Phil Hogarty Memorial 2018
The New Year norm events and over 50s got underway at 6pm on January 3rd, 2018 in the Talbot Hotel Stillorgan. There couldn’t be more Irish interest in the Norm events with the absolute maximum of 12 IRL players involved – the other nationalities involved are 2 Scots, 2 Czechs, a Chilean, a Spaniard, a Ukrainian and an American. However, of those non-IRL players, only 2 are norm-hunters with the remainder titled players in their sections – while all 12 IRLs are hunting for norms!
A quick overview of what the Irish need to do to achieve their desired norm; firstly, the GM section: IM Sam Collins, IM Alex Lopez and FM Stephen Jessel need 7/9 for GM norms. It would be Sam’s third and final norm needed while it would be Alex’s first GM norm. Stephen has not yet achieved the IM title (he needs to get to 2400 for that) but wanted to try for his first GM norm in the hope it would push him closer to 2400. FM Colm Daly and FM David Fitzsimons need 5.5/9 for IM norms or 7/9 for GM norms. Colm needs one more IM norm and to get to 2400, while David just needs an IM norm for this title. Shane Melaugh needs 5/9 for his first IM norm.
In the IM section: FM Conor O’Donnell, FM Stephen Brady, Killian Delaney, Carl Jackson, Henry Li and Vahe Paronyan all require 7/9 for their first IM norms. Of those, Conor O’Donnell has already been over 2400 live and so has completed that part of the IM criteria. Given that there are 6 IRLs in each section of 10, there will be local clashes in every round which I hope to focus on a little bit more as we get into the action.
However, before we delve in, I should also mention the inaugural 50+ event which runs over the same amount of days with 7 rounds (instead of 9). The turnout far out-stripped expectation with 40 in all!
There is also the small matter of the Leinster Junior Championships which got underway a few days before in the same venue and smashed its previous record with 236 entrants in all over the 4 days! Credit to the Leinster School’s Chess Association for their work to put on such a fantastic event.
And so, to the games: where round 1 saw no less than 3 local derbies with David Fitzsimons and Shane Melaugh playing in the GM section and Henry Li vs Killian Delaney and Vahe Paronyan vs Stephen Brady in the IM section. However, 2 results came very quickly with Colm Daly agreeing a fairly quick but nevertheless impressive draw with GM Mikhail Simantsev and Carl Jackson drawing with IM Jan Sodoma. This set the tone nicely for the Irish contingent with 2 draws against opponents 150 and 200 points higher rated respectively.
Players often view these events with particular strategies to get to their desired score with the two most obvious strategies being “try to win every game” but also “take your chances” – seems simple enough but you may notice this come to the fore in some games more than others. How would you notice this? Well, players can look at a titled player in 2 different ways – either, let’s try win this or let’s make sure I still have norm chances after this. Whether you need 5, 5.5 or 7, you can probably afford a draw with one of the top three seeds and then take your chances against the lower ranked players. Either way, by drawing with the 3rd seeds in their respective sections, Colm and Carl can be very happy and plan ahead for their first double round day, the following morning.
It took a few hours to have our third result with most games getting down to endgames. Stephen Brady looked mostly in control against Vahe, Killian was in trouble against Henry after letting an advantage slip while David seemed in command against Shane. Elsewhere, Sam had his opponent in an early bind which he had no intention of letting up, Stephen Jessel was in time trouble against GM Matthew Turner but had holding chances while Alex and Oleg Korneev and Conor and Alvaro Valdes Escobar were locked in tough battles. However, it was in the non-IRL match-up where the third result came from with GM Petr Neuman playing a beautiful game to win against the very talented (and youngest ever titled American) FM Maximillian Lu.
Vahe had fought his way into a position where he had a rook and 3 versus knight and 5 but disaster struck as he got his rook trapped in the middle of the board which allowed Stephen to march his two past pawns down the queenside unopposed. A win for Stephen and one of his 5 blacks out of the way. The next game to finish was Li-Delaney where Killian blundered into a Q+B+5 vs R+2B+5 ending which heavily favoured Henry and which he soon converted.
Stephen Jessel simplified his game to a R+4 vs R+4 ending with very little to play for and a draw soon followed – an excellent start to his event against his 2545 rated opponent. Sam exposed the frailties in his opponent’s position to pick up his first win while David did likewise to Shane. Second last to finish was the game on board 1 in the IM section where Conor and Alvaro held each other to a draw.
That left Alex and Oleg battling it out in the GM section – Oleg with the white pieces and a R+2 vs Alex’s B+3 including a passed D pawn on the 6th. At this stage the players had been going for 4.5 hours and fatigue was becoming a factor – even in this first round. It was Alex who blinked first allowing Oleg to capture a pawn and soon after the game but he is by no means out of the hunt with 8 rounds still to go.
After the mostly positive results the night before for the 12 Irish involved in this event – hopes and confidence was high for day 2. Here’s how the main contenders for norms were shaping up:
GM section state of play:
Sam Collins: 1/1 – needs 6/8 for a GM norm. 1.5/2 on day 2 would keep him on track with games against Shane Melaugh and GM Oleg Korneev.
Alex Lopez: 0/1 – needs 7/8 for a GM norm. 1.5/2 on day 2 is the minimum needed to realistically keep his hopes alive with games against GM Mikhail Simantsev and FM David Fitzsimons.
David Fitzsimons: 1/1 – needs 4.5/8 for an IM norm. 0.5/2 would be enough to keep him on track as he faced tough games against Korneev and Lopez.
Colm Daly: 0.5/1 – needs 5/8 for an IM norm. 1 point today would be enough for Colm with games against GM Turner and FM Abdulla.
Stephen Jessel: 0.5/1 – needs 6.5/8 for a GM norm. 2/2 needed with games against the bottom two seeds: Melaugh and Abdulla.
IM section state of play:
Conor O’Donnell: 0.5/1 – needs 6.5/8 for an IM norm. 2/2 needed versus Lu and Paronyan.
Stephen Brady: 1/1 – needs 6/8 for an IM norm. 1.5/2 or possibly 2/2 needed on day 2 versus Li and Jackson.
Henry Li: 1/1 – needs 6/8 for an IM norm. 1 point needed on day 2 versus Brady and Neuman.
Killian Delaney: 0/1 – needs 7/8 for an IM norm. 1.5/2 needed on day 2 versus Jackson and Sodoma.
Carl Jackson: 0.5/1 – needs 6.5/8 for an IM norm. 1.5/2 needed on day 2 versus Delaney and Brady.
To the games:
Round 2 saw just one quick result: a draw between Lopez and Simantsev. This is arguably a sign that Lopez has contented himself with minimizing damage rather than seeking a GM norm even at this early stage. With just 4 whites and one loss already under his belt, Lopez would have needed to have at least pressed here but a quick draw signifies a different mentality.
Sam Collins completed his double over the bottom 2 seeds with a win over Shane Melaugh to set him up nicely for the event – 5/7 sounds a lot more manageable than 7/9! The undoubted result of the round for the Irish was David Fitzsimons holding Oleg Korneev with black and thus moving to 1.5/2 meaning anything he can get against the wounded Lopez in round 3 would be a bonus for the day! That is where the good news ends for this section for round 2 as Colm Daly was defeated by Matthew Turner and Stephen Jessel was shocked by Murad Abdulla. The IM section saw two local derbies with Delaney vs Jackson and Brady vs Li. The first ending in a win for Jackson after white overextended and the second ending in a draw which probably suits Henry slight more than Stephen. Unfortunately, Conor O’Donnell was shocked by Maximillian Lu which dents his norm chances quite considerably. Elsewhere, Petr Neuman defeated Vahe while Alvaro won the battle of the IMs against Jan Sodoma.
Round 3 got underway with 2 quick-fire draws between Simantsev and Turner but more notably between Collins and Korneev. Job done for Sam on day 2 with a score of 1.5/2 moving him to 2.5/3 and a needed score of 4.5/6 for the remainder of the tournament. Next to finish was Fitzsimons and Lopez with David earning another impressive draw and surpassing what was needed for the day – moving to 2/3 and only 3.5/6 required to become an IM. Stephen Jessel got back on track with a win over Shane but there was more woe for Colm as he fell to Murad.
In the IM section, Alvaro consolidated his impressive start with a win (with black) against Maximillian. The other games all had Irish interest with Carl and Stephen contesting the only all-Ireland clash – with their game ending in a draw. A good day at the office for Carl but Stephen will need a few wins to start edging toward the IM score. Conor got back on track with a win over Vahe with the other two matches going the way of the titled players; Jan beating Killian and Petr beating Henry.
Jonathan O'Connor has taken the lead by himself after 3 rounds of the 50+/65+ event but second seed, Gerry O'Connell isn't far behind in a group of players on 2.5/3. They have an easier day tomorrow with just the one round starting at 4pm.
And so we take a renewed look at what’s needed by those still contending for norms on day 3:
GM section state of play:
Sam Collins: 2.5/3 – needs 4.5/6 for a GM norm. 1.5/2 on day 3 would keep him on track with games against David and Alex.
Alex Lopez: 1/3 – needs 6/6 for a GM norm. There’s no more room for dropped points for Alex and so he needs to beat Matthew and Sam today.
David Fitzsimons: 2/3 – needs 3.5/6 for an IM norm. 1/2 would be enough to keep him on track with Sam and Stephen in his way.
Colm Daly: 0.5/3 – needs 5/6 for an IM norm. 1.5/2 today would be needed from Colm to steady the ship after a tough day yesterday – he faces Shane and Oleg.
Stephen Jessel: 1.5/3 – needs 5.5/6 for a GM norm. 1.5/2 needed with games against Oleg and David.
IM section state of play:
Conor O’Donnell: 1.5/3 – needs 5.5/6 for an IM norm. 2/2 badly needed with club-mates, Henry and Carl, in his way.
Stephen Brady: 2/3 – needs 5/6 for an IM norm. 1.5/2 or possibly 2/2 needed on day 3 versus Henry and Jan.
Henry Li: 1.5/3 – needs 5.5/6 for an IM norm. 2 points needed on day 3 versus Conor and Maximillian.
Carl Jackson: 2/3 – needs 5/6 for an IM norm. 1 or 1.5/2 needed on day 3 versus Conor and Petr.
To the games:
Alex has forced me to eat my own words as he defeats GM Matthew Turner to put himself back on track! Killian has also turned the tide by drawing with Alvaro in round 4 - too little too late for his norm hopes but a good result none the less and one would hope it inspires him in the second half of the event. Petr continued his dominance with a win over Carl which takes him to 4/4. Stephen Brady defeated IM Jan Sodoma to keep his own norm chances alive for another round while FM Max Lu beat Vahe.
In the big game of the round, Sam and David draw - a great result for David who is now just 3 points from the IM title. Conor and Henry also drew which leaves them both in must-win territory for the last 5 rounds. Murad Abdulla continued his great run with a draw against Mikhail, Shane Melaugh got off the mark with a draw against Colm and Oleg beat Stephen.
Round 5 ended a few people's norm chances with Henry succumbing to Max Lu and Carl Jackson losing to Conor O'Donnell - who keeps his slim chances alive himself. The Czech boys agreed a quick draw while Killian and Stephen also drew.
In the GM section, the big game was between Irish chess legends, IMs Sam Collins and Alex Lopez. On this occasion, Sam prevailed with an impressive display, ending Alex's norm hopes in the process and taking himself to 4/5. Colm let slip a possibly winning advantage against Oleg and the GM didn't look back eventually swinging the game in his favour and taking the full point. Stephen severely dented David's norm chances by handing him a first loss while Murad took another step toward a norm with a draw against Matthew.
So after a day of mayhem with quick draws nowhere to be found, here is how things stand:
GM section state of play:
Sam Collins: 4/5 – needs 3/4 for a GM norm. 2/2 on day 4 would put Sam in pole position for his final norm with games against Stephen and Colm.
David Fitzsimons: 2.5/5 – needs 3/4 for an IM norm. 1.5/2 would be enough to keep him on track with Colm and Mikhail in his way today.
Murad Abdulla: 3/5 – needs 2.5/4 for an IM norm. 1.5/2 needed with games against Alex and Shane today.
IM section state of play:
Conor O’Donnell: 3/5 – needs 4/4 for an IM norm. 2/2 needed with Jan and Killian across the board from him today.
Stephen Brady: 3.5/5 – needs 3.5/4 for an IM norm. 1.5/2 needed on day 4 versus Alvaro and Petr.
Alas, round 6 proved fatal to the chances of norms in the IM section with Conor losing to Jan and Stephen losing to Alvaro. Petr made it 3/3 for the titled players in the round by beating the resurgent Killian Delaney. Elsewhere, Henry beat Vahe and Carl held Max.
In the GM section, Mikhail and Oleg agreed a quick draw while the other boards battled it out until the bitter end. Alex put in a comprehensive display to beat Murad with black meaning the young Scot will need 2.5/3 from the last few rounds. Matthew Turner then defeated Shane Melaugh which left two tense games still to finish. David Fitzsimons appeared to be in control against Colm Daly having had the better of the opening and winning an exchange and a pawn at the beginning of the endgame. However, Colm had some compensation in the form of an advanced passed D-pawn and well placed knight. All of a sudden, that pawn was making a break for promotion and white seemed in trouble and David was forced to swap one of his rooks for that pawn, leaving him a piece for 2 pawns down. This left Colm with winning chances and he soon converted despite being low on time. Having had the better of his game against Sam Collins and turned down an earlier draw offer, Stephen Jessel eventually was forced to settle for a draw in the last match of the round. Both players got into time trouble in a queen, piece and pawns ending and a draw was agreed after the position repeated three times. Onto round 7 which featured 2 juicy Irish clashes between Stephen and Alex, and Colm and Sam while David played Mikhail and Shane faced Murad. There were two quick draws in this round with Matthew and Oleg, and Stephen and Alex finishing quickly. However, the three other games would produce very interesting matches. Sam appeared to still be in preparation into move 20 while Colm seemed a little less sure with the clock reflecting that difference at 75 minutes versus 15. The position was a semi-Slav (favoured by Topalov) which can produce a repetition if white is so inclined, but Colm was out for blood and went for the kill. Unfortunately for him, his promising position quickly evaporated after the innocuous Bc7+ which strangely gave Sam’s king the safety of Kb5 and left Colm’s own position vulnerable having sacked a rook a few moves before. Colm won back a knight but this allowed a dangerous bishop sacrifice and Sam would soon convert bringing his score to 5.5/7 and meaning he required 1.5 from the final day’s play against Mikahil (with white) and Matthew (with black). In pursuit of the IM norm, David went for broke against Mikhail and came up short with Mikhail taking the win. In the final game of the round, Shane drew with Murad. In the IM section, Stephen and Petr had a quick draw with Killian and Conor playing out a slightly longer draw. Max also had a draw, this time with Jan. Carl got the better of Vahe to move to 3.5/7 while Alvaro continued his fine display, this time beating Henry.
And then there was one:
GM section state of play:
Sam Collins: 5.5/7 – needs 1.5/2 for a GM norm. Conventional wisdom would suggest Sam needs an early morning win vs Mikhail before playing black versus Turner and needing a draw.
However, Stephen Jessel could also claim a fifth IM norm with two wins.
To the games:
In the IM section, tournament leaders Alvaro and Petr had a quick draw to move to 6.5/8 but that would be the only draw from this round in the IM section. Elsewhere, Killian would have a good win against Max, Conor would beat Stephen, Jan would beat Vahe while Henry would take advantage of a blunder from Carl to win. With no norms on the line in this section, the drama would be reserved for the GM event…
There, Sam was looking to claim the win he needed with white before facing Matthew with black. Stephen Jessel could also claim an unlikely fifth IM norm with two wins from two on day five and first up was Colm. However, first out of the gate was David who took a commanding lead against Matthew by winning his queen for a piece and a rook before then in turn winning the exchange. He was therefore a queen for two pieces up and seemingly cruising. Matthew is not a GM for nothing though and he battled back, creating a fortress with this knight and bishop and winning a couple of pawns in the process to force a draw. In the games on the two top boards, Alex beat Shane while Oleg beat Murad which left just the norm games still playing. Sam was once again an hour up in a short space of time and still in preparation while his opponent toiled to find the right responses. Sam would later reveal that he got to move 28 in preparation and against those odds, his opponent had no chance. His hand would soon outstretch and Sam was now within half a point of his third GM norm. The room would hum with anticipation for the next few hours as the news was shared throughout both norm events and the 50+. However, there was still one more norm on the line and Stephen would also take his chances into the last round as he saw off Colm, moving himself to 4.5/8.
The final round
The room was full for the afternoon session with both players and spectators filling the large conference room for what promised to be an exciting last round. Would Sam do it? Could Stephen claim, what would still be, an unlikely norm with the black pieces against GM Simantsev? Could Jonathan O’Connor claim the 50+ title having had two draws on Saturday and would Tim Harding claim the inaugural 65+ crown? Jonathan and Tim were chased by many including Gerry O’Connell, Eamon Keogh, Peter Cafolla, and Gerry MacElligott among others.
Many thought Matthew vs Sam would be a straight forward handshake draw but it was not to be with Matthew laying out his stall and Sam doing likewise; after three hours of play, they were still locked in battle… The IM section finished with arguably the best round for the Irish with draws for Carl, Henry and Conor against Alvaro, Jan and Petr respectively and wins for Killian and Stephen against Vahe and Max. The GM section equally saw some impressive Irish results with David dispatching Murad to finish strong after a difficult middle patch in the tournament while Alex defeated Colm. On board 5, Oleg defeated Shane to finish with an impressive 7/9 which left the norm games. Could Sam and Stephen pull it off?
YES – a handshake between Matthew and Sam meant that it was finally a third GM norm for Sam who has been one of Ireland’s strongest players for almost 20 years. It was the first GM norm made by an Irish player on the island of Ireland and means that, following this tournament, Sam requires 33 rating points to become Ireland’s first homegrown Grand Master. A spectacular achievement and undoubtedly one of the greatest displays by an Irish player in the ICU’s 100+ year history.
The last question was could Stephen make it a double success.. On the face of things, the odds were against him as he was a pawn down against an opponent 150 points higher rated than himself but the tide suddenly began to swing in his favour as he won the pawn back and looked destined to take a lead into the endgame. With both players in time trouble, moves came quick and fast and before you knew it, Stephen had won! He would therefore add a fifth IM norm to his tally but more importantly to his IM hopes – he would gain a huge 30 FIDE points thanks to this display. He is now 2372 and requires 28 points to become Ireland’s next International Master.
In the 50+ event, Jonathan would hold his nerve to seal the 50+ title while Eamon came up short in his pursuit of Tim. The final positions were in the 50+: 1st. Jonathan O’Connor 2nd Gerry O’Connell 3rd Gerry MacElligott With Tim Harding claiming the 65+ title.