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Success for Ulster players at Bunratty

Over 30 Ulster players travelled to Co. Clare to compete in the world-famous Bunratty Chess Festival. Three of them returned with prizes, and several others put in good performances.
Success for Ulster players at Bunratty

One of the tournament halls at Bunratty

The 22nd annual Bunratty Chess Festival took place from the 18th to the 22nd of February. A record-breaking 350-plus players from all over the world and of all strengths, from beginners to world number 7 Wesley So, gathered in the Co. Clare village for what is often considered the main event of the Irish chess calendar. Among them were over 30 players who had travelled from Ulster for the occasion, some of whom put up notable performances;

Minor Section (U1200)

Garhy Aboelsoud of Lindores came in as the top seed and for the first five rounds it was easy to see why as he smacked down all-comers on board 1, which was being transmitted live on the Internet at the Bunratty website. This set up a direct shoot-out for the title with Diarmuid Reidy (683) in the final round. On paper this should have been another routine win for Aboelsoud, but Reidy wasn't on 5/5 for nothing and showed that he is likely the most under-rated player in Irish chess by defeating Aboelsoud and taking the Minor title. Aboelsoud had to be content with joint-third place, alongside QUB's Chris Cao who recovered nicely from his opening-round defeat to David Farrelly (700) to reach 5/6. Ballynafeigh's Suraj Tirupati was some people's favourite for the tournament thanks to his blistering recent form in the Belfast and District League, but a shock defeat in round 2 to Keith Darcy (809) derailed his challenge and he eventually finished on 4/6, as did clubmates Liam Ferris and Barney McGahan.

Major Section (1200-1599)

Ballynafeigh's Eoin Carey took joint second place with 5/6. Apart from a third-round loss to Paul Sean O'Neill, he won every game and at the conclusion of his final-round win over Paddy Divilly, he was still in contention for a share of first place - he simply needed a draw between Ross Beatty and Eamonn Abberton on board 1. It was not to be as Beatty, one of many talented juniors from the St. Benildus club in Dublin, won the game to take outright first place. Ian Kilpatrick (Lindores) was the next-best Ulster player on 4/6.

Challengers Section (1600-1999)

As round 6 began, Thomas Donaldson of Ballynafeigh was in an enviable situation; if he won his game against Daniel Gallagher (1965) and the top-board clash between Jacob Miller and Miroslav Gallik ended in a draw, he would finish in joint first place. Miller and Gallik would end up sharing the point, but Donaldson faced an uphill struggle with the black pieces against Gallagher, a promising English junior rated over 300 points higher, and had to settle for 4/6. Just below him, Calum Leitch (Lindores) and Soren Jensen (Ballynafeigh) finished on 3.5/6.

Full results from the Bunratty website: Classic, Masters, Challengers, Major, Minor

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