Belfast Summerfest Report

In 1977 the Ulster Chess Union, with sponsorship from the Belfast City Council, organised a chess competition as part of the Belfast Civic Festival. The winner of that inaugural event was John Moles, one of the strongest Ulster players of all time. The winner of the next two events in the series was Moles's great rival Paul Henry. Since then a tradition of a strong tournament in the late Spring of each year has been maintained. In recent years the Council, although still providing promotional support, has no longer sponsored the event, now renamed Belfast Summerfest. In 2002 however the UCU was able to persuade the Irish Chess Union to support the event financially. As a result, it was possible to organise the tournament into three sections and increase the total prize-fund.

A small but select field of 10 competed in the Open. Among the competitors were the defending champion Stephen Scannell and previous winners Tom Clarke and Arthur Pinkerton, the latter travelling over from England to take part. However, perhaps the most interesting competitor was Jabj (pronounced Happy) Munoz, a player from the Basque region with a Spanish rating of 2200.

Already in the first round there was a big surprise when Scannell was beaten by Nicholas Pilkiewicz. These two have had many close-fought battles, but this was the first time Nicholas had defeated Steve in a competitive game. Pilkiewicz then beat Pinkerton in Round 2 before losing to Munoz in round 3.

Tom Clarke and Jabj Munoz were the only players to enter Round 4 with 100% scores. The computer automatically paired them together and just as automatically Clarke played the Trompowsky Attack. A sacrifice by Tom had a small hole in it, but he still retained attacking chances when Munoz blundered in time trouble.

This left Clarke a full point clear of Munoz, Heathwood and White with one round to go. In Round 5 Clarke, employing the Dutch Defence, managed to equalise without difficulty against Heathwood and a draw was agreed, while Munoz eventually got the better of White, despite the latter ingenuously promoting a pawn to a Knight in a bid to win a tempo in a Rook and pawn ending.

Prizewinners in the Open
1st: Tom Clarke 4.5
2nd: Jabj Munoz 4.0
3rd: George Heathwood 3.5

In the Challengers Tom Alcorn and Robin Triggs ended the first day in the lead with 3 points apiece. Their Round 4 encounter unfortunately was something of an anti-climax, when Triggs dropped a piece early on. In round 5 Alcorn sensibly was content to keep the draw in hand against Dublin visitor, Andrew Higgins, but in the end he managed to win this game as well. In the 1950s Tom won a number of Ulster tournaments, including the Ulster Schools Championship, the Ulster Junior Championship (twice) and the Williamson Shield. He returned after a very long absence to Ulster chess at last year's Target Recruitment Open and this was his first tournament victory in his "new career."

Prizewinners in the Challengers (1400-1799)
1st: Tom Alcorn 5.0
2nd equal: Robin Triggs, Desmond Moreland and John McKenna 3.5

The Novices section had a very encouraging turnout. Even last year's Target Recruitment tournament (with its very generous prize-fund) had only attracted 15 players to its under 1400 section, but 19 turned out for the Summerfest equivalent.

The Novices turned out to be a battle between three Q.U.B. players - Calum Leitch, Mohamed Saad and Ashley Peile. All of them ended Round 3 with full points. In Round 4 Leitch was paired with Louis Holmes, who had 2 points, while the other two leaders were paired against each other.

How do you prepare for your opponent in these circumstances? Well, Peile and Saad had a novel approach. After all the other players had gone home at the end of Day 1, the two intrepid team-mates remained in the tournament hall played blitz games for the best part of an hour. The following morning, the two players battled away once again with Peile scoring a win after a close-fought encounter.

Peile's victory had put him level with Leitch, who had already recorded a victory over Holmes. In the final Round there was no quick handshake and a sharing of the spoils between team-mates but a full-blooded encounter, in which Peile eventually triumphed.

Prizewinners in the Novices
1st Ashley Peile 5.0
2nd equal Calum Leitch, Mohamed Saad, Tim Roope

One of the most encouraging trends at recent tournaments has been the increasing number of young players competing. Belfast Summerfest 2002 may well be the tournament when this new generation of young players started to make their mark.

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