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The 19th Bunratty Chess Festival took place in the Bunratty Castle Hotel from February 17th to 19th and it was, without doubt, the strongest weekender ever held in Ireland and one of the dtrongest in the world ! The line-up included no less than 10 grandmasters, 10 international masters, and a few fide masters too. They were from mostly England, Ireland and Scotland but we did have one from Portugal, Luis Galego GM as well as two from Romania Andrei Istratescu and Constantin Ionescu, both GMs as well as the American IM, John Donaldson.
Top seed this year was GM Michael Adams (pictured below) from England, who enjoyed his first ever visit to the event, undoubtedly made all the sweeter by the result.
Second seed, Nigel Short (pictured, below, left) was in fine form at this year's event and his game against the defenting champion, Gawain Jones, in the last round was a particularly good example of this imaginative style, he certainly pushed hard for a win in this fine game.
Pictured right is Luis Galego, GM, from Portugal, looking a bit like he was missing the weather at home !
The first round went more or less wompletely with the seeding, although Simon Williams was very fortunate to save the half point from his game against WIM Natasha Regan, she should have won this game. In round two, Simon Ansell got a crack at Michael Adams on board one, and Mickey proved too strong for him in this game. Board two was a much closer affair as Malcolm Pein gave a very spirited performance against the 1993 World Chess Championship Challenger, Nigel Short. Malcolm reckons he was probably winning this at some point, we shall have to keep an eye on TWIC for his comments on this game as heís promised to annotate it for TWIC soon.
The top clashes in round three saw Adams facing defending Champion Gawain Jones and these two actually faught to bare kings in an exciting game. Meanwhile, on board two, Nigel Short was collecting the full point in his game against Mark Hebden to overtake Mickey. He was joined on full points by Andrei Istratescu (pictured below) who managed to beat Luis Galego on board three.
This left Nigel Short facing Andrei Istratescu on board one in round four, which proved to be a very satisfactory game for Nigel, giving him a very impressive 4/4. In the meantime, Gawain Jones got into some severe difficulties against IM Lawrence Trent, he must have been lost about move 50 to 52, but Gawain managed to win in the time scramble after a blunder by Lawrence allowed him a chance, he didnít need a second offer. Lawrence has promised notes to this game so keep an eye out for that here. Mickey kept in contention by beating Simon Williams in the following game.
Round 5 began at the rather early time of 9:15am, a time adhered to by most of the players, but not all, Iím afraid. Gawain awaited the arrival of Andrei Istratescu who missed the default time by about 2 minutes, therefore handing Gawain an easier than expected full point. In the meantime, the long awaited Adams vs Short (Nigel that is, not Philip) game was played in which Nigelís IQP was lost on move 28 and for the next 30 or so moves, Adams tried to win a pawn up, with all pawns connected for both sides, Shortís defence is worth study.
While that game was going on, Mark Hebden was another grandmaster to find himself in trouble against Malcolm Pein and was fortunate to share the point in the following game.
The end of round five brought us to Sunday lunch and the picture on the right shows some of the English masters enjoying a typical chess Sunday lunch in the bar of the hotel, they are (from L to R) Simon Ansell IM, Thomas Rendle IM, Mark Hebden GM and Lawrence Trent IM.
The final round began at 1:45pm on Sunday and the pairings for the top boards looked like this;
Keith Arkell beat Simon Williams on board four to end on a very creditable 4.5 while Constantin Ionescu also reached 4.5 at the expence of Mark Hebden. Michael Adams had to ďwin to orderĒ with the black pieces if he was to at least share the top spot and this he did while, at least for me, the most exciting game to watch of the whole weekend was the final round, board one clash of the titans, Nigel Short vs defending Champion, Gawain Jones. Shortís aggressive opening is followed up by an obvious strong will to win, and, when combined with Jonesís stalwart defence, this makes this game my pick for the game of Bunratty Masters 2012.
This result gave us a three way tie for first place between Mickey Adams, Nigel Short and Gawain Jones, all on 5 / 6. The organisers tie breaking system is that the top two players listed in the tie break system must play off for the title and the trophy (the blitz play off had no bearing on the money split) and Adams won the blitz to become the Bunratty Masters Champion 2012.
The masters wasnít the only competition though, there was also the Challengers (1600 Ė 2000), Major (1200 Ė 1600) and Minor (1200 and below) events too. Jan Heinrich won the Challengers event on a blitz play-off against Gerard MacElligott.
The picture below shows the four champions with their trophies (L to R) Jan Heinrich, Challengers Champion, Michael Adams GM, Masters Champion, Mark Halley, Bunratty Minor Champion and Ljubisa Cirkovic, Bunratty Major Champion.
Each year, on the Sunday night of the Bunratty Chess Festival, there is a fun blitz competition, no prize money and no entry fee either and itís always great fun. This year was no exception and it will come as no surprise to anyone that Michael Adams also won that competition too. Himself and Peter Svidler are the only two players ever to win both the Masters competition and the Blitz on the same year ! Mickey can be seen enjoying the blitz in the photo below
If you want to mark your diaries early, Bunratty 2013 is scheduled for March 1st, 2nd and 3rd.