasions. The once mighty weekend circuit in the UK is at a pretty low ebb at the moment and a number of the most interesting events take place across the Irish Sea. The generous support of Gary O’Grady and his company Blackthorne International Transport made for a fomidable field. With no FIDE rating points at stake I experimented a bit with my openings – rather more work required I’m afraid!

The games went by in a blur, after rather too good a Saturday night my first encounter with Nigel got off to an ugly start as I was forced to fianchetto my knight although I was pressing by the end. I finished with a win in the last round leaving Nigel, Gawain and myself tied on 5/6 drawing our individual games (spare a thought for the players who finished 4= for no prizemoney). The top 2 players played off for the title (Nigel and I) although if a tiebreak is considered reliable enough to decide this you might as well use it to declare a winner. Admittedly there was only the trophy and title at stake. The tiebreak games were 5 mins without increment sudden death. The generous number of live games was a positive feature of the event but for some reason the playoff games didn’t go out live.

My second game with Nigel was no prettier, I had White and ran into big trouble, facing a substantial material disadvantage but with the clock ticking relentlessly trying to avoid perpetual check my opponent erred and the material advantage reversed as I picked up a rook. Almost immediately we liquidated into a trivial 3v1 pawn ending and it was only a question of whether I could give mate with the time remaining.
The game proceeded until I gave mate (Nigel had no mating material remaining some time before ), at this stage my clock was showing zero (I think Nigel was also at zero on his clock at this point although it was clear my time elapsed first) so the result was a bit unclear. I thought I had won (although I wasn’t sure) as Nigel made no claim about the clock until after I had delivered mate which I had an idea concluded the game, I’m not sure at exactly the precise moment the clock ticked down to 0.00. Nigel also seemed uncertain as to what the correct outcome was and asked the arbiter to make a ruling.
The arbiter enquired as to whether we wanted to agree a result which seemed a bit odd, and then established not altogether surprisingly that I was hoping for a win and Nigel a
draw. He then declared the game should be a draw as my time had elapsed before mate was given.
I thought in that case he should have called the time forfeit when it occurred rather than waiting and then asking the players to agree a result first. He suggested I appeal the decision but that didn’t seem much in the spirit of the tournament. However I am a bit curious as to exactly what the rules say in such a situation.

Ray Keene asked me to try to reconstruct the games for the Times, my best recollection of the second game is below:

Ironically, for the Sunday night blitz with no prizes at stake the organisers reverted to a 3 min+ 2 sec increment!

Anyway it was great to get back to Ireland again and reminded me that a visit to one of my other favourite weekenders, Kilkenny, is long overdue.

Eternal Endgames

The 10th edition of the Tradewise Gibraltar Chess Festival, by far the strongest yet was as ever a tremendous event and it was great to hear that Brian Callaghan had received an OBE for services to tourism and chess in the New Year Honours List. It couldn’t happen to a nicer guy.

After my London debacle it was good to complete a solid tournament, I had to work for it as game after game ended up in tricky endgames. Strangely with White I three times ended up on the better side of rook and opposite coloured bishop endgames, every time I had the dark squared bishop. I managed to win 2 although in probably the most promising I was foiled by careful defence by Shakhriyar Mamedyarov.

With Black things were less happy as I managed to survive rook and knight endgames by the skin of my teeth against Zoltan Almasi and Viktor Bologan in the last 2 rounds ( I finished sub-optimally with a double Black). To continue the sense of déjà vu both games began with the same Lopez system . I was so busy I didn’t even get to check out the apes and although our room was ‘RockSide’ this year they didn’t swing down to visit the hotel. I wouldn’t be terribly distressed by some shorter games in the future.

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The Governor’s Dinner

Tournament chief sponsor Tradewise, Brain Callaghan and the staff of the Caleta Hotel pulled out all the stops for the 10th edition of The Gibraltar Chess Festival which was, as usual, a great success. To mark the anniversary Mickey and I were among the fortunate few to be invited to the Governor’s Dinner at the The Convent. Vice Admiral Sir Adrian Johns welcomed us all to the official residence and we were treated to a wonderful dinner that included the spectacle of the Ceremony of the keys where the Port Sergeant formally hands over the keys to the Governor before the start of the meal announcing “The fortress is secure!”. This was a wonderful piece of pageantry, very moving to witness. The keys themselves, positioned on a velvet cushion during the dinner, looked as if they must weigh well over 10lbs – hardly a set you could pop in your pocket! Happily this was one ‘post game’ engagement that didn’t succumb to the curse of the dinner plan and Mickey’s round 1 game did not run long so we were on time, though a couple of the other invitees including Nigel Short, weren’t so lucky and so were absent for the official photo. A very special event in honour of a very special tournament!

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