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Chess Quotes

“A chess game is divided into three stages: the first, when you hope you have the advantage, the second when you believe you have an advantage, and the third… when you know you’re going to lose!”     (Tartakower)

“only sissies castle”    ( Rob Sillars )

“Chess is a beautiful mistress to whom we keep coming back, no matter how many times she rejects us.”  ( Bent Larsen )

“There are two types of sacrifices: correct ones and mine”     ( Mikhail Tal )

“Some part of a mistake is always correct”   ( Tartakower )

“The passed Pawn is a criminal, who should be kept under lock and key.
Mild measures, such as police surveillance, are not sufficient”  ( Nimzovich )

“The blunders are all there on the board, just waiting to be made”  ( Tartakover )

“The boy ( a 12 year old named Anatoly Karpov) doesn’t have a
clue about Chess, and there’s no future at all for him in this profession” (Mikhail Botvinnik)

“Chess is ruthless: you’ve got to be prepared to kill people  (Nigel Short) Rite flak jacket required for his simul on the 6th March then!

“The process of rating players can be compared to the measurement of the position of a cork bobbing up and down on the surface of agitated water with a yard stick tied to a rope and which is swaying in the wind.”  ( Arpad Elo )  Ahh so that’s how Drew does the ratings!

“Chess is something that keeps mad people sane.”  (William Hartston ) Though it hasn’t worked for Martin Kelly!

“There are only two kinds of moves in the opening, Moves which are wrong and moves which could be wrong.” ( Tartakower )

“Any opening is good enough, if its reputation is bad enough.”  ( Tartakower ) That’s why they all work against Kevin Agnew!

“Are you looking a boot in the smarties”  (Kevin Agnew)


Lagan Freezes at Fisherwick

No the river Lagan hasn’t solidified just in case any of you were thinking of rummaging the attic for your Torvill and Dean boots and Robin Cousins lycra, not that some chess players need ice as an excuse to don varying pastel shades of lycra. Lagan Chess Club were obviously still suffering from a severe chill in the bones after last weeks frosty game with Ballynafeigh’s Ice Queen Iza Bujak and couldn’t handled another cold one.  They were drawn to play Fisherwick on Monday evening but an avalanche of snow had all the players concerned about getting home, when I say avalanche I used the words in the loosest terms possible it was approximately 1½” inches, err no you read that right it wasn’t metres or even feet it was in fact 1½” inches.

I went outside to check for myself when I was informed and to be perfectly honest the Rolling Stones have probably put more white stuff up their nose in a weekend than was lying in my garden. Yul Brenner probably had a worse dandruff problem so I phoned John Cairns back to confirm.

“Johnny there’s nothing worth a damn where I am” I said … “Man it’s bad here there’s snow ploughs working away like crazy” John replied before adding “We need to cancel this one Damien I’ll send you a video so you can see for yourself”



There’s Snow on Them Hills

Forget the blizzard warnings and sub-zero temperature expectations of the weather forecasters if you really want to see a cold chill just get into a time scramble with Iza Bujak of the Ballynafeigh International team. The Lagan Chess Club played hosts to their riverside neighbours from three bridges down on Wednesday evening and the match like almost all contests this year have been extremely close affairs, the sheer number of drawn matches in the league so far this year will testify to that.

Chris Kelly the President of the UCU was paired against Damien Cunningham the League Controller of the UCU and on the evening not only did he outrank him but he outplayed him as well, one nil to Lagan. Chris graciously invited his defeated opponent to the bar for a consolation drink and to offer kind words of encouragement like “What was that crap you played” and “What medication are you taking?” followed by “Tell me this, does your husband play?” before delivering his coup de grace “who taught you checkers anyway” Yeah Cunningham was feeling suitably soothed almost as much as Kelly was feeling suitably smug, but not quite!

Calum Leith the slightly underweight skeleton come coat-hanger board 2 for International rattled into the room with a grin as wide as the space in his coat and the scores were level at one each, though while the news was good to hear for Cunningham the International captain there was however a slight drawback, there were now two winners at the table in the bar and only one loser and Leitch a team mate of Cunningham’s reminded him of it at every opportunity. David Houston board 1 for International entered the bar after his game which had to be good news for Cunningham because if Houston had won the team would be winning 2-1 and if he lost well he’d be obliged to share the humiliation and scorn, so it was a win-win situation for Cunningham. “How did you go Dave?” asked Cunningham “It was a draw” Houston replied, yeah Cunningham’s luck was running true to form, if he bought a duck it would sink!

They all headed back into the chess room to watch the finish of the remaining two games International’s board 5 Ian Kilpatrick agreed a draw with his Lagan counterpart Chris Armstrong the match was perfectly balanced with only one game remaining unfinished. That game was between Gerald Harvey of Lagan and Iza Bujak from International, Harvey had 18mins on his clock Bujak 3mins it was a closed position they both still had queens rooks and bishops on the board as well as six pawns each. It looked like Harvey was going to run her clock out and deny her the draw, they played on Harvey 14 mins Bujak 2mins .. then Harvey 9mins Bujak 1 min .. still they played on still no draw offers from EITHER player, Cunningham wondered if Ballynafeigh’s new Polish player Bujak knew she could offer a draw or stop the clocks and claim a draw on no progress … Harvey 3 mins Bujak seconds … Finally “would you like a draw?” asked Harvey … Phew thought Cunningham that was way too close as Bujak’s flag was hanging … “No thank you” Bujak replied with a smile….  Cunningham and Kelly were both gobsmacked and stared at each other .. they played on .. Harvey 1 min Bujak micro seconds … “Draw yes” asked Harvey .. Bujak coldly thought for 5 or 6 seconds before saying “err No” it brought gasps from the room, this girl had stopped playing chess and was now playing Russian roulette instead, Harvey looked stunned, Leitch looked like he was about to explode in laughter “There’s ice water in those veins” whispered an astonished Chris Kelly, “just ice water, more like liquid nitrogen!” retorted Cunningham. They played on, both flags were hanging, Bujaks must have been in suspended animation, they shuffled pieces and at that point the two captains intervened to end the game as a draw on no progress before Calum Leitch took a fit or Gerald Harvey took a heart attack.

The moral of the story is don’t get into a time scramble with the Ice Queen Bujak and definitely don’t play chicken or poker with her because this girl will not back down EVER!

Archie Kirk plays in the snow as his schIza Bujak getting warmed up for the match

geralds scorecard

Gerald Harveys score-sheet from the Iza Bujak Match


Shiver me timbers …arrr!

Word has reached our gossip desk that Ballynafeigh’s apprentice doctor Patrick Magee suffered a dizzy spell after his David and Goliath encounter with the nemesis of Ballynafeigh Chess Club Roy Stafford. The Ballynafeigh Sultans hauled Magee in at the last moment as a replacement for Damien Lavery, it proved to be a very fortuitous substitution for the Sultans when Magee armed only with enthusiastic zest and a new chess book “Castling is for Wimps”  took on and defeated Stafford who had been dinning on Ballynafeigh rating points at his leisure.

“I done him, he knows who’s top dog now” bragged Magee, “I put the wee Staffy back on a lead for Ballynafeigh” he told his team-mates who by all accounts were as stunned as Roy Stafford by the result as they made their way silently to the car. This state of perplexed thought must have held the occupants of the Ballynafeigh car in a vice like grip, a shock so strong that it completely struck them dumb, it must have done something because on leaving the car-park of Shorts chess club Magee still on cloud nine took the wrong turn and nobody noticed, … nobody noticed for twenty miles! It was only when they arrived at the harbour and they couldn’t see the Odyssey complex that they realised that they were not in Belfast but were in fact at the Bangor marina!

Perhaps Magee had mistook John McKenna and his walking stick for Long John Silver and a crutch, perhaps Thomas Donalson was doing a wonderful impersonation of a parrot on Johns shoulder, I guess we’ll never know, but what I would love to know is at what part of this twenty mile sightseeing tour along the North Down coast did four seemingly intelligent adults and a revered parrot impersonator not realise that they were heading in the wrong direction, or did they know but were waiting on the parrot to speak first?

And to think the general public actually think chess players are smart!


Arrr..  grab ye the back Thomas and hoist yer seat belt o’er or it be the cat o’ nine tails for all


Mallaghan Unlucky in Las Vegas

Danny Mallaghan the board 1 of the Ballynafeigh Badgers was desperately unlucky in Las Vegas this Christmas break, no he wasn’t squandering his copious wealth at the casinos tables and slots, he was in fact playing in the North American Chess Open. While the rest of us were languishing in Belfast scrambling for the Ulster Blitz title with a mug of tea in one hand and a slice of Eileen Kruks home made cake in the other Mallaghan was sunning himself in the playboys play ground with Pina-Colada’s by the tray and massages by the pool.

Danny finished on 5 out of 7 but he blundered two clearly won games and turned both into horror losses. In his 3rd round match he was so far in front his opponent needed binoculars to see him but unfortunately for the bold Daniel he didn’t even need glasses to realise that Mallaghan’s king was trapped, cue a loss and a bucket. In the 6th round Danny was a full piece up but was apparently distracted by a Hollywood starlet on the next board and he left a rook en prise with a check and was forced to resign. If Danny had won either of those matches he would have been $2,000 better off, you read that correctly that wasn’t two hundred that was indeed two thousand dollars.

What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas they say, well I think this is one story that will be coming back to Belfast.  http://chesstournamentservices.com/cca/2012/12/north-american-open-2012-standings-under-1900-section/


New Blitz Champion

The 2012 Ulster blitz championships took place at the Ballynafeigh club rooms on Saturday 29th Dec, it was an excellent turn out both in the numbers playing and the overall strength of the field.

Those attending included Michael Waters the Ulster Champion, Steven Eachus the Ulster intermediate champion, Alan Delaney the Ulster Masters champion, Karina Kruk the Irish women’s champion, Calum Leitch the residing Blitz champion, Steve Scannell an eight times Ulster Champion and quite a few heavy hitters from the Ulster league like Stephen Morgan, Eamonn Walls, Nicholas Pilkiewicz, and Gareth Annesley. When bolstered by the likes of Damien Lavery, Damien Cunningham, Ian Woodfield, John Bradley, and Mark Newman plus a host of 1300-1500 ankle biting juniors there just to take your blitz rating down and ruin your Christmas in general then you knew it was going to be a little Christmas cracker of an event.

The ankle biting squad went snapping early inflicting defeats on Bradley Cunningham Waters Annesley Kruk Newman and Pilkiewicz this allowed Lavery and Scannell to get a jump on the field but it was a 21 round event so there was plenty of time for them to falter and be caught by the pack. Waters clawed his way back up to the front but his hopes were dashed when he was controversially defeated by Lavery who innocently made an illegal move with 1sec left on his clock the 2sec added increment bolstered his clock to 3sec on rectification of this error he gained yet another 2secs, Waters was fully justified in his grievance but that is a side effect of increments and lightening chess, the incident which was replicated later against Kiran Robbin and John Bradley with 5-7secs on the clock will mean in future any illegal move made in blitz games with less than 20 seconds on the clock will be adjudged an automatic loss.

The upsets kept coming and some of the more fancied competitors were struggling to hit 50% but Scannell just kept racking up the wins and soon built an unassailable lead finishing the tournament with an incredible nineteen wins and suffering only two losses. This will be a welcome result for Scannell who has been out of the winner’s enclosure for almost as long as Istabraq, whether or not it will be repeated in longer formats only time will tell, as for Waters who still managed to finish second now that public hanging is no longer an option he will just have to consol himself with the knowledge that he inflicted one of the defeats upon Scannell and would have been closer still only for Lavery’s time swindle , though Michael with his legal background was at pains to point out that while the public hanging of Lavery was indeed illegal that in itself did not necessarily negate the idea as an option! Eamonn Walls picked up third and Kiran Robbin picked up another accolade  when he lifted the grading prize.


“Gee I won, are you sure,”

new venue

Michael Waters has contacted us to say that he has found a new venue for Blitz games


International Get a Lesson at Fruithill

Ballynafeigh International travelled to the new venue of the Fruithill bowling club to play the new Fruithill chess team made up mostly from former members of the RVH chess club from further down the road, it is without doubt a vast improvement of their former premises and unquestionably more conducive for playing chess at a high level.

Paul Logan and John Monaghan went out of their way to ensure everyone received a warm and friendly welcome with Paul queuing up at the bar to buy the visitors double Brandies to combat the cold night air, though Pauls brother Charlie a Ballynafeigh registered player was convinced it was a ploy to get the Ballynafeigh team sloshed! I’m really beginning to think Ballynafeigh is coming down with conspiracy theorists.

Fruithill’s original team sheet had Delaney on 1 Toal on 2 Monaghan on 3 Logan on 4 and a blank no show for board 5 twenty minutes and four double Brandies later International were facing a team that consisted of Michael Holmes on 1) Alan Delaney on 2) Ciaran Marron on 3) Tony Parker down on 4) and last years assassin Michael Toal bringing up the rear, some conspiracies do have merit!

Holmes and Houston play out a draw on board 1 whilst Toal eventually got the better of Internationals new find Barney McGahan after a good tussle. Calum Leitch levelled the score-line with a fantastic win and inflicted the season’s first defeat upon the recent Ulster Masters Champion Alan Delaney. Damien Cunningham held on to an early pawn gain against Ciaran Marron and held a territorial advantage until the end despite some inventive play from Marron.

However on board 4 the newly crowned Irish women’s Champion was paired against the most famous driving instructor in Belfast, Tony Parker, Karina playing black drove over whites lines early in this test trying to force Tony into a virtual cul-de-sac, but Parker manoeuvred wonderfully pulling off a three pawn turn and moved forward putting Kruk in reverse for the rest of the game until she eventually broke down. Afterward as we were leaving Parker quipped “tell Karina that lesson was free but the rest are £22.50 an hour” he then produced an L plate and told me to place it on her board the next time she was playing..


Master Class at Masters

Alan Delaney now resident full time in Belfast after ten years abroad absolutely stormed the senior section of the Ulster Masters with a devastating 5½ from 6 At no stage did his opposition ever threaten to rein him in after he broke loose from the pack, he steamrollered the likes of Steve Scannell Danny Mallaghan and Mark Newman into the board on his way to the title, only the resolute Ross Harris who eventually went on to pick up the well deserved under 1800 grading prize caused Delaney any concern over the weekend, when Harris tirelessly worked for a well deserved draw. Ian Woodfield finished a very creditable second and the result was thoroughly deserved for a loyal supporter of local chess. Delaney has been a revelation since the beginning of the year and word on the grapevine has it that the Ulster Champion Michael Waters ducked Delaney in the league sending his trusty lieutenant Cairns to face him instead. That particular rumor mill gathered pace when Waters was absent from the starting line up on Saturday morning though allegedly observed in the bushes outside the venue with binoculars watching the participants enter the building.

In the intermediate section young Thomas Donaldson of Ballynafeigh completely romped home leading the tournament from the starting gun to the finishing line, he sat comfortable throughout as challenge after challenged faltered at his board. A grandmaster draw in the last round against opening book theorist Kevin Agnew sealed an inaugural victory for Donaldson in only his second ever tournament the game result also contributed to Agnew securing the under 1300 grading prize. Martin Kelly and Stewart McConaghy took second and third respectively, they both tied with Agnew on 4 ½ but the UCU computerized tie-break system allocated their eventual finishing positions. A superb day for UCU chess of the future, though the absence of any trophies at the presentation ceremony because they were not returned on time wasn’t very clever.

Has Michael swapped Chess for bird-watching?


Calum Leitch throws a tizzy

Calum Leitch is most upset at the moment, his tantrum stems from when he was informed that his opponent to be for the Tuesday night internal club showdown between the Ballynafeigh Sultans and his own Ballynafeigh International had pulled out at the eleventh hour. Damien Lavery sent messages to the Ballynafeigh selection panel informing them of his unavailability for the evening due to “the possibility that he could possibly be selected for a draw for tickets to a concert, maybe, possibly hopefully” Leitch fumed at the selectors “he’s running scared of me yet again” before adding “I own him, I’ve always owned him, and by God he knows I own him, he’s just yellow I tell you yellow, cos he knows I’m the big dog between us two and he’s the shaking gutless chicken”

Lavery queues for tickets for a lottery for tickets!

Damien Lavery retorted on hearing Leitches claims to being the “Big-Dog” between the two “that’s absolutely correct he is, and here is a few of our games in the past to prove that he’s the big dog”



Magherafelt has moved to Mallusk

It’s okay I know what you’re thinking, using nothing but rational and the powers of deduction that barring a cataclysmic shift in the local terra firma which would fundamentally change the natural geography of county Antrim there’s no way Magherafelt up stumps and moved 30 mile closer to Belfast. You all think I bought a Tom-Tom nat-sav off the back of a lorry being driven by someone with a heavy brogue. Well I didn’t and the 9,000 inhabitants of the town can rest easy it was just their chess club that moved down to Mallusk, this apart from being easier to get to for most will also mean that if you don’t have a return ticket on Cathals Sinclair C5  this season you can always walk it.

Cathal contacted us to say he is livid about us referring to his Sinclair C5 when he sold it last month and bought this huge van instead so he can take the whole team to matches. his reasons were ” Philip and Martin had been worried about travelling down south on the back of my scooter and the sidecar…”


Getting it right and getting it wrong

Sincere apologies to Shorts board 3 Ross Harris nephew of the great Rolf who unfortunately had the dubious honour of being misnamed on this website. Sorry Ross but I was watching the golf on ESPN were I had a feeble wager for interest on the English player Ross Fisher while composing and editing pages on the Ballynafeigh site about the Shorts v Badger match, so Ross Harris became Ross Fisher without even having to play a bunker shot… oops!

But we do occasionally get it right and were delighted to find a charming message lurking in our comment box from one of the nicest guys in chess the wonderfully affable Dennis Wilkinson.

“Many thanks for an enjoyable evening, (not so much for the thumping though) Have to say again I was so impressed with the vibrancy enthusiasm and atmosphere of the Ballynafeigh club, best of luck for the rest of the season.”

Regards Dennis


Badger Cull

Irrespective of what Channel 4 and BBC World Service reported yesterday evening the proposed Badger cull was not postponed in all areas, either that or the boys from Shorts need to retune their sets after the digital switchover, because they promptly turned up at Ballynafeigh and set about the Badgers team like hunters possessed. Even though the Badgers showed up well on the premier boards of 1 & 2 taking 1.5 points from a possible 2 with a Mallaghan victory over Newman and a Conlon draw against McNaughton Shorts bottom boards of Harris McConaghy and Stafford ruthlessly exterminated the Badger set of R Lavery  Saad and Rajan.

David Houston and Neil Green study their positions the Badgers board 1 behind them studies the heavens

It was the same scenario at Fruithill when Fisherwick only managed a half point from the top 2 boards of Cairns and Fong against Delaney and Marron but their super strong bottom boards of Flanagan Ormorod and Woodfield saw off the challenge of Fruithill, it is a scenario I envisage seeing over and over again this season in the chase for the Silver King Championship it will be the bottom boards that will be the King makers.

South Belfast also turned up to the packed Ballynafeigh rooms on Tuesday evening though they were not the “tour de force” that the Ballynafeigh International had braced themselves for, as they seemed to have struggled amassing a team for the match, in total contrast it must be said to their hosts Ballynafeigh who were forced to ask nearly a dozen members to go home because they weren’t selected just leaving the four teams of Shorts, Belfast South, B’feigh Badgers and B’feigh International and another dozen non playing Ballynafeigh members as spectators so there would be enough room. Houston and Cunningham gained early wins against Green and Jaffa however Kelly and Wilkinson dug in to hold the Polish female double act of Bujak and Kruk but International new boy Kilpatrick lengthened the winning margin with victory over Jackson when “Gorgeous George” called it a day when he ran out of options.

Ballynafeigh unveiled another female star in the making when newcomer Iza Bujak gave Dennis Wilkinson food for thought


Name and Shame

You’d reckon that the naming of chess teams would be a rather ordinary indeed quite mundane affair with little or no complications, well when it comes to Ballynafeigh Chess Club you would be reckoning wrong. Having a reputation for being as democratic as totalitarianism will allow, the members were emailed for suggestions for names for the three teams playing in the league this year. Danny Mallaghan excelled himself in the quest for something exhilarating dynamic entertaining and clever, and replied with the suggestion Ballynafeigh A, Ballynafeigh B and yes you’ve guessed it Ballynafeigh C.

Richard Gould was almost as original with his proposal for Ballynafeigh 1, Ballynafeigh 2, and yeah you know what’s coming Ballynafeigh 3. Either delusions of grandeur or cultural snobbery had seized what little mind Paddy Magee had left because his suggestion was characters from Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice, ah well at least it was original. Then I received an emailed reply from John “the Sultan” McKenna, I was relieved because John McKenna is famed for his intelligent and rational contributions to any matter he’s involved with, a renowned thinker like Plato and Socrates and I was more than eager to have his considered input.

“I think” his email read “that because of Ballynafeigh Chess Clubs location beside the old world famous Ormeau bakery that this should be reflected in relationship to the teams names” At last someone on my own wavelength this was what I was expecting when the consultation process began, obviously “the Sultan” was thinking of the surrounding street names or the mills or kilns, something relevant. I should have consulted with John first instead of wasting my time with the “Goons” I emailed him back for what specifically he had in mind and received the reply Ballynafeigh pancakes Ballynafeigh cream buns and Ballynafeigh crusty baps.

Needless to say the process is now closed and the teams will now be called

Ballynafeigh Rooks      Ballynafeigh Knights     and     Ballynafeigh Bishops


The New Icon of Ulster Chess

Karina Kruk the belle of the Ballynafeigh chess club made her awaited return from the 2012 Chess Olympiad in the Turkish city of Istanbul where whilst making her international debut Karina amassed a very admirable score of 5 from 9.

Victory in her final match would have seen Karina win a WFM title unfortunately this was not to be but consolation came in the form of a WCM title for her fantastic efforts and surely the WFM will follow very shortly.

The new WCM title wasn’t the only thing Karina brought home from Turkey, when she arrived at the club on Tuesday night to brag about her achievements at the Olympiad, and about having dinner with Kasparov, taxi rides with Shirov and passing dud euro’s with Feckov we realised she was also the proud owner of a new fangled hybrid accent. Not the genteel soft lilting sound of Carrickfergus that she left Belfast with but a weird twang that could only be described as a concoction of drawling yank mixed with a north Dublin brickie rolled into a Belfast hotel receptionist a kind of Graham McDowell on steroids.


Some Chess players really need to get out more!

“Bajesus I’ll looking forward to a good ride tonight after this” he declared as a matter of fact without a thought for reservation or embarrassment. I looked up from the hell-hole of a gravel pit that we’re attempting to conjure into a fashionable patio area, pausing momentarily to reclaim a semblance of a breath. “Are you? Well I’m absolutely ecstatic for your short term future plans” I added, “Personally I’m completely and utterly knackered from shovelling four ton of clay out and four ton of hardcore and gravel back in, so perhaps if you could use some of that enthusiastic energy in actually giving me a hand instead of behaving like an eighteenth century plantation owner I wouldn’t be on my knees gasping for breath and requiring the arms of a cartoon gorilla”

“I was only saying like, there’s no need to be goin’ and getting all upset like” he said, “why don’t you take a break from that compacting if its doin’ your head in and move those slab stones instead”

“What! There’s two hundred of the back breaking buggers! Are you on glue?” I stuttered.

“Ach sure I’m only messing with you take a proper break and come on into the house and I’ll let you have a peep at my babe” he said.

“What?” I said, “You definitely are on glue if you think I want to go in just to look at your babe, do you think I’m Richard Gould?”

“You’ll not be saying that when you see her, she’s an absolute stunner, what a frame to this girl I’m telling ya, I get goose bumps with pride when I’m seen out in public with her Damien, swear to God I do”

We entered the house and I was thinking this is just taking the trophy wife syndrome way beyond the pale, way beyond it completely. However I’d be polite to his missus, get this lunatic to make us tea or coffee and get back to the compactor machine a.s.a.p.

I didn’t see anyone about the house and said “she must have gone out David”

Standing back he retorted quite dismissively “has she hell, she’s upstairs where I left her lying when I’d finished with her this morning”

“Sorry.. you left her where.. when you what!” I blurted.

“ I left her when I’d finished” he repeated “the new four poster bed arrived this morning so I took my baby upstairs and gave her a bloody good service, boy she needed it I’ll tell you, and when I’d finished I left her sprawled there on the bed all nicely oiled for me for later”

“Whoa! Whoaa… Just hold it right there David, I don’t want to know what you do in the privacy or actually the blatant lack of it in your own bedroom I’m really not interested one little bit” I said

“Ach wise up fella you’ll not be saying that when you get a wee feel of her when we put her into her special harness” “No David trust me I will, I’m not into that stuff, hang on what.. in a what.. a harness!

“Oh aye she needs a special harness to support her!” he replied

“She does, Jesus she must be a quare heavy girl David I enquired with a statement!  “Not at all she’s as light as a feather she’s a wee sporty type, there’s very little on her, makes her easy to throw about” he replied.

Then why do you possibly require special harnesses to support her? I asked almost hesitantly but yet inquisitive for an answer at the same time from the Ulster Chess Unions answer to the Marquis de Sade.

“Why? …. Why!” he replied in an almost disbelieving tone that the question was ever needed to be asked. “So as I’d be right under her in the bed!” he emphatically added with a perplexed gaze, almost one of an asylum inmate staring at the doctor sure in the belief of his own contentment, and the doctor’s obvious insanity.

“Listen David I really think you’re confusing me with Calum Leitch or William McGratten or at the very least Ryan Giggs or Bill Clinton, now I have their numbers if you want, but I reckon they’d be useless with a compactor, but I tell you what, I have what you really need, I have the number of the Lagan Chess Club, they have more doctors than the City Hospital and I’m sure they could get you the professional help you so desperately need!”

Without hesitation he flung open the bedroom door and proudly boasted “well feast your eyes on her, isn’t she just absolutely heart-stoppingly gorgeous, you think how many guys would love to be coming home to something like that”

I could see nothing I was staring at the floor in acute embarrassment, it was horrendously awkward and I had no idea what to do or say, it was still manageable whilst David Conlon filled up he space of the bedroom doorway, but what would I do once he moved out of the way, there was no time to think he side stepped to reveal the huge four poster bed with satin sheets and .. and.. and a bicyle.

“It’s a bloody bike! I gasped.

“A bike!” he snapped

“A bike!, A bloody bike!” he repeated in utter exasperation

“The postman rides a bike, the trendy clowns of South Parade ride bikes, kids ride bikes, this is not a bike! This you uncouth philistine, is the Formula 1 of two wheeled self propelled transport! In the cat world it’s a cheetah, in the dog world it’s a greyhound, in the horse world it’s a Derby winner and in the aerospace world it’s a jet fighter”

“Yeah David” I said “but in the real world it’s a chain, two wheels, some metal and a drop of 3 in 1 oil with a load of WD40”

It’s a Bike

“She’s a Pinarello Dogma HM60.1K, she has a carbon-fibre asymmetrical frame design with arrow shaped seat post and tube, a specialized drive chain on an aerodynamically moulded carbon-fibre crank. It has carbon-fibre wheels with titanium support rods and customised forks, aerodynamic carbon-fibre one piece handlebar and stem with carbon and titanium levers and super alloy dual pivot brakes” the technical specs just rolled out of his mouth like a sales rep on coke “And I’ll tell you something else” he added “You don’t use 3 in 1 oil and WD40 on a piece of precision equipment such as this, this goddess is to be caressed and cared for and to have money lavished on her just to keep her sweet and lovely”

“Sorry my mistake David” I said “you are clearly so mesmerised by that contraption I’d lay a hefty wager that it’s not 3 in 1 oil and WD40 it gets treated to, but Baby-oil and music by UB40, so just out of interest how much money did you spend on it?”

“The four poster bed was a magic deal at £900” he answered.

“That £900 bed is really for that bike! Are you nuts Conlon?

“Of course it is, sure she’s worth much more than that you know” came the reply.

“That thing is more than 900 quid, nine hundred pounds! For a bike” I asked.

“More than £900, Damien that girl is worth £27,500 when she’s all dolled up”

“Twenty seven and a half thousand pounds on a push bike, twenty seven thousand five hundred smackers… you’re absolutely, completely, and utterly, friggen insane Conlon” I stated “what will your missus say when she finds out you’ve bought a four poster bed for the bike?” I added.

Don’t worry about my Ciara she’s a smashing wee lamb, and she knows I’m smart, sure I spend plenty on her and all. I just bought her a lovely watch and matching bracelet as a wee surprise. She was complaining about a lack of lighting in her study so I got her a very fashionable lamp, which came this morning in that box over there. Beside the lamp is another box with a new door-bell inside which I want you to fit later today as another wee surprise just for her, she’ll love it when she sees it on the door. It’s also our anniversary at the weekend and I got matching platinum rings also I got her a lovely new blue hat for a wedding I’m taking her to” he boasted with unlimited pride as he proudly displayed all the items to me.

The Bracelet

The New Lamp

The Watch

The Matching Rings

The New Front Door-bell

The Wedding Hat

“David has your missus seen any of these gifts yet?” I asked

“No not yet, as I said they are all surprises for the weekend for her, so what do you think?” he asked.

“What do I think? Well I think that they certainly will be surprises, and I think you urgently need to get out more, and I think.. no I’m 100% convinced that when your wife sees what you got for her there is no question that patio will be the only thing getting laid this weekend”



Ulster Rapid-Play

It wasn’t quite the Ark but they still came two by two to register for the Ulster Rapid-Play hosted by the Ballynafeigh Chess Club, well two by two up until the point when Damien Lavery hit the doorway, if you were looking to get two of him in a gap you’d need to contact building control to check if the width of the span required needed special steel beams or not! It was quite a large turnout considering the date clashed with major televised sporting fixtures such as an F.A Cup semi-final, the Grand National, Rugby, and Premier League Football, but then again I suppose the opportunity to watch Lavery trying to negotiate a doorway which is only five and a half feet wide can be pretty entertaining also.

The tournament controller for the day struggled to enrol the multitude on the antiquated laptop supplied by the U.C.U which must have come out of the Ark. The touchpad mouse was so dysfunctional it resembled the actions and properties of an elastic band, when you let go is snapped back to its starting point, ah sometimes a chisel and an old tablet of stone isn’t such a bad idea, so with that in mind we did the next best thing and press-ganged Eileen Kruk famous for have a chiselled nose and a heart of stone into collecting names and fees from the attending horde, accompanied by Kruk the younger they went forth with their hit list, with a smile on one face and a frown on the other their success rate was exemplary.

The door flung open and in he swaggered, on his own, you don’t get two of him, a hush descended the room as the new emperor of Ulster Chess that “beast of the board” Michael Waters surveyed the room for his quota of victims. There were dozens to choose from but it was evident who his desired prey would be for the day, he sneered as he passed each one by, you could almost hear their hearts sink with the fear, where was Paddy Magee when we needed him, he may be diminutive on skill but he’s a colossus on heart, there’d be no quaking in Paddy’s boots, it wouldn’t matter if it was a Michael Waters and Klitschko brothers tag team nothing puts the frighteners on the Downpatrick man. The Ballynafeigh plumber was delighted, “well I didn’t take that sink out for nothing then” “shall I go down and leave it by his car” in a reference to the fact that it’s the only thing that emperor Michael hasn’t won this year.

The first round draw was made and it had a familiar ring to it, literally, on table six Callum Ormerod switched his phone off as instructed by the tournament controller before commencement of play; however in placing his phone back in his pocket it switched itself back on… yeah you guessed it “ring ring it’s for yooohooo” game over as the controller swooped to get a victim before Michael Waters did.

On table two the multiple Ulster Seniors Champion Steve Scannell was in an uncomfortable place against young Matthew Chapman which just seemed to deteriorate by the move, with his Queen en prise Scannel struck out along the b1 h7 file capturing a pawn with check on h7 turning his defence into attack! Brilliant outstanding, awesome, what a pity that there was a pawn in the middle of the board which Scannell hadn’t seen and his Bishop had actually jumped over it, Oh dear! Now I know that it wouldn’t be the first time a Bishop had a sneaky jump when no one was watching but the controller on the day was having none of it, perplexed just for a moment as he considered all possibilities of something he had missed he replaced the Bishop to its original square and informed Scannell who’s Queen was still en prise that “it was touch move and that he needed to move his Bishop”  the sound of a heart relocating to a mouth was audible but not as audible as the suppressed ecstatic cheering of his peers, one Queen trashed! Time can be a healer or a killer in Rapid-play chess, a lesson that Chapman was about to learn in Dolby stereo. As Chapman forced Scannell’s King to the side he left his pawns unguarded which Scannell marauding Bishop promptly ravaged. Scannell’s King forced to the a3 with Chapmans King on the c3 and Queen on the b4 check Scanell moved his King to a2 so as everyone watched expecting the delivery of mate with Qb2 Chapman stunned everyone with K c2… Scannell played Bf5 check and Chapman played Queen a4 mate… what a pity he was in check at the time! Oh dear! The controller replaced the Queen and Chapman instructed to stop the check by interposing the Queen on e4 when he did so Scannell captured the Queen and also covered the promotion square of h1 for Chapmans last pawn on h3 resulting in a drawn match, I must declare I haven’t seen so many Queens completely wasted at the same table since happy hour in the Kremlin nightclub. So it was heartache for young Matthew Chapman and an early playing of the “get out of jail free card” by Steve Scannell, when asked afterwards if he was just zoned out when he tried to turn his Bishop into a long range Knight Scannell replied “I got confused with the event” “You didn’t know it was

rapid-play” he was asked “No man I knew it was a rapid-play, “Oh you forgot it was touch move then Steve” “Nah the Grand National is on today and I got all mixed up he replied”

Kremlin and Ballynafeigh both seen wasted Queens this week

The Grand National must have been responsible for the horsy theme becoming a bit of a feature for the day with David Seaby playing like a stallion and a player who shall remain nameless playing like a donkey, In fact so impressive was the stallion play of David Seaby that after his victory over Ormerod he went on to draw with Mallaghan, beat Gupta, had

Lavery dead in the water before blundering, he should also have drawn Chapman, the tournament controller considered sending him for a drug test. We also had Adrian Dornford-Smith getting in on the equine act by sporting a pony-tail we had Geoff Hindley who’d due to be put out to pasture and of course the U.C.U also had a vet on standby in case we needed to put Des Mooreland down.

By the end of round four it was him again galloping away in front, James McDonnell was just the latest obstacle to be safely negotiated to maintain a healthy lead. It wasn’t to be a canter of a tournament for Waters though as he found out in round three when Mooreland was chomping at the bit to take a few sirloins out of his hide a full piece up and about to gain more material he forgot to bolt the stable door behind him and walked into a horrible back rank mate, it left Mooreland mucking out and there was a lot of muck to shift!  Waters had copied Scannell in using a get out of jail free card, the expression on Mooreland’s face and his demeanour after that game had the vet reaching for his little black bag with whetted lips. Round five paired Waters saddled with the favourite tag before commencement of play with Scannell, the winner of the tie destined to be on the home straight, they finished in a dead heat and thus shared the points and we moved to the final round with Waters leading by half a point from the chasing pack of Scannell McDonnell and Mooreland, all jockeying for position should the leader fall at the last. Scannell and Mooreland were well in front in their games and if they held on both would overtake Waters if he couldn’t hold Mallaghan on the top table, but Mallaghan wasn’t in the mood to be corralled by anyone as he stomped all over the board creating an unstoppable position requiring little or no defence whilst enjoying more attacking potential than Manchester United with Howard Webb refereeing! Waters was doomed his unbelievable run of form was about to end, he didn’t wear red socks after all… he wasn’t infallible!

Waters entering the room gave us a clue about his infallibility

Mooreland and Scannell both came over to watch, they had beaming smiles broader than Lavery’s arse as they watched Mallaghan gallop like a wild mustang all over Waters, it was awesome, it was invigorating, it was dynamic, it was stupefying, it was bizarre to watch the unfurling hee-haw moment from mustang to mule. That’s right Mallaghan managed to lose a position that to put in context a frontal lobotomy patient would find extremely difficult to replicate, he had just lost the kitchen sink.

“What!”  “he what”  “you’ve gotta be #&*&@# kidding me”  “No Steve Danny did lose” I replied, “what a dumb %$*&#@# useless #@%&*” he added “Goddaaam-it!” he snorted as he went over to check the final position to confirm the horror story. Waters was elated, yet another laurel to brandish, “lets go and celebrate” he implored his team-mate Ormerod, “I need to be aloft for the masses to revere me” “let us go to Errigle to be viewed” Ormerod agreed willingly he’s a big rugby fan and he was hoping the Errigle’s T.V system would be showing the game either in the lounge or the public bar. I headed up to the Errigle bar after clearing up to have a drink with the victor but he was nowhere to be seen, Callum Ormerod was there but no Michael Waters, “where is he?” I asked “dun no” came the reply “he hasn’t arrived yet, but he definitely said to go to Errigle that he was heading there now. We waited but he never did arrive, we really don’t know what happened to him, unless he didn’t mean the Errigle bar!

Tourists were surprised to see a man from Belfast on Mount Errigle with a kitchen sink


Tournament Controller Found

The 2012 Ulster Rapid-Play tournament at Ballynafeigh on Saturday 14th April was in serious danger of not having a controller for the event until a last minute hijacking by the Ballynafeigh Chess Club of an unsuspecting victim for the post. Now whilst honesty integrity and computer experience are neccessary effiencey intelligence and organisational skills desirable, according to David McAlister it’s a pair of steel toe-capped boots that are absolutely vital in disputes!

No point in trying to slip this controller a fistful of Dollars on Saturday… as he’s banned from the U.S.A…..  Sterling Euros or lead of a church roof might do the trick though!


Things To Remember

Many people in Belfast will be remembering the Titanic this week a colossus of a ship which met its end as it slipped away from view 100 years ago but I won’t be one of them. For me it was only a story of supreme failure about a botched cost cutting exercise that saw cheap rivets being incorporated in the outer structure of an ocean liner. That decision was disastrous enough on its own, but when added to a crew of ship-jumping ass-kissers, a lack of observation equipment and the criminal absence of sufficient lifeboats then it was corporate manslaughter, when the poor people the under class of society were padlocked in the lower decks whilst the affluent members of the passenger list ambled into the lifeboats at leisure well that was corporate murder.

I’ll be remembering another anniversary instead it was in the wee small hours this day five years ago that a colossus of Ulster Chess Tom Clarke slipped away from us forever also. But unlike a “big boat that couldn’t cross a pond” Tom would cross international time-zones to play in chess competitions playing in league chess in England, Finland, Wales, Leinster, and Ulster many a time he played for three different teams in three different leagues in the same week. Unlike the mass of corroded junk lying on an ocean floor that you’ll never see for yourself that Titanic left us, Toms games are forever with us and can be easily accessed on-line to watch and learn from over and over again, a true master class of “shock and awe” on the chess board. We all have our own personal memories of Tom and favourite games I’ve linked one of my favourite below and also a link to a few kind words from Tom’s old jousting partner Dave Houston who has added some of his favourites from over the years.

So if you’re reading Tom thanks for the memories and thanks for the games dear friend.

My Favourite  http://www.chessgames.com/perl/chessgame?gid=1268784

Dave’s favourites http://www.ulsterchess.org/archives/playerbio/Tom%20Clarke/tom-clarke-1959-2007


Waters Walks the Williamson

Whether you love him, just tolerate him, or are seriously contemplating the hiring of guys from the east side of Detroit, no one can deny the undoubted ability of Michael Waters over a chess board. Having largely resided in the shadows of Houston Clarke and Scannell over the years Michael Waters has underwent something of a renaissance and has surged to the front of the pecking order emphatically stamping his authority as the best player in Ulster bar none repeatedly in all competitions this year.

Already crowned Ulster Master this season, Waters added the centenary Williamson Shield to his impressive and burgeoning chess CV and later this year will be attempting a hat-trick of wins in the Ulster Seniors at the Europa Hotel inBelfast.

At the Sinclair Pavilion in the Civil Service recreation grounds over the past weekend Waters went unbeaten lifting the Shield with 5 ½ out of 6 offering Danny Mallaghan a Grand Master draw in the final round to secure the title after Steve Scannell tried to force a dead draw situation against Waters in round 5 in an attempt to regain the lost ground from the traveling bye he took earlier that day and ended up losing instead. So the Waters chess juggernaut continues at full speed in the quest for more titles, as he becomes something of an overnight success after twenty years.

It’s for Youoooo….

Two players were awarded instantaneous loses on the first day of the Williamson when

their mobile phones went off in their pockets whilst playing. The first victim was none other than the Ulster Chess Unions director of tournaments Gareth Annsley who was playing against Ballynafeigh’s Matthew Chapman. Gareth reached down to quickly silence his phone with as little movement as possible, alas for Gareth he wasn’t as quick as tournament controller David McAlister who silenced Gareth’s chances with even less movement by stopping the clocks… game over, rumors that Matthew Chapman’s relative were seen outside the venue with mobile phones and a Ulster Chess Union contacts list are totally unfounded, Matthew assures us they all just happen to work for BT, O2 and Vodafone.

Once was careless enough but when it happened for a second time in the very next round to Mohammed Saad ten minutes after the tournament controller had specifically warned everybody, well that’s just the waste of an entry fee. Matthew Chapman was sitting right next to Mohammed Saad and the rumor mill and conspiracies circulated stories that Gareth Annsley was trying to ring Matthew to get his own back but rang the coat next door by mistake. It certainly didn’t stop Mohammed having a 5 minute conversation then sitting down to try and finish the match only to find the legal eagle had already swooped.

Matthew Chapman’s secret plan for the Ulster Junior title is discovered


Angels 100% record goes out the window

Fisherwick brought in the big guns to go on an Angel hunt last night at their Chlorine gardens venue, the old warhorses of Woodfield and Devenny were put out to pasture for this clash with the Ballynafeigh Angels as Omerod  and Walls took hold of the reins in their place. Time restrictions on the opening hours force the chess club to start early at Fisherwick and Eamonn Walls the pin-up boy of Ulster chess was eager to finish his game with Leitch as early as possible, but Walls was only eager were as Leitch was positively enthusiastic about finishing early, well he must have been as he got his Queen trapped after only a dozen moves and resigned.  Cunningham last week now Leitch this week the Ballynafeigh Angels are rapidly gaining a reputation for getting rid of their Queens faster than Henry viii

 Eamonn Walls practicing his worldly pose! 

The next result came from the top of the board order when Fisherwicks number one Michael Waters with black held the Angels board one Dave Houston to a draw, Houston’s bishop pair were of no advantage when Waters who has been as tight as a drum all season closed off the diagonals. Ballynafeigh Angels Steve Scannell returned the compliment with the black pieces against Fisherwicks Johnny Cairns another tough as teak performer from Chlorine gardens. Fisherwick were now in the driving seat with two draws and a win spread over the top three boards. The two remaining matches on boards 4&5 were not for the first time this season to deliver the bizarre twists and turns for the evening. Danny Mallaghan of Ballynafeigh, famed for having more draws than Wyatt Earp was pitched against John (muscles) Masterson, the Fisherwick board four was on a face saving exercise after his dumbbell’s hit the floor in his last encounter with the Angels. Masterson held a vastly superior position with the light square bishop on the A2-F7 diagonal, the H file cleared of pawns and his heavy artillery pieces of Queen and both Rooks loaded for the barrage of h7 and h8 with Mallaghan’s defensive forces completely out of position, things were looking dire in the extreme for the Ballynafeigh man and the Angels in general, the only saving grace was the absence of time from Mastersons clock as his flag began to hang. On board five Fisherwick had imported an anchor come bounty hunter in the shape of Calum Omerod to face the Ballynafeigh captain Damien Cunningham, again as expected another tight game ensued with Omerod holding a slight advantage after an earlier positional mistake by Cunningham. As the game moved towards its finality Cunningham made his ineffective Knight much more active and threatening to black’s position and material, he left his seat to go over to view his team-mates game on board 5 and could see instantly that Mallaghan’s position was totally lost as it was mate in one for Masterson, but time pressure let alone a pressure cooker of a match has its own way of adding ingredients to a mix and Masterson completely missed it, he’d completely fluffed a humongous position because of the clock and the importance of the match.

Fisherwick brought out the Big-Guns

Cunningham darted back to glance at the Mallaghan-Masterson clocks when he realized that Masterson had missed it, Mallaghan had twenty minutes, Masterson about twenty seconds, it was hard to guess on the antiquated analogue clocks that have undoubtedly exceeded their shelf-life in competitive chess. The material was about even, a Rook and four pawns each Mallaghan would walk it with so much time on his clock, he only had to let his clock run down to the 5 min Blitz zone and blitz the finish out, rather than give Masterson his opponent the much needed thinking time while he was compelled to write the move order down.  Cunningham returned to his own game and as he was sitting down he was informed that Mallaghan had won, so he offered his opponent a draw which was quickly accepted by Omerod it was Cunningham’s move and yep it was mate in one also! So interested in securing the perpetual position first to guarantee a drawn match and thus ultimately one hand on the Silver King, he hadn’t bothered to look for the mate once informed that Mallaghan had won. That was a serious error which was to be compounded by the news that Mallaghan was still playing out his match it wasn’t a win already as he was led to believe, and as fate would have it Masterson scrambled a draw and the Angels had their wings clipped for the first time this season, but more importantly at a critical time in the Championship run-in.

The final position of the Cunningham v Omerod game, were Cunningham offered a draw when he could have check-mated!

At the same venue it was good to see the Malone team return to full strength for their match against Bombardier, either honest Sam Flanagan has preached them all a sermon or the AWOL members purchased grow bags from B&Q and sat in them until they grew a pair. Either way testicular fortitude was in abundance again for Malone as they handed out a stiff beating to the airmen with the full compliment of players, which did not go unnoticed by the Ballynafeigh player present and indeed was openly commented upon. They’ll now be expected to field a stronger team against their sister team Fisherwick next time around instead of the last attempt.

Gossip abound this week that Gareth Annsley was left high and dry by his driver for the evening in Magherafelt. Annsley who was charged for his share of the petrol money was aghast to learn that his team mate driver who was demolished quite early in his own game just upped and left without a by your leave or kiss my ass. Thankfully for Annsley fellow team player John Monaghan who had a full car as it was managed to squeeze Gareth’s ample physique into the packed fait 500 with lots of pushing and shoving a shoe horn and copious quantities of lubricant! Though what Peter Wilson of Magherafelt was doing with a gallon and a half of super-slip lubricant in his hover-sack is a question for another day.

John Monaghan struggles to get the RVH team home

John said his work on the Ferry’s helped

 and his experience as a bus driver was invaluable 

But it was his years on the trains that really made the difference


Clear Skies for Bombardier

Lagan played host to Groomsport last night to not only fulfill a rearranged fixture from week three, but to decide the final placing for division one. The riverside team needed to defeat their seaside guests by a margin of 4-1 or better to progress to the top section and shooting down the Bombardier outfit in the process with the last burst of action.

Any analytical observation of the comparative strengths of the two opposing teams for this encounter beforehand could only foresee Lagan achieving their objective, a full strength team from Lagan would see an 1800 player on board five, a full strength Groomsport team couldn’t put an 1800 player on board one.  However Lagan haven’t been in full flow at all this season and have struggled repeatedly against opposition that normally it would swamp, if Lagan were expecting to drown Groomsport in a tsunami of ratings alone they certainly had the reservoir to do it, the question would remain would Groomsport be wearing bathing costumes or not?

Chris Kelly said he was shocked when the Groomsport team arrived to play, “that’s not right” said Chris “that’s not on” he added

Sorry wrong photo above, Chris is right smoking is not allowed at the chess table 

The seaside men brought their grit with them by the bucket full and the hardy old barnacles of Whiteside and Rogers claimed a win and a draw respectively to leave Lagan’s divisional chances completely washed up. The win by Gary Johnston over William Storey on board 5 not only guaranteed Groomsport a draw but surely must have rubbed salt into the wound for Lagan. While it would be easy to say on this result that the riverside team of Lagan are starting to become a bit watery, a fairer conclusion would be to say that Groomsport have more than shown that it’s not just their beaches that have a lot of sand and they were going to shove Lagan’s faces in it.

Lagan get their faces shoved in the Sand




Do You Want Divorced?

Nigel short is performing a Simul in Dublin at the very affordable rate of €25 there will also be an invite to a lecture by Short for the added fee of a mere €10 more. Now before you whip out the credit card and sign up to a double short that isn’t in a glass, just remember that the Simul will take place on the 14th February.

That particular date may mean sweet F A multiplied by five to most of you male chess players but to your women folk well, that’s not just one of the 365 days a year that’s she’s right, special, and beautiful…. but that’s one of the days of the year that has been specially allocated to you  just to remember it.

Still 35 euro seems mightily affordable for Short treatment and besides how long could a tantrum huff last for without the aide of an interfering sister?

Danny Mallaghan the Ulster Chess Unions resident playboy of the western world said “they should impersonate men and just go, if the partner complains they should impersonate Manny Pacquiano”


1,000  a week

A grand a week is not to be sniffed at, now I know most of you are thinking that’s just loose change to the legal eagles McAlister and Waters and a mere trifle to Vegas Dan Mallaghan the playboy of Ulster chess, but I’m not talking money.

The Ballynafeigh website get 1,000 hits a week which is quite simply a staggering amount of views for a chess club, even if you allow for the majority of clicks from libel lawyers acting for Michael Waters it’s still quite an impressive figure.

David McAlister spring cleans his garage


Angels -v- Fisherwick Trilogy (part 1)

Ballynafeigh Angels played hosts to Fisherwick this week in what would only be the first of a trio of encounters in the clash of these title contenders. The quality of the match was underlined by the sheer quota of championship titles held by the players involved, Irish championships Ulster championships, Williamson Shields holders, Ulster Blitz champions and believe it or not a European and World War Games champion thrown in for good measure. Perhaps some of these guys were planning to go to war over the chess board after all, and if they were, well I just hoped they’d all remember that I was a conscientious objector.

Michael “the Mexican” Waters entered the room furiously waving away the autograph hunters that had gathered at the front door for the match. Well I thought to myself that’s a very modest thing to do, I was impressed by him letting those kids with the sheets of paper and pens know that he didn’t consider himself superior to them in anyway shape or form. However I subsequently found out afterwards they were actually a few kids with sponsorship forms for a charity bicycle race.

As he approached me I noticed he had ditched his trademark handlebar moustache that along with his swarthy complexion had made him the envy of the local Chiquito restaurant waiters. “Michael” I asked, “have you shaved off your moustache because of the attention your Pancho Villa looks has been getting on our website?” “Don’t flatter yourself or your website, it’s because of the sheer number of women asking me for a phone number, that’s why I had to get rid of it”

“Wow most guys would be absolutely cock-a-hoop to have women approach them in the street and ask for a telephone number” I said.

“Yeah but it wasn’t my number they were looking was it, they thought I was one of the guys from the 118-118 ad” he snapped.

The Date with 8 approached and everyone got comfortable in their seats for the eagerly awaited clash, as the games got under way through the opening phases and into the middle game it was obvious just how much effort and concentration was being expended in each individual game.

Cunningham who does a wonderful non stop jack-in-the-box impersonation in almost every match he plays hardly shifted his arse the whole night as he tried to counteract any advances by Ian Woodfield on board 5, Woodfield who lectures in music wouldn’t have needed any of his students to tell him that the bugles were sounding the last post when his counter-play attempts on the “H” file were thwarted by Cunningham who held the centre and the better pawn structure. The last roll of the dice for the Fisherwick man was an attempt at a pawn grab, but it was just too sluggish to obtain equality in material, or to stop Cunningham’s rapid advance on the “G” file and Ballynafeigh banked their first point.

Woodfield -v- Cunningham

The game continued

…..         Ke6
Rxa5     g5
Rxc5     g4
fxg         fxg
Rc6       Kf5
Rh6       g3
Rh1       Kg4  and the advance was unstoppable   Resigns   0-1

The board 3 encounter between John “Muscles” Masterson the fittest man in Fisherwick  and Ballynafeigh’s Calum Leitch the thinnest man this side of the Ethiopian border was the next game to come to a conclusion.

Not quite the muscles from Brussels but confident he can beat Leitch in an arm wrestle

Masterson was sitting there smiling merrily whilst pumping iron all over the board when Leitch unleashed a combination which brought two thudding sounds from Masterson chair; we all looked down and were able to clearly see his dumbbells rolling on the floor, the Ballynafeigh Angels were unfurling their wings with a 2-0 lead.

The game continued 

hxg6 fxg6
Ng3 b4
axb4 Bxb4
Qd3 Qa5
Kd2 Nf5
Qf3 Nd6!
Bd3 Bxc3… Resigns    0-1

On board 4 Danny Mallaghan had white and deployed his Bishop c4 Grand prix attack against former Irish Champion Ray Devenny, Mallaghan readily admits to being fortunate in this encounter with Devenny as Ray gave up the exchange temporarily in order to regain it at a later stage. Mallaghan stated “it was deep and it was clever, and I only just seen it at the last moment” Mallaghan went on to position his material which enabled him to play “rookery on the 7th” and Ballynafeigh Angels were in 7th heaven with a 3-0 lead and a guaranteed victory over their closest rivals whilst also maintained their 100% record in the league so far.

Mallaghan knew Ray was looking for deep positions when he turned up in a new suit

All eyes now fixed on board 2 where the Angels Steve Scannell an American red-neck “blow-in” from deliverance country faced the great J.C of Fisherwick.

Any cursory glances of this board by lesser players as it approached the endgame would have left the viewer with the unshakable impression that victory for Scannell was a mere formality, a given in fact. With his bishop and four pawns on the kingside against Cairn’s knight and solitary queenside pawn on the A file Scannell held a gargantuan advantage in material and potential, Scannell also had 14 minutes to Cairns 34 sec’s … it really should have been ABC chess for the multiple Ulster champion. However nothing is elementary at this level and the Fisherwick captain John J.C Cairns showed why he’s rated 2,000 plus by playing remarkable chess under the circumstances, he had enormous pressure to add respectability to the match score, he only had a miniscule time allocation, and he had an audience ogling his every movement.  The situation required more than just a little miracle working by the great J.C and to be fair the moves he found and in the correct order was nothing short of impressive.

John Cairns goes for a walk

There were a few loaves in my shopping bags in the corner but I was contemplating nipping down to the shops to buy a few fish and get J.C to feed the multitude again, I really couldn’t believe it, either way at the end of this game one of these guys were going to be doing something with fishes, either J.C feeding with them or Steve Scannell sleeping with them!

His names Scannell

Thankfully Steve Scannell got to sleep under a duvet that night and I was able to remain a committed atheist thank god, and the Angels took a 4-0 lead. The board one pairing pitched Ballynafeigh’s Dave Houston the highest rated player in Ulster against Fisherwick’s Michael Waters the reigning Ulster champion and the game proved to be worthy of the pairing.

Houston desperately sought to create a positional placement that would lead to the trading of queens to leave his knight and advanced central 5th rank passed pawn with an indisputable advantage, however Waters is without question the man to beat in Ulster Chess at the moment having racked up a sequence of titles lately and intelligently avoided all the engineered pitfalls and traps that Houston had crafted for his worthy opponent.

Houston tried to make Waters  comfortable

As Houston’s time diminished on the clock so also did his opportunities on the board to salvage something from this impressive game. Fisherwick had pulled one back courtesy of Michael Waters their “heavy hitting” board one and in doing so he saddled Ballynafeigh’s Houston with the unwanted honor of being the first Angel player to suffer a defeat this season.

The game continued
33. Re1 gxf6
34. Qg3+ Kh8
35. exf6 Rxe1+
36. Qxe1 Qe6
37. Qf2 Qe5
38. Qh4 h5
39. Bg5 Qe2                                                                                                                                              40. Kh1 Kh7
41. Bf4 Ne6
42. Qg3 c4
43. Be5 Qe4
44. h4 and Waters went on to hold a decisive advantage 1-0

The Fisherwick men left for their homeward journey with very little from a match that they had contributed so much to. Outside it took some time for them to get Michael Waters into the car as his head just wouldn’t fit in the door opening, no matter how hard they pushed and shoved they couldn’t get him in, it wasn’t that his head had got bigger after humbling the great Dave Houston, it was simply that he was still wearing his sombrero.

John Cairns didn’t get into the car at all, and was last seen trying to walk home across the river Lagan! shouting “leave me alone guys I can do this I can do this”, though some observers claim that he wasn’t trying to walk the Lagan, but to throw himself in instead after the 4-1 defeat, either way glug glug Johnny.


Ulster Blitz Championship

The first official Ulster Blitz Championship took place on Dec 27th in the Belfast Boat Club, whether or not the format was a just a little to quick for some our of the more silver-headed if not sloth-like members of Ulster Chess only future attendances in the new tournament will tell. The younger elements of Ulster Chess were more than eager to contradict George Bernard Shaw’s utterance “the trouble with youth is that it’s wasted on the young” displaying great enthusiasm and dedication for chess to even contemplate sharing an enclosed space with Damien Lavery without the aid of prescription anti-depressants.

There was also three sets of brothers entered for the event which surely must be a first for any tournament ever run in Belfast, there was the Robbin brothers Kiran and Kevin from Inst, the Logan brothers Paul and Charlie from the RVH and the Lavery brothers Damien and Robert from Ballynafeigh. The tournament suffered a few early losses in attendances due to exceptional circumstances, well it was exceptionally poor reading actually, as Paddy Magee and Martin Kelly thought it was the Ulster “Blitzed” Championship and were last seen guzzling whiskey watered down with vodka on a bender in the Crown bar whilst arguing like crazy men over who was the best “blitzed” champion of all time, was it Higgy or was it Besty?

Our illustrious leader, our very own “Dear Leader” was arbiter general for the great event and quite brilliantly and creatively brought a camera crew along to film many of the matches for release at a later date on you-tube, though if any real chess players view them they’ll probably get flagged as offensive. Many of the field were more than willing to participate for the small screen, for their personal 15 minutes of fame (well their 3mins with a 2 sec increment of fame) indeed a few positively relished the opportunity. Paul Logan spent ten minutes combing his hair before his appearance on the famous camera crew board and nobody had the heart to tell him it was only the boards and pieces that were being filmed not the players.

When the camera crew first arrived at the Belfast Boat Club they happened to come through reception area at the same time as Mark Newman and Damien Lavery rumors soon abounded the club that the Hairy Bikers were doing their Christmas cook-in.

The Hairy Bikers were seen doing their Christmas special

However that idea was soon quashed when it became apparent to even a casual glance that they don’t make motorbikes with a heavy enough suspension to support either Lavery or Newman let alone both and that they were probably one of the Sumo wrestling teams based in Belfast in training for the 2012 Olympics.

Lavery and Newman get to the endgame

Dear Leader John Cairns…. or J.C as he likes to known to his disciples got the tournament got under way at ten sharp, or as far away from eleven as possible after a short delay as he took delivery of a few threats from the Carrickfergus toughies demanding an easy draw for Karina Kruk who had taken the day off from her part-time job of dispatching veal calves with a bolt gun in the Carrickfergus abattoir. The problem for the great J.C was he’d also taken delivery of a cash bribe from Arron McAuley for the same thing, thankfully the need for a minor miracle was avoided after some divine intervention a smaller than expected field turned it into an all play all event.

John Cairns goes for a walk

John Bradley’s grandson Alan Burns a great supporter of Ulster chess made an appearance for the event as he does with many UCU organized events. Alan is one of the loveliest people you could ever wish to meet either inside or outside of chess, complimentary in defeat magnanimous in victory Alan can light a room up just by entering it, in stark contrast to his grandfather John Bradley who couldn’t light a room up with a gallon of 4star and a Zippo lighter.

Alan Burns, John Bradley’s great grandson

Once the tournament started the “Chess kids” were out the traps faster than a greyhound on steroids and moved with the speed of white lightening down a well greased copper pole, compared to the ponderous alpine glacier speed of Cunningham and Logan it was a contrast to behold.

After watching the cutting edge of “The Boy Upstarts” laying waste to many of David Seaby’s peers the valiant David was reduced to prayer for spiritual guidance for his own daunting encounter with “Team Robbin” the result may prove that Prof. Richard Dawkins has a point, he certainly had one more than David Seaby had after the game.

David Seaby prays for help before his game with ‘Team Robbin’

An anorexic looking Calum Leitch giving the impression he hadn’t seen a good meal in years was prominent on the leader board throughout the event after a turgid draw with Damien Lavery who looked like he hadn’t missed a good meal at anytime.

Calum Leitch put his victory down to a diet of watercress sandwiches without the bread

Leitch also benefited from the unnaturally slow play of his Ballynafeigh team mate Cunningham who completely and utterly outplayed him holding an indisputable won position before bizarrely letting his clock run down, Cunningham went on to bask himself in embarrassment as he blundered and slumbered his way to an unexplainable performance, perhaps the “gruesome twosome” had been menacing him as well.

The gruesome twosome

Team Robbin harried the Ballynafeigh pair of Leitch and Lavery all the way to the finish line before Robbins the younger and Lavery the fatter fell back from the lead. Leitch and Robbin the elder kept up the relentless pace and wins for both in the final round left them tied equal first. This meant the championship was to be decided by an Armageddon match white having 5 minutes black only 4 however black only needs a draw to claim outright victory.

The draw was made under the auspices of the legal eagles of Waters and McAlister who had obviously fallen victim to the magnetic draw of the TV cameras to give up £350 a minute consultation fees. Kiran Robbin drew white and had 5 minutes to defeat the ultra skinny looking Leitch, however Leitch was determined to leave his opponent slim pickings which considering his waistline or lack of it really wasn’t much of a problem and kept a locked position throughout trading at each and every opportunity to thwart the Young Turk of the checkered board.

Ballynafeigh Chess Club with nearly fifty percent of the field took away the Ulster Blitz Title but surely the honours belong to the Robbin household who took second prize the grading prize and all the accolades

Leitch posed for photos and x-rays afterwards


Dear Leader Dead…

Some ghastly irresponsible, jingoistic, and quite heartless reporting today from a barrage of media outlets such as the BBC, ITN, CNN, NBC, Reuters, ABC, Al Jazeera, Fox News and even Downtown radio. They had feverishly blazoned the screens with multi coloured banners announcing if not proclaiming the tragic passing of one loved so much. They scandalously whetted their lips in anticipation as to whom the laurels of greatness would be bestowed, who would be trusted by the collective membership to wear the yoke of leadership?

I considered this to be a very cold if not cynical exercise by people who didn’t even know the man personally on any level so I decided to phone his dear sister whose private number I have in my possession and offer the condolences not only of me but the UCU membership as a whole. I must admit there was a stony silence on the other end of the phone before she assured me there must be some tragic mistake that there was absolutely no doubt that Johnny Cairns was alive and well and that she’s just brought him breakfast in bed of boiled eggs with dunking soldiers of toast. So it looks like a horrible and cruel case of mistaken identity guys and we can all breathe a collective sigh of relief for the time being and put the thoughts of a Drew Ferguson succession out of our heads.


Fisherwick swamp the Rascals literally

Fisherwick sent a marauding hoard of warriors to Ballynafeigh this week to slap a bunch of Rascals, or to “chastise them severely” according to Ray Devenney. Fisherwick are the elite selection of the player emanating from the Malone road venue led by the battle hardened John Cairns as opposed to their sibling team Malone led by the “bottle hardened” Martin Kelly. Fisherwick had made several changes to the usual line up with some new faces (well really quite old ones)  Ulster Masters winner Michael Waters was missing probably still on the tequila somewhere with Chris Moyles. Also missing was John Masterson and Eamon Walls the three had a combined rating of ….5771.

Replacing them were Norman McFarland, Ian Woodfield and John Bradley with a combined age of… 5771. Ian and Norman aren’t that ancient  really but John Bradley is really, really old, when John first played competitive chess Pontius Pilate was the league controller, actually he must have still been in control when one of Johns  teams swindled one of my teams for the league many years ago and the controller washed his hands of us… hmmm!

The Fisherwick substitutes bench

But we’re not ones for holding grudges at Ballynafeigh and normally let them drop at the end of every millennium so we switched on the chair lift for John and made room for his antique wheelchair. After a quick dust-down to remove the grime and the cobb-webbs and a splash of oil in the right places John was able to move the pieces and press the button on the clock, and even write.

The expected 5-0 slaughter got underway on 4 of the 5 boards as the rascals were missing their board 4 trainee doctor Paddy Magee who was off on the drink celebrating after saving a woman earlier that day, I must admit I didn’t even know he was a born again Christian. Ten phone-calls, twenty text messages, and thirty minutes off the starting clock later this wannabe Florence Nightingale was still on the missing list, so the coercion of David Conlon an innocent visitor to the game as a spectator was hastily arranged.

Paddy Magee prepares for Fisherwick

No sooner had the gallant David took up the sling-shot against the goliath of Ian Woodfield a distant squawking of Christmas carol singers could be heard at the window, an irritating noise that built to a crescendo with some singing clarity “Damiennn it’s Paddeeeee” Christ I thought… I knew he didn’t look like any Florence I’d ever known, and now I knew he didn’t sound like a nightingale either, if his stitching isn’t better than his singing Belfast is going to need more blood donations, an awful lot more!

I stayed outside the main playing area as I unexpectedly had my two daughters with me, one aged three and the other six months, though which is which is hard to tell at times. I wasn’t suppose to be minding them on chess nights but the wife got a phone call and dumped the kids with me as she was sent out to track down a local heroin dealer, she’s not a policewoman or anything she’s just an addict.

Some time later I returned to the playing hall to see how bad things were for the wee rascals, as I walked towards the boards I saw Johnny Cairns he looked like he was making a donation himself as the blood drained from his face. “This is not our night he said in a weak humbled voice, “look at the state of those boards” he sniffled.  I quickly scanned the boards to ascertain the situation and I must admit I had a chuckle or twenty. The rascals were firing all three cylinders of their little smart car and they must have loaded it with the rocket fuel that Paddy Magee hadn’t drunk, were as the Fisherwick Ferrari spluttered and banged,  they really could have done with a little of the Mexican’s tequila in their tank.

I turned to nod in agreement with Cairns analysis of the current state of play hoping not to laugh in the process only to see the door not hitting his arse on the way out, I followed him outside to the smoking area to console him…. Well to be honest it was to gloat but before I could do that I had to mop the floor for ten minutes to dry up the Fisherwick tears as Johnny Cairns whinged and whined about how they were doomed, things got so bad the community centre maintenance officer phoned a plumber thinking a pipe had burst!

“This is wrong, this is all wrong!” uttered Cairns “who’s that ringer you have on board 4” “those digital clocks are not right” “where is your wife, get her here now”

Johnny I said, “the guy just came tonight I don’t know him, he’s just an honest chess player” “the clocks are fine and accurate” “oh and the kids are quiet and don’t need to be collected by the wife” I said…. “What” Johnny replied “I don’t care about the kid’s man” “I just want some drugs off her, I need them after this man”

However the little Rascal smart-car suddenly blew a head gasket and lost all power and as it grinded to a stuttering halt the spluttering Ferrari of Fisherwick drove past, the result may have put a polished shine on this wagon but only those that were there will know how close it came to being a car-crash and a write-off for Fisherwick though how they didn’t aquaplane on Johnny’s tears on the way out I’ll never know!

Fisherwicks new score-sheets


The Ulster Masters

This weekend saw the inaugural running of the Ulster Masters at the Belfast Boat Club, unfortunately avoidable errors in planning and advertisement greatly diminished the potential to attract a more significant field for the competition. However armed with hindsight the organizers are resolute in their determination to ensure a greater field of entrants for next year’s tournament.

The Bombardier Chess club was heavily represented in the tournament, not just by Mark Newman’s physical weight but in entrance numbers also. It was a club decision which was to be handsomely rewarded as several members formed an orderly queue to receive prizes from the UCU President John Cairns with both Ross Harris and George Jackson leading the way by winning the Challengers and Intermediate titles respectively, Ross’s victory was all the sweeter with a score of 5/6 in a field that contained Karina Kruk and Ian Woodfield.  Karina lost to Ross on count-back using the Buchholz system, when commiserated on losing she said well “I only lost because of that Buhozlt, Buchman, Buc, Buzoltz, Bucchaz, ….. I only lost because of Johnny Cairns”

The Junior tournament was won by Phillip Morrison who crushed Cathal Murphy for playing space in the middle game in the final round, this sent Phillip on his way to the title, if not Knockbracken

The main focus of the event was the Masters title which went to Michael Waters after an emphatic display of precision chess against a field made sparse by his mere presence. The only danger to Michael’s accurate and relentless pursuit of the crown came from Gareth Annsley however a miscalculation by Gareth cost him a knight and the game after an expensive Queen check by Michael on the E-file.

Gareth was still able to console himself with the runners up cheque which helped him drown his sorrows in the Cutters-wharf bar next door, surrounded by a hoard of Belfast beauties out on their works Christmas dinner who had mistaken him for the DJ Chris Moyles.  It was at this point that Gareth offered to buy all the chess players present drink all night if they kept calling him Chris while the girls were around.

Keen not to let an opportunity like this to go bye I scanned the optics as to assertain which of the Devils buttermilk aesthetically pleased me and dang the price, sure what to hell technically the UCU were paying for it. It was at this point that Gareth “Chris Moyles” Annsley referred us to his statement that he would buy the “chess-players” present drink all night and that only he and Michael were “chess-players” that the rest of us were just “cash-cows” It would have been really funny at this stage for Paul Merson or Shane McGown to have walked through the door with a chess-board under their arm! and drink his ill-gotten gains dry!

Michael chastised his jousting partner from the Masters informing Gareth that he should not be so disingenuous to the proletariat and the correct way to address them should be “Pecunia Bos Taurus” In the immortal words of Tom Clarke “indeed”

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