Bunratty Victory – I win! 😀

So after a disappointing Gibraltar I played the 4ncl keen to gain back some rating points. Unfortunately it was not to be. In the first game I played Martin Burrows. I didn’t really get anything out of the opening and was worried I would be worse strategically if I did nothing. I tried a piece sacrifice which gave him great practical problems and with him short on time I hoped he would collapse. However he defended very well and completely neutralised my attack by the time control. I offered a draw which he correctly declined but spent far too much time and got nervous, in the end sacrificing back a rook for perpetual.

In the second game I was given another White against Sam Collins, the Irish IM who defeated me in the last round of Kilkenny last year. He tried an interesting sideline against my Scotch (6…Ne4!?) which I couldn’t remember at all. Apparently I followed the mainline but didn’t get anything and was even slightly worse when he forced an opposite coloured bishop endgame. I won a pawn but it didn’t mean anything and a draw was agreed shortly.

On the Tuesday I got the sail and rail across the Irish Sea so I could spend a few days with my parents and brothers before Bunratty started. Sue tried going back to work but felt ill so we decided it would be best for her to come over too and convalesce and after waiting in Dublin for the second crossing, we eventually arrived in Enniskillen around 9.30pm (after I got the 7.10am Euston train). A long trip but more pleasant than going through airports and when you include waiting times to check in/ collect luggage etc., not that much slower than flying. After spending a pleasant couple of days playing N64 and board games with my brothers, Sue and I got the long bus trip down to the famous weekender at Bunratty (about 6 and 1/2 hours for the 200km trip).

The Bunratty weekend is always good fun; it not being rated means the GMs don’t have to worry about their rating points and can partake of the Irish hospitality. Gary O’Grady kindly sponsored the event, ensuring that it was to be a strong event with 5GMs headed by former World Champion contender, Nigel Short. This was my local tournament when I lived in Ireland and so have played it on multiple occasions. The old venue seemed to have closed down and so it had moved to the Castle Hotel. I was very impressed with the playing conditions and very spacious bedrooms and indeed Nigel commented that someone should have told him it wasn’t a typical weekender! Us English players are used to weekend tournaments being held in cold school rooms or community halls with very little prize money and no conditions for the top players; a nice venue, good conditions and an 1000 euro first prize make us feel spoilt. The only thing I would suggest is that they keep serving food a little longer. I finished my game on the Saturday evening at about 9.45pm and couldn’t find anything to eat in the whole of Bunratty (it’s only a small village) and in the end we ordered pizza from the nearby city of Limerick.

I was looking forward to playing some games without having to worry about my rating and had a good start with a quick win over Gordon Freeman (2132). I played him a few years ago in the Irish Championships and drew so I knew it wouldn’t be easy. I tried a sideline of the Caro-Kann which has been championed by Nigel himself. Gordon tried an interesting pawn sacrifice but went astray quickly dropping a piece. Sue had a tough first round against English IM and International Director Loz Cooper. She went into a bad ending and defended well, even reaching a drawn final position but didn’t play fast enough and lost on time.

After a fairly quiet Friday night (by Irish weekender standards) I played round two on Saturday morning. I was paired against Cristian Daianu a Romanian FM. In a Grand Prix line I’ve had success with in the past (a quick g2-g4 against …e6) I quite liked my position but misevaluated a line and reached a very difficult middlegame with my king completely exposed. He missed a knockout blow but still went into what should have been a winning endgame but I managed to hold the draw. Not a great start and I started to worry that my bad form was continuing. Sue also had a bit of a disaster – after a very good opening she had a winning attack but went astray and ended in a lost endgame.

The tournament wasn’t getting any easier and in round three I was black against the very solid Irish IM Mark Heidenfeld  (who I drew with in Kilkenny). This time I returned to my trusty Dragon and took the advantage straight away against his Fianchetto Variation. He defended against my attack well and I had to be content going into a double rook endgame with an extra pawn which I eventually managed to convert. Sue also got off the scoreboard with a win with the Grand Prix Attack against the talented junior Ronan Magee.
###pgn###[Event “Bunratty”] [Site “?”] [Date “2011.02.??”] [Round “3”] [White “Heidenfeld, M.”] [Black “Jones, G.”] [Result “0-1”] [ECO “B70”] [WhiteElo “2390”] [BlackElo “2593”] [PlyCount “112”] 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 Nf6 4. Nc3 cxd4 5. Nxd4 g6 6. g3 Nc6 7. Bg2 Nxd4 8. Qxd4 Bg7 9. O-O O-O 10. h3 Be6 11. Qb4 Qc8 12. e5 dxe5 13. Qxe7 Bxh3 14. Qxb7 Qf5 15. Qf3 Qe6 16. Bxh3 Qxh3 17. Nd5 Nxd5 18. Qxd5 Qf5 19. c4 Rad8 20. Qh1 e4 21. Rb1 Bd4 22. Qh6 Qg4 23. Qf4 Qe2 24. b3 Rfe8 25. Be3 Be5 26. Qxe4 Bxg3 27. Qg2 Rxe3 28. fxg3 Qg4 29. Rf4 Qxg3 30. Qxg3 Rxg3+ 31. Kf2 Rh3 32. Kg2 Rc3 33. Rb2 f5 34. Rf3 Rxf3 35. Kxf3 Kf7 36. Ke3 Kf6 37. b4 Ke5 38. c5 Rc8 39. Kd3 Kd5 40. Kc3 g5 41. Rd2+ Ke4 42. Rd4+ Ke5 43. Kc4 g4 44. Rd5+ Ke4 45. Rd7 g3 46. Re7+ Kf3 47. Rxa7 g2 48. Rg7 h5 49. b5 h4 50. b6 h3 51. b7 Re8 52. c6 h2 53. c7 g1=Q 54. Rxg1 hxg1=Q 55. b8=Q Qe3 56. Qd8 Qc1+ {…} 0-1%%%pgn%%%
Round Four and the third game of the Saturday I was up to top board against Nigel Short. While apprehensive, I was really looking forward to the match. I got into chess when his match against Garry Kasparov was shown on Channel Four back in 1993. This was our second meeting; the first time I played him in the European Union Championships in Liverpool where I held a draw with Black which helped me on my way to my first GM norm. This time I had White and he surprised me with the Alekhine. I wasn’t sure which line to play but saw Adam Hunt playing the Four Pawns Attack on board three against Alekhine expert and Ireland’s only GM, Alex Baburin and so decided to try it too. Nigel followed the mainline until move 13 when I was on my own. It was an interesting position where White has more space and the bishop pair but I have to be careful not to allow my pawns to be fixed when they would become chronic weaknesses. I kept the initiative and went into a good endgame and converted the win. You can see the game below and it will appear annotated on the Chesspublishing website. I was very pleased with my play obviously as beating someone of Nigel’s calibre isn’t easy and I have managed to extend my score to 4.5/5 in 2010 and 2011 with the White pieces against players higher rated than me. Sue drew her game with a solid display against Seamus Duffy who beat her in Dun Laoghaire.
###pgn###[Event “Bunratty”] [Site “?”] [Date “2011.02.??”] [Round “4”] [White “Jones, G.”] [Black “Short, N.”] [Result “1-0”] [ECO “B03”] [WhiteElo “2593”] [BlackElo “2650”] [PlyCount “103”] 1. e4 Nf6 2. e5 Nd5 3. d4 d6 4. c4 Nb6 5. f4 dxe5 6. fxe5 Nc6 7. Be3 Bf5 8. Nc3 e6 9. Nf3 Bg4 10. Be2 Bxf3 11. gxf3 Qh4+ 12. Bf2 Qf4 13. c5 Nd7 (13… Nd5 14. Nxd5 exd5 15. Qd2) 14. Qc1 Qxc1+ 15. Rxc1 O-O-O 16. a3 Ndb8 17. Rd1 Ne7 18. f4 Nbc6 19. Bc4 g6 20. d5 exd5 21. Nxd5 Nxd5 22. Bxd5 Bh6 23. Bh4 Rd7 24. Rf1 (24. O-O Nd8) 24… Re8 25. Bf6 Nd8 26. b4 Bf8 27. Bg2 Be7 28. Bh3 Ne6 29. Rxd7 Kxd7 30. f5 gxf5 31. Rxf5 Kd8 32. Kd2 c6 33. Rh5 Bxf6 34. exf6 Nf8 35. Rh4 b6 36. Kd3 Kc7 37. Re4 Rd8+ (37… Rxe4 38. Kxe4 Nd7 39. Bxd7 Kxd7 40. Kf5 Kc7 41. Kg5 Kd7 42. h4 Ke6 43. h5 Ke5 44. Kh6 Kxf6 45. Kxh7) 38. Kc3 Ng6 39. Rd4 bxc5 40. bxc5 Ne5 41. Bf5 h5 42. h3 Nd7 43. Bxd7 Rxd7 44. Kc4 Kd8 45. Kd3 Kc8 46. Ke4 Rb7 47. Ke5 Kc7 48. Ra4 Kd7 49. h4 Kc7 50. Kf5 Kd7 51. Kg5 a5 52. Re4 {…} 1-0%%%pgn%%%

Before the final day I was in pole position with 4/5, half a point ahead of five players. Of course I could hardly coast to the line and I had a tough test with black against GM Tony Kosten, originally English but now living in France and my boss on ChessPublishing. He played the English and I managed to equalise going into a dry endgame and so we agreed to half the point. Sue was paired against another dangerous Irish Junior, Hugh Doyle from Cork. After a suspicious position from the opening she outplayed her young opponent and got back to 50%.

Alex Baburin defeated Sam Collins to catch me on 4/5 while Tony Kosten, Adam Hunt, Malcolm Pein, Ryan-Rhys Griffiths and Philip Short were just half a point behind. Alex exclusively plays the Alekhine and I decided to repeat the Four Pawns which had brought me success against Nigel. I deviated from Alex’s earlier game against Adam and, after declining Alex’s draw offer on move 9, tried a new idea which I had looked at a couple of years ago with Tom Rendle. Alex used up a lot of time and couldn’t find the right response and my attack crashed through. Again the game is below, while if you’re interested the annotated game will appear on ChessPublishing in due course.
###pgn###[Event “Bunratty”] [Site “?”] [Date “2011.02.??”] [Round “6”] [White “Jones, G.”] [Black “Baburin, A.”] [Result “1-0”] [ECO “B03”] [WhiteElo “2590”] [BlackElo “2530”] [PlyCount “45”] 1. e4 Nf6 2. e5 Nd5 3. d4 d6 4. c4 Nb6 5. f4 Bf5 6. Nf3 e6 7. Nc3 Na6 8. Bd3 Bxd3 9. Qxd3 c5 {(=)} 10. d5 exd5 11. cxd5 Be7 12. O-O O-O 13. Qe4 Nc7 14. Rd1 Qe8 $2 15. f5 $1 Kh8 16. Bf4 Rd8 $6 17. f6 gxf6 18. exd6 Bxd6 19. Qf5 Bxf4 20. Qxf6+ Kg8 21. Qxf4 Qd7 22. Ne5 Qe7 23. d6 1-0%%%pgn%%%
Philip lost the battle of the Shorts with Nigel finishing on 4/6 while second and third were shared by Tony (who defeated Adam who made a fatal slip in the ending) and Ryan who played a good game against Malcolm. Sue finished her tournament well with another victory against Jonathan O’Connor (2111) with a strong sacrificial display.

All that was left was the blitz tournament which is played as a knockout. In the 1/4 finals I again played Cristian Daianu and after some scares eventually went through and then got the better of Nigel in the semi-finals after two draws. In the final I was up against Mark Heidenfeld but I couldn’t break through his solid style and, in my exhausted state I lost on time in the third game. A highly enjoyable weekend and I recommend Bunratty to anyone who wants to mix their chess with a very social weekend! To check the final crosstable click here
while a report by the organiser/arbiter Gerry Graham is here.