Tralee Classic: Round by Round Report
The Tralee Classic got underway on Thursday, April 13th with no less than 7 Irish players competing in the top 2 10-player all-play-all sections. IM Sam Collins, looking for his third GM norm, and IM Alex Lopez, recently back from a self-imposed classical chess hiatus, are competing in section A alongside 3 GMs, 3 other IMs and 2 FMs. A score of 6.5/9 from either of Ireland's top home-grown talents would be enough for a norm - but as 7th and 8th seeds, they have a tough task ahead. Their task is made slightly tougher by less than favourable draws with each man having just 4 whites and 5 blacks.
In section B - the IM norm section, FM Conor O'Donnell (arriving at the event with a live FIDE rating of 2390.6) is Ireland's best hope for a Norm but that is not to diminish the chances of the 3 other Irish norm hunters in this section. FM Colm Daly, a 6-time Irish Champion with 2 IM norms to his name, comes into the event as 6th seed and Colm has always seemed to raise his game in 9-round events - his Irish Championship successes being an obvious example. He has admitted to feeling more fatigue than he would have as a younger man of late and the 2 rounds per day format may prove challenging as the event goes on - so Colm may welcome some quick games. Henry Li is on the opposite end of the spectrum - lacking a little experience at this level; closed norm events specifically - as he has represented Ireland on numerous occasions in 9+ round formats as well as attending the ECC and coming within a hair of a norm. What he lacks in experience, he should make up for with youthful exuberance and freshness which may give this event an interesting dynamic between morning/afternoon rounds and games before and after round 5. Killian Delaney, one of the fastest improving non-juniors in the country, comes into this event on the back of a year of consistent improvement. He has set himself the goal of emulating John and Paul Delaney by winning the Irish Championships some day and will see this event as good practice for The Irish Championships 2017 and in his quest to become an FM. All of Rounding out the Irish is IM Gavin Wall who, alongside Delaney, Li, Baburin, Lopez, O'Donnell and Daly, has already committed to this year's Irish Championships. Gavin is here to support Irish chess while presumably scoping out his opponents for the event in a few months!
The event was to begin at 6pm and so it did; apart from a fault-start on board 1 of the GM-norm section with FM Charles Storey delayed and arriving 55 minutes or so late. Would this affect his game affect FM Strugnell? We shall see.
The event also featured two other sections - an Open and an over 1900; the u1900 had a late pull-out which means there will be an unfortunate bye throughout (Update a 10th player has since entered, playing from round 2) but the open is to run as advertised with 10 players. ICU Tralee Classic - Section C features 5 Irish juniors and 4 Munster players. ICU Tralee Classic - Section D again features 5 juniors while the other 5 players come from all over the country - Mayo, Galway, Dublin, Kildare and Limerick all represented.
So here's how the Irish norm hunters lined out in round one - with two derbys:
|Vladislav Nevednichy||vs||Sam Collins|
|Yang-Fan Zhou||vs||Alex Lopez|
|Killian Delaney||vs||Henry Li|
|Gavin Wall||vs||Miroslaw Grabarcyzk|
|Conor O’Donnell||vs||Colm Daly|
With the black pieces and tough opponents in round 1, Sam and Alex would likely have taken a draw at the start of their games - especially for Sam as he faced 2547-rated GM Vladislav Nevednichy. However, having played an open Sicilian as opposed to his preferred Caro-Kann, Lopez seems to have unsettled his opponent who went for the ambitious but seemingly dubious Nd5 on move 9. This seemed to hand the advantage to Alex which he did not relinquish - play through their game here and watch Alex expertly take care of business from there. Sam was probably happy with his position throughout his game, eventually grinding out a pawn advantage out of the middle game but leaving himself with a backward d6 pawn and two inferior pieces to his opponent. In truth, these weaknesses in the position would probably always give white enough to hold and so he did.
In the other games of the round - there was no quarter given as all 3 games went deep into endgames with 2 of the games ending in a draw. Having been an hour late, Storey found himself in trouble against Shrugnell in a Queen and pawn ending. Shrugnell made his pawn advantage count and joined Alex as the lone players on 1/1. They are scheduled to play bright and early on Friday morning with Sam facing the dangerous Van Foreest who seemed to have the better of top seed GM Feller in round 1 but let his advantage slip away.
In what could be a preview of a critical round in The Irish Championships 2017, Killian Delaney and Conor O'Donnell were white against Henry Li and Colm Daly respectively. However, we are only in round 1 here and so the players were naturally keen to keep their norm chances alive by not being too risky. There was little to separate Colm and Conor throughout their game and a draw ensued but things weren't quite so simple in the other all-Irish clash of the round. Killian held a slight advantage before Henry found a tactic on move 30 which swung the game firmly in his favour and soon put a win in his column.
In the other games of round 1: Gavin Wall fell to co-top seed Miroslaw Grabarcyzk. Dublin CC board 1, Reinhold Mueller defeated Alistair Hill while bottom seed, Conor E Murphy impressively held GM Petr Neuman.
All games here:
|Charles Storey||0-1||Carl Strugnell|
|Vladislav Nevednichy||0.5-0.5||Sam Collins|
|Lucas Van Foreest||0.5-0.5||Sebastien Feller|
|Matthew Turner||0.5-0.5||Hugo Ten Hertog|
|Yang-Fan Zhou||0-1||Alex Lopez|
|Killian Delaney||0-1||Henry Li|
|Gavin Wall||0-1||Miroslaw Grabarcyzk|
|Reinhold Mueller||1-0||Alistair Hill|
|Conor O’Donnell||0.5-0.5||Colm Daly|
|Petr Neuman||0.5-0.5||Conor E Murphy|
Battle recommenced at 10am on Friday morning in the Rose Hotel and the Irish players faced the following opponents:
|Carl Strugnell||vs||Alex Lopez|
|Sam Collins||vs||Lucas Van Foreest|
|Henry Li||vs||Conor E Murphy|
|Colm Daly||vs||Petr Neuman|
|Alistair Hill||vs||Conor O’Donnell|
|Killian Delaney||vs||Gavin Wall|
After a successful first round for the Irish in the GM norm section with an overall score of 1.5/2, spirits were high going into round 2.
Alex again played a Sicilian as black and ended up being a piece for 3 pawns up which eventually became a knight, bishop and a pawn versus a knight and two pawns. However, he wasn't quite able to convert and his opponent held on for a draw which leaves both on 1.5/2 and Carl in a good position for an IM norm with a long way to go. Alex would require 5/7 in the remaining games to secure a GM norm and has four whites versus three blacks remaining in those games.
Sam had a far tougher time of things in a complicated Scotch opening. Both players played it fast and loose; the game appeared to be on a knife edge until Van Foreest activated his dark squared bishop. Sam's position quickly unraveled as he was unable to produce any mortal threats to his opponent while LVF's pieces seemed poised to pick up material in short order. Sam was eventually forced to sacrifice a bishop for one last shot at unsettling his opponent's position but Van Foreest calmly closed out the game for an impressive win with black.
In fact, after 2 rounds, black leads games 7.5-2.5 with white yet to win a game! Here's how the three other GM norm matches ended:
|Hugo Ten Hertog||0-1||Yang-Fan Zhou|
|Sebastien Feller||0.5-0.5||Matthew Turner|
|Charles Storey||0-1||Vladislav Nevednichy|
After two grudge matches between the Irish in round 1, our norm hunters were faced with very different tasks in round 2. Conor, black against the 9th seed, probably viewed this match as a must-win in his grand-scheme; which would allow him some leeway in matches vs the titled players. Colm would likely be happy with a draw against a tough opponent - joint top seed, GM Petr Neuman. Following an excellent win in round 1, Henry Li would like to carry that form into this round but his opponent is also on form; having drawn with GM Neuman and had a 2400+ rating performance in his last event. While Killian Delaney must ensure he gets off the mark after a tough round 1 loss - he faces IM Gavin Wall.
Colm was indeed happy with a draw as a draw was agreed after just 11 moves. In an event which may come down to who has the stamina after 5 days of long games, this could prove a very important result and crucial to Colm's chances are the rest as much as the draw against a GM.
In more good news for the Irish camp, Conor O'Donnell picked up his first win of the event and moves to 1.5/2 with a live FIDE rating of 2393.8. This means that a win in the next round will take Conor over 2400 for the first time while a draw against the top seed would see him up to 2395. This was a comprehensive victory for Conor - a 25 move straight forward win where Conor gained a lot of space on the Queenside before punishing his opponent's misplaced pieces on the Kingside. Those pieces were gradually squeezed until his opponent's position had no life left.
Killian Delaney did what needed to be done in round 2 by getting off the mark with a draw against Gavin Wall in another short game - this time 21 moves. So, four of our players (including Gavin) were undefeated and, almost as importantly, had conserved some energy before the afternoon session.
Last to finish of all the games in this round was Henry Li who seems lucky to have escaped with a draw. Two results were possible out of the middle game when Murphy went a pawn up but Henry held on to move to 1.5/2.
Players will now have a few hours before the second round of the day which starts at 4pm.
All games here:
|Carl Strugnell||0.5-0.5||Alex Lopez|
|Hugo Ten Hertog||0-1||Yang-Fan Zhou|
|Sebastien Feller||0.5-0.5||Matthew Turner|
|Sam Collins||0-1||Lucas Van Foreest|
|Charles Storey||0-1||Vladislav Nevednichy|
|Henry Li||0.5-0.5||Conor E Murphy|
|Colm Daly||0.5-0.5||Petr Neuman|
|Alistair Hill||0-1||Conor O’Donnell|
|Miroslaw Grabarcyzk||1-0||Reinhold Mueller|
|Killian Delaney||0.5-0.5||Gavin Wall|
Round 3 is now underway which gives us our first insight into how the players will deal with double-round days. Will this present a significant advantage for the younger players such as Li, O'Donnell, Van Foreest and Murphy or will the rest many of the players got earlier nullify those potential advantages?
|Alex Lopez||Playing||Hugo Ten Hertog|
|Matthew Turner||Playing||Sam Collins|
|Gavin Wall||Playing||Henry Li|
|Reinhold Mueller||Playing||Killian Delaney|
|Conor O’Donnell||Playing||Miroslaw Grabarcyzk|
|Conor E. Murphy||Playing||Colm Daly|
So what do our players need to do in this round? Well, Alex would certainly like to win this round but a draw would keep his score going in the right direction with 6 rounds to go after today. Sam has black against GM Matthew Turner who he should know very well personally as Matthew runs the Millfield International school tournament which Sam has regularly attended for almost 20 years now. A draw would help Sam get back on track after this morning but in reality if he really wants a norm, he'll need to start winning games with 6/7 required in his remaining games. In his favour is that he will have played 3 of the top 4 seeds after today which means life should get easier from here on out.
As for our IM norm-hunters, Conor, Henry and Colm are certainly well placed after 2 rounds. Conor and Henry can afford draws in this round as they face GM Miroslaw Grabarcyzk and IM Gavin Wall respectively. A win takes Conor over 2400 but a draw keeps his norm chances firmly alive while he negotiates the considerable hurdle of one of the two GMs in his section. Henry is black against a higher rated opponent in Wall. What is noticeable about Henry's draw is that he won't face any of the top three seeds until rounds 7-9 and so could potentially build a score before facing them. Colm plays bottom seed, Murphy, who he undoubtedly had singled out as one of his potential wins. But as I've pointed out already, Murphy isn't the whipping boy that his rating might suggest with several good results recently.
Killian Delaney is still searching for his first win but will fancy his chances against similarly rated Reinhold Mueller with the two playing before on a couple of occasions. A win would move Killian to 1.5/3 and back into contention after a tricky start to the event.
The first game to finish of round three is the match on board 3 with a 10 move draw:
|Yang-Fan Zhou||0.5-0.5||Sebastien Feller|
After 2 hours of play - there are no other results in the GM norm section but games are being updated online if you'd like to follow their progress.
2 more games have just finished up at the 3 hours mark with seeds 2 and 4 taking advantage of the white pieces and defeating seeds 10 and 9 respectively. Lucas Van Foreest moves to 2.5/3 and looks in a great position for a GM Norm after 2 days of play.
|Vladislav Nevednichy||1-0||Carl Strugnell|
|Lucas Van Foreest||1-0||Charles Storey|
After 3 and a half hours, Sam has secured a draw with GM Matthew Turner. This was really the minimum Sam needed to keep his chances alive. As pointed out before the round, Sam has had a difficult start to the event with three of the top four seeds so perhaps he can pick up some steam when he starts to play the lower seeds.
At the 4 hour mark, a big result for the Irish camp as Alex Lopez picks up another win and moves to 2.5/3. A fantastic start to the event - this time defeating IM Hugo Ten Hertog (2457). Alex will play top seed GM Sebastien Feller in the morning with the big Frenchman having had three relatively straight forward draws up until this point. Will Alex go with the safe option and play things safe or will he feel confident enough to take on the Frenchman?
|Matthew Turner||0.5-0.5||Sam Collins|
|Alex Lopez||1-0||Hugo Ten Hertog|
No results after 2 hours in the IM norm section but Conor O'Donnell has a nice position out of the opening. Although it is not quite at the stage where I would declare that just two results are possible - Conor certainly has an edge and a commanding position as he moves into the endgame against GM Miroslaw Grabarcyzk who is on 2/2.
Killian Delaney should be happy with his opening choice and would appear to have equalised as black against Reinhold Mueller so all results are still possible there.
The only other game which has advanced beyond the opening (according to the live updates) is the game between Wall and Li where Wall has maintained White's advantage to this point.
After 3 hours of play, we finally have some results from the IM norm section. Henry Li has lost to IM Gavin Wall while Killian Delaney drew with Reinhold Mueller. In better news, Colm Daly appears to be winning and Conor O'Donnell is a pawn up against the top seed. In the other match of the round, GM Petr Neuman is a pawn up on Alistair Hill - who is yet to get off the mark.
|Gavin Wall||1-0||Henry Li|
|Reinhold Mueller||0.5-0.5||Killian Delaney|
Another half an hour passes and we have our third result with Colm finishing off Conor E Murphy (who we can confirm is half Irish) and moving to 2/3. Colm has done exactly what he needs to do so far, taking draws off higher rated opponents and capitalising on his lower rated opponent this evening. Colm is black again tomorrow - this time against Henry Li whose now on 1.5/3 and probably in need of a win if he'd like to keep his norm chances alive. Both will fancy their chances and are likely to go for wins from the off.
|Conor E. Murphy||0-1||Colm Daly|
Section C and D
After 3 rounds, Paul Walsh and Bernd Thee lead in section C with 3 points from 3 games, they are closely followed by Gavin Melaugh who is on 2.5/3. Peter Carroll has had impressive results defeating 200 point higher rated Zalan Nemeth and drawing with 300-400 point higher rated Gavin Melaugh before succumbing to Paul Walsh.
In section D, Hugo Fowler (step son of GM Matthew Turner in section A) sits on top with 3/3, while brothers Eoin and Sean Hunter sit on 2/3 alongside Peter Lynch after the second day.
Conor's loss last night from a position where he seemed to be in command put a bit of a downer on what should have been a relatively chipped Irish camp after Alex moved to 2.5/3 and Colm moved to 2/3. Conor now has very little room for error in his bid to go over 2400 and get an IM norm - needing 5/6 from the remaining games. Its a big day for Colm who will be looking for 2 points today as he plays lower seeds. A tougher set of games await Conor as he plays stablemate Killian Delaney and IM Gavin Wall. And what about our GM norm hunters? Well, Alex will look to at least hold GM Feller with the black pieces while Sam must post his first win - he plays IM Yang-Fan Zhou. Its possible that Sam has already switched focus to gaining rating points as he hopes to some day cross the 2500 barrier which has so far eluded him - by as little as 1 point at times.
LVF continues his almost unstoppable march toward a GM norm (and potentially title if he can also cross 2500 in Tralee) - he agrees a quick draw with co-leader GM Vladislav Nevednichy. There was another draw on board one of the GM section.
|Carl Strugnell||0.5-0.5||Hugo Ten Hertog|
|Vladislav Nevednichy||0.5-0.5||Lucas Van Foreest|
A mixed round from the Irish as Alex succumbs to GM Feller while Sam notches his first win against Yang-Fan Zhou. This creates an interesting dynamic going into round 5 where the two face-off. Alex had been on a run of form after securing 2 wins and a draw from the first 3 rounds while Sam had a tougher start but a reversal of fortunes in round 4 sets up a fascinating showdown between the Irish in the next round.
|Sebastien Feller||1-0||Alex Lopez|
|Sam Collins||1-0||Yang-Fan Zhou|
|Charles Storey||0-1||Matthew Turner|
There was a quick draw between the GMs in round 4 which doesn't affect our norm hunters too much. However, there were two results of consequence just before the 3 hour mark in the rounds this morning. Killian Delaney held Conor O'Donnell to a draw moving them to 1.5 and 2 respectively and Reinhold Mueller pulled off a shock by beating Gavin Wall.