Galway Chess Congress 2019: Report

127 people played in the 2019 Galway Congress, which was well up on the numbers the last time the event was held two years ago.  It was also one of the most international we have had, as players came from Latvia, Germany (several), Sweden, and England, as well as from the North.  We again demonstrated that chess appeals to all ages: the oldest player was a few months under 80 and the youngest just two months over 7.  We also seem to be good at introducing people to organized chess, as thirty entrants were playing their first-ever rated games (nearly a quarter of the total).  Most of those thirty joined the ICU because of the Galway congress, so the ICU got a lot of new members thanks to us.  The one disappointment was the relatively small field in the top section: 14, plus a visitor – the ICU Ratings Officer, as it happened – who kindly stepped in as a filler for one game.  We have tried a number of inducements to attract stronger players – such as offering free entry and inviting foreign GMs and IMs – but, like many Irish tournaments in recent years, we have only managed to attract a small fraction of the sixty or so Irish-based players rated over 2000. If we knew what we could do to attract more, we would certainly do it.

Despite the relatively small field, the Masters section saw probably the outstanding performance of the weekend, by the convincing winner, sixteen-year-old Henry Li, who had already won the tournament with a round to spare after five straight wins (including one against International Master Vladimir Sveshnikov); he eased up in the last round and conceded a draw to Grand Master Alex Baburin, to finish on 5½ points.  Henry thereby becomes the youngest-ever winner of the Galway trophy, beating by over three years the previous record which was held by Gawain Jones.  Since Gawain is now firmly established in the top hundred in the world, Henry has the prospect of an outstanding chess future ahead of him if he can continue to better Gawain’s achievements.

Second equal, a long way behind on 4 points, were top seed Vladimir Sveshnikov from Latvia and Galway’s Denis Ruchko, whose result in any other year would have been the most noteworthy: Denis, at not yet sixteen, is even younger than Henry and was rated second to last in this section; he played all the top players in the event, drawing with both IM Sveshnikov and GM Baburin, whilst his only loss was against Henry Li after a rather wild game.

There were two rating prizes for which those rated under 2000 were eligible.  Denis Ruchko was the clear winner here, but under the rule that one can only win one prize (the one of higher value) he had to be content with ‘only’ getting the shard second prize.  Therefore the first rating prize went to Brendan Ruane from England, who scored 3½ points, and the second to Darragh Moran on 3.

The Major section (1200-1800) also had a clear winner: Khai Asyraf (as he is known in Galway, or Muhammad Khairil Asyraf Khairil Annuar, as he is more formally known to the ICU) had assured himself of at least first equal with a round to go after five straight wins, and secured first place by agreeing a fairly quick draw in the last round.  It has been a very good couple of months for Khai: he won the Bunratty Major (1200-1600) section last month with a faultless six wins from six, and has also ensured that he will be the new Galway Winter League champion, again with a round to spare after winning his first six games in that tournament.  So that is a cumulative record this year of seventeen wins, one draw, and not one loss.

There was a four-way tie for second place between thirteen-year-old Leon Putar, Jason Harris, Leo Phelan, and Dara Murphy, all on 4½ points.  In this section there were five rating prizes in two bands.  In Band A (1400-1599), in which there were two prizes, three players tied on 4 points so this had to be resolved by tie-break: Galway’s Jarek Wieczorek came out first, and Joe O’Hanlon second, whilst Lara Putar unfortunately narrowly missed out on a prize – but as she is only twelve, we are sure that her time will come, and probably very soon.  Band B (1200-1399) was won by Jason Harris who (unlike Denis in the Masters) received the rating prize as the more valuable; second prize in Band B went to by Phillip Foenander, who just pushed Ruairi McKenna-Carroll into the third prize on tie-break, both scoring 3½ points.

The Minors section (under-1200) was the most closely fought of all three, and resulted in a tie for first place between eleven-year-old Atharva Paibir and thirteen-year-old James Crowley, on 5½ points.  The Hugh Finan Memorial Trophy went to Atharva on tie-break; he was also the youngest tournament winner this year, and probably the youngest ever, although unfortunately we do not seem to have kept a complete record of the ages of past winners.  Third prize was shared between three Galway players on 5 points: Joshua Sawantawadi, Zoran Dragic (who were both also eligible for a rating prize, and so received that) and eleven-year-old Andrew Finnerty, who, at ten days younger than Atharva, was the youngest prize-winner this year (and maybe youngest ever).  Andrew, like Henry Li and Khai Asyraf, was leading the tournament outright after round 5, with five wins; but unlike the others he couldn’t secure the draw he needed in the last round, being beaten by the eventual winner Atharva Paibir.

In this section there were seven rating prizes, to reflect the large number of entries.  The rating prize in Band A (800-999) went to thirteen-year-old Ritvik Trehan, who edged out the oldest player in the tournament, Maurice Coveney, on tie break, after they had both scored 4½ points.  (It would have been symbolic if we had had the youngest-ever and oldest-ever prize-winners in the same section this year, but alas it didn’t quite work out like that.)  Band B (700-799) was won by Zoran Dragic, who as mentioned above also came third equal.  In Band C (rated under 700) there was a tie on 3½ points between three very young players, which had to be resolved by the tie-break: Charles Ridgway (who is not yet 13) came out ahead of fourteen-year-old John Carton and Diana Bueckert (even younger at not yet 11).  In Band D (unrated, and playing in their first tournament) there were three prizes to reflect the large number in that category, and, perhaps surprisingly in view of what has just been reported, juniors did not win any of them: first prize went to Joshua Sawantawadi, who came third equal on 5 points, which is an excellent result in his first tournament; second prize went to Pranav Verma who scored 4 points (both Joshua and Pranav are students at NUI, Galway and have been lured into playing in chess tournaments by the NUIG Chess Club); and third prize went to Daniel Van Tonder with 3½ points, who very narrowly edged out Mohamed Ameer (another NUIG student) on the second category of tie-break.

So overall this tournament will probably be remembered as a very good one for Ireland’s juniors in general, and Henry Li in particular.

Full results – standings and cross-tables – for all three sections can be found here.  The tournament has already been rated by the ICU, and the gains and losses of rating points can be found on their website: Masters, Major, Minors.  We will put up photos of the prize-winners, and some games from the top section, shortly.

March Blitz Results

The March blitz, held on Thursday 28th March, saw all the prizes won by junior members of the club.  Zalan Nemeth repeated his feat from January of coming first with seven straight wins, and the runner-up was Denis Ruchko on 6 points.  The under-1300 rating prize was more closely contested, being won by Andrew Finnerty, who scored 2½ points despite having to leave after only five rounds; his rivals could not close the gap, taking points off each other to all finish on 2 points from their seven games.

March Blitz: Thursday 28th

Our next blitz tournament is on Thursday 28 March at our usual venue of upstairs in the Bridge Centre, St Mary’s Road (opposite St Mary’s School). Start time will be 7.45 p.m.; the tournament will end about 10.30. There will be seven rounds, and in each game you will have 5 minutes plus 5 seconds a move to make all your moves. We will provide sets and clocks, so all you need to do is bring yourself (and preferably some chess-playing friends as well).

Bunratty 2019

Last weekend a good contingent of Galway players took part in the Bunratty Congress – the largest and most prestigious in Ireland.

Our star performer was undoubtedly Khai Asyraf, who won the Major section (1200-1600) for the second year in a row. Last year he won five games and drew one, and then had to win the title in a blitz play-off with the person he had drawn with; but this time he won with six straight wins, finishing a clear point ahead of the field. It is very rare for anybody to win a Bunratty section in consecutive years, and it is also very rare to win a section with 6/6, so Khai may well have achieved a unique feat.

Second in this section was Andrejs Koslovs, who lost to Khai and won his five other games; Andrejs would doubtless have won the Galway Player of the Tournament award in most other years. Last year Andrejs came (joint) third in the Minor section (under 1200); it is a huge step up from the under-1200 to under-1600 section, so to dominate it the way that Andrejs did in his first year is remarkable.

Other results were as follows.

The very strong top section (over 2000) contained two players who have been members of Galway Club in the recent past, but have had to leave Galway in search of employment elsewhere. Gabor Horvath scored an excellent 3 points, only being beaten by the very experienced Grandmaster Bogdan Lalic and Irish number two, International Master Sam Collins; and Gerardo Artola scored a highly commendable 2 points.

In the second section (1600-2000), our best performer was Keegan O’Mahoney, on 4 points. (Keegan has also left Galway to work elsewhere but as he joined the club earlier this season he is still technically a member.)  Michael O’Donnell was next best with 3½ (which gained him quite a few rating points), Denis Ruchko and Pete Morriss both got 3 points, and Jason Rawlinson 2½ .

In the Major section (1200-1600), in addition to Khai and Andrejs, Paul Ward scored 4 points and Ger Abberton 2½, both gaining rating points in so doing.

Finally, in the under-1200 section, Bill Delee came seventh with 4½ points (becoming yet another Galway player to gain a lot of rating points), Andrew Finnerty, David Piercey, and Ian Finnerty all scored 3½, Zoran Dragic 2½, and Marek Fijalkowski 2.

The next tournament is the Galway Congress, when hopefully even more Galway players will shine.

February Blitz Results

The February blitz, held on Thursday 21st, was again marked by the absence of our long-standing regulars; indeed, the only such people present were our ever-enthusiastic juniors, and the ever-diligent organizer. Maybe holding it the day before the start of Bunratty proved not to be a very bright idea. Fortunately there were a fair few newcomers (and relatively new comers) so that the numbers were just about respectable. Just to show that the juniors don’t yet have it all their own way, the tournament was won by Pete Morriss with seven straight wins. Our juniors came second, third, fifth and sixth – the interloper being our star junior of some fifteen years ago, Dara Murphy. The best of the juniors on the night was Denis Ruchko, who came second with 5½ points. The rating prize was awarded to the highest performer who does not yet have a rating, and was shared by Yuliya Makarenko and Shane Murray on 3 points.

January Blitz Results

The January blitz saw the absence of several regulars (who presumably should now be called irregulars) but the numbers were much the same as usual thanks to several newcomers, which was good to see and we look forward to them soon becoming regulars (or irregulars). The results were eventually very similar to those we had seen in November, though this time Zalan Nemeth went one better than his November performance, by scoring seven straight wins to be the clear winner on 7 points. Second, again, was Brendan Buckley on 5½, losing to Zalan in round 3 in the crucial game and then being held to a draw by Pete Morriss in the last round. The grading prize (1300 and under) was won by newcomer Brendan McNelis with 3 points; to win a prize at that level in one’s first tournament is unusual, so Brendan clearly has considerable potential which we hope to see develop in the club.

January Blitz: Thursday 24 at 7.45

Our first blitz tournament of 2019 will be on Thursday 24 January, at our usual venue of upstairs in the Bridge Centre, St Mary’s Road (opposite St Mary’s School). Start time will be 7.45 p.m.; the tournament will end about 10.30. There will be seven rounds, and in each game you will have 5 minutes plus 5 seconds a move to make all your moves. We will provide sets and clocks, so all you need to do is bring yourself (and preferably some chess-playing friends as well).

Galway Chess Congress: 22nd to 24th March 2019

Galway Chess Congress will take place at the Menlo Park Hotel, from Friday 22nd March to Sunday 24th March 2019. You can enter here. Full information about the tournament, including information on which section you can enter, times of the rounds, tournament rules, and information about local accommodation is available here .

We look forward to seeing you at the Congress. If you have any queries, please don’t hesitate to drop us a line, either to the website or direct to our email address: galwaychess [at] gmail [dot] com.

December Blitz Results

There were fewer players than we expected at the Christmas blitz, held on Thursday 20 December – which meant that those of us who were there ate more mince pies than was good for their waistlines. But they were very enjoyable at the time, as was the chess. The eventual winner was Pete Morriss, with 6½ points out of 7 (drawing with Denis Ruchko, and winning the rest); second was Zalan Nemeth on 6 points (losing to Pete and winning all his other games); and the rating prize was won by Andrew Barber, on a highly commendable 4 points. The award for the best seasonal costume was won by Yuliya Makarenko by a mile, and the important one for the player who brought the best mince pies was shared between Kynesha Ryder and Paul Ward.

That concludes our activities for this year. Seasonal greetings to all our members (and readers), and remember that your New Year’s resolution should be to play more chess at Galway Chess Club in 2019.

December Blitz: 20 December

Our last blitz tournament of 2018 will take place on Thursday 20 December, in our usual venue of the Bridge Centre (upstairs), St. Mary’s Road. Start time 7.45; expected finishing time about 10.30. There will be seven rounds you will have to make all your moves in 5 minutes per game plus 5 seconds a move. We provide sets and clocks. Newcomers are welcome. No entry fee; no prizes – but rumour has it that there will be (edible) seasonal goodies on offer instead.

After that, the club will close for a short christmas break, reopening early in the new year.

  • Upcoming Events for Galway Chess Club

    (All 7.30pm starts in the Bridge Club unless otherwise specified)

    Thursday 18th April: Bridge Club Closed for Easter

    Tuesday 23rd April: Casual meeting in Monroe’s at 8pm

    Thursday 25th April: End of Season Blitz