Kilkenny Masters

(I wrote this offline and hadn’t seen Sue’s upload of Gerry’s repeat. Hence I repeat some of the same things but hopefully you’ll be interested in my perspective.)

This weekend I had a quick trip across over to Ireland to play the Kilkenny Masters. The Kilkenny tournament has now been running for 35 years and despite a paucity of sponsors this year the organisers keep the tournament alive and kicking. Most of the charm of the tournament is the social side; it’s no surprise that the same Grandmasters keep coming back year after year.


This year top seed Bulgarian GM Ivan Cheparinov returned and was joined by French GMs Maze and Libiszewski, Irish GM Alex Baburin and Mark Hebden and myself from England. In fact we all played here last year too while this year many strong IMs also played; an amazingly strong line up for a weekend tournament but Kilkenny’s fame has spread. The tournament is composed of six rounds, one Friday night, three Saturday and the final two on the Sunday. This would be exhausting in itself, starting at 9.30am on the Saturday morning and finishing around 11pm, but when you add in the mandatory pint or two afterwards, the event really turns into a test of stamina.


The tournament is split between two venues: Butler House for the top two sections and the Club House hotel opposite. All the GMs survived the first round but in round two IM Mark Quinn defeated Sebastian Maze and with a couple of draws there were just three of us on 100% by round three: Cheparinov, myself and Mark Quinn. Due to the pairing rules I had White against Mark on top board while Ivan had Black against Alex Baburin. I won a complicated game when Mark blundered low on time but Ivan, despite pressing, couldn’t quite win the rook ending and so at the end of the Saturday I was sole leader on 4/4.


I had a fairly quiet night by Kilkenny standards and was asleep by 1am but Ivan, who had his 25th birthday during the weekend, explored the Kilkenny nightlife together with the French players. This seemed to help me the following morning as he got nothing out of the opening in a Classical Kings Indian and offered me a draw. I was probably actually better but I was happy to keep half a point ahead of him and with White in the final round. Mark Hebden defeated Mark Quinn to join me on 4.5/5.


There is never really any time to prepare with so many games squeezed into a weekend but unfortunately for Mark he fell into some homework of mine and was in a lot of trouble straight out of the opening. He fought on and I consumed a fair amount of time but his position was just too bad with both king and queen in trouble coupled with a disastrous pawn structure. Maze and Cheparinov drew on board two and so they and Mark shared 2nd place and were joined by Baburin and FM Colm Daly, all on 4.5/6.


A few drinks to celebrate and a pleasant meal and then it was time for the period most of the players enjoy the most, the blitz tournament! Blitz is always a very enjoyable form of the game but when it’s sponsored by the Kilkenny brewery and a free bar is open you know it’s going to be packed. The games tend to become rather ragged as the alcohol takes its toll but in the end I managed to triumph here too, beating Ivan Cheparinov 2-0 in the final.


I’d like to thank the organisers for again running a highly enjoyable tournament and warmly recommend it if you want to receive some Irish hospitality.