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Scannell, Newman and Murphy: 2009 champions

The Ulster Championships were held over the August Bank Holiday weekend at the Europa Hotel, Belfast.

38 players competed in a single six-round tournament which decided all three titles. This was a larger than expected entry and the quality of the field was the best since the December 2002 Championship.

In such a strong field Stephen Scannell's 100% score was impressive, though it was not achieved without some luck. In Round 3, he was 28 minutes late arriving and therefore only 2 minutes away from receiving a default. Ironically, his opponent actually arrived 35 minutes late and so Scannell received a walover victory. In Round 5, Scannell had another escape, when his co-champion from 2006, Michael Waters, missed a mate in three in a time scramble.

The final round saw Scannell and Eamonn Walls both on 5.0. A draw would not lead to a shared title, after the change in regulations introduced in 2007, so both players had to go for the win, as it was impossible to tell in advance who would be favoured by the tie-breaks. Scannell scored the win to land his 8th Senior title.

Despite his final round loss, Walls took 2nd prize and the second qualifying place for the British Championship on tie-break.

In other Round 6 results John Cairns beat Mark Newman to claim 3rd, again on tie-break. Gareth Annesley beat former champion Michael Holmes in an heroic effort by checkmating his opponent with seconds remaining [The advantage of the UCU's new digital clocks was apparent here as Gareth would have known exactly how much time he had left]. Unfortunately, this was only enough for 4th on tie-break. A final score of 5 points was sufficient to win the title for the last two years, but now it appeared Gareth's score of 5 this year would not even gain him a prize, until the Tournament Director added a 4th Prize from UCU funds.

Despite his round 6 loss to Cairns, Mark Newman won the Intermediate title on tie-break ahead of Ian Woodfield and Chris Kelly, the latter signing off with a fine attacking game over Danny Mallagan. Newman's 5th round victory over two-time Senior Champion James McDonnell with a king-side attack from his trademark King's Indian attack was the highlight of his performance.

4 players - Pearse O'Brien, Ben McCusker, Cathal Murphy and Raymond Smith - were in contention for the Junior title going in to the final round. Murphy and Smith were paired against each other, while McCusker and O'Brien faced players rated just over the 1400 Junior limit. McCusker, a 17 year-old schoolboy making his debut in UCU competition had to face wily veteran, Martin Kelly, the 2008-2009 UCU Junior Grand Prix winner. O'Brien's opponent was Carrickfergus schoolgirl, Karina Kruk. She was O'Brien's third Intermediate opponent in succession; he had scored 1.5 points out of 2 against them in Rounds 4 and 5 but this time it was the Intermediate player who scored the full-point in a very tight endgame.  Murphy defeated Smith in a careful, controlled performance, typical of his 3 wins in the event and now all eyes turned to the McCusker-Kelly game. For a long time this game was very equal and a draw might have been agreed in other circumstances, but of course McCusker needed a win and in the end it was Kelly who prevailed. Still this was an impressive first appearance from McCusker, who beat John Phillips and drew with Chris Kelly during the tournament.

Murphy had laid the foundation for his Junior title with a first round win over Brian McComb, rated over 600 points higher than him. But even this rating performance was surpassed by Kruk, who had scored a shock success over Michael Waters, also in the first round. Kruk is the best female player to appear in Northern Ireland in 15 years and clearly has the temperament to make further progress.

Moving the Senior Championship to the August Bank Holiday weekend and combining it with the Intermediate and Junior Championships has clearly been a success. However with the increase in numbers this has produced, comes an issue the UCU may have to consider. Should the Championship Congress now have two or three events played simultaneously over the weekend which would cater for the different strengths of the competitiors.

Finally, it was a pleasure for the third successive year to play in the prestigious surroundings of the Europa Hotel .

Place Name              Rtg  Score   M-Buch Buch   Wins Progr Prize
                                      TB-1  TB-2   TB-3 TB-4
  1   Stephen Scannell  2119 6        15.5  24.0    5   21.0  Senior
 2-4  Eamonn Walls      1834 5        15.5  23.5    5   20.0 2nd
      John Cairns       2020 5        14.5  22.5    5   18.0 3rd
      Gareth Annesley   1939 5        14.5  21.5    5   19.0 4th
 5-9  Michael Holmes    2051 4        16.5  23.5    4   16.0
      Mark Newman       1758 4        13.5  21.0    4   15.0 Intermediate
      Ian Woodfield     1648 4        12.0  18.5    4   13.0
      Michael Waters    2083 4        11.0  18.5    4   13.0
      Christopher Kelly 1620 4        10.5  14.5    3   12.5
10-16 James McDonnell   1989 3.5      15.0  23.5    3   15.5
      John Masterson    1873 3.5      13.0  21.0    3   14.5
      Stewart McConaghy 1526 3.5      13.0  20.5    3   13.0
      Calum Leitch      1779 3.5      13.0  20.0    3   14.5
      Cathal Murphy     1030 3.5      11.0  16.5    3   11.0 Junior
      Cecil Sloan       1663 3.5      10.5  16.0    3   11.5
      Martin Kelly      1440 3.5       9.5  16.0    3    9.0
17-21 Danny Mallaghan   1819 3        15.5  21.5    3   13.0
      Karina Kruk       1415 3        15.0  22.5    3   12.0
      Alexander Beckett 1365 3        10.0  15.5    3    8.0
      William Storey    1364 3         9.5  14.5    3    9.0
      John Phillips     1535 3         9.0  14.0    3    9.0
22-27 Ben McCusker           2.5      13.5  20.0    2   10.5
      William McGrattan 1588 2.5      12.5  18.5    2   11.0
      Brian McComb      1669 2.5      12.5  18.5    2    9.5
      Pearse O'Brien    1116 2.5      12.0  19.5    2    8.0
      Raymond Smith          2.5      11.5  17.0    2   10.0
      Kevin Agnew       1244 2.5      11.5  16.0    2    7.5
28-35 Aaron McCully     1318 2        14.5  21.5    2    9.0
      Geoff Hindley     976  2        11.5  16.0    1    3.0
      Alan Burns        1404 2        11.0  17.0    2    7.0
      Garry Johnston    1066 2        11.0  15.0    2    7.0
      Peter Ratcliffe   936  2        10.5  16.5    1    4.0
      John Monaghan     1094 2         9.5  15.0    1    5.5
      Phillip Morrison  1048 2         7.5  12.0    1    4.0
      Stephen McCloskey      2         7.5  11.5    1    5.5
36-37 Peter Storey      730  1        10.5  16.5    0    3.0
      David Seaby       1104 1        10.5  15.5    1    5.0
38 Ryan Garland           0         4.0   8.5    0    0.0
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