Making all the right moves as chess players come to townOctober 12, 2012 - 7:00am
Up to 200 chess players from all over the world will converge on the Salthill Hotel this weekend as the 2012 Galway Chess Congress, with a total prize fund of €3,500, gets underway.
Some may concur with 19th century English dramatist Henry James Byron that “life is too short for chess”, but, then again, similar subjective comments have also been made about golf, cricket and other sports over the centuries.
As for Galway Chess Club Chairperson and London native Peter Morriss, the board game for him is like a long lost love, having only returned to it 10 years ago – despite the fact that, as a teenager, he was totally enamoured by it.
“It’s a long story but the shorter version is that I saw an advert for the Galway club here and I thought ‘oh well, I am not doing anything so I’ll go’. And, frankly, I basically found them very friendly people at the club,” begins Dr. Morriss, a Sociology and Politics Lecturer at NUI Galway, who this weekend has the unenviable task of running the third largest chess tournament in the country.
Under previous Chairperson Ronan Duke and now Morriss, the annual Galway Chess Congress continues to go from strength to strength year after year, attracting players from all over Ireland and, indeed, the world.
Among those entered are Ireland No. 1, Russian-born Alex Baburin and Rumanian Grand-Master Vlad-Cristian Jianu, along with other strong international Masters such as Alex Lopez (from Cork), Denis Rombaldoni – from Italy, but now living in Sligo – and American-born John Donaldson, who now lives in England.
“It has a reputation – which Ronan set up and I am hoping to continue – for being well organised but also very friendly and welcoming. I would like to think it fits the Galway image,” says Morriss.
“We have had positive feedback from everybody who has come and the Salthill Hotel is a good venue. People like the location and the facilities there. I suppose, it (the tournament) is a long way to come for what is relatively little money if you are a top player in Russia or wherever – and they tend not to come – but some of these players do look to combine an event like this with a holiday and Galway is attractive.”
There will be plenty of Galway interest with members of Galway Chess Club also taking part, although Morriss says it is highly unlikely the overall trophy – and first prize total of €700 – will remain in the West of Ireland.
“A Galway winner is unlikely with that field to be honest,” he says. “The strongest player in Galway is somebody called Yuri Rochev who comes from Russia and who has been here in Galway, at the university, for six or seven years. He has won the tournament in the past. He can hold his own with these players.”
That said, Galway Chess Club, which gathers at The Bridge Centre on St. Mary’s Road every Thursday evening, do boast of two of the most exciting young players on the national chess scene in Ireland, namely Irish U-16 champions Oissine Murphy, who will represent Ireland at the World Youth Chess Championships in Maribor, Slovenia in November, and John Cormican (also U-16), who has just returned from the European Youth Championships in Prague in August. Ruth Cormican was also part of the U-18 girls travelling party to Prague.
“John Cormican played in the middle section [of Galway Chess Congress] last year and won it with six straight wins. I mean, winning with six straight wins is quite unusual. He has improved immensely over the last 12 months and he is playing in the top section this year.
“I think Oissine is the youngest member of the club at 15 although he has been around for five years. He is a very good player. They (Murphy and Cormican) are the two best players in Ireland in the 14 to 16 age group and they both played with the Irish U-18 team [in the Glorney Cup] in the Summer.”
For more, read this week's Galway City Tribune.