Category Archives: National Club Championship

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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2014 National Club Championship

The 2014 NCC was played in Ballinasloe over the final weekend in April and Adare triumphed for the fourth time in a row. This time, devoid of any titled imports, it was a much closer run thing but they prevailed on tie-break by half a game-point after a very exciting final round.

Final placing and points

1. Adare           3.0 MP (16.0 GP)
2. Galway          3.0 MP (15.5 GP)
3. Ennis           2.5 MP (14.5 GP)
4. Gonzaga         2.5 MP (13.5 GP)
5. Blanchardstown  1.0 MP ( 6.0 GP)
6. Ballinasloe     0.0 MP ( 6.5 GP)

Two of the competing clubs have reports from their point of view. The Galway website has a report with a strong emphasis on the final round excitement. The Ennis blog has a number of reports: Round 1, Round 2, Rounds 3-4 (with a couple of photos) and a final wrap-up.

Tournament Arbiter Herbert Scarry penned the official report and took the time to input all the games from the event which can be found in the ICU database. This is particularly good news, not only because all the games are available from such an important event, but also because it has allowed me to update the National Club Championship page with the complete board-by-board results from the 2014 renewal.

When I see a list of games from a tournament, I keep a look-out for any miniatures and I came across this win by the 2010 Irish Individual Champion.

Emmanouil Pandelias – Alex Lopez
National Club Championship 2014
Blanchardstown – Adare, Round 1

1.e4 c5 2.Nc3 Nc6 3.f4 e6 4.Nf3 d5 5.Bb5 Nf6 6.Qe2 Be7 7.Bxc6+ bxc6 8.d3 Ba6 9.Ne5 Rc8 10.b3 0-0 11.0-0 dxe4 12.Nxe4 Qd4+ and White resigned. Was this premature?

ncc2014

12…Qd4+ forked King and Rook. After 13.Be3, saving the a1-Rook, Black would produce a pseudo-sacrifice of his Queen with 13…Qxe4 when 14.dxe4 allows a safe win of a piece with 14…Bxe2. However White could have played 14.c4 preventing the Queen leaving via d5 and forcing 14…Qf5. Then White can regain the piece with 15.g4 Nxg4 16.Qxg4 Qxg4+ 17.Nxg4. So in the end the combination would only have won a pawn.

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