The tournament at Bunratty is Ireland’s premier chess competition and has been for several years.
This year’s event, to which I was invited as a guest to deliver the closing speech, attracted a powerful field including the former world title challenger Nigel Short and the former British champion Gawain Jones as well as grandmasters Peter Wells, Simon Williams and Alexander Baburin. This year, Nigel Short dominated proceedings by winning his first five games and only relaxing his pace with a quick draw in the final round to clinch his victory.
The unique selling point of Bunratty is the social atmosphere generated by the hundreds of chessplayers — grandmasters and neophytes alike — all packed into the Castle Hotel over a long weekend. The social nature of the occasion is so enjoyable that even luminaries such as the Bulgarian Fidé champion Veselin Topalov have been tempted to visit Bunratty simply for the fun of it, without feeling the necessity to compete in the event itself.
Short-Villeagas: Bunratty Masters 2016; Caro-Kann Defence
1 e4 c6 2 d4 d5 3 e5 One of Nigel Short’s favourite weapons against the solid Caro-Kann Defence. Previously it had been favoured by Nimzowitsch and Tal, notably in the latter’s unsuccessful 1961 world title defence against Botvinnik. 3 … c5 Somewhat risky. The standard main line commences 3 … Bf5 as for example in Nimzowitsch-Capablanca, New York 1927 which continued 4 Bd3 Bxd3 5 Qxd3 e6 6 Nc3 Qb6. 4 dxc5 e6 5 a3 Less ambitious than 5 Qg4 as played in game 8 of the Tal-Botvinnik, 1961 world title match which continued 5 Qg4 Nc6 6 Nf3 Qc7 7 Bb5 and White went on to win. 5 … Nc6 6 Nf3 Bxc5 7 b4 Bb6 8 Bb2 Nge7 9 Nbd2 More usual is 9 Bd3. 9 … Ng6 10 g3 (see diagram 1) The first new move of the game. 10 Bb5 was seen in Pogonina-Khotenashvili, Batumi 2012. In neither case does White appear to enjoy any appreciable advantage which reinforces my impression that 5 Qg4 is better than 5 a3. 10 … 0-0 11 c4 f6 12 exf6 gxf6 13 Rc1 Nce5 14 c5 Nxf3+ 15 Qxf3 Bc7 16 Bg2 Be5 17 Qb3 Bd7 18 f4 Bxb2 19 Qxb2 Bb5 20 Kf2 (see diagram 2) 20 … e5 Encouraged by the peregrinations of the white king, Black over-reaches. He should play 20 … a5 with equal chances. 21 Qb3 exf4 22 a4 Be8 23 Nf3 fxg3+ 24 hxg3 f5 The last chance to fight on was 24 … Ne5. 25 Rcd1 f4 26 g4 This allows Black back in the game. 26 Rxd5 is overwhelming. 26 … Bf7 27 Qc3 Qe8 28 Rhe1 Qxa4 The final blunder. 28 … Qd7 kept Black in the game. 29 Nd4 Rad8 30 c6 a5 31 c7 Black resigns
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