Euro Club Cup October 2006

A Belfast team played in the prestigious European Club Cup in Fügen, Austria from 8 to 14 October 2006. Michael Waters contributes a humorous take on events amongst the European elite. However don't be fooled by the apparently light-hearted approach, this was an excellent performance from our six players. Battling back after a difficult start, victories in rounds 5 and 6 brought about a very creditable final position.
Euro Club Cup October 2006

Belfast Team

Belfast Chess took the plunge at the 2006 European Club Cup in the ski resort of Fügen, Austria. Belfast’s baptism began with a match against the German side Schachfreunde Berlin. Having lost two of the squad, Mssrs Houston and Cairns, before the flight to a modern medical condition known as ‘wimpery’, Belfast nearly lost two of its remaining squad to the Alpine goats. Understandably bored by the Captain’s meeting Mssrs Bradley and Mallaghan took to the slopes via the cable car only to learn that what goes up does not always come down. The cable car was part time and closed for lunch. With the grit of two of Hollywood’s leading men (or at least their stunt doubles) Mallaghan and Bradley descended the treacherous Alpine slopes just in time for Round 1.

Belfast was seeded 54th out of the 56 teams. They won 2 of their 7 matches to finish 47th equal. This was the same score group as Kilkenny CC and ahead of both Welsh teams and also Galway CC. All three medal winning teams were from Russia - Tomsk 400 (Gold), Ladya Kazan (Silver) and Ural Sverdlovskaya (Bronze).

Round 1 on 2006/10/08 at 14.00

Bo.

54

Belfast

Rtg

-

27

Schachfreunde Berlin

Rtg

0 : 6

27.1

 

Scannell Stephen

2157

-

IM

Polzin Rainer

2480

0 - 1

27.2

 

Waters Michael

2110

-

IM

Thiede Lars

2504

0 - 1

27.3

 

McDonnell James J

2033

-

IM

Borriss Martin

2455

0 - 1

27.4

 

Bradley John

0

-

IM

Berndt Stephan

2445

0 - 1

27.5

 

Mallaghan Danny

0

-

 

Schneider Ilja

2368

0 - 1

27.6

 

Morgan Stephen

0

-

FM

Nogly Christoph

2266

0 - 1

 

If the Alps loomed large in Fügen so too did the ratings of Belfast’s Round 1 opponent. After thorny resistance Belfast were dispatched 6-0. Stephen Scannell showed resistance and good play against IM Polzin but went down in the end. The bashing our heads took after game one was matched only by the bashing our heads took from the Hotel’s Umpa band over dinner. A miniature brass band standing next to the salad bar will have an effect on a man.

What they don’t tell you on the invite is that the lowest ranked teams typically get the most distant accommodation. In Fügen distance requires two measurements, length and height! Trudging down from our hotel (above the lower end of the ski slope) the morning after moral was poor.

Worse still the dreaded metatarsal was to strike on Board 6 Stephen Morgan. Unfortunately Austrian swimming pools are not equipped with “No Running, No Bombing, No Horseplay” signs. Doubtless fooled by the absence of such a sign, Morgan lapsed into what football pundits know only as a ‘schoolboy error’. Steven ran towards a feeble plastic deckchair, used it for leverage, took aim at Scannell and Mallaghan, and jumped. The result was disastrous. It turns out Austrian plastic deck chairs are as badly made as anywhere else it the world, so the metatarsal took the full brunt of Stephen's elegant frame.

Stephen Morgan was to prove tougher than the average England football international and made it to Match Day 2.

Round 2 brought a team of great Danes.

Round 2 on 2006/10/09 at 14.00

Bo.

38

Bronshoj Skakforening

Rtg

-

54

Belfast

Rtg

5 : 1

24.1

IM

Pilgaard Kim

2421

-

 

Scannell Stephen

2157

1 - 0

24.2

FM

Bromann Thorbjorn

2379

-

 

Waters Michael

2110

1 - 0

24.3

IM

Brinck-Claussen Bjorn

2361

-

 

McDonnell James J

2033

½ - ½

24.4

FM

Carstensen Jacob

2307

-

 

Bradley John

0

1 - 0

24.5

 

Aabling-Thomsen Jakob

2276

-

 

Mallaghan Danny

0

1 - 0

24.6

 

Petersen Steen

2147

-

 

Morgan Stephen

0

½ - ½

Scannell rocked his IM opponent with 12…Nxe4. Unfortunately Scannell’s opponent lacked the class to resign in such a position, a point loudly and emphatically made two rounds later by Victor Korchnoi. Had World Senior Champion Victor Korchnoi been able to make this point two rounds earlier who knows what might have happened in Round 2. So it turned out that IM Kim Pilgaard played on…

Board 2 Michael Waters missed the correct continuation 20 e5 in an imbalanced game against FM Thornbjorn Bromann. The Fide time control of 90/40 + 30 + 30 secs per move from move 1 gives little time for deep middegame meditation. It is a feature of these Fide tournaments that players simply try to avoid complications and keep their clock filled on time. Imaginative chess is the loser.

Stephen Morgan and James McDonnell got the two draws that gave Belfast its start to Fügen 2006.

Round 3 was to prove as uphill as Round 1, Round 2 or the route back to the Hotel Walfriede

Round 3 on 2006/10/10 at 14.00

Bo.

54

Belfast

Rtg

-

48

Slough Sharks Chess Team

Rtg

1½:4½

27.1

 

Scannell Stephen

2157

-

IM

Jones Gawain C

2430

0 - 1

27.2

 

Waters Michael

2110

-

 

Tweedie Steven

2239

0 - 1

27.3

 

McDonnell James J

2033

-

 

Kafka Graeme

2136

½ - ½

27.4

 

Bradley John

0

-

 

Purton Ben

2091

0 - 1

27.5

 

Mallaghan Danny

0

-

 

Armstrong Malcolm

2101

½ - ½

27.6

 

Morgan Stephen

0

-

 

Edgell Ben P

2012

½ - ½

Stephen Scannell was to play well but run into the ruthless technique of a GM in the making, Enniskillen resident Gawain Jones. Still though the Belfast team was fighting hard on the lower boards and draws were being accumulated.

Round 4’s Swiss draw was to produce the first of two Derby matches. Stephen Scannell was to run into yet another titled played with ruthless qualities and finished second by a nose. The injustice of chess at this level is that the result still looks the same as if you lost in four moves or lose by a whisker. Waters mixed it up against IM Heidenfeld but failed to retain the positional compensation for his pawn sac. James McDonnell and Stephen Morgan kept accumulating.

Round 4 on 2006/10/11 at 14.00

Bo.

50

Kilkenny

Rtg

-

54

Belfast

Rtg

5 : 1

27.1

GM

Baburin Alexander

2541

-

 

Scannell Stephen

2157

1 - 0

27.2

IM

Heidenfeld Mark

2365

-

 

Waters Michael

2110

1 - 0

27.3

 

Mcphillips Karl

2208

-

 

McDonnell James J

2033

½ - ½

27.4

 

Keogh Eamon

2093

-

 

Bradley John

0

1 - 0

27.5

 

White John

0

-

 

Mallaghan Danny

0

1 - 0

27.6

 

Bradley Sean

0

-

 

Morgan Stephen

0

½ - ½

At this stage Belfast were adrift at the bottom. Catching Slough and Kilkenny on the downfloat was unlucky but match points counted more than individual scores in this competition. It was time for a Stephen Morgan motivational speech. Unfortunately Mr Morgan’s motivational speeches are as secret as the coca-cola formula and cannot be reproduced here, but I can disclose that he made reference to his own score, made reference to it again, and again and one last time for good measure. The team’s ears were ringing during dinner. It was either Morgan’s speech or the yodelling by the salad bar.

Round 5 was to prove the crunch match in the battle to avoid the wooden spoon. James McDonnell was to provide the dream start. Unfortunately it was Galway’s dream start. Morriss – McDonnell 1.b4 e5, 2. Bb2 Bxb4 3. Bxe5 Nc6? 4. Bxg7 resigns.

Michael Waters was to strike back with Belfast’s first individual win and Stephen Morgan followed quickly. Former QUB player Lorcan O’Toole was on form and struck back for Galway to level the match 2-2. Daniel Mallaghan was two pawns down while Scannell’s king looked well ventilated despite being an exchange up. Mallaghan’s bravado quickly won two pawns back and a third looked imminent. Suddenly Scannell had a forced mate on the board and Inde Banerjee offered a draw on Board 5. The selfless Mallaghan accepted the draw to secure the first match win.

At last an Ulster team had broken its duck on its third visit to the European Club Cup.

 

Round 5 on 2006/10/12 at 14.00

Bo.

56

Galway

Rtg

-

54

Belfast

Rtg

2½:3½

28.1

 

Goban Marek

2148

-

 

Scannell Stephen

2157

0 - 1

28.2

 

Tomezack Stefan

0

-

 

Waters Michael

2110

0 - 1

28.3

 

Morriss Pete

0

-

 

McDonnell James J

2033

1 - 0

28.4

 

O'Toole Lorcan

0

-

 

Bradley John

0

1 - 0

28.5

 

Banerjee Indranil

0

-

 

Mallaghan Danny

0

½ - ½

28.6

 

Wieczorek Jarek

0

-

 

Morgan Stephen

0

0 - 1


Nothing succeeds like success but the battle to avoid the wooden spoon was not over. The Albanian team were largely unknown to databases at least.

Round 6 on 2006/10/13 at 14.00

Bo.

54

Belfast

Rtg

-

55

Butrinti

Rtg

3½:2½

26.1

 

Scannell Stephen

2157

-

 

Mehmeti Dritan

2396

0 - 1

26.2

 

Waters Michael

2110

-

 

Mihasi Lime

0

½ - ½

26.3

 

McDonnell James J

2033

-

 

Mejdini Murat

0

1 - 0

26.4

 

Bradley John

0

-

 

Hoxha Altin

0

½ - ½

26.5

 

Mallaghan Danny

0

-

 

Bajrami Bajram

0

½ - ½

26.6

 

Morgan Stephen

0

-

 

Petraq Dhame

0

1 - 0

John Bradley and Daniel Mallaghan opened Belfast’s account with two early draws. James McDonnell put the horrors of round 5 behind him (the 4 move shocker had circulated throughout the whole tournament hall by now) and produced a polished performance to give Belfast an early 2-1 advantage. Stephen Scannell grabbed a pawn but got ground down by the Albanian Number 1, taking advantage of static pawns with a pair of pushy knights. With the score at 2-2 most of the Belfast team had written Waters off in a Rook and Pawn ending. Stephen Morgan held an edge in the Board 6 struggle but was keen to see how Board 2 would develop before moving in on his opponent. As most Albanians didn’t appear on anyone’s laptops (an unfortunate curse of modern day chess preparation) there was little for the Belfast team to do but read Miniev’s nutshell text on Rook and Pawn endings. It turns out half of all endings are rook and pawn and Waters-Mihasi turned out to be a marathon rook and pawn endgame. Around move 60 the result was no clearer but it was clear the game could have gone in any of three ways. Eventually Waters rook vs Mihasi two connected pawns ended in a draw. By now Board 6, Stephen Morgan was making his move on the Albanian Board 6. His exchange up endgame produced the winning result.

It’s just like the Ormeau Road bus. You wait for three years for one to come (well it seems that way anyhow) and then two come along together!

 

Round 7 on 2006/10/14 at 14.00

Bo.

54

Belfast

Rtg

-

28

SK Hohenems

Rtg

½ :5½

20.1

 

Scannell Stephen

2157

-

GM

Bezold Michael

2535

0 - 1

20.2

 

Waters Michael

2110

-

IM

Atlas Valery

2482

0 - 1

20.3

 

McDonnell James J

2033

-

IM

Novkovic Milan

2417

0 - 1

20.4

 

Bradley John

0

-

IM

Gaertner Guntram

2331

0 - 1

20.5

 

Mallaghan Danny

0

-

 

Grabher Heinz

2311

0 - 1

20.6

 

Morgan Stephen

0

-

FM

Thoma Robert

2363

½ - ½

Round 7 was inevitable. Having won two on the bounce we were sure to catch a high ranked team on the downwards rebound. Austria’s SK Hohenems were to become the rolling juggernaut in the road. Naturally Belfast didn’t want to disappoint their Austrian hosts and we didn’t. Only on form Stephen Morgan could stop the whitewash and he did. The remainder of the team found themselves on the end of GM/IM/FM grinds.

The mark has been set for next year’s team.

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