Nigel Short tops Bunratty

by Gerry Graham
2/24/2020 – The annual Bunratty Chess Festival was held for the 27th time over the weekend, at the Bunratty Castle Hotel in western Ireland, and ended with GM Nigel Short as the winner of the Masters. The top seed finished undefeated with two draws for a final tally of 5.0/6. GERRY GRAHAM is the tournament director and sent his post-tournament reflections.

Greatest Hits Vol. 1 Greatest Hits Vol. 1

Nigel Short takes us on an electrifying journey through a very rich chess career, which saw him beat no less than twelve world champions. His experience in tournaments and matches all over the world – Short has visited a total of 89 countries – can be seen in the narratives that precede the games which he annotates with humour and instructive insights.


"The world's best weekender"

The 27th annual Bunratty Chess Festival was held over the weekend of February 21st to 23rd and a record number of entries participated in the four sections. All in all, 356 players were vying for the four titles, 129 in the minor event, 83 in the Major, 94 in the Challengers and 52 in the top event, the Bunratty Masters.

This year's Masters event had eight grandmasters, seven international masters and six FIDE masters among its 52 participants, including two former World Championship candidates, Nigel Short and Vlastimil Hort.

Vlastimil Hort GM at the Bunratty Masters

Vlastimil Hort looking quite dapper

Nigel has played Bunratty many times before, and has won the title twice, but this was Vlastimil Hort's first visit to this event, and a very welcome visitor too. During the 1960s and 1970s, he was one of the strongest players in the world, competing in the 1977/1978 candidates event for the World Championship.

Vlastimil is pictured left and the eagle eyed among you will probably recognize the young man seated beside him, it's Jonathan Pein [son of organizer and chess columnist IM Malcolm Pein].

Round 1 began on Friday evening, and there were a number of draws but only one game went against the seeding — one of our many visitors from Germany, Ulli Reyer (2092) managed to beat Ireland's newly minted FM, Tarun Kanyamarala.

One game that caught my eye was the finish of the board 1 encounter between Nigel Short and David Murray, it's well worth checking it out below.

Round 2 got underway on Saturday morning and this time, it was Tarun's younger sister Trisha who was to provide our top seed with very creditable opposition, she too played a good game:


Click or tap the second game in the list to switch

David Fitzsimons shared the point with Matthew Turner on board 2 while Stephen Brady held the "Ginger GM" himself to a draw on board 3. It's great to see the Irish players acquitting themselves well on the top boards in such a strong event. It's also great to see Stephen Brady back in Bunratty, I think the last time he played in the Masters here was in 2000, but I'm open to correction on that.

Elisabeth Paehtz WGM

Elisabeth Paethz finished in shared 2nd place

Board 4 in this round was our visiting German WGM Elisabeth Paethz white against Blair Connell. Elisabeth is definitely the strongest female cChess player we've ever had playing in Bunratty and this year's 4th seed. Blair is a regular visitor to the Irish Chess scene and loves nothing better than to give the strongest players a bit of a fright! This game was nearly the last game to finish, and it can be seen in the "all games" viewer below.

There was a pleasing finish to a few games in this round, one really striking tactical one was provided to us by Henry Li, but a really pleasing strategic performance can be seen from Vlastimil Hort — there's life in the old man yet!

Round 3 began on Saturday afternoon and featured our first all GM clashes, board 1 was Short vs Hort! Before the game, I asked Nigel what age he was when he first played Vlastimil. He suspected their fist game was in the BBC's Master Game series sometime in the late 70s, no age was mentioned!

I'm not sure how their games in the 1970s went, but today's game was a brief affair, (see how I craftily avoided the "short" pun) — checkmate in 20 moves.

Vlastimil took a bye in round 4 but speaking to him before round 5, he cheerily told me "I blundered against Nigel yesterday, but today is a brand-new day!"

Short and Hort shake hands before their Bunratty 2020 game

Short vs Hort, just before their 3rd round game

Anyway, back to round 3, boards 3 and 4 were both drawn without too much blood being spilled, while board 2 was a real struggle, and why not? When Nigel won, this left him as the only player on 3/3, and if there was a winner on board 2, then they would be the co-leader with Nigel, so all was to fight for. Thus Bates vs Paehtz is well worth a look too.

With this fine win, Elisabeth was rewarded with the white pieces against Nigel short for the Saturday evening round. The top 4 boards looked like this:

1 Elisabeth Paehtz 2472 3 Nigel Short 2626 3
2 Matthew Turner 2516 2 Bogdan Lalic 2400 2.5
3 Stephen Mannion 2266 2 Simon Williams 2473 2
3 Marius Fromm 2189 2 Keith Arkell 2454 2

Kieth Arkell won on board 4 bring him to 3/4 while Matthew Turner and Bogdan Lalic had a relatively quick draw. Elisabeth tried very hard to produce a fiery king side attack against Nigel, but his defence was up for the challenge and a draw was agreed. In the meantime, Stephen Mannion and Simon Williams played a bit of a marathon but eventually, the point was shared.

This round was the last round on Saturday (yes, I think three is enough) and so a few players decided to let their hair down and relax in the few local bars. The most popular seemed to be Durty Nellies, where a couple of late night drinks were shared by many of the participants. Despite this, round 5 was scheduled for 9:15 AM start, ready or not. (It was not 9:15 AM, hang-overs permitting!)

The early 5th round pairing that looked like this:

1 Nigel Short 2626 3.5 Alex Lopez 2441 3
2 Keith Arkell 2454 3 Elisabeth Paehtz 2472 3.5
3 Bogdan Lalic 2400 3 Stephen Brady 2288 3
3 David Fitzsimons 3 Stephen Mannion 2266 2.5

Stephen Brady FM at the Bunratty Masters

Stephen Brady

Before I report on the games, I must say it was great to see Stephen Brady on board 3 in this round; he's obviously enjoying his first Bunratty in a couple of decades. There might be a lesson in there somewhere, as he managed to get to 3½/5 by drawing against Bogdan Lalic.

Keith Arkell and Elisabeth Paehtz shared the point on board 2 but Nigel was in no such mood, he won the following game against the Irish IM Alex Lopez.

Meanwhile, on board 4, another Irish IM, David Fitzsimons was hard at work against the Scottish IM, Stephen Mannion. Despite the valiant effort, sharing the point was the best David could manage too, leaving it all to play for in the final round, which looked like this: 

1 Simon Williams 2473 3.5 Nigel Short 2626 4.5
2 Elisabeth Paethz 2472 4 Bogdan Lalic 2400 3.5
3 Vlastimir Hort 2400 3.5 Keith Arkell 2454 3.5
3 Stephen Brady 2288 3.5 David Fitzsimons 2341 3.5

The clash on board 2 lasted all of five minutes, a quick draw was agreed.

But nothing like that happened on the other three top boards. David Fitzsimons beat Stephen Brady on board 4 in a tough struggle while there was a titanic battle on board 3. In an 83 move thriller, where both players refused draw offers in what was probably a drawn double rook and pawn ending (aren't they all?) Vlastimil Hort blundered into mate in time trouble and no better man than Keith Arkell had to accept the full point!

Simon Williams and Nigel Short was one of the last games to finish and while Simon was pushing, he was never really better and Nigel decided to force a perpetual check to claim his third Bunratty Masters Championship.

Dates for Bunratty 2021 are set for February 19th to 21st so mark your calendar now.

Final standings (Masters, top 10)

Rank Name Score Rating TPR W-We Rat-HiLo BH PS 1 2 3 4 5 6
1 GM Short, Nigel 5.0 2626 2658 +0.27 2403.0 21.5 19.0 1 1 1 ½ 1 ½
2 Paehtz, Elisabeth 4.5 2472 2561 +0.76 2364.5 23.5 18.0 1 1 1 ½ ½ ½
3 GM Arkell, Keith 4.5 2454 2477 +0.25 2277.8 20.0 15.5 1 ½ ½ 1 ½ 1
4 IM Fitzsimons, David 4.5 2341 2478 +1.10 2275.8 20.0 15.5 1 ½ ½ 1 ½ 1
5 IM Bates, Richard 4.5 2366 2392 +0.26 2157.5 19.0 15.5 1 1 0 ½ 1 1
6 GM Williams, Simon 4.0 2473 2440 -0.16 2284.3 22.0 14.5 1 ½ ½ ½ 1 ½
7 GM Turner, Matthew 4.0 2516 2402 -0.73 2281.0 21.5 14.0 1 ½ ½ ½ ½ 1
8 GM Lalic, Bogdan 4.0 2400 2407 +0.15 2266.3 20.5 15.5 1 ½ 1 ½ ½ ½
9 IM Lopez, Alex 4.0 2441 2366 -0.37 2194.8 21.0 14.5 1 ½ ½ 1 0 1
10 FM Li, Henry 4.0 2295 2308 +0.15 2070.3 18.5 12.5 = ½ ½ 1 ½ 1

All available games


Prize Winners (Challengers)

1st Place = Gerard MacElligott, Paul O'Neill and Sam O'Neill ( Paul won the title in a blitz play off )

Grading prizes were won by Angelo Fuentes Alarcon, James Naughton, Ferenc Szucz, Vjekoslav Novak and Marius Antohi.

Full results

Prize winners (Major)

1st Place Sam Murray

2nd Place Pat Twomey

3rd Place = Yubo Wang, William Kenny, Paul Ward, Dennis O'Connell, and Rafael Renji.

Grading prizes were won by Oisin O'Cuilleanain, David Kelly ( both also joint 3rd = ) Cody Coughlan and Paddy Quinlan.

Full results

Prize winners (Minor)

1st Place = James O'Sullivan, Sumanth Shindgi and Bill Delee, Bill won the title in a blitz play-off

Grading prizes were won by Daniel Nived, Joseph Hand, David Flinn, Barry Wilson, David Gilbert, Patrick Largey and Stuart McLean.

Full results

"Rogues Gallery"

Reinhard Mueller at the Bunratty Masters

Reinhard Mueller, one of our many visitors from Germany at this year's Bunratty Masters, there is another in the background!

Paul O'Neill Bunratty Challengers Champion

Paul O'Neill, our stylish newly-minted Bunratty Challengers Champion for 2020

Matthew Turner GM at the Bunratty Masters

Grandmaster Matthew Turner from Scotland, on a return visit to the Bunratty Masters this year

Trisha Kanyamarala WFM at the Bunratty Masters

Trisha Kanyamarala WFM hard at work at her first Bunratty Masters, we will see this young talent again

Henry Li at the Bunratty Masters

Henry Li FM, one of many star pupils from Gonzaga College and another regular visitor to the Bunratty Masters

Gerard MacElligott at the Bunratty Challengers

Gerard MacElligott, pipped at the post for the Challengers title, he and his hat are now a regular feature at Irish Chess events

David Fitzsimons IM at the Bunratty Masters

David Fitzsimons IM, he had a great run at this year's Bunratty Masters, matching the score of some very illustrious names at this year's event

Elisabeth Paehtz and Luke McShane from a few years back

Last, but not least, can anyone tell who these two young players are? I think this photo was taken nearly 25 years ago...guess who they are?


Gerry Graham is an International Arbiter and organizer.


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