The 100th Irish Championship 2021: Build-up - the last 30

John McMorrow, Sean Coffey, David McAlister, Sam O'Neill


Stephen Brady, Bunratty, 1998

30 (days to go): A Legend enters the fray

In his fourth Irish Championship, Stephen Brady claimed his first Irish title - the first of 9 titles over the next 25 years. We've chosen a relatively fresh faced photo of Stephen in honour of his first win & have the tournament report courtesy of Gerry Graham - the tournament organiser:

In the small but strong field, only the defending champion John Delaney and Philip Short had ever won the title before. Of the other contenders, Stephen Brady, Colm Daly, and Mark Heidenfeld, who was playing in his first Irish championship, were the highest rated.

Brady raced to a lead with full points after three rounds, including a win against Daly. But he suffered a disaster in round 4: after choosing the dashing but utterly unsound Double Muzio variation of the King's Gambit, he lost in 16 moves against Heidenfeld. He recovered with a further three consecutive wins, including defeats of Delaney and Short.

Heidenfeld was well in contention until a devastating round 7 loss to Daly, and otherwise drew too often. The other contenders took points off each other, with Delaney also losing to Daly, Short losing to Heidenfeld, and Daly convincingly defeated by Gerard McDonnell. But for stumbling into a mating net against Short in the first round, from a much better position, McDonnell could well have challenged for the title, though he too lost to Brady.

Brady finished with two draws to win comfortably, a point clear of Daly, Heidenfeld, McDonnell, and Gerard O'Connell. He led all the way, apart from falling ½ point behind after the disaster in round 4. Strangely, especially since he was top seed by FIDE rating, he was described at the time as a “surprise” winner; and after four rounds, only Daly, Heidenfeld, and Short were listed as candidates for the title.

We have 52 games from that event here: https://www.icu.ie/games?utf8=%E2%9C%93&name=&white=&black=&result=&eco=&date=&event=Irish+Championship+1991&button=

Glorney-Gilbert: the Glorney squad

29 (days to go): Brady goes back-to-back

Stephen Brady went back-to-back in 1992 with a score of 7/9. Games from that event can be played through here: https://www.icu.ie/games?utf8=%E2%9C%93&name=&white=&black=&result=&eco=&date=&event=Irish+Championship+1992&button=

Oissine Murphy (1976)

Oissine Murphy is back for his first event in 4 and a half years - & perhaps what could be considered his first major event in about 7 years; having represented Ireland in the Glorney in 2014 (pictured with his team mates) & having played for Adare in the 2013 European Club Cup. It is very difficult to predict how players have stayed active during Covid times with little or no over the board chess - but we are assuming that Murphy is one of those whose stayed sharp with the help of online events. We'll watch his progress in the event with interest but are delighted to have him back at the board.

Irish Championship 2020

28 (days to go): Carton wins number 2

Niall Carton won his second title in 1993 with a score of 7/9. Games from that event can be played through here: https://www.icu.ie/games?utf8=%E2%9C%93&name=&white=&black=&result=&eco=&date=&event=Irish+Championship+1993&button=

Kavin Venkatesan (2011)

It is hard to believe that this young man is still just 13 years of age as he's been on the up for so long. Already over 2000 & playing in his second Irish, Kavin will be back for more having gained 65 points in last year's event. Kavin's breakthrough month was January 2020 where he gained over 200 points in all - including a massive 128 points in the New Year IM norm, & 88 at the Gonzaga Classic. Some of his scalps from that month include Conor O'Donnell, David Murray, Mihailo Manojlovic & Michael Waters, while he held a host of titled players to draws. The world is truly his oyster & the Irish 2021 will no doubt be his next stepping stone.

Peter Hayes played for Gonzaga at the National Club Championship

27 (days to go): Orr wins number 2

Mark Orr won his second title in 1994 with a score of 7/9. Games from that event can be played through here: https://www.icu.ie/games?utf8=%E2%9C%93&name=&white=&black=&result=&eco=&date=&event=Irish+Championship+1994&button=

Peter Hayes (2075)

Another man back from a long chess hiatus is Peter Hayes who will be playing in his first major event since 2014. Peter had been staying sharp by playing in league chess for Gonzaga as recently as the 2018-19 season & has no doubt been taking every opportunity to get some practice in online over lockdown. Strangely for someone whose been on the Irish chess scene for over 20 years, this is just Peter's second Irish. However, he will in no way be phased by the big occasion having played Armstrong chess for 20 years & claiming the elusive title in 2015.

Brian Kelly, joint 2007 Irish Champion

26 (days to go): Kelly takes the crown

Brian Kelly won his 1st title in 1995 with a score of 7/9. Games from that event can be played through here: https://www.icu.ie/games?utf8=%E2%9C%93&name=&white=&black=&result=&eco=&date=&event=Irish+Championship+1995&button=

In winning the '95 title, he became the youngest ever Irish champion, at about 16 years, 8 months, beating the previous record set by John Moles, who was 16 years and (a little less than) 10 months old when he won in 1966. A loss to Gerard O’Connell in round 4 was the only blemish on an otherwise dominating performance, in which he won 6 of his first 7 games, then drew the last two to win the title by a clear point. A full report on that event is here.

Richard O'Donovan, Kilkenny 1998

25 (days to go): O'Donovan claims title

Richard O'Donovan won his 1st title in 1996 with a score of 6.5/9; winning on tiebreak from Tom Clarke & Colm Daly. Games from that event can be played through here

O’Donovan won his first five games and led the field by a clear 1½ points, but then suffered consecutive losses against Mark Quinn and against Tom Clarke, blundering in a drawn endgame, before finishing with a draw and a win.

Mark Quinn, playing in his first Irish championship, led going into the final round, but lost a long game against Colm Daly, in the last game to finish, to finish joint fourth.

A full report on the event here.

Joe Ryan

24 (days to go): Ryan becomes third first time winner in a row

Joe Ryan won his 1st title in 1997 with a massive score of 8.5/9. Games from that event can be played through here.

The event was the ultimate two-horse race: Stephen Brady & Joe Ryan drew their second-round game, but otherwise mowed down the field, and they were still neck-and-neck with 7½/8 heading into the last round. Stephen Brady had a pawn advantage in a queen plus opposite bishop ending against Anthony Fox, but was unable to turn it into a win, leaving Joe Ryan clear first on 8½/9, for his first Irish championship, with Brady second on 8 and Colm Daly clear third on 7. Full report here.

Colm Daly at Irish 2019

23 (days to go): Daly takes first step

Having knocked on the door many times previously, Colm Daly won his 1st title in 1998, matching Ryan's 1997 score of 8.5/9. Games from that event can be played through here.

Playing in his eleventh Irish Championship, Daly claimed his first Irish title - the first of 6 titles over the next 15 years. Colm is now also the holder of the record for most Irish appearances with 31 (32 come August) & has numerous Olympiad and Euro appearances under his belt. A full report on his maiden victory is here.

Tom Clarke, Belfast 1998

22 (days to go): Daly makes it two in two

Colm Daly went back to back in 1999 with a score of 7/9. Games from that event can be played through here: https://www.icu.ie/games?utf8=%E2%9C%93&name=&white=&black=&result=&eco=&date=&event=Irish+Championship+1999&button=

We'll take today to talk about the man who finished in 2nd in 1999 as we mentioned a couple of days ago that he shared first in 1996; Tom Clarke. Clarke had a long list of accolades to his name including that tied 1st Irish finish, he was Ulster champion in '84, '02 & '05, played Olympiads in '88 & '92, the Euros in '89 & won the NCC with Fisherwick in 1976. Clarke passed away in 2007 & an the UCU posted an obituary here.

Mark Heidenfeld IM at the Kilkenny Masters

21 (days to go): Heidenfeld jnr claims first title

Mark Heidenfeld won his 1st title in 2000 with a score of 7/9 in a very strong field. Games from that event can be played through here.

Mark Heidenfeld extended the family connection with the Irish championship, following in the footsteps of his father Wolfgang, a 6-time Irish champion. Daly had been seeking to become only the second person ever to win the Irish in 3 consecutive years but would come up short. Gavin Wall had been pressing for a first Irish win himself but he, Sam Collins & Short were edged out by half a point. A full report of the event is here.

Mark is back for his first Irish in 20 years & we're delighted to have him!

Sean Murphy at the Kilkenny Masters

20 (days to go): Brady adds a third

Stephen Brady won his 3rd title in 2001 with a score of 7.5/9; holding off Collins & Heidendfeld by half a point. Games from that event can be played through here.

Sean J. Murphy (1990)

Sean is back for his second Irish having first played in 2019 and performing very admirably in arguably our toughest ever Irish. He came away with a couple of wins against higher rated opponents & 4 draws, with two of those coming against Daly & Tom O'Gorman. He was very much on the up pre-pandemic as those results outline so we expect big things from him in this event & wouldn't be surprised if he's 2100 before the 2022 Irish.

Sam Collins at Irish 2019

19 (days to go): Collins opens his account

After near misses in the previous 2 editions, Sam Collins finally cashed in in 2002 with a score of 7/9. Games from that event can be played through here.

The defending champion & top rated player Stephen Brady lost 3 games, while Philip Short was also off the pace. After round 5, six of the seven players with a plus score had never won the championship, with John Joyce leading on 4½. In the end, though, it was Collins who finished strongest, ending with an undefeated 7/9 for his first Irish championship. He didn’t have it all his own way, though, and had to rescue a thoroughly lost position in his round 5 game against Mel Ó Cinnéide. A report here.

Collins would go on to win again in 2014 & has played in 7 Championships in all but his list of accolades obviously goes well beyond this. He has a peak rating of 2499 (live) & has made 3 GM norms, represented Ireland in the Olympiad between 2000-14, has won countless individual & team events including 5 Armstrongs, 3 NCCs & a Branagan title.

Anthony Fox, at the Irish Championship

18 (days to go): Brady makes it four

Stephen Brady won his 4th title in 2003 with a score of 8/9. Games from that event can be played through here: https://www.icu.ie/games?utf8=%E2%9C%93&name=&white=&black=&result=&eco=&date=&event=Irish+Championship+2003&button=

Anthony Fox (2005)

Fox is back to play in his 29th Irish Championship - missing just 5 events in the last 34 years. Over the years, he has many strong finishes including a 4th place in '98 & multiple 5th place finishes. Last time out, he gained 10 rating points from 8 draws & 1 loss - & we expect a similar score this year as Anthony is very tough to break down.

Irish 50+/65+ Championship 2019 Tim Harding

17 (days to go): Ryan wins his second

Joe Ryan won his 2nd title in 2004 with a score of 6.5/9; tied with (now GM) Gawain Jones in an Irish which was open to non Irish players. Games from that event can be played through here: https://www.icu.ie/games?utf8=%E2%9C%93&name=&white=&black=&result=&eco=&date=&event=Irish+Championship+2004&button=

Tim Harding (2003)

Harding is back to play in his 6th Irish, his first since 2019. He first played in the 1977 Irish and the 2014 Armstrong champion and chess author has recently become a FIDE Arbiter.

Gerard MacElligott at the Bunratty Challengers

16 (days to go): Daly adds third title

Colm Daly won his 3rd title in 2005 with a score of 8/9. Games from that event can be played through here: https://www.icu.ie/games?utf8=%E2%9C%93&name=&white=&black=&result=&eco=&date=&event=Irish+Championship+2005&button=

CM Gerard MacElligott (1966)

MacElligott is back to play in his 20th Irish Championship - his debut coming in 1982. Over the years, he has many strong finishes including a 4th place in '82 & multiple 5th place finishes. He'll be looking to improve on last year's performance & perhaps match or better his joint 7th finish in 2017.

Peter Cafolla, Irish Champonship, Dublin 2007

15 (days to go): Brady adds a fifth

Stephen Brady won his 5th title in 2006 with a score of 8/9; holding off Stephen Jessel by half a point. Games from that event can be played through here.

Peter Cafolla (1958)

Like MacElligott, Cafolla is also back to play in his 20th Irish Championship - his debut coming in 1985. Over the years, he has many strong finishes including a 5th place in '12 & multiple top 10 finishes. Last time out, he gained 7 rating points with a notable draw against Brady in round 2.

Irish Championship 2020

14 (days to go): Brady & Kelly share title

Kelly & Brady shared the title in 2007 with a score of 6.5/9; this was another open Irish with GMs Nick Pert & Mark Hebden taking first with 7/9. Games from that event can be played through here.

Brendan Lyons (1931)

Lyons is playing in his 6th Irish Championship & 3rd in a row. Last time out, he scored wins over Diana Mirza & Gerry O'Connell as he scored 3/9 which he'll probably be looking to better in 2021.

Alex Baburin, Dun Laoghaire Masters

13 (days to go): Baburin wins on debut

Alexander Baburin won the Irish title in 2008 on his debut with a score of 8/9; this was another open Irish with GM Alon Greenfeld also scoring 8. Games from that event can be played through here.

Ireland's only GM & current top seed will be returning to play in The 100th Irish Championship 2021; his fifth appearance in the Irish in 13 years. Reports from the Irish Chess Championships 2008, which Alexander won with a spectacular 8/9 against very strong opposition, can be seen on the ICU site & Sean Coffey's IRLchess.. That would be his one and only win but he is back for more this year.

Since that win, Alexander has many titles to his name including the Kilkenny International Chess Congress (his third Kilkenny title in a row!), he drew with super GM (2750+) Sergey Karjakin at the Batumi Chess Olympiad 2018, he has taught countless juniors and is currently ICU Vice-Chairperson. He has also been known to do the odd blindfold simul.

But will he be able to claim his second Irish title? Time will tell.

S. Duffy, C. Brady, H. Barber, T.Clarke (Bray/Greystones) European Club, Bosnia 2000

12 (days to go): Daly wins 4th

Daly won his 4th title in 2009 with a score of 7.5/9; this was another open Irish with IM Valeri Atlas finishing 2nd. Games from that event can be played through here.

Seamus Duffy (1945)

Duffy is playing in his 6th Irish Championship & first since 2010. He has a couple of top tens under his belt & we're delighted to welcome him back for his first major event in some time.

Alex Lopez, at the Irish Championship

11 (days to go): Lopez wins on debut

Alex Lopez won the Irish title in 2010 on his debut with a score of 7.5/9. Games from that event can be played through here.

Lopez has 3 Irish titles from his four appearances, all coming in the one decade: the 2010s. 2018 was highlighted by his first GM norm which he made at The ICU Easter Festival by scoring 7/9 against a very strong field. Alex's rating reached a peak after that event of 2461 live and he seemed poised for more. He then went in search of his next norm but ran out of steam on foreign ground with results not going his way. He returned home to lap the field at the Irish with a massive score of 8/9 – a full 1.5 ahead of his nearest challenger. You can read a report on his first win here.

Munster Chess League

10 (days to go): Brady moves to solo 2nd on all-time list

Brady won his 7th title in 2011 with a score of 7.5/9; nudging out John Redmond who was half a point back. Games from that event can be played through here.

Kevin O'Flaherty (1884)

O'Flaherty is playing in his 2nd Irish Championship after debuting in 2013 as a sub. He is more of a chess administrator these days but we're delighted to welcome him back to the board for his first major event in some time.

St. Benildus Killane - Ennis double 2009/10. Ciarán Ruane, John Healy, Michael Hanley, Kevin May and Kevin Burke.

9 (days to go): Brady & Daly share title

Brady & Daly shared the 2012 title with a score of 6.5/9; another open Irish with Juri Firstov also scoring 6.5. Games from that event can be played through here.

Kevin Burke (1883)

Burke is playing in his 1st Irish & came in as the first wildcard when numbers were odd this week. Form doesn't mean much after a 18-month hiatus in otb chess but one of Burke's most recent events points to improved performance with a 2.5/5 finish in the Gonzaga Masters with wins over Eoghan Casey & Carl Jackson.

8 (days to go): Daly wins 6th title

Daly won his 6th title in 2013 with a score of 7/9. Games from that event can be played through here.

John Aherne (1903)

Aherne is playing in his 1st Irish & qualified via his 1903 fide rating. He is a league regular & nearly always makes it down to Bunratty. We wish him well on his debut in the Irish.

Alex Goss Bray Rapid

7 (days to go): Collins wins 2nd

Collins won his second title in 2014 with a score of 8/9. Games from that event can be played through here.

Alex Goss (1833)

Goss is playing in his 2nd Irish Championship after debuting in 2020 as a sub. He was another who was given a wildcard this week to even up numbers. He is always busy on the chess scene, playing as many events as he can. Pre-pandemic, he claimed the title in the Inchicore Club Championships.

Stephen Brady and Phillip Short, 2015 Irish Champions.

6 (days to go): Brady & Short share title

Brady & Short shared the 2015 title with scores of 6.5/9. Games from that event can be played through here.

A report appeared in the Irish Examiner with the following synopsis: "It was a week for the veterans at the 2015 Irish Championship in Dublin as FIDE Masters Stephen Brady and Philip Short outpaced the younger generation to share the honours with 6.5/9. Dubliner Brady, 48, claimed his ninth title, equaling the record of John O'Hanlon (1876-1960) who secured his victories between 1913 and 1940. ... It was 55-year-old Short's fourth national success and comes 34 years after the Cork player won his first championship (shared with David Dunne in 1991) and 27 years after his last triumph in 1988. In a very tight finish, the co-winners had just a half-point to spare over the four other FMs in the 19-player field: Stephen Jessel, top seed David Fitzsimons, Conor O'Donnell, and former champion Colm Daly."

Champion 2016 Stephen Jessel

5 (days to go): Jessel finally claims title

Stephen Jessel won the 2016 title with a huge score of 8.5/9. Games from that event can be played through here.

Jessel has 5 IM norms to his name & his goal remains to cross 2400 & secure the IM title - but life comes first so he's taking a brief (we hope!) break from the game to focus on other pursuits. He remains hugely interested in chess & Irish chess and has passed on his message of support to the field this week.

2017 Irish Champions: Short and Lopez

4 (days to go): Lopez & Short share title

Lopez & Short shared the 2017 title with scores of 7/9; edging out Conor O'Donnell who scored 6.5/9 & missed an IM norm by a hair. Games from that event can be played through here.

Short made a little bit of history in 2017 by becoming the first player to make an IM norm in an IRL-only Irish Championship. A report from IRLchess read as follows: "It was the strongest Irish championship for many years—the average rating jumped 150+ points over the previous edition—and drew in many stronger players who have not been regulars in the event. There were very many interesting games, more than usual it seems to me: unbalanced and hard-fought, with crushing wins and amazing escapes.

Philip Short had a slow start, and was lost in his first game, but went on to win five games in a row, against the top five remaining finishers, before ending with two draws to finish equal first, becoming Irish champion for the fifth time. In doing so he incidentally achieved his first IM norm, and the first ever achieved in an Irish championship.

He was joined in first place by Alex Lopez, who lost to Short in round 4, but finished with five straight wins, starting with a dramatic escape in round 5 against Rory Quinn, when he was against the ropes."

2018 Irish Champion Alex Lopez with Cllr Ossian Smyth

3 (days to go): Lopez claims third title

Lopez won the 2018 title with a massive score of 8/9 in an incredibly strong field featuring most of Ireland's top players. Games from that event can be played through here.

A report from IRLchess read as follows: "A report has been added here on the Irish Championship 2018. Jim Olney described the field as “the strongest for some years” in the Irish Examiner, but really he could have said “ever”, with 8 former champions, including the defending joint champions, 4 out of the 5 Olympiad team members, and 11 players rated over 2300 FIDE.

Alex Lopez romped home to clinch his third title in his first three Irish championships, with 1½ points to spare over the field, with David Murray recording his first IM norm in sharing second place with Conor O’Donnell.

The selection of “Interesting games” on the Information page is always subjective, but when 33 games are so listed, it’s a sign that the chess was unusually interesting."

2019 Irish Champion Conor Murphy congratudlated by Ivan Baburin, Chief Arbiter.jpg

2 (days to go): Murphy claim first title

Conor Murphy won the 2019 title with a very impressive score of 7.5/9 in another incredibly strong field featuring most of Ireland's top players. Games from that event can be played through here.

Two reports appeared in the paper for this event: "FM Conor Murphy was crowned new national champion at the Irish Championships in Dublin last Sunday.

The 20-year-old Cambridge University maths student produced a strong finish with five consecutive wins for a 7.5/9 total to deservedly capture his first national title after defeating all his closest rivals, including defending title-holder IM Alex Lopez and top seed IM Sam Collins, both of whom finished joint-second a full point adrift.

 —Jim Olney, Irish Examiner, August 17, 2019, p. 55/119.

The 2019 Irish Chess Championship was a great success, with intrigue remaining until the last move on board 1 in the final round. In the end, luck was on the side of FM Conor Murphy, who defeated FM Conor O'Donnell and won the title

—Alexander Baburin, Sunday Independent, August 18, 2019, p. 25.
2019 Irish Champion Conor Murphy congratudlated by Ivan Baburin, Chief Arbiter.jpg

2 (days to go): Murphy claim first title

Conor Murphy won the 2019 title with a very impressive score of 7.5/9 in another incredibly strong field featuring most of Ireland's top players. Games from that event can be played through here.

Two reports appeared in the paper for this event: "FM Conor Murphy was crowned new national champion at the Irish Championships in Dublin last Sunday.

The 20-year-old Cambridge University maths student produced a strong finish with five consecutive wins for a 7.5/9 total to deservedly capture his first national title after defeating all his closest rivals, including defending title-holder IM Alex Lopez and top seed IM Sam Collins, both of whom finished joint-second a full point adrift.

 —Jim Olney, Irish Examiner, August 17, 2019, p. 55/119.

The 2019 Irish Chess Championship was a great success, with intrigue remaining until the last move on board 1 in the final round. In the end, luck was on the side of FM Conor Murphy, who defeated FM Conor O'Donnell and won the title

—Alexander Baburin, Sunday Independent, August 18, 2019, p. 25.
Irish Champion 2020 Tom O'Gorman

1 (day to go): O'Gorman claims first title

Tom O'Gorman won the 2019 title with a score of 7/9 in a strong field. Games from that event can be played through here.

For context if people are reading this in future years - this event was played in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic & was one of the very few events which took place in 2020. Covid-19 numbers & hospitalisations had fallen into single digits briefly in the build up to the event but the possibility of a flare up was always possible - so every precaution was taken to ensure that our event didn't become a spreader event.

To the chess where Sam Collins lead off as a favourite in a slightly slimmed down field to those of 2018 & 2019 which had both offered norm chances with 3 or 4 IMs/GMs in the draw. The old guard of Brady/Daly still posed their usual threat with the experience of 15 combined titles while new names were looking to put their names on the trophy: O'Donnell - so near and yet so far in each of the previous 3 event, Kanyamarala - both with obvious significant potential, O'Gorman - another huge potential but not much pedigree in the Irish to this point.

The event started most to form with Brady being the only major early causality & Collins appearing imperious; he made the turn at 4.5/5. However, he then ran into O'Gorman who had been going about his business somewhat quietly on 3.5/5 with 2 wins & 3 draws. Tom would defeat Sam & never look back, winning 2 of his last 3 games for an undefeated score of 7/9 while others fell by the wayside.

A round by round report is available here: https://www.icu.ie/articles/918

Day 0 - the fight begins!

Best of luck to all the players playing in the 100th Irish which starts at 3pm today. We hope you enjoyed the trip down memory lane; honouring our past champions and previewing this year's entrants.


Created 2021-07-28 ◦ Last updated 2021-07-31 ◦ Editor JMM


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