Children’s Chess

A new website has launched with the aim of promoting and developing children’s chess locally. It includes details of the many children’s events run by the Ulster Chess Union. Please visit the site and have a look around – Children’s Chess Northern Ireland

Childrens Chess Logo Brendan Jamison version 8




It was to be a landmark night at the Bankers . Statistically it was the 1st time Belfast South had hosted 2 league games on one night, but by the nights closure it would be a landmark night for altogether different reasons.

In a night showcasting its changing of seasons in more ways than one, our Autumn temperatures replaced with Winter ones, coupled with vicious winds and rain. Yet in juxtaposing contrast to this, both The Lions and The Witches were in town to contest essentially a 10 board match-up. This scenario , made all the more critical by the boastful claims of Martin Kelly that his club is the 2nd best in the League. Martin had been putting so much time into finding this sketchy technicality that he didn’t play himself!

Upon all my years of entering the Bankers Club, I have only ever seen one. That was Graeme McCormick vs Paul McNaughten for a draw in the board one clash of Kellys Heroes vs The Witches. 10 moves legend has it, shucks I had a fiver on move 8!

A draw was followed by another draw as William Storey found a drawing line a piece down vs the exposed King of Iza Bujak on board 3. It was the best multi Storey could hope for as a 2nd piece was looking lost.

Matt McAree brought the first decisive result of proceedings, in favour of the travelling Witches with a trademark swashbuckling attempt on the opposing King. With the staying stamina and jumping prowess of a Pipe Cheltenham Handicap entry, Matt’s pawns can seemingly know no boundaries. His opponent J P Corrigan, may have had a perpetual at the end given how every one of Matts pieces were so far advanced that they had just been spotted going through airport security! Matt seemed to think he had the perpetual covered. Onlookers remained unconvinced, if he had a Time Turner then yes it could have been covered. He is a Witch I suppose!

The most intriguing match was always going to be John McKenna vs Ian Kilpatrick on board 2. Except it wasn’t. Bookmakers had started paying out on the draw at move 4! After 2 and a half hours of stride for stride equality a draw was agreed. Both players claim a pawn was threatened at one point, but I believe this to be untrue! It was a close-fought game between 2 very in-form players. 2.5 to 1.5 Witches.

Step forward the most intriguing match of the Div 2 clash, Craig Stevenson vs Andy Hughes. Andy playing with a rare white, seemed unperturbed. After gaining an opening advantage , he won a pawn and inflicted structural damage. Any chances his opponent might have had in the endgame was dismissed with immeasurable class by his opponent to seal the match. The Guitar Hero downing Kellys Heroes!

In the Top Division clash, both sides sat level on points. Along with QUB, in what has been a fascinatingly bizarre but brilliant season so far.

The Lions have been getting their pride back though, and Sam Moore put them 1 -0 up on board 4 after catching John Bryars out in an unstoppable knight fork.

Board 3 was drawn shortly after between John Bradley, the clubs best “mane” owner and one of the signings of the season so far and A Team regular Bruce MacLean, also the owner of a fine “mane.” Bradley held a slight edge for most of the game but he was well held in the end by Bruce , who was albeit glad to accept the draw.

With matches still in the balance, the focus turned to Calum Leitch vs Ray Devenney on board 1. Both players have enjoyed unbeaten spells of late, but Calum holds an unbeaten record against Ray. Ray gave up an exchange for an attack but found his follow up moves neutralised. With his attack now resembling a dim light on the end of a wand, he outtricked his opponent with his final wave of the wand. A seemingly forced Queen trade to go into the won endgame was quickly countered with a devastatingly quick and incisive rook check. I didn’t even have to look at the board to know I was beat. The visual realisation confirmed my instincts as my rook was forced to resign its protection from my recently moved Queen. A 1 move turnaround, Lions and Leitch stunned, from a hex from the Ould Wizard!

Up stepped recovery man Richard Gould to rescue the situation by beating Bernard Jaffa. In a game befitting of both players styles, it ebbed too and fro. Richard left it late, converting a piece up with less than 2 minutes on his clock to seal a seemingly important win.

Those betting on Sam Flanagan and Ross Harris to be the last match finished weren’t to be disappointed. The pair who have never played each other before, seemed to want to make up for that very fact with a 3 hour epic. Sam enjoyed the better of it, winning the early middlegame exchanges and leaving Ross with an unpretty dilemma. Piece activity (which looks limited) or material and structure. Ross chose to fight for a draw and may have well had it but for a frisky pawn move when caught looking into the moonlight outisde. But as Ross was to be reminded on his drive home from a neighbouring street, Sams Yer Man for a Bargain and the A Teams Artillery Man and Mr Ice T converted from there. A commendable Get out of Jail draw from The A Team!

Martin for once was stunned and speechless having lost the record for his 2 favourite conversation topics in one night.  The only unbeaten Heroes now is the current Eurovision song contest winning song.

In a season changing night in November, we seen presents handed out and Heroes being unwrapped early this year! 1st win of the season for The Witches, 1st defeat for 2 years for Kellys Heroes.

Now that’s hardly a Banker at the Bankers club!


Pre-match Heroes Haka was a sleeping success

The Lions Meow

It has proved to be a particularly disappointing start to the season for both the Lions and The Witches, who finished second and third respectively in their leagues last year. The toothless Lions have lost both their games so far,  3 – 2 to Muldoons and 3.5 – 1.5 to QUB.

Toothless Baby Lion

The witches have fared only slightly better losing to NICS in their first match but managing a draw with Ballynafeigh 2’s in their second. The Lion’s den has turned from a feared venue into something more akin to a cat sanctuary! Lets hope the coming weeks show an improvement in form for both teams with the witches creating magic over the board and the Lions regaining their Roar.


New Season

The new league season is fast approaching and there are plenty of reasons to be optimistic for the newly named C(hes)S Lewis Chess Club. In the recent Ulster Championships Gabor Horvath was once again crowned Ulster Champion with Ross Harris finishing 3rd. David Barr also won the Junior section with an incredible 6/6!

Gabor (1 of 1)

The C(hes)S Lewis Chess Club are hoping to enter 3 teams into the league this year and they will be named after a famous CS Lewis novel –

Team 1   –   The Lions

Team 2   –   The Witches

Team 3   –   The Wardrobes

The league is shaping up to be as competitive as ever with as many as 20 teams suggesting they may enter, however, surely none will relish stepping into the Lions Den!


Next UCU Tournaments

The month of April will be a busy one for those players regularly attending UCU tournaments. The City of Belfast Championship will be held at the Sports Pavilion, in the Stormont Estate, on the 11-12th April. If you prefer something a bit quicker, the Ulster Rapidplay Championship will be held at Ballynafeigh Community Centre on the 25th April.


Numbers have been high for all the tournaments so far this year, creating exciting games and close contests in all sections. It would be great to see this trend continue!

Clash of the Titans

It was a landmark night in Ulster Chess as Division 1 Heavyweights Ballynafeigh 1 and Lindores 1 met in what was to be a fateful night for the Silver King destination.

The match was to be fittingly contested at the home of League Chess – Ballynafeigh. The away side needed a win (perhaps even a resounding win) to realistically prevent the home side from wrapping up the title with 9 weeks of the season to go.

Ballynafeigh 1, unbeaten this season, were at full strength. A frightful team of Houston, Scannell, Jensen, Jamison and Damien Lavery. Meanwhile Lindores had the usual 4 of Horvath, Leitch , Harris and MacDonald and were further accompanied by the experienced and in-form Paul McNaughten who was thrown to board 3 for tactical reasons.

Dennis Wilkinson was a keen spectator and it was fantastic to see him in attendance, despite his Ballynafeigh affiliation, Dennis won’t mind me saying that his real affection lies towards The Coffee Shop outfit!

The atmosphere and concentration levels from both sides demonstrated what a big occasion it was and there was an early result to add a real spanner into the works!

It was on board 4 between the two clubs’ right hand men. Or Number 2s, Brendan Jamison and Ross Harris. Baldrick vs Barney Rubble. Waylon Smithers vs Buzz Lightyear. Top Scultor vs Top Physio.

Harris, an expert in this opening, prepared for Jamison’s newly groomed London System and took it apart. There was no cunning plan from the Ballynafeigh 1 captain,  it was as if Jamison’s pieces were sculpted out of Flinstone as they were stationary and helpless to prevent the pieces of Harris who knew no boundaries, playing as if he was from a different galaxy. To infinity and beyond came the penetration of the black rooks forcing the resignation of Jamison. Ross, what can I say, you’re my favourite deputy! Tactical switch working for Lindores 1 zip.

Soren Jensen levelled things up at the midway stage, in a gut-busting Kings Gambit from Paul McNaughten. Paul had a clear edge from the opening and emerged a piece for 2 pawns up. Jensen had a lot of counterplay and Paul perhaps should have given the piece back and would have sat better. However he went wrong in the middlegame complications and a knight fork sealed his resignation and an important leveller for the home side.

The other 3 boards went to the bitter bitter end. Jamison was seen praying in the Ballynafeigh lift when noticing all remaining 3 boards for Ballynafeigh were materially down heading into judgment time. Cunningham was contacting any obliging bookmakers to bet his house on a 4 1 win for the away side.

What happened in the last 5 minutes remains a mystery, prayers were answered, seas were parted, grounds were split and champions were elected, Lindores capitulated in the time pressure again! Leitch was first…after putting in an almighty showing to outplay his 8 time Ulster Champion counterpart with the black pieces and head into an endgame 2 pawns up, the Lindores Captain forgot to push his passed h pawn before forcing an important trade. He allowed a knight fork in the dying minutes…dropping the crucial passed h pawn and allowing his opponent to easily draw hereafter.

Horvath was a piece for 2 pawns up all game vs the devastating David Houston. The Lindores linchpin had horrible , unco-ordinated pieces but seemed to be holding everything ok. As I was in my own scramble, I didn’t see what happened other than Gabor resigning! 2 5 -1.5

The bottom board was always going to produce last minute fireworks and it didn’t disappoint. Fred, for once enjoying a healthy time advantage seemed to have the better of a game and I was informed he won a piece in the late middlegame. However his opponent is one of the best blitz players in the country and punished Fred’s inprecision in converting with a devastating counter attack of his own to seal the win, the match, the bonus points and seemingly the league title. Talk about an RKO out of nowhere!

Onlookers agreed the away side deserved more and were shell-shocked by the events of the last 5 minutes! But that’s why we love Chess! Ballynafeigh 1 have been flawless this season and showed true Champions grit and qualities. It ain’t over til it’s over but surely the Silver King is destined to go to the Ormeau Road club, and what a very fitting place for it to go.


Damien presenting Brendan with his Captains bonus for winning the league!


Marco Polo

For those of you with an interest in how chess is portrayed in popular culture, the new major Netflix series Marco Polo has a chess theme running right through it. The series is set in the 13th Century and depicts Marco Polo’s early years in the court of Kublai Khan. Khan was a keen chess player and a number of the episodes show him playing Marco Polo. The board and pieces were specially designed for the series and the positions on the board were set up to match what was going on in the plot. The picture below shows the original pieces used in the series.


The book Invisible Cities (1997) by Italo Calvino also deals with this relationship between Marco Polo and Khan and the following is a quote from it –

“Now Kublai Khan no longer had to send Marco Polo on distant expeditions: he kept him playing endless games of chess. Knowledge of the Empire was hidden in the pattern drawn by the angular shifts of the knight, by the diagonal passages opened by the bishop’s incursions, by the lumbering, cautious tread of the king and the humble pawn, by the inexorable ups and downs of every game.”