The Bunratty Effect

by Alina l'Ami
3/6/2017 – Impossible odds set the stage for amazing tournaments. And one for the books is the traditional Irish weekend event that has been held in Bunratty each February for the past 24 years. Nigel Short ran away with it with a perfect 6.0/6 score, in a lyrical environment that is described as a 'tournament for the hedonist in you' by Alina L'Ami in her large illustrated report.

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A castle for the Kings and Queens

What are the chances of meeting not one but two Romanian chess friends, both from your city and the very same chess club, whilst thousands of kilometers away from your hometown?! It felt like home. What are the odds of continuously having the likes of Wesley So, Peter Svidler, and Veselin Topalov in a rather 'small' event over the years? Moreover, this year's edition featured not one, not two but five (!) Shorts were present. How odd is that?!

Brothers in arms: chess and (high) spirits: Nigel, Philip, Stephen, Don and Jack Short (no, they are not actually related to each other)

What are the chances of getting an offer you can't refuse, such as drinks on the house (ales, stouts, shots, lagers, you name it) just because the bartender feels like?! Yes, there truly is a joy to giving. But we weren’t playing the odds, we were playing the Bunratty tournament.

Busy days - busy times around the premises

Sunshine for my eyes seeing so many kids interested in chess instead of video games

It was my third time here and once again it didn't disappoint. More than 300 chess enthusiasts gathered in this 'middle of nowhere' to compete in yet another marathon of six (somewhat) classical games (90 min + 15 sec) in only three days.

Experience always helps

(Chess) reflections... I should make a series one day (Ed: Yes, you should!)

Former candidate and all-round chess legend Jonathan Speelman

Speelman – Bates

[Event "Bunratty Masters"] [Site "?"] [Date "2017.02.19"] [Round "6"] [White "Speelman, Jonathan"] [Black "Bates, Richard"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "E11"] [WhiteElo "2522"] [BlackElo "2347"] [Annotator "Alina l'Ami"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "r1nqrbk1/1p3ppp/8/p4NP1/2bPp2P/P3P3/1P1B1QB1/R4RK1 w - - 0 23"] [PlyCount "20"] [EventDate "2017.??.??"] {Being in close vicinity with creative players is not only inspirational but quite spectacular as well. Instead of simply retreating the rook, Speelman chose:} 23. d5 $1 {Yes, I know, not the best move. On the contrary, objectively speaking it is indeed an error but didn't all these world discoveries (or at least some of them) emerge from error?! One needs some courage to play like that, sacrificing an exchange for a potential, yet far away initiative.} Qxd5 ({More precise was} 23... Bxf1 24. Rxf1 Qxd5 25. Bc3 Ra6 $1 {preventing White's idea which will become more clear later. Black is much better since White's compensation became a bit invisible.}) 24. Bc3 Bxf1 { very natural but one move too late.} ({Apparently} 24... Ne7 {was stronger and less materialistic, aiming to exchange pieces and hold on to the extra pawn.} 25. Nxe7+ ({Obviously the} 25. Nh6+ {idea doesn't work anymore} gxh6 26. Qf6 Ng6) 25... Bxe7 26. Qf5 Bc5 {and Black is better.}) 25. Nh6+ Kh8 26. Nxf7+ Kg8 {After an inventive series, White could have settled for a draw by perpetual. But it is never easy to restrain and one shouldn't either! Certainly not in a position which doesn't lack venom.} 27. Rxf1 {The first move that comes to mind but} (27. Nh6+ $1 {would have kept White's initiative in place} Kh8 (27... gxh6 {doesn't help since White has} 28. Qf6 Ra6 29. Qh8+ Kf7 30. Qxh7+ Ke6 31. Rxf1 Ne7 32. Bxe4 {Black is a "rook up" but the placement of the king will decide the game in White's favour. There's no safe shelter anymore.}) 28. Bxf1 $3 {I believe such moves are very difficult to find. Rerouting the bishop to a better diagonal will soon create some agitation in Black's camp.} (28. Rxf1 { is also possible but, strangely enough, less effective} Nd6 29. Bh3 {with the same idea ("make your pieces smile"-Arthur Kogan) but somehow it doesn't really bring the same desired effect.} Be7 30. Nf7+ Qxf7 31. Qxf7 Nxf7 32. Rxf7 Bf8 33. Rxb7 {White holds the trumps thanks to the bishop pair but is it more than a draw? I doubt.}) 28... Nd6 29. Be2 Rac8 30. Rd1 Qb3 31. Bd4 {keeping the threats alive.} (31. Rxd6 {would be the first line anyone would calculate but after} Rxc3 (31... Bxd6 $4 32. Bxg7+ Kxg7 33. Qf6#) 32. Nf7+ Kg8 33. bxc3 Qxf7 34. Qxf7+ Kxf7 35. Bc4+ Ke7 36. Rd4 Rc8 37. Rxe4+ Kd6 {White is indeed a pawn up yet much more time has to be invested for a point. I personally drew twice such positions, with a pawn up (or down) R+opposite color bishops type of endgames.}) 31... Nb5 32. Be5 $1 {The initiative is so dangerous that I believe it will soon become lethal. I just don't see proper defences for Black. }) 27... Nd6 {Now Black can breath on a more normal pace again.} 28. Nh6+ Kh8 29. a4 {was played, hoping to get more than half a point. But that proved being a bit too soft.} (29. Bh3 {would transpose to the line mentioned above} Be7 30. Nf7+ Kg8 ({If} 30... Nxf7 31. Qxf7 Qxf7 32. Rxf7 Bf8 33. Rxb7 {as we've seen before}) 31. Nh6+ Kh8 32. Nf7+ {with perpetual.}) 29... Be7 30. Ng4 Rf8 31. Nf6 Qe6 32. Kh2 Ne8 {White had to resign. Being objective is a very subjective thing in chess, especially when playing in Bunratty.} 0-1

We all know how the double rounds, let alone the triple games from Saturday 18th can play tricks with a tired brain

Since there's no clear-cut remedy on how to relax after a hard day at work, any objective advice would be far too subjective. Common sense, however, would tell you: when in Ireland do as the Irish do.

Off to the pub!

For all its fame and excesses, the bar is the center of the social (chess) universe in Bunratty. It's much more than just a drinking place –  It's where the chess players engage with the sense of community, friendship and conviviality which I rarely see elsewhere.

When that's too crowded, there is always a Plan B: more pints and more music. And more tales with GM Raymond Keene, chess raconteur and Times chess journalist.

Of course, some would argue that alcohol and its lovely effects have a say in it but I would rather emphasize the unique atmosphere created by those charming Irish people.

Gerry and the organizers had every reason to be proud

No wonder they are called the Latins of the North... and one more reason for your author to feel at home. I could finally be casually late without bumping into grumpy faces afterward. Beautiful souls and features are certainly preferable:

The French WFM Cécile Haussernot is neither an actress nor a model, but a great companion, a fierce chess player and soon she will be studying Art, too.

But what was it that propelled Nigel to a maximum 6.0/6?

The Bunratty Effect?

“Guinness is good for you” - the old slogan could actually be true. Or at least a happy coincidence. Nigel completely crushed the field while I also regained my strength and finished off with a 4.0/4.

Short vs Short followed by Short

Short games

The Masters winner with a maximum 6.0/6!

Mikhail Pavlov, the Challengers' winner with 5.5/6. We expected nothing less with...

… such beautiful support!

To celebrate properly the 25th anniversary, the organizers are planning a bigger and even friendlier edition for the next year.

This time we get to enjoy once again the famous:

“I don't see you guys rating
The kind of mate I'm contemplating
I'd let you watch, I would invite you
But the queens we use would not excite you”
-- Murray Head (One Night In Bangkok)

That may be partially true, unless you're watching one of Mark Hebden's signature games:

Rawlinson – Hebden

[Event "Bunratty Masters"] [Site "Bunratty Co. Clare, Ireland"] [Date "2017.02.19"] [Round "5"] [White "Rawlinson, Aidan"] [Black "Hebden, Mark"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "E62"] [WhiteElo "2199"] [BlackElo "2486"] [Annotator "Alina l'Ami"] [PlyCount "54"] [EventDate "2017.??.??"] {Being a King's Indian player myself, it is a pure joy to follow such clean games as Mark Hebden displays now and again. I have nothing more to say about this than just simply watch and learn, Alina and all the KID fans out there!} 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. g3 Bg7 4. Bg2 O-O 5. Nc3 d6 6. Nf3 Nc6 7. O-O Rb8 8. e3 e5 9. d5 Ne7 10. e4 Ne8 11. Ne1 f5 12. f3 f4 13. g4 Bf6 14. Nd3 Bh4 15. Bd2 h5 16. h3 hxg4 17. hxg4 g5 18. Be1 Ng6 19. Bxh4 Nxh4 20. Nf2 Rf6 21. Bh3 Rh6 22. Kh2 Nf6 23. Rh1 c6 24. Qe2 Qb6 25. Ncd1 cxd5 26. cxd5 Bd7 27. Nc3 Kf7 {Such a flexible and slippery game chess is. From what could have been a slow KID with g3, morphed into a typical King's Indian where White tried to stop Black's initiative with g4. It didn't work and the resignation is not premature. White's king is vulnerable, the pieces have no coordination whatsoever, the h-file is controlled by Black...the end becomes inevitable.} 0-1

So if you are into facing strong opponents, this is the place to be. If you crave playing a lot of games without being forced to take days off from your work – write this down in your calendar (Bunratty 23rd - 25th February 2018). If your family gets bored to death while you're playing chess, then worry no more: Bunratty settings allow for quite some touristy experiences.

This is a tournament for the hedonist in you.


You can use ChessBase 14 or any of our Fritz compatible chess programs to replay the games in PGN. You can also download our free Playchess client, which will in addition give you immediate access to the chess server

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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