Cork Chess Congress 2015
The 2015 Cork Congress was held in the Gresham Hotel in Cork from 27th – 29th March and by all accounts it was another successful event organised by the Cork Chess Club. A total of 133 players took part which was slightly down on the numbers last year but this can be explained by the fact that the 4 Nations Chess League (4NCL) changed their dates for their week-end four Division 1&2 matches which coincided with the Cork Congress dates. This meant that a number of British based GMs and other titled players were unable to make the annual trip to Cork this year because of their 4 NCL commitments.
Notwithstanding this setback the Congress still had a number of very strong players headed by Irish GM Alexander Baburin who has faithfully made the trip to Cork for the last number of years. Next in rating order was Cork Chess player Michael De Verdier, FM Philip Short and CCYMS players Milos Pahor and Kieran Moynihan. The Major section included WCM Gearoidin Ui Laighleis, Patrick O’Sullivan from Kerry and Blanchardstown player Gavin Doyle. The under 1100 minor section had 57 contestants which included eight players over the 1000 mark, they were (in rating order) Maurice Coveney, Desmond Beatty, Dean Copeland, Aaron Daly, Peter Doyle, Martin Desmond, Osin Tong and Colum O’Brien.
The Masters’ section (Allison Memorial) commemorates the well-known Cork player Finbarr Allison who died at a relatively young age in January 2007. Finbarr was a very strong chess player in the Cork area and was involved heavily in organising and promoting the sport in Cork and Munster. One small example of his work behind-the-scenes comes from the year 1994 when Finbarr was a member of the executive committee of the Munster Chess Union helping to promote chess in the Munster region, at this time Finbarr also became a committee member with Maurice Coveney and myself to help promote the annual ‘Mulcahy’ for its 25th anniversary and at the same time he co-captained (with Tadgh O’Leary) the CCYMS team to winning the first division league of the Munster Chess Union. Interestingly, following a long and arduous league campaign, the result still hung in the balance for CCYMS’s final ‘round-up’ match against arch-rivals Douglas which took place in Cahir in July 1994 and the last game to finish on the day was Finbarr’s game against former international Maurice Kennefick. Finbarr outplayed Maurice in a blitz finish and this point managed to clinch the league for CCYMS.
A slight (sic) technological problem on the Friday evening meant that the start was delayed by 15 minutes but it was clear from round 1 that the battle for supremacy was going to be hotly contested in all sections.
In the first round of the masters section there were quite a number of games that seemed they could go either way but in the end all but one finished according to seeding, on board 12 Dubliner Kevin Burke beat the higher seeded Orison Carlile. In the second round DJ O’ Donoghue, who travelled from Malta to take part in the Congress, had a fine game against GM Baburin but in what looked like a drawn ending DJ went astray and allowed Baburin to take the full point. After three rounds only the top two seeds, Baburin and De Verdier, were on full points and were paired against each other for round 4 but a draw was quickly agreed. Board 2 also ended in a draw but this was a long drawn out game between Keegan O’Mahony and Philip Short.
While a number of warnings were given to participants concerning clocks going forward for the Sunday morning game it seems that some people still ‘forgot’ and managed to arrive at the board an hour late but we won’t name them to save them any embarrassment. Another curious phenomena on Sunday morning was the many sports-people waiting on Patrick’s Quay bedecked in the Cork colours of red and white. Nothing unusual there you may add and as this sight was visible from the Metropole’s ballroom window, where the chess was taking place, many of the chess players came to the window to view the scene. Someone said ‘I didn’t know Cork were playing today’ and someone else replied ‘They’re not! These are Polish soccer fans living in Cork and waiting for the bus to take them to Dublin for the match against Ireland’. Unfortunately (for Ireland) the match was drawn 1-1. But back to the chess…
Three players were tied on 3.5 points each for round 5 and board one pitches Stephen Moran as white against De Verdier while Kieran Moynihan was paired against the number one seed Alex Baburin on board 2. While De Verdier and Moran’s game ended in a draw the game between Moynihan and Baburin turned into a fairly wild and complex game that saw the initiative toing and froing until the element of time became a factor and Baburin emerged victorious (see game). One other round five game of note was the encounter between friends and club-mates Keegan O’Mahony and Hugh Doyle which was the last game to finish and attracted a large crowd for the blitz finish that ensued. Both players are well known for the experience they have gained in contesting time-diminishing games and this time they didn’t disappointment the expectant spectators. After going below five minutes each they quickly abandoned their score sheets and concentrated on the game at hand which seemed to be going Keegan’s way but with still a lot of play left in the game. Pieces then began to fly around the board as both players were now playing on the increments (15 seconds) only. The game was finally agreed drawn but not before both players at different times had less than 1 second left on their clocks!
In the final round GM Alexander Baburin beat Stephen Moran to take the ‘Alison Memorial’ title and first prize while Michael De Verdier was outright second and Hugh Doyle together with Sylvester Sudolski tied for third place. Grading prizes went to Piotr Leichert (U1900) and Mark Lincoln (U1700).
Shock of the first round in the Majors must go to the victory of Robbie Kildea who managed to beat WCM Gearodin Ui Laighleis in an exciting game. Fourteen year old Robbie who hails from Enniscorthy is one of the bright young players emerging from the south east that seems to have a promising future in Irish chess. The Majors was probably one of the most closely contested sections of the Congress and this can be gauged from the fact that after four rounds there were still 6 players who remained unbeaten. They were Luke Scott, Niall O’Higgins, Patrick O’Sullivan, and Matthew Gallagher (all on 3.5 points) together with Philip Foenander and Dave O’Kelly (both on 3 points). Decisive results on the top two boards in round five meant that Patrick O’Sullivan and Luke Scott were emerging as serious contenders for the title. The final round saw O’Sullivan and Scott agreeing a draw which meant they shared the prize-money on 5 points apiece but a blitz play-off would determine who would be crowned Major champion. In the end Luke Scott was awarded the title after defeating O’Sullivan in the best of three blitz games. Third place was split between two players, Niall O’Higgins, and Matthew Gallagher while grading prizes were awarded to Robert Murtagh (U 1450) and Belfast based Martin Kelly (U 1300).
It was nice to see the President of the Cork Chess Club and the highly regarded Joe Browne making not only his return to competitive chess but also to winning ways as he finished with a credible 3 wins under his belt and a mid-table placing in this section.
Two players who set a blistering pace in this section were Cork player Oliver Roberts and St Benildus player Desmond Beatty who were on a 100% (4 points) roll from their first four rounds. This nicely set up the round 5 clash with these two players and after an epic struggle Beatty managed to overcome Roberts to go into a full point lead for the last round where he was selected to play the upcoming 13 year old Enniscorthy girl Mercedes Plaza Reino. Beatty managed to secure a draw against Mercedes and thus with 5.5 points Beatty also secured the first prize to become the champion of the minor section of the Cork Congress. In joint second place was Liam Francis Kelly, Dean Copeland and John Lucy. Grading prizes were awarded to Hugo Moran (U950) and Patrick O’Mahony (U600). The award for the best rating performance from an unrated player was Sean Sheehy who finished with a credible 3 points and a performance rating of 821.
Michael Bradley was acting as MC for the week-end and after the presentation of prizes he called on the 2015 Congress winner GM Alex Baburin to make a short speech. Alex first thanked the participants for taking part in the Cork Congress and making it such a successful event. He also said that he enjoys so much coming to Cork and makes it a priority each year to attend the Congress. He wished everyone well and hoped to see everyone back again in 2016 and with that the 2015 Cork Congress came to a close.
Masters (Allison Memorial)
1st Prize: GM Alex Baburin
2nd Prize: Michael De Verdier
3rd Prize Jt winners: Hugh Doyle and Sylvester Sudolski
Grading Prizes: Piotr Leichert (U1900) Mark Lincoln (U1700)
1st Prize Jt winners: Luke Scott* and Patrick O’Sullivan (*wins title on tie break)
3rd Prize Jt winners: Niall O’Higgins and Matthew Gallagher
Grading Prizes: Robert Murtagh (U1450) Martin Kelly (U1300(
1st Prize: Desmond Beatty
2nd Prize Jt winners: Liam Francis Kelly, Dean Copeland and John Lucy
Grading Prizes: Patrick O’Mahony (U950) Hugo Moran (U650)
Best performance by non-rated player: Sean Sheehy