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Slim Pickings for Bangor

"Chess Notes" from County Down Spectator, 02 Mar 2004

Bunratty Chess Festival

The festival, held every February, is one of the highlights of the Irish chess season. With nearly 500 competitors in all sections, there was the usual attraction of several high profile players. This year, as part of the Grand Prix Circuit, the Masters section include 3 Grandmasters (GM) and 7 International Masters (IM).

Sadly there was no Ulster representation in the Masters section. Top seed was the inimitable Dr. John Nunn (GM), weighing in at a mighty 2617 ELO. In his first game, as Black, he was on the wrong end of a stunning attack by Irishman John Joyce (2271). Dr. John does not enjoy the best of records at Bunratty, and his first round capitulation effectively ended his tournament hopes.

Just showing how tough the top players found the going, Israeli GM Alon Greenfeld (2539) was downed in round 3 by Irish junior Matthew Dignam (2159); Dignam delivering mate with 5 seconds left.

19-year old English University student, Lorin D'Costa, a regular visitor to Bunratty for several years now, claimed top prize, scoring 5/6. Very composed at the board, Lorin dispatched several big names to win the championship.

Ulster Chess was well represented in the lower sections, 10 players in the Challengers, and 1 each in the Major and Minor sections. Perhaps the long journey south, together with the late night entertainment on offer affected the form, for only Damien Lavery (Bangor) managed to distinguish himself with a plus score (3.5/6).

Bangor junior players, Richard Morrow and David Grzymek, enjoyed their first taste of Bunratty's festive atmosphere, despite hard-times over the chess board. Richard was dumb-struck in his "friendly" blitz match against GM John Nunn when Richard's Queen suddenly vanished from the board after only a few moves.

Division 1

Thursday Club Night: Groomsport scored draws on all boards against Civil Service doing no favours for either themselves or Carnegie; no change at the bottom of the league.

After Carnegie's match this week against Clifton House, both Groomsport and Carnegie will have only one match left to complete the season. These final matches are due to be a Division event held in Civil Service with all teams participating in a massive 15 board play-off. Scheduled for the week of St. Patrick's Day, the fate of league winners and losers will be decided on the night.

Fisherwick are making a late, strong challenge on Clifton House as the season draws to a close. Division winners may well hinge on the play-off final; Clifton House meet Bangor Groomsport and Fisherwick take on RVH. As well as deciding league winners, the same matches will likely determine the order at the bottom of the league too. Barring changes in the league structure, Bangor are confident of at least one team remaining in Division 1 for next year.

Division 2

Winston had to postpone their match against RVH with 2 players absent.

Templar fell heavily to Fisherwick on Club Night, with 2 draws from Philip Todd (3) and Kevin Agnew (4). Martin Moorcroft (1), David Grzymek (2) ad Drew Ferguson (5) all lost.

This was the first defeat of the season for Martin Moorcroft. A sharp Birds opening was parried by Martin who used his Knights well to ward off the King side attack. Martin found several threatening moves and finally won a pawn to put Ian Davis under some pressure. But now under time pressure himself, Martin missed a move to put his King safe and Ian pounced to win a Knight. With some good combinational play Martin won another pawn but as the pieces were exchanged Ian's extra Bishop proved decisive. Martin took great heart from the game as he had never faced an f4 opening before, from such a strong opponent.

Drew Ferguson defended against an unusual b3 opening and succeeded in blocking Chris Millar's Bishop's control of the long diagonal from b2. Drew launched an intimidating attack down the King-side but mostly empty threats. Chris gained a 2 pawn advantage and when Drew forced himself into a material trade-off, not even the clock could save the game for Black.

Fixtures

This week Templar travel to Hillsborough. On Thursday's club night, Carnegie play their last game before the final divisional play-off against Clifton House, and Winston entertain Fisherwick.

Next week only Division 2 teams play: Templar travel short-handed to Fortwilliam and Winston entertain CIYMS.

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