I know what I did last weekend

by Alina l'Ami
3/5/2018 – Bunratty's 25th Anniversary is over, but it's still on the mind of ChessBase photographer Alina l'Ami, who sends this retrospective from her own (quite successful) visit to the Irish hamlet. Fun for all and all for fun! | Pictured: A sampling of the 362 players | Photos: Alina l'Ami

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The last thing I perceived was my chess clock flashing 0.00 before despair shoved its long rotting nails through my neck, its other hand muffling my screams. I can't move, breathe, speak or hear and it is dark.

I sat bolt upright, relieved it was just a dream. I didn't lose on time in a winning position! But as I saw the clock reading 0.03, 0.02... I realized I must play something, anything. 0.01...

Shivering and sweating, all at once. My move was a horrifying blunder and I can feel my throat strangled of any hope when suddenly...

...my alarm went off! Please let me go back to my chess nightmares, I can handle those. But just don't force me to rise with the sun — I am not a hen.

Simon Williams and Gawain Jones

Perhaps the Ginger GM had similar feelings, as he was nearly forfeited in round five

We've all been there. We all fear or dislike that. Whoever disagrees is either lying or at least stretching the truth. Or simply is not a chess player. There is no fun to be found in blundering, losing on time or having to wake up before the beauty sleep has been completed. What choice do you have though, when you must play double rounds? As if that wouldn't be evilish enough, the Bunratty weekender invented the Saturday triplets...

Bunratty Castle Hotel

This it too AM for me

Imagine playing a long game on Friday, followed by the inevitable pints, having to wake up with a throbbing head next morning, play again, drink again and continue like this until you get lost in the reality/chimaera spiral. Hard life.

So then why, you might wonder, 362 players decided to 'suffer' once again?

Man in Bunratty

Because the chess passion is always hungry for more?

Bunratty castle

Because the surroundings are so eye-catching?
(they are but rather soon your touristic options will be exhausted)


Because life is too short for bad beer?

Obviously, it is all a matter of choice. Bunratty is offering you the adrenaline shot in all its terrible beauty but the dosage is completely in your hands. And I am sorry to disappoint the readers but so far, in its quarter of a century of existence, Bunratty didn't

register any stories that our parents should never hear about (feel free to correct me if I am wrong). As much as we would like to portray ourselves differently, chess players are in fact quite reasonable people.

The players

Fun is fun and work is work

And yet, the line between the two can be rather thin at times, especially in this Irish event. Bold moves, surprising decisions but also terrible errors and unexpected turns of events are part of the tournament's features.


Luke McShane

Hand-to-hand combat: McShane vs Belenkaya

Just like the top-rated player, Nigel Short, the tournament's third seed, Luke McShane, had a difficult start too. But if Nigel climbed his way back into the prizing cards, the loss in round two for Luke proved too much of an obstacle.


Sergei Tiviakov

 GM Sergey Tiviakov scored 5/6 and shared the first place with Gawain Jones

Gawain Jones

Jones lost traditional blitz playoff — the pint for additional inspiration sometimes works, other times not

Besides, what kind of twisted freak wouldn't love this? Chess with a cold beer in a good atmosphere. If something profound ain't happening, at least it feels like it is! The very strict professionals will be seen loosening up a bit, while the party amateurs will suddenly switch to a more ascetic approach.

Amateur player

Twilight zone indeed...

Despite its hippie aura, Bunratty is a family-friendly tournament which celebrates chess in a convivial environment. And, as you figured out already, the Irish are not shy about admitting that great conversations usually begin with a beer and not with broccoli.

But what do you do if, for various reasons, you don't like nor want to drink? Won't you feel weird in a mass of imbibed happiness?

underage players

Well, they don't!

To answer this question, I didn't want to rely only on the sober players' testimonials. Thus I conducted a very strict experiment on myself (the research had to be ignored in Dublin's airport, on the way back home): no pints, nor Irish whiskey whatsoever. And it was worth the shot.

I personally had a great time testing the serious side of Bunratty and, for a change, I know in the finest details what we did last weekend: Some of us lost, some of us won but we all did enjoy our lives, barley-and-hops-lovers or not.

You can sample a piece of that through these three chess puzzles:


Gawain Jones

They say practising smiling in front of a mirror (or camera?) actually makes you feel happier

But if you are facing the daunting scenario when your reflection won't cooperate, come to Ireland. One way or another, this tournament will fix your mood.

So how would I sum up Bunratty? That's the wrong question; you don't sum it up. You open your eyes, let it happen, breathe it in.

And, truth be told, the shortest horror story ever could be: Bunratty's entries are closed! This year the hotel quivered at full capacity, so better save your spot already for February 22nd-24th, 2019.


Alina is an International Master and a very enthusiastic person in everything she does. She loves travelling to the world's most remote places in order to play chess tournaments and report about them here on ChessBase! As chance would have it Alina is also an excellent photographer.


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