Monday, 6 May 2019


The Ulster Chess Chronicle website, born at the turn of the century, was a mix of chess results, news, articles and history and incorporated the official presence of the Ulster Chess Union on the internet. When the UCU set up its own website in 2004, I still continued with the Chronicle but on a reduced scale. About 3 years after that I hived off the news into another blog, NI Chess News, and this also gave me an opportunity to add there a few personal comments on the NI chess scene.

The service provider for the original Ulster Chess Chronicle discontinued its service in 2014 and I moved all its contemporary results & reports and articles to NI Chess News. In 2017 I re-started the history part at a renewed Ulster Chess Chronicle as explained in the blog post Reboot.

Last year I moved to Scotland and no longer have the day-to-day contact with Ulster chess events to justify continuing a contemporary blog on NI chess. So I have decided to transfer here all the reportage previously appearing in NI Chess News and you will find it, mainly in The 21st Century section, alongside the more historical research that already appears here.

I will continue to document Ulster chess, both historical and contemporary, at this amalgamated website.

Monday, 9 October 2017

New league season

The league fixtures for the 2017-2018 season popped into my Inbox this afternoon. At first glance, although the total number of teams remains the same as started last season, there is quite a shake-up. The emergence of Strand Chess Club, already strong in both quantity and quality, appears to have been the catalyst for the makeover.

Division One has gained three teams, two from Strand plus Civil Service moving up to play with the big battalions to make a total of eight. Instead of each team playing all its rivals four times, this season it will be a double-rounder only. Total number of matches reduce by two to 14, but in my opinion the benefits of losing an unwieldy bye and a greater variety of competition more than offset that. Of course those who like the league season to go on forever will be disappointed.

Instead of two further divisions, as was the case last season, there will be a large second division of eleven teams that will be organised in 2 phases. Divison 2 will start with an all-play-all with teams playing each other only once. Then there will a separation into two merit-based sections and it looks like this will require a longer league season than in Division 1 - better news here for the maximilists. My understanding is that the precise organisation of Division 2 after the "separation" will be clarified at a later date.

Ballynafeigh 1
Ballynafeigh 2

Belfast South 1
Muldoon's 1
Queen's University 1 
Strand 1
Strand 2 
Civil Service


Ballynafeigh 3
Ballynafeigh 4 

Belfast South 2
Muldoon’s 2
Queen's University 2
Queen's University 3
Queen's University 4 

Strand 3
Strand 4

Presumably the Belfast South Division 1 and 2 teams will continue to play respectively under the monikers "The A-Team" and Kelly's Heroes". No word on whether the newcomer, Strand CC, has any colourful names planned for its quartet.

Saturday, 12 August 2017

The Time Traveller article for August 2017

Much of the Time Traveller material from the old Ulster Chess Chronicle is now incorporated into the Chronology pages. However, there are still occasions when free-standing Time Traveller articles will appear. As the football season is now upon us, it seems like a good time to present an article on the chess playing Ulsterman who invented the penalty kick.

Here's the link: The goalkeeper who invented the penalty kick

Monday, 7 August 2017

Stephen Rush games from Rounds 2 to 5

Here are Stephen Rush's games from Rounds 2-5 of the 2017 Championship, with his own annotations:
[Event "ECF-ch"] [Site "Llandudno"] [Date "2017.07.30"] [Round "2"] [White "Rush, Stephen"] [Black "Zakarian, David"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "A53"] [BlackElo "2360"] [Annotator "Rush"] [PlyCount "52"] [EventDate "2017.07.29"] [EventType "swiss"] [EventRounds "9"] [EventCountry "WLS"] {Not much to this one; I made a poor move early which he refuted and then I tried to make things messy and he refuted that too.} 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 d6 { He couldn't have picked a better 2nd move against me than this; it allows him to get to the King's Indian without allowing the system I normally play with e4 and f3; I resolved that if he played e5 next I would play a King's Indian with my pawn on e3, a way I used to play but that isn't really a great try for an advantage.} 3. Nc3 Nbd7 {Allowing me to transpose, more or less. To his credit I suspect he choose this over the normal e5 to avoid a drawish queen exchange if white wanted it, which I didn't.} 4. e4 e5 5. d5 Nc5 6. f3 a5 7. Be3 Be7 8. g4 ({I wanted to get this move in and I didn't want to allow him to play an early Nh5 first since after say} 8. Nge2 Nh5 {Nge2 Nh5 I cannot then play} 9. g4 {due to} Bh4+ {likewise with Qd2 Nh5; I knew it was early for it, but didn't see the refutation.}) 8... Nfd7 {He did; this simple undeveloping move threatens both h5 and Bh4; I must allow one.} 9. Qd2 Bh4+ 10. Kd1 h6 11. Nge2 Nf8 {Weird move; I actually recover a slight advantage now.} 12. Ng3 g6 { I saw the game continuation but wanted to mix things up; however, just accepting the mediocre position would clearly have been better in hindsight.} 13. Bxh6 g5 14. Bg7 Rh7 15. Nh5 Nfd7 16. Ne2 f6 17. Neg3 Bxg3 18. hxg3 Kf7 19. Bxf6 {I'd intended from the start of the tactic to allow him to recapture here and I'd have a pawn, a rook, and the h-file for two pieces, but in the moment I wanted to take the pawns for some stupid reason.} Nxf6 20. Qxg5 Bd7 {I realized here I was dead lost and played some random moves for no real reason.} 21. Qe3 Qh8 22. Bg2 Nxg4 23. Qg5 Rg8 24. Qh4 Nf2+ 25. Ke2 Nxh1 26. Qf6+ Qxf6 0-1 [Event "ECF-ch"] [Site "Llandudno"] [Date "2017.07.31"] [Round "3"] [White "Murphy, Conor E"] [Black "Rush, Stephen"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "A00"] [WhiteElo "2154"] [Annotator "Rush"] [PlyCount "65"] [EventDate "2017.07.29"] [EventType "swiss"] [EventRounds "9"] [EventCountry "WLS"] 1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Bd3 dxe4 4. Bxe4 Nf6 5. Bf3 c5 6. Ne2 Nbd7 ({Frustrating; my opponent is playing for a draw with white. The main continuation is} 6... cxd4 7. Nxd4 e5 8. Nb5 a6 9. Qxd8+ Kxd8 10. N5c3 {with a very drawish endgame (computer gives a hair of an advantage to black but realistically it's extremely drawish).}) (6... Nc6 {On the spot I try to come up with an alternative; I was familiar with the game Onischuk/Dronavalli and I know that correctly played that's another forced draw, but one that's much harder to play for black:} 7. Be3 cxd4 8. Nxd4 Ne5 9. Nc3 Be7 10. Qe2 Nxf3+ 11. Qxf3 O-O 12. O-O-O Bd7 13. g4 Qa5 14. g5 Nd5 15. Nf5 Nxc3 16. Nxe7+ Kh8 17. Bd2 Nxa2+ 18. Kb1 Qd8 19. Bf4 Qxe7 20. Bd6 Qe8 21. Rhe1 Rg8 22. Rd4 Bc6 23. Qh5 f6 24. g6 h6 25. Bf4 e5 26. Bxh6 Bf3 27. Bxg7+ Kxg7 28. Qh7+ Kf8 29. Rd7 Qxd7 30. Qxd7 Rxg6 31. Qf5 {Onischuk -v- Dronavalli, Abu Dhabi 2015, 1-0. Eventually I settled on the game continuation.}) 7. Nbc3 e5 8. d5 Bd6 {The idea is that white won't have to time to play Nb5 profitably, and I will blockade the d-pawn while claiming space quickly with my e and f pawns in conjunction if allowed. After thinking about it at length the computer is actually ok with the idea, and I might try it again in a similar situation.} 9. Ng3 {Accurate by my opponent I think.} O-O 10. Bg5 h6 11. h4 hxg5 12. hxg5 Nh7 ({More precise would be to play} 12... e4 {but I had seen from afar that the game continuation would be good and missed this better idea.}) 13. Be4 g6 14. Rxh7 { The point of his combination, if I take the rook he can force a draw after Qh5, Bxg6, Qxg6 perpetual.} Qxg5 15. Rh1 f5 ({Too aggressive, I had the idea that I should pounce while he is on the back foot but he is not without counterplay;} 15... a6 {preventing his game move grants a sizeable advantage)}) 16. Nb5 Bb8 17. Nxf5 {I actually expected this, but it's trash. I have a huge advantage now.} gxf5 18. Rh3 Nf6 19. Rg3 Qxg3 ({here I think between 2 wins, my intended } 19... Ng4 {or Qxg3, fxe4, but wait, why hadn't I thought to just take the rook then take the bishop with the knight; I play it and congratulate myself on my elegantly placed knight, his ruined pawns, lack of castling, and my material advantage}) 20. fxg3 Nxe4 $4 21. Qh5 {Ohh right, the whole point of pawn takes bishop was to leave the knight guarding the light squares from the queen's entry. Disgustingly, with only one attacker, against two defenders and everything defended I stand worse unless I play Kg7, which I did not find.} Rf7 $2 22. O-O-O Bd7 23. Rh1 Rg7 24. Qh8+ Kf7 25. Rh7 Rxh7 26. Qxh7+ Ke8 27. d6 Bxd6 $2 (27... Nxd6 {made the position survivable; I was disgusted with myself, and I don't think I was thinking straight.}) 28. Nxd6+ Nxd6 29. Qg8+ Ke7 30. Qxa8 Bc6 31. Qh8 Ke6 32. Qh6+ Kf7 33. Qxd6 1-0 [Event "ECF-ch"] [Site "Llandudno"] [Date "2017.08.01"] [Round "4"] [White "Longson, Sarah N"] [Black "Rush, Stephen"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "C18"] [WhiteElo "2074"] [Annotator "Rush"] [PlyCount "62"] [EventDate "2017.07.29"] [EventType "swiss"] [EventRounds "9"] [EventCountry "WLS"] 1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. e5 Ne7 5. a3 {A French Winawer, my favourite line in chess.} Bxc3+ 6. bxc3 c5 7. h4 {This is apparently a serious theory move played by GMs Caruana and Hansen, but I didn't know it and was a bit thrown off.} Qc7 8. h5 cxd4 9. cxd4 h6 {I can't allow white to pry up my g-pawn with my DSB gone.} 10. Bd2 Nbc6 $2 {No idea why I played this, my intention had been to play b6 and trade my LSB through a6 and in the moment I just moved. I had weird issues controlling some impulse moves this tourney for some reason, like I think I should have literally sat on my hands, I guess just nerves.} 11. Qg4 Nf5 {I'm OK here objectively, but I don't have any plan besides 'defend' now.} 12. Nf3 Bd7 13. Bd3 Nce7 {The computer hates this, and thinks I should have sacced on d4 with a slight disadvantage. I spoke to GM Luke McShane afterwards about it and he agreed, personally I have a hard time taking on positions with pawns over a piece, so I dismissed the move quickly after seeing Be3. I was under the impression I should maintain a knight on f5 and suss out defensive options such as Rg8, Kf8, and long castles as the game went on.} 14. Qf4 {Intending g4 which I will meet with g5.} a6 {I thought a long time on this move; I'm solidly worse, and I don't want to play g5 before g4 as I think g4 is not so useful a move except in that it forces g5. Eventually I settle on this as it threatens to trade LSBs or allow a light squared battery if the white's LSB retreats or trades after Bb5. After a4 at least my useless bishop is looking at something.} 15. c3 $2 {She was afraid that after she forced the action on the kingside at some point I would have Qxc2 followed by a move to the kingside to defend. This is exactly the kind of move I needed to have any chance though.} Bb5 {She looked very surprised by this, which is odd. I might even make this move if somehow it lost my 2 Qside pawns instead of doubling them; my LSB is terrible.} 16. Bxb5+ axb5 17. g4 g5 { Solidly the best reply, but I very interested to see that the computer also sees b4!, a move I had not even come close to considering.} 18. Nxg5 $2 { She must have missed that her c3 pawn is hanging with check if the bishop moves.} hxg5 19. Qxg5 Nh6 20. Qf6 Rh7 21. Rg1 {The beginning of a very bad plan; she needed to play f3 and accept that she has to defend now. Any capture of my knight is met by Qxc3 and Ng8.} Kd7 22. g5 Nhf5 23. g6 fxg6 24. hxg6 Rg7 25. Rc1 Rag8 26. Rh1 Rxg6 27. Qf7 Rg1+ 28. Ke2 Qc4+ 29. Kf3 Qd3+ 30. Be3 Qe4+ 31. Ke2 Rxh1 0-1 [Event "ECF-ch"] [Site "Llandudno"] [Date "2017.08.02"] [Round "5"] [White "Rush, Stephen"] [Black "Grant, Jonathan"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "E37"] [BlackElo "2187"] [Annotator "Rush"] [PlyCount "104"] [EventDate "2017.07.29"] [EventType "swiss"] [EventRounds "9"] [EventCountry "WLS"] 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. Qc2 {I don't normally play this line, but I saw he had a questionable game in it earlier.} d5 5. a3 Bxc3+ 6. Qxc3 Ne4 7. Qc2 c5 8. dxc5 Nc6 9. Nf3 a5 $2 {Why on earth would you play c5 and not follow it with Qa5 shortly after; it's literally the only reasonable continuation.} 10. cxd5 exd5 11. e3 Qe7 12. b4 $2 ({I had been making a point of showing aggression at every reasonable point out of the opening this tourny, but this it taking it too far; simply} 12. b3 {retains a fine advantage, this move hands it to him)}) 12... axb4 13. Bb2 O-O 14. Be2 Qxc5 15. Qxc5 Nxc5 16. axb4 Rxa1+ 17. Bxa1 Nxb4 18. Nd4 Ncd3+ 19. Bxd3 Nxd3+ 20. Ke2 {Perhaps I shouldn't be yet, but I'm playing this endgame for a win. The engine rates it at 0.00.} Nc5 21. Rc1 b6 22. Rb1 Na4 23. Nc6 Re8 24. Rb4 b5 25. Kd2 Ba6 26. Bd4 f6 27. Rb1 Kf8 28. Rc1 Rc8 29. Nb4 Rxc1 {Now I have the advantage due to his sidelined knight and paralyzed weak pawns.} 30. Kxc1 Bb7 31. Kc2 Ke7 32. Kb3 Kd6 33. Nd3 Bc6 34. Kb4 Be8 35. Ne1 $4 {Stupid. Until this move I stood well, but in my greed I thought 'why abuse the pawns when I may be able to win the knight outright if I land my knight on a3? if he isn't careful'. I also thought if he played the game continuation through Bd3 the game would just end in a draw, completely forgetting that he can lose time with his bishop on that diagonal, but I can't do likewise, resulting in zugzwang.} Kc6 36. Nc2 Bg6 37. Na3 Bd3 38. h4 h5 39. f3 {I start a plan to trade as many pawns as I can.} Nb6 40. g4 hxg4 41. fxg4 Nc8 42. g5 fxg5 43. hxg5 g6 44. Kc3 {Not much to say; I'm crippled. He proceeds accurately from here.} Bf5 45. Kb4 Nd6 46. Be5 Bd3 47. Kc3 Bc4 48. Kb4 Ne4 49. Bf4 Nc5 50. Nxc4 dxc4 51. Bg3 Nd3+ 52. Kc3 Kd5 0-1

Sunday, 6 August 2017

Stephen Rush at the British Championship

This year the 2017 British Championship Congress was held in Llandudno, a seaside town in North Wales and Ulster Champion Stephen Rush took up his entitlement to compete in the main Championship, which featured 13 Grandmasters and many other titled players. After today's final round Stephen finished with 3 points from his 9 games. His performance rating was 2025, well above his UCU rating of 1844. His detailed results were:
Round Opponent            Rating Result
1 Peter M. Gayson 2160 1
2 FM David Zakarian 2360 0
3 Conor E. Murphy 2154 0
4 WFM Sarah N. Longson 2074 1
5 IM Jonathan Grant 2187 0
6 Paul Gm Lam 2111 ½
7 WGM Sheila Jackson 2125 0
8 Shabir Okhai 2111 ½
9 Aditya Verma 2071 0

I hope to put up more posts about the British Championships but for now, here is Stephen's victory from Round 1 with his own notes:
[Event "ECF-ch"] [Site "Llandudno"] [Date "2017.07.29"] [Round "1"] [White "Gayson, Peter M"] [Black "Rush, Stephen"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "A00"] [WhiteElo "2160"] [Annotator "Rush"] [PlyCount "102"] [EventDate "2017.07.29"] [EventType "swiss"] [EventRounds "9"] [EventCountry "WLS"] 1. e4 $6 {My opponent pushes an undefended pawn in front of his king.} e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nd2 $6 {The most passive of all white's options, the Tarrasch variation, extremely drawish.} c5 {Normal French break achieved on move 3, I should already have equality.} 4. Ngf3 cxd4 5. exd5 Qxd5 6. Bc4 Qd6 7. O-O Nf6 8. Nb3 Nc6 9. Nbxd4 Nxd4 10. Nxd4 {All of this happens in 90+% of Tarrasch games; it's the only way for white to comfortably regain the pawn.} a6 11. a4 { New to me but not to theory, white refuses to have his pieces budged; most common is Bb3; Re1 is also common with the same setup as Bb3 in mind.} Qc7 12. b3 Bd6 13. h3 O-O {I debated for some time between a setup with e5 and the game continuation before eventually concluding that for him to make any progress he will have to voluntarily remove his knight to unblock his bishop and if I can avoid all his tactics, which I believe I can, it should leave him planless while I can still make improving moves. His LSB stares at granite, his DSB stares at his knight. The computer evaluates both e5 and my move at 0. 00. When I looked it over with the computer and database both of our next few moves were normal.} 14. Bb2 b6 15. Qe2 Bb7 16. Rad1 Rfe8 {I want to place my knight on d5 and from there land on f4 but first I must block the sac on e6.} 17. Rfe1 h6 {Again I want to play Nd5 but I have no good reply to Nf5.} 18. Qd3 {It was now or never for white to strike, he cannot improve further. I had expected a sacrifice his knight on e6 followed by taking my knight with his DSB but he correctly restrained himself} Nd5 {I thought the longest before this move ensuring no discoveries could harm me; I suspect he had relied on one as he seemed surprised to see the move on the board, but there is nothing.} 19. Bxd5 {My opponent cannot tolerate this knight for long, but he grimaced as he made the move; indeed, my unopposed LSB is now a monster. At this point I have around 55 minutes and he has less than 7.} Bxd5 20. c4 Bb7 21. Qc3 Bf8 { My first inaccuracy of the game; better was Bh2+ and then Be5 but I lazily feared some nebulous tactic with an exchange sac in the future. I should have simply calculated, the computer shows there is nothing to fear.} 22. Nf3 Qc6 { I didn't expect this move was the best and it isn't, though I don't recall what the computer recommended; however with his time pressure I liked the hanging sword of the threat and the pinning of his knight.} 23. Rd4 {I assumed the purpose of this move was to swing to g4. I calculated that that was not to be feared and allowed it, but he went elsewhere anyway.} e5 24. Rd5 f6 { The structure I was going to build on Rg4 anyway, and it is still the best move; my advantage is now about .75.} 25. Red1 Qe6 26. R5d2 {Here at about 5 minutes to the time control at move 40 he offered a draw, which I declined, still at around 55 minutes myself and confident in my position.} a5 {Fixing the pawn weakness with tempo.} 27. Re2 Rad8 28. Rxd8 Rxd8 29. Rd2 Rxd2 30. Qxd2 {Tempting me to take his knight and possibly the h-pawn, but I think this leaves too many drawing motifs on my light squares.} Bc5 31. Ne1 {This is actually the computer's #1 move, my advantage is around 3.00 now.} Qf5 32. Qe2 Qb1 33. Kh2 e4 34. g3 e3 35. fxe3 Qe4 36. Ng2 Bxe3 37. Bc3 Qc6 $4 {Yup, missed the queen win somehow.} 38. Bd2 {But I saw a forced win from here to the end.} Bxd2 39. Qxd2 Kf7 $1 {The key move; this one step makes the K+P ending winning and he must take a move to free his pieces.} 40. g4 Qxg2+ 41. Qxg2 Bxg2 42. Kxg2 Ke6 43. Kf3 Kd6 44. Ke4 Kc5 45. Kd3 Kb4 46. Kc2 g6 47. h4 h5 48. gxh5 gxh5 49. Kb2 f5 50. Kc2 f4 51. Kd3 Kxb3 0-1

Monday, 8 May 2017

City of Belfast Day 2

The Nemtzov Cup was opened wide open on Sunday morning when leader Gareth Annesley lost with the white pieces to Modestas Razbadauskas. A further player withdrawal left an uneven number of players going into Round 5 but Mark Newman stepped into the breach to avoid a bye in the final two rounds.

Annesley closed out the tournament with two wins to secure the Nemtzov Cup for the second time. Stephen Rush, winner of the tournament last year, won all three of his games on Day 2 to slot into second place. Modestas Razbadauskas was the winner of the Grading Prize.
The final round of the Nemtzov Cup gets underway.
In the foreground Gareth Annesley contemplates his first move.

Nemtzov Cup Final Crosstable
No Name                  Rtg  Total  1    2    3   4    5    6  

1 Gareth Annesley 1908 5 6:W 10:W 2:W 3:L 5:W 4:W
2 Stephen Rush 1799 4.5 4:W 8:D 1:L 5:W 7:W 3:W
3 Modestas Razbadauskas 1412 3.5 8:L 6:W 9:W 1:W 4:D 2:L
4 Daniil Zelenchuk 1463 3 2:L 5:D 6:W 7:W 3:D 1:L
5 Danny Roberts 1830 2.5 7:L 4:D 10:W 2:L 1:L 11:W
6 Robert Lavery 1601 2.5 1:L 3:L 4:L 0:W 11:W 7:D
7 Richard Morrow 1530 2 5:W 9:L 8:D 4:L 2:L 6:D
8 Damian Marchlewicz 1948 2 3:W 2:D 7:D 0: 0: 0:
9 Danny Mallaghan 1778 1.5 10:L 7:W 3:L 0:D 0: 0:
10 Kamil Marchlewicz 2068 1 9:W 1:L 5:L 0: 0: 0:
11 Mark Newman 1720 0 0: 0: 0: 0: 6:L 5:L

In the Henderson Cup overnight leader Pat McKillen added a further 2.5 points to his total on Day 2. This was more than enough for him to take his fourth Henderson title, equalling the record of Karina Kruk who won four in a row betwenn 2010 and 2013. William Storey, the 2009 Champion, finished second while there were grading prizes for veteran Geoff Hindley and two newcomers to Ulster chess this year - Vincent O'Brien and Louie McConkey.
Louie McConkey receives his prize from Mark Newman
Vincent O'Brien receiving his prize
Henderson Cup Final Crosstable
No Name                  Rtg  Total  1    2    3    4    5    6  

1 Patrick McKillen 1311 5.5 13:W 11:W 10:W 2:W 3:D 8:W
2 William Storey 1343 4.5 9:W 7:D 4:W 1:L 10:W 3:W
3 Martin Kelly 1359 3.5 10:D 4:D 11:W 6:W 1:D 2:L
4 Cathal Murphy 1329 3.5 8:D 3:D 2:L 0:D 12:W 6:W
5 John McKenna 1526 3.5 0:D 10:L 9:W 7:W 6:L 12:W
6 Dmitry Zelenchuk 1354 3 7:L 8:W 13:W 3:L 5:W 4:L
7 Geoff Hindley 1050 3 6:W 2:D 0:D 5:L 8:L 11:W
8 Vincent O'Brien 919 3 4:D 6:L 12:D 13:W 7:W 1:L
9 Louie McConkey 1030 3 2:L 12:L 5:L 11:W 0:W 13:W
10 Tyrone Winter 1060 2.5 3:D 5:W 1:L 12:W 2:L 0:
11 Nived Binu Daniel 700 2 12:W 1:L 3:L 9:L 13:W 7:L
12 Adrian Dornford-Smith 1148 1.5 11:L 9:W 8:D 10:L 4:L 5:L
13 Paul Anderson 882 1 1:L 0:W 6:L 8:L 11:L 9:L
At the prizegiving ceremony
My thanks to Brendan Jamison for keeping me updated on the progress of the tournament and for providing the photographs that accompanied my text.

Final standings, full details of prizewinners and photographs of the two Champions with their trophies can be found in the Results and Reports Section.