Chess, cats and free-flowing beer

12/6/2001 – Kilkenny may be Ireland's smallest city, but it has a lot going for it apart from the free-flowing craic – not to mention the equally free-flowing Guinness! Last weekend over 200 players made the pilgrimage to the latest edition of the tournament, which was held in the magnificent surroundings of Kilkenny Castle. John Henderson was there to watch Rogers and McShane win it. You can read his illustrated report for the Scotsman more

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John Henderson's Chess column
The Scotsman

December 2001

2001-12-06 KILKENNY, the Marble City, may be Ireland's smallest city but it has a lot going for it apart from the free-flowing craic – not to mention the equally free-flowing Guinness! Situated 70 miles south of Dublin and built on the River Nore, it's famous for its arts and heritage making it one of Ireland's favourite tourist destinations.


Kilkenny Castle

Kilkenny is also a city with a distinctive chess pedigree with many famous names from the game championing their cause over the 64-squares. The town was the birthplace of the early American legend James Mason, who escaped the Irish Famine by immigrating to New Orleans with his family in 1861 to become one of the world's best half-dozen players in the early 1880s.

Even from the weird and wonderful world of chess composition, Sam 'Puzzle King' Loyd immortalised Kilkenny chess-wise in 1888 when he composed two similar, chess problems – entitled 'The Kilkenny Cats' – where the formation of 24 chess pieces on a board resembled the outline of two of the infamous cats.

Sam Loyd, Kilkennny Cats

Mate in four moves

Mate in four moves
1.Nf4+ Kxf2 2.Nxh3+ Kxg3 [2...Ke2 3.c8Q gxh1Q 4.Qa6#] 3.Nf5+ Kxh3 4.Bg4#. 1.b8N Rxg1 [1...d5 2.Nc6 dxc4 3.Ne4+ Kxe2 4.Nd4#; 1...fxg1Q 2.Nxd7 Qh1 3.N7c5 g1Q 4.N5e4#] 2.Nxd7 f1Q 3.N7c5 Rh1 4.Nb3#.

The small club also boasts a very active, Honorary Club President in the redoubtable form of former world champion Boris Spassky – who was on hand last year to hand out the prizes – who took the small club to his heart after a visit there in 1991. In accepting the post, Spassky declared: "All my life I was dreaming to be an Honorary President. Long live Kilkenny Chess Club!"


Jack Lowry and Boris Spassky

Spassky's devotion and genuine feelings towards the Irish town and its humble little club proved to be the catalyst for once again putting Kilkenny firmly on the chess map as, along with legendary organizer Jack Lowry and his dedicated team, the city has gone on to become a big favourite on the chess circuit due to the magical atmosphere created each year with the Norkom European Masters.

Last weekend over 200 players made the pilgrimage to the latest edition of the tournament, which was held in the magnificent surroundings of Kilkenny Castle. And, despite the fact that the field was a bit weaker than usual due to the Fide World Championships in Moscow that saw Mickey Adams missing out on his favourite tournament, there was a truly international GM line-up, headed by top seed Mark Hebden, Australian No.1 Ian Rogers, Irish No.1 and Russian émigré Alexander Baburin, Scottish champion Jonathan Rowson, and last year's popular winner, England's top junior Luke McShane.


Would you believe it? A pub dedicated entirely to John Henderson!

In a close run race, the final round proved to be the turning point in the competition as wins from Rogers and McShane saw the two GMs edging out early pace-maker Hebden, as both finished on 5/6. However, with a better tiebreak score, Rogers took the title ahead of last year's winner, and gets to keep the imposing wooden trophy, made from a piece of 3,000 year old Irish Bog Wood - thus pre-dating the game itself by some 1,000 years!

Kilkenny Norkom Master: 1-2 GM I Rogers (Australia), GM L McShane (England) 5/6; 3-4 GM M Hebden (England), IM M Heidenfeld (Ireland) 4.5; 5-9 GM A Baburin (Ireland), GM J Rowson (Scotland), IM D Gormally (England), P Short (Ireland), P Dempsey (Ireland) 4.


Alex Baburin, Ian Rogers

I Rogers - A Baburin, Kilkenny Masters (6) Alekhine's Defence
1 e4 Nf6 2 e5 Nd5 3 d4 d6 4 c4 Nb6 5 exd6 exd6 6 Nc3 Be7 7 Nf3 0-0 8 Be2 Bg4 9 b3 c6 10 0-0 Re8 11 Bf4 Bf6 12 Rc1 a5 13 h3 Bh5 14 g4 Bg6 15 Bd3 Na6 16 Bxg6 hxg6 17 Qd2 Nc7 18 Rfe1 Rxe1+ 19 Rxe1 Ne6 20 Ne4 d5 21 Nd6 dxc4 22 bxc4 Be7 23 Nxf7 Kxf7 24 Qe3 Nf8 25 Ng5+ Ke8 26 Qe5 Nxc4 27 Qxg7 Nd6 28 Re3 Qd7 29 Bxd6 Qxd6 30 Ne4 Qc7 31 Nf6+ (31 ..Kd8 32 Qxf8+ Bxf8 33 Re8#) 1-0


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