Easter Rising Golden Jubilee Tournament

In 1966, over the weekend following Easter Sunday, University College Cork Chess Club hosted a tournament to commemorate the Easter Rising 50 years on. With the University closed for two of the days of the tournament, the event took place at the Helm Hotel in Crosshaven. The event attracted a small but select field of twelve for a five-round Swiss.

The tournament schedule had two games on both Friday 15th and Saturday 16th April, starting at 9.30am and 3.00pm (four hour sessions) with adjournments to be played in the evening.

Donal Deiseach won both his games on the Friday and was the sole leader by a half-point going into Day 2. He ended Saturday on 3.5, with his closest pursuers Noel Mulcahy, Eamonn Keogh, Maurice Kennefick and Brian Canton a full point behind. The reigning Irish champion Michael Littleton had drawn all four of his games and so was out of contention for the tournament win.

Deiseach’s only draw was this this exciting encounter against Mulcahy on Day 2.

Noel Mulcahy – Donal Deiseach
Easter Rising Golden Jubilee, Cork, 16.04.1966
Play through this game in CB Reader

Position after White's 12th move

Position after White’s 12th move

Deiseach can (and does) win a pawn here with 12…Bxc4 13.Re1 Be6 14.e5 and then proceeds to sharpen things up considerably with a Bishop sacrifice 14…Bxf2+ 15.Kxf2 Qc5+ 16.Kf1 Ng4 17.Qd2
Over the next few moves Deiseach probably does not find the best way to follow up his typically dashing play. We offer some tentative computer-assisted analysis.
17…Bc4+
Best seems to be 17…Nxh2+ 18.Ke2 Qxe5+ 19.Ne4 (if 19.Kd1 Bg4+ 20.Kc2 Bf5+ 21.Kd1 Qxg3 and Black must be winning here, e.g. 22.Rxe8+ Rxe8 23.Kc1 Re1+ 24.Nd1 Bg4) 19…Qh5+ 20.Kf2 Ng4+ 21.Kf1 Rb5 with a strong attack.
18.bxc4 Rxb2
Again best seems to be 18…Nxh2+ 19.Ke2 Qxe5+ 20.Be4 (The idea behind opening up the b-file is revealed here. White cannot protect his g-pawn with 20.Ne4 because of 20…Rxb2-+) 20…f5 21.Kd1 Qxg3 and Black still has good compensation for the sacrificed material. Probably the most solid continuation now for White is 22.Re3
(The other main candidates are two Bishop moves, both of which lead to positions with chances for both sides: either 22.Bxf5 Qf3+ 23.Re2 Rxe2 24.Qxe2 Rxb2 25.Qxf3 Nxf3 26.Kc1 Rh2 27.Bxd7 Nd4 where White will still find it difficult to unravel; or 22.Bd5+ cxd5 23.Qxd5+ Kh8 24.Rxe8+ Rxe8 25.Qxd7<=>)
Paradoxically best here may be to offer a Queen exchange: 22…Qd6 (after 22…Qh4 23.Bd3 Ng4 24.Rxe8+ Rxe8 25.Kc1 Black’s attack is in danger of petering out) 23.Qxd6 cxd6 24.Kc2 fxe4 25.Rxe4 Rf8 with roughly equal chances.
19.Qxb2 Nxh2+ 20.Ke2 Rxe5+ 21.Be4 f5 22.Kd1 Ng4 23.Bd5+
White decides to return some material. 23.Bd3 forcing an exchange of Rooks was the cold-blooded way of going for a win.
23…cxd5 24.Rxe5 Nxe5 25.Qe2
Now, with time pressure almost certainly an issue, the players settle for a perpetual.
25…Qg1+ 26.Qe1 Qd4+ 27.Qd2 Qg4+ 28.Qe2 Qd4+ 29.Qd2 Qg1+  1/2-1/2
[Source: ICU Newsletter, June 1966]

The fifth and final round was fixed to start at 11.00am on Sunday 17th and the leading pairings were:

Eamon Keogh  (2.5) -v- Donal Deiseach    (3.5)
Noel Mulcahy (2.5) -v- Maurice Kennefick (2.5)
Brian Canton (2.5) -v- Michael Littleton (2.0)

Here is how those encounters played out.

Brian Canton – Michael Littleton
Easter Rising Golden Jubilee, Cork (Round 5), 17.04.1966
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Position after White's 22nd move

Position after White’s 22nd move

Littleton won a pawn here with 22…Nxb4 and Canton’s position went downhill very quickly after 23.Bd2
Instead 23.Rxb4 Rxc3 24.Bxh6 Bxh6 25.Qxf6 Rxd3 26.Nf5 Bf8 27.Qg5 and at least White has some play for his pawn minus.
23…Nc2 24.Ne2 Nxe1 25.Rxe1 b4 26.Bxh6 Bxh6 27.Qxf6 Bg7 28.Qxd6 Rc1 29.Qxd7 Rxe1+ 30.Bf1 b3 0-1
[Source: ICU Newsletter, June 1966]

Noel Mulcahy  – Maurice Kennefick
Easter Rising Golden Jubilee, Cork (Round 5), 17.04.1966
Play through this game in CB Reader

1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.e3 Bf5 5.Nc3 e6 6.Bd3 Bxd3 7.Qxd3 dxc4 8.Qxc4 Nbd7 9.0-0 Nb6 10.Qe2 Bd6 11.e4 Bc7 12.Bg5 Qd7
Black’s situation is a little unpleasant already and for the next few moves he dithers, although it is not easy to suggest a good plan. Perhaps it was time to try active counter-measures with 12…h6 13.Bh4 g5 14.Bg3 Nh5 15.Bxc7 Qxc7 16.g3 0-0-0 although after 17.a4 White’s chances are still to be preferred.
13.Rad1 Qc8 14.Rfe1 Nbd7

Position after Black's 14th move

Position after Black’s 14th move

15.d5 e5 16.Bxf6 gxf6
After 16…Nxf6 17.d6 and Nxe5 is decisive – J.J. Walsh.
17.Nh4 c5
If 17…0-0 18.Nf5 Kh8 19.Qh5 Qe8 20.Rd3 Rg8 21.Qxh7+ and wins – Mulcahy.
18.Nf5 Rg8 19.Qh5 Nf8 20.d6 Bb8 21.Nd5 White must be winning here but now 21…Rg5 hastens the end.
22.Nxf6+ 1-0
[Source: Irish Times, 13th May 1966]

Eamon Keogh – Donal Deiseach
Easter Rising Golden Jubilee Cork (Round 5), 17.04.1966
Play through this game in CB Reader

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 d6 6.Bc4 e6 7.0-0 Be7 8.Be3 0-0 9.f3 a6 10.a4 Qc7 11.Qe2 Na5 12.Ba2 Bd7 13.Rfd1 Rac8 14.Qf2 Qb8 15.g4 Nc4 16.Bxc4 Rxc4 17.Nde2 b5 18.axb5 Bxb5 19.Rd2 Rfc8 20.Rc1 Be8 21.Nd1 Qb7 22.Ng3 Ba4 23.Bd4

Position after White's 23rd move

Position after White’s 23rd move

If Black intended meeting 23.b3 with 23…Bxb3 because the c-pawn would be pinned, then White could in turn have countered with 24.Rb1 pinning the Black Bishop against his own Queen. After 24…Rb4 25.Rxb3 Rxb3 26.cxb3 Qxb3 White would have won a piece for two pawns.
23…Nd7 24.Ne3 R4c6 25.b3 Bb5 26.Rcd1 a5 27.g5
Keogh offers a pawn to open up lines to the Black King. After Deiseach declines with 27…Nc5 the White attack just keeps coming anyway.
28.Nh5 Bf8 29.Ng4 e5 30.Qh4 Nd7 31.c4 exd4 32.Nhf6+ Nxf6 33.Nxf6+ gxf6 34.gxf6 h6 35.Rg2+ Kh7 36.Qg4 1-0
[Sources: Irish Times, 28 April 1966 and ICU Newsletter, June 1966]

The final round results had produced a triple-tie for first on 3.5 points. Tie-break order, if the usual system had been used, would have been Mulcahy (10.00), Keogh (9.50) and Deiseach (7.75). The organisers had however decided in advance not to use a tie-break because of the shortness of the tournament and therefore the prizes for 1st, 2nd and 3rd were shared equally. There was still a trophy to be handed out and after that most random of methods, a toss, it went to Keogh.

Final standings
1=3. D. Deiseach, E. Keogh, E.N. Mulcahy 3.5/5
4. M. Littleton 3.0
5=7. B. Canton, M. Kennefick, L. Spillane 2.5
8=10. L. Brady, J. Lacy, J. O’Brien 2.0
11=12. B. Desmond, W. Ireton 1.5

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Irish Intervarsity Championship

On Saturday 2nd April 2016 a Championship inaugurated as long ago as 1948 was revived. At University Cork 24 players competed in an Individual Intervarsity Championship won by Hugh Doyle. Keegan O’Mahoney, who finished as runner-up has a report at the ICU website. So this seems like a good time to put up a page detailing the history of  all the Inter-University Individual Championships.

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County Tipperary Open and Thurles Chess Club

In recent years, the growth of the internet has meant that nearly every tournament has some sort of presence there. Sometimes these events are better advertised in advance than reported afterwards. Even when the results are made available, it’s best to catch them quickly as some websites don’t archive their articles (and indeed the same URL may be overwritten year upon year). However, the rating databases of the Irish Chess Union and Ulster Chess Union provide a (hopefully) permanent record of tournaments nowadays.

However, ready access to results from Irish tournaments was not always an easy matter. For the chess historian looking for results from bygone years, particularly from more local events, this may well require seeking out snippets of information from often brief newspaper reports and piecing together as much as possible. One such event that falls into this category is the County Tipperary Open Championships, held in Thurles and organised by the local chess club, which was founded in 1972. The tournament series seems to have run between 1979 and 1994. Our page on the tournament gives all the information we have been able to unearth from local newspapers (Kilkenny People, Nenagh Guardian and Sligo Champion) to national dailies (Cork Examiner, Irish Press and Irish Times) as well as the the ICU’s own Irish Chess Journal.

Prizegiving

Thurles Chess Club

I came across the photograph above in a post at the Thurles Town Down Memory Lane Facebook page. The four people in the image are Conor Ryan, Peter (O’)Shaugnesssy, Martin Ryan and Anthony Condron. The photograph might well have been taken at the prizegiving at one of the County Tipperary Open Championships. Condron was one of the main organisers of the tournament and the Ryans may be members of the family that provided the perpetual trophy for, and sponsorship of, the Championships.

On a number of occasions the Championships had some sort of maximum rating restriction, but the 1991 and 1992 renewals were unrestricted and attracted players from the upper echelons of Irish chess. However in 1991 the top seeds were surprised by lower-rated opposition. Stephen Morris and Mel Kennedy (O Cinneide) were rated 2156 and 2100 respectively and, as reported in the Sligo Champion, “outrated the rest of the field by a good margin”. In round three Morris had been held a draw by the circa-1900 rated Paul Kiely but then went on to beat Kennedy in the fourth (and penultimate) round. Going into the final round Morris and Kiely led on 3.5, while Kennedy and his Round 2 victim, sixth seed Trevor Hunter (1731), were a half-point behind. In the top board game Morris sacrificed a piece against Hunter but the underdog successfully warded off the attack to reach 4.0 points. On board 2 game Kiely was pressing hard to secure outright victory against the higher-ranked Kennedy but in the end had to settle for a draw and a tied first place with Sligo man Hunter.

In 1992 the organisers attracted a star-studded field with Colm Daly (2290), Stephen Brady (2260), Tom Clarke (2170), Gerard O’Connell (2130) and the returning Morris (now 2119) all competing.  The upsets this time started as early as Round 2 with Brady losing to Ciaran Quinn (1987) and Maurice Buckley (1571) beating Clarke. After three rounds Daly and O’Connell shared the lead with full points. Their Round 4 encounter had a finish well-known in weekenders in the pre-increment days. After a time scramble, O’Connell’s flag fell but Daly had only a lone King left -so the Rules of Chess decreed that the result must be a draw and they remained in the joint lead heading into the final round. Brady and Clarke had recovered sufficiently to be paired with the leaders in the final round.

The two decisive games from the final Round follow below. Playable versions are at my Irish Chess Games website.

Thomas Clarke -v- Gerard O’Connell
Tipperary Open, Thurles (Round 5), 09.02.1992

1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.cxd5 exd5 5.Bg5 Be7 6.e3 c6 7.Bd3 h6 8.Bf4 Nbd7 9.h3 Nf8 10.g4 Ne6 11.Be5 Bd6 12.f4 Bxe5 13.dxe5 Nd7 14.Nf3 Qb6 15.Qd2 Ndc5 16.Bc2 Bd7 17.f5 Ng5 18.Nxg5 hxg5 19.0-0-0 0-0-0 [O’Connell takes the sting out of Clarke’s kingside pawn roller by also castling queenside. Of course after 19…0-0 Black would be in a lot of trouble after 20.h4] 20.e4 d4 Diagram

Diagram

Diagram

21.e6? [This just loses a pawn for nothing. If White was looking for complications then 21.Qxd4 was a better bet as 21…Bxf5 can be met by 22.Nd5! cxd5 23.exf5] 21…Bxe6 22.fxe6 dxc3 23.Qxc3 Nxe6 24.Kb1 Qc5 25.Qg3 Nd4 26.Bd3 f6 27.Rhe1 Qe5 28.Qe3 Kb8 29.Bc4 Rd6 30.b4 Rhd8 31.Rd3 a6 32.a4 Ne6 33.Rc3 Nf4 34.Rec1 Qd4 35.Qe1 Re8 36.h4 Rxe4 37.Qh1 gxh4 38.Qxh4 g5 39.Qh7 Rd7 40.Qg8+ Rd8 41.Qf7 Re1 42.Rxe1 Qxc3 43.Qe7 Qd4 44.b5 axb5 45.axb5 cxb5 46.Bxb5 Nd3 47.Re2 Qd6 48.Qe4 Qb4+ 49.Qxb4 Nxb4 50.Re6 Rd4 51.Re8+ Kc7 52.Re7+ Kb6 53.Be2 Rf4 54.Re6+ Nc6 55.Re8 Nd4 0-1

Colm Daly -v- Stephen Brady
Tipperary Open, Thurles (Round 5), 09.02.1992

1.c4 e5 2.Nc3 Nf6 3.Nf3 Nc6 4.d3 Bb4 5.Bd2 0-0 6.a3 Bxc3 7.Bxc3 Re8 8.e4 d6 9.Be2 Ne7 10.0-0 Ng6 11.Re1 Nf4 12.Bf1 c5 13.b4 b6 14.h3 h6 15.Nh2 Nh7 16.Ra2 The future course of the game shows how significant this move turns out to be. 16…Re6 17.Re3 Rg6 18.Kh1 Ng5 19.h4 Nh7 20.g3 Ne6 21.Bg2 Nd4 22.Re1 Nf6 23.Rg1 Ng4 24.Bxd4 cxd4 25.Nxg4 Bxg4 26.Bf3 h5 27.Bxg4 hxg4 28.f4 [This is a bit risky. White would probably be slightly better after 28.f3 gxf3 29.Qxf3 (but not 29.Rf2 as suggested in the Irish Chess Journal because that loses to 29…Rxg3 30.Rxg3 Qxh4+ 31.Kg1 Qxg3+) ] 28…exf4 29.gxf4 g3 30.h5 Qh4+ Diagram

Diagram

Diagram

31.Kg2 Qh2+ 32.Kf1 g2+ [If 32…Qxa2 33.Rg2 Qxa3 34.hxg6 fxg6 35.Rxg3 Rf8! 36.Qg4 Qc1+ 37.Kg2 Rxf4 and White must take the perpetual with 38.Qe6+ (ICJ)] 33.Raxg2 Qxf4+ 34.Rf2 Rxg1+ 35.Kxg1 Qg3+ 36.Rg2 Qe3+ 37.Kh2 Qf4+ 38.Kh3 Re8 39.Qg4 Qxg4+ 40.Kxg4 Re5 41.Rf2 White is threatening Rf5 and is a clear favourite in this endgame. Perhaps because a draw is no good to him, Brady now lashes out in a bid for counterplay, but it probably only makes things easier for Daly. 41…b5 42.cxb5 Rxb5 43.Rf5 Rb6 44.Ra5 Rc6 45.Rxa7 Rc3 46.b5 Rxd3 47.b6 Rb3 48.b7 Kh7 49.a4 Rb1 50.Kf3 Kh6 51.Ke2 1-0

Daly and O’Connell therefore finished equal first on 4.5 and Stephen Morris took third place a half[point behind.

The two games above plus Quinn-O’Connell (Round 3) and O’Connell-Daly (until shortly before the flag fall) were included in the Irish Chess Journal report and have also made their way to the ICU website database.

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Archive section up and running

Our first feature-length historical article is now posted in the Archive section. These articles will be in the form of pdf files and if an article contains game scores, these will be available to play through in a ChessBase reader at my new Irish Chess Games website. If you’re thinking this is bit convoluted – sorry about that, but WordPress has its limitations, and hosting a chess game viewer is one of them.

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Numbers surge at Kilkenny

The Kilkenny Congress, one of the monuments of Irish chess, took place over the final weekend of November. Numbers playing were definitely up on the recent past, but was it a record-breaking renewal? The news item at the ICU website claimed “it was a record event with over 230 players playing” while the express report there went for the more conservative take that Kilkenny 2015 had “one of the largest entries in each section for many years. A total of 234 players turned up to compete for the 4 titles at stake.” Over at Boards sinbad68 queried the organisers’ arithmetic by listing the players actually competing in each section:

Masters     28 players
Major       60 players
James Mason 53 players
Challengers 86 players

That makes a total of 227, not 234, as we also reported over at our updated Kilkenny page. This is still a very impressive figure, but how does it compare with the historical record? The Kilkenny Congress has been going since 1977. In its early years numbers fluctuated with the 148 competing in 1980 probably the best attendance until the 1990s, when numbers rapidly went up:

1990 110 players
1991 138 players
1992 170 players

In 1993 the Congress took a further leap forward both in quantity and quality. Over 230 competed in the Congress, with Alexander Baburin winning the Masters and British champion Michael Hennigan having to settle for a share of fifth place. I don’t have the figures for all the years in the 1990s so I can’t say whether the 1993 total number was exceeded, but the stats from 1999 show just how strong Kilkenny had become:

1999 Kilkenny Masters leading scores:
1=2. GM Bogdan Lalic, GM Julian Hodgson 5.0
3=5. GM Mark Hebden, GM Jan Timman, FM Paul Delaney 4.5
6=8. GM Michael Adams, GM Alexander Baburin, Uri Rochev 4.0
(221 in the Congress overall)

We can, however, provide the overall number competing in every year of the new Millennium. Looking at the figures, they make an interesting comparison with how the Irish economy was performing. From probably the ultimate record-breaking year of 2002 to the crash and burn of 2009 and finally to 2015, not a record-breaker but definitely going in the same direction as the economic indicators:

2000 199 players
2001 223 players
2002 251 players
2003 238 players
2004 230 players
2005 201 players
2006 210 players
2007 208 players
2008 214 players
2009 162 players
2010 189 players
2011 205 players
2012 194 players
2013 195 players
2014 199 players
2015 227 players

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The return of the Munster Championship

In recent years the Munster Championship has led a rather sheltered life, often not seen out or disguised inside another tournament. However, earlier this year the Munster Chess Union announced the return of its Championship as a stand-alone event. On the weekend of 18-20 September 2015 it was duly held as a FIDE-rated, 5-round Swiss at the West County Hotel, Ennis, Co. Clare.

The provincial championships started their days as “closed” events, players requiring to be born (or resident) in the province to be eligible to enter. That tradition has been diluted over the years – the Leinster Championship had become an “open” event even before its incorporation in the Malahide tournament while this year the Ulster Championship was opened up to outsiders – Munster player Rory Quinn (although not eligible for the title) carrying off first-prize. After being incorporated in the Mulcahy Memorial for the past three years, the 2015 Munster Championship reverted to being a closed event, entry restricted to players originally from, or resident in Munster for at least one year – although some of the official pre-tournament publicity could have mislead you. Entry to the supporting Under 1500 Championship was open but the title and Joe Browne Cup could only be won by a Munster player.

It was no doubt gratifying for the MCU organisers that the 2015 entry list included the current joint Irish champion, Philip Short, plus the aforementioned Rory Quinn and Paul Walsh, both three-time winners. The Congress is well-served by post-event commentary – the MCU’s own website has a photo-report, runner-up Rory Quinn gives his personal take at the Ennis CC blog while Sean Coffey at IRLchess has a comprehensive round-up on the weekend’s proceedings. So, rather than attempt a pale imitation of that reportage, I will instead point readers in the direction of our Munster championship page which is not only updated with the 2015 final standings but also has significant additions and revisions about previous Championships.

 

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National Club Championship 2015

I’ll be posting the results of the event here in due course, but for the moment I recommend the report at the Limerick CC website. There’s also some round-by-round coverage at the Ennis CC website.

However, my main purpose of this post is to address the future direction of the National Club Championship.

The build-up to the 2015 NCC was, to put it mildly, shambolic. Amidst suggestions emanating from the ICU Executive that all sorts of rules were being broken, the 2015 event was initially going to be downgraded to a mere FIDE-rated team event, then postponed and finally re-instated.

Perhaps we should not be that surprised that the organisation of this year’s NCC has gone a bit awry. From virtually its very beginnning, the Championship has been plagued with poor organisation and a failure far too often by the Irish Chess Union to take a firm grip on the event.

After this year’s difficulties the ICU Executive is promising a review of the Rules to ensure that the problems that befell the 2015 NCC never arise in the future. However, merely tinkering with the Rules is not going to solve the underlying issues. A radical rethink is needed.

The NCC was instituted in the 1950s as a knock-out competition, starting off in the provinces before reaching a national stage. This was later whittled down to four qualifiers from the provincial leagues and in the mid-1970s the NCC became an all-play-all weekender. Not infrequently some of the provinces would not send a qualifer, weakening the rationale of the competition. When the Ulster Chess Union departed from the ICU in 2005, this exascerbated that situation and in 2009 the NCC was thrown open to any club in Ireland, subject to a rating strength proviso.

The 2009-onwards Rules initially produced an increase in clubs entering but that has now tailed off and it may well be unrealistic to expect large numbers for the NCC if it is held outside Dublin.

So we might conclude that the old rationale for the NCC has gone but the replacement format has not worked.

So here’s a suggestion for a revamp. Let’s look at turning the NCC into a proper National League, with the possibility of multiple divisions.

  • Played over 5 rounds in one weekend (Friday night to Sunday afternoon)
  • Six team all-play-all “Premier League”
  • Multiple Divisions
  • One-up, one-down promotion and relegation
  • Open only to clubs competing in a provincial League
  • Second (etc) teams allowed but not entitled to promotion to top Division

Most of the other rules would remain much as before. The player eligibility rules might need a bit of a tweak, but I wouldn’t suggest a radical overhaul. My guess is that most clubs don’t want the possibility of flying in a team of GMs and IMs and the current rules do a reasonably decent job of that. One change I might tentatively suggest is that each squad could only contain a maximum number of non-IRL registered players, eg 3 in a squad and only 2 in any single match.

The format of 6 players plus two reserves and FIDE rated, four hour sessions should remain. The sheer numbers of clubs playing league chess in Leinster means that for multiple Divisions to work and to retain continuity of entry year-on-year, the event should be held only in Dublin (ideally in a non-city centre hotel).

I would also find another spot in the calendar for the event; it’s present position just before a run of tournaments – Malahide, Ennis, Drogheda – is far from ideal and I would suggest slotting the new-NCC in the one-month plus gap between Bunratty and Cork.

So how would Year 1 of my proposal look? For the “Premier League” I would suggest qualification might be along these lines:

  • 2015 winner of NCC
  • First two in Armstrong Cup
  • Winner of Munster League
  • Winner of Connacht League
  • Winner of the new Scarry Cup

Perhaps in Year 1 it might be best to start with a Swiss format for League 2, with the possibility (if things go well) of introducing further all-play-all lower Divisions gradually. After the first edition of the new-look NCC, promotion and relegation would take-over in determining what clubs played in the various Divisions.

Addressing the organisational deficit, I would suggest the ICU set up a broadly-representative sub-committee to oversee the event – if for no other reason that to ensure compliance with those pesky Rules and dealing with any issues about qualification (eg if replacement teams need to be found).

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