Galway Congress 2017
Just under a hundred players took part in the 2017 Galway Congress. The numbers were reduced a little as inexplicably the Leinster Schools Chess Association chose to schedule its finals on a date that clashed, thus depriving many of the most active juniors in Leinster of the opportunity of playing in one of Ireland’s leading tournaments. There was also a comparatively small field in the Masters section, despite it being very strong at the top with two GMs and three IMs. Nevertheless, the hundred who did play seemed to enjoy themselves, and the building work in the hotel was scarcely noticeable: if we had known that the resulting disruption would be so insignificant, we wouldn’t have compensated by reducing the entry fees!
The Masters section really split into two tournaments after the first round, which went with seeding although it wasn’t easy for the titled players: IM Alex Lopez was worse for much of his game against eleven-year-old Daniel Dwyer, whilst top seed GM Oleg Korneev found Tony Fox very difficult to break down, until he won a pawn in a time scramble in the last game to finish in the entire tournament.
Games in the second round also went largely to seeding, with the top four beating numbers five to eight. In round three, the two grandmasters (Korneev and Alex Baburin) played each other, and showed their mutual respect by agreeing a draw after a few minutes, whilst fourth seed IM Mark Heidenfeld beat third seed Lopez. However, Lopez recovered in round four by beating Baburin, whilst Korneev saw off Heidenfeld in another very long game. Both Korneev and Lopez won in round five, although Korneev had difficulty defeating Philip Short in yet another long game in which Short missed a chance for at least a draw near the end. That left Korneev half a point ahead of Lopez going into the final round, in which they played each other; unfortunately, the anticipated showdown didn’t materialize, as both were content to draw quickly, ensuring Korneev of first place and Lopez of second. (Oleg Korneev thus had the strange distinction of his games being the first to finish of the entire tournament in two rounds and the last in three; perhaps his taking grandmaster draws was understandable considering how hard he fought for his wins.) Baburin and IM Craig Pritchett both won in the last round to take joint third place; they would have been joined by the winner of the Heidenfeld – Short game if there had been one, but it ended in a draw.
The race for the prestigious under-2000 grading prize went down to the last game to finish, in which Peter Cafolla beat back-marker Bernard Boyle to come out half a point clear of Constantine Vogel. (Vogel had a better tie-break, so, if Cafolla had drawn, Vogel would have won the prize.) The Connaught Trophy went to Short for the third year in a row; his last round draw saw him finish half a point ahead of thirteen-year-old Denis Ruchko.
Hence the full list of prize winners in the Masters is:
First GM Oleg Korneev (Spain) 5 points
Second IM Alex Lopez (Ireland) 4½
Third equal GM Alex Baburin (Ireland) 4
IM Craig Pritchett (Scotland) 4
Grading Peter Cafolla 3½
Connaught FM Philip Short 3½
The Major section provided more uncertainty and fluctuations in the lead; for instance in round 1, the two top seeds both lost. After three rounds, there were just three players left with three straight wins: James Danaher, Robert Murtagh, and David Baird. In round four, Danaher defeated Baird, whilst Murtagh lost to Anastasia Mohylna, propelling Mohylna into second place, just half a point behind Danaher; a chasing group of seven were just half a point further back, ready to pounce if the leaders slipped. On the Sunday morning, Mohylna won two pawns against Danaher, and then gave them back to get into a king and pawn ending which she had carefully seen was won; that gave Mohylna the lead, half a point ahead of Danaher, Murtagh, Christopher Young, who had caught up after a third-round loss to Murtagh, and James Naughton, who had similarly recovered from an earlier loss against Danaher. In the final round Mohylna couldn’t retain her lead, and lost a hard-fought game against Young; Murtagh and Naughton drew quite quickly, whilst Danaher was held to a draw by second seed Gerry McCarthy, now having fought his way back into contention. That meant that Young seized first place outright, whilst there was a six-way tie for second place.
The rating prizes were won by thirteen-year-old Adam Murphy (1350 to 1450), who won his last four games to catch up to joint second place, and twelve-year-old Eoin Hunter (under 1350), on tie-break from John P Dunne.
Thus the complete list of prize winners was:
First Christopher Young 5 points
Second equal Anastasia Mohylna 4½
James Danaher 4½
Robert Murtagh 4½
Jason Rawlinson 4½
James Naughton 4½
Grading Prize 1 Adam Murphy 4½
Grading Prize 2 Eoin Hunter 3
The Minors section was not as close, with Hugh O’Connor, of the newly-formed UCD chess club, dominating the field with six straight wins. In the last round, with at least a share of first place already assured to him, he showed no mercy to fellow UCD member, Ritik Verma, beating him convincingly. There was a tie for second place, between Aidan O’Sullivan (who had started with four straight wins, before coming up against O’Connor), Kavanadala Sridhar Gopal (who was last year’s under-700 grading prize winner in his first tournament), Andrejs Kozlovs (another of O’Connor’s victims), and twelve-year-old Dylan Murphy. Kozlovs and Murphy were both eligible for the under-900 grading prize, which went to Kozlovs on tie-break. The under-700 grading prize was won by eleven-year-old Jack McIntyre, with an outstanding 4 wins and 2 losses (which has gained him no less than 229 rating points); he won on tie-break from Winnie Yee Ching Wong, whose 4 points in her first tournament was an excellent result which would have won her a grading prize in most years. Finally, it is worth mentioning that another player in her first tournament, Maureen Gallagher, scored a commendable 3 out of 6; Gallagher is 70 and only took up playing chess last year, thus proving that it is not only young people who can learn to do well at this game.
The prize winners were:
First Hugh O’Connor 6 points
Second equal Aidan O’Sullivan 4½
K S Gopal 4½
Dylan Murphy 4½
Grading Prize 1 Andrejs Kozlovs 4½
Grading Prize 2 Jack McIntyre 4