Ulster Championship Report

Among the 16 players competing for the title of Ulster chess champion included three players making a welcome return to Ulster chess.

Paul McKeown, was a member of the Downpatrick Chess Club in the mid-1980s before going to University in England. This was his first competition since then in Ulster. He has a FIDE rating of 2084 after a good performance in the Major Open at the 2000 British Championships. Michael Waters was a member of the Queen's University team in the early 1990s. He won the 1991 Williamson Shield and has a FIDE rating of 2125. However, by his own admission, he had hardly looked at a chess set for five years. Another former winner of the Williamson Shield, Fred MacDonald, was continuing his comeback after returning to action earlier this season after over 10 years away from competitive play. Eight of the top 10 from the 1999 championship, including the winner Stephen Scannell, were playing again, so this was probably a slightly stronger field than last year.

There were three surprises in the opening round. Defending champion Scannell was beaten by Gareth Annesley, number one seed Tom Clarke lost to Danny Mallaghan, and it started to snow very heavily. While the snow made the surroundings at Fortwilliam Golf Club very picturesque, it caused the players quite a few problems going to and from the venue.

After all the adjournments were cleared away at the end of Round 4, the leading scores were Clarke, James McDonnell, Adrian Skelton and Waters on 3.0, followed by Michael Holmes, McKeown and Scannell on 2.5. McDonnell beat Clarke in the top board clash in Round 5, but then lost to Scannell in Round 6. Meanwhile Holmes had won in Rounds 5 and 6 to be in the sole lead going into the last round.

The final round pairings on the top two boards were: Scannell (4.0) -v- Holmes (4.5) and James McDonnell (4.0) -v- Adrian Skelton (4.0). Only these four players were in a position to win the title. Scannell managed to beat Holmes and this gave him the championship outright as the other two in the hunt drew their game. Final round wins for Clarke, over Waters, and Timothy Douglas, over the previously unbeaten McKeown, brought them up to second equal. The only player to remain unbeaten over the seven rounds was Adrian Skelton.

Final scores and positions:
1. Stephen Scannell 5.0;
2=6. Tom Clarke, Tim Douglas, Michael Holmes, James McDonnell and Adrian Skelton 4.5; 
7. Danny Mallaghan (winner of the grading prize) 4.0;
8=12. Fred MacDonald, Paul McKeown, Desmond Moreland, Brendan O'Neill and Michael Waters 3.5;
13=14. Gareth Annesley and Sam Moore 3.0; 
15. Paul McLoughlin 1.0; 
16. John Nicholson 0.0 (withdrew after 2 rounds).

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