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The first Ulster Championship, Belfast 1892

In September 1892 the chess-players of Belfast and Holywood hosted the North of Ireland Chess Congress. The principal attraction was a Masters tournament in which Blackburne, Mason, Bird and Lee competed. It was also the occasion of the first Ulster championship, described in the official programme as the "amateur chess championship of Ulster."

However as there were no professional Ulster players, the amateur qualification was in real terms redundant. There were five entrants, all in the first rank of Ulster chess-players. The brothers William and Ernest Harvey and the Armagh player William McCrum had all been educated at Trinity College Dublin, where they had gained valuable experience against the strongest Dublin players. Richard Barnett had been a member of the Oxford University Chess Club, competing in a number of varsity matches against Cambridge, in the 1880s and had been Irish champion 1886-89. Robinson was a pupil of Lee. The players met in a single round all-play-all tournament, and at its conclusion William Harvey and Robinson were tied for first place.

RANK PLAYER          H  R  H  M  B  Pts 1=2. W.L. HARVEY     X  1  =  =  1  3.0
1=2. E.A. ROBINSON   0  X  1  1  1  3.0
3.   E.L. HARVEY     =  0  X  =  1  2.0
4.   W. McCRUM       0  0  =  X  1  1.5
5.   R.W. BARNETT    =  0  0  0  X  0.5

It was then decided by the organising committee that a tie-match of three games should be played. The first game was played on the 27th September and resulted in a win for Robinson.

W. L. Harvey - E. A. Robinson [C77]
Ulster Championship tie-match, game 1, Belfast, 27 September 1892
[Annotations in the Belfast News-Letter for 29 September 1892 and
"Chess History and Reminiscences" by H. E. Bird]

Play through the game in our Viewer

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 Nf6 4.d3 d6 5.c3 a6 6.Ba4 Bd7 7.Nbd2 g6 8.Nf1
Steinitz favours this continuation, which however is considered to lose time for White's attack.
8...Bg7 9.Bc2 Ne7 10.Be3
10.Bg5 at once seems to be much better.
10...Ng4 11.Bg5 f6 12.Bh4 Be6 13.h3 Nh6 14.Qd2 Nf7 15.Ne3 Qd7 16.d4 c6 17.d5
17.c4 is preferable at this point.
17...cxd5 18.exd5 Bf5 19.Bxf5
Turning the chances in favour of Black. If 19.Nxf5 leaving bishops of opposite colours, there is all appearance of a draw.
19...Nxf5 20.g4 Nxh4 21.Nxh4 Ng5 22.Qe2
(one hour)
22...0-0 23.0-0-0 b5 24.Nhg2 Qc7 25.h4 Nf7 26.h5 g5 27.Nf5 h6
Threatening trouble by 28.h6 followed by 29.Ng7 etc.
28.Qe4! Nd8 29.Nge3 Nb7 30.Nxg7 Qxg7 31.Qg6

The position here bristles with interest. Examination will show that black is in more serious danger than lies on the surface.
31...f5 32.Nxf5 Rxf5

Judiciously giving up the exchange and pawn to escape the fatal attack threatened on the h-file.
33.gxf5 Rf8 34.Rh2 Rf6 35.Qe8+ Kh7 36.f4 gxf4 37.Rhh1
The other Rook to h1 doubling seems much stronger. If then 37...Rxf5 38.Qg6+! From this point White plays a weak game.
37...Rxf5 38.Qg6+ Qxg
6 39.hxg6+ Kxg6 40.b4 e4 41.Rdg1+ Rg5 42.Kd2 Nd8 43.Rxg5+ hxg5 44.Rh8

After this it is only a matter of time. The pawns cannot be stopped.
44...Nf7 45.Rg8+ Kh7 46.Re8 e3+ 47.Ke2 Kg6 48.Re6+ Kf5 49.Re7 Ne5 50.Re8 g4 51.Rf8+
Driving him where he wants to go!
51...Ke4 52.Rf6 f3+ 53.Kd1 g3 54.Rf8 g2 55.Rg8 f2 0-1
The offering sacrifice of the g-pawn was too much for White! He immediately resigned.

The second and third games, played on the 29th September and 3rd October, both ended in draws and thus E. A. Robinson became the first Ulster chess champion.

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