Monday 13 January 2014

Michael de Verdier: Chess & Life in Ireland

After spending 8 months in Ireland working for Apple it's time to write a little something about Chess & Life in this country.
 I am located in Cork, the second largest city located in the south-west. Nicknamed Rebel City (dating back to the late 1400s and the Wars of the Roses) the city has a feel of independence and pride. At the same time people are very friendly and tolerant to the mass-invation of foreigners coming over to work for companies like Apple, Google, Blizzard, Amazon among others.
Football and rugby are popular sports here, but there are also the GAA (Gaelic Athletic Association) sports including hurling (a mix between lacrosse and rugby), gaelic football (rugby) and handball (squash) and rounders (baseball/cricket). 

The 2013 All-Ireland Hurling Final between the two rivalling counties of Cork and Clare had 81,000 spectators in the stadium, and emptied the streets of Cork. Simple everyone was watching.

Something should also be said about the capital Dublin. Although I did not spend enough time there to build a full opinion, it doesn't have the same sympathetic feel as smaller places like Cork or Galway. However, being the capital there are of course a lot to be said for a visit to Dublin. The Guinness Factory, Trinity College and Temple Bar are all worth a visit. The blog's owner spent more time than me in Dublin and can maybe give a better guide to the city.

My first impression about chess in Ireland came via the Mulcahy Open, a small tournament in Cork in the end of December. Top rated was local her Alex Astanah Lopez (2426) and I was second seed. I had to take a bye in the first round because of work, but then I played the remaining 5 rounds. 4 wins and a draw against Lopez meant 5/6 and second place. Lopez won with 5½/6.

Even though this was a small weekender the playing hall was the conference hall of a central hotel, with very nice playing conditions, spacious and with Staunton boards. Also the prize fund was not bad. 

Next came the Munster Chess League, a local league for clubs based in the region of Munster. We played two rounds on a Saturday, and this was also played in a hotel, in the countryside in County Cork. Whereas many of Sweden's best clubs (especially the clubs from the very south) play in boring basements, the playing conditions in Ireland seem very nice so far. 

My next tournament will probably be the Bunratty Chess Classic in the beginning of February. This open was won by Michael Adams in 2012 and 2013 and is arguably Ireland's strongest open.
Not a bad place for chess at all!
Here is a position from one of my games in the Munster League:

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