Monday, 19 October 2015

Williamson Shield

The Williamson Shield was first presented in 1904 by an expatriate Ulsterman, H.B. Williamson, while home for an extended visit from his adopted country New Zealand. The first actual competition for the Shield had to wait until 1912 and only two further championships took place before the Great War intervened.

A second series started in 1923 but ended in 1929 with the demise of Strandtown Chess Club, the club to whom the Shield had been presented. Competition for the Shield resumed in 1945, now under the auspices of the Ulster Chess Union and has continued for a further 70 years.

The story of the early years is told in our feature article Williamson Shield 1904-1914.

I have also listed all the winners of the Williamson Shield in our Competition Record

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

John Moles 1949-2015

The Irish Chess Union website has reported the sudden passing of John Moles, one of the greats of Ulster and Irish chess. He won the Irish Championship in 1966 at the tender age of 16 and came first in just about every tournament of note in Ireland before retiring from competitive chess in the late 1970s.

I have put together a "Player Profile" of Moles, containing a photograph of him at the 1966 Irish championship, a list of his major achievements and 12 significant games.

He was a notable expert on the French Defence and authored the seminal work "French Defence Main Line Winawer" (Batsford, 1975). Below is a game (with Moles' own annotations) where he played the white side of the French against another legendary Irish champion.
[Event "Ballyclare Open"] [Site "Ballyclare/Belfast"] [Date "1968.09.02"] [Round "7"] [White "Moles, John"] [Black "Heidenfeld, Wolfgang"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "C11"] [Annotator "Moles"] [PlyCount "113"] [EventDate "1968.08.30"] [EventType "swiss"] [EventRounds "7"] [EventCountry "IRL"] [Source "David McAlister"] [SourceDate "2009.01.05"] 1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. e5 Nfd7 5. Nf3 {A simple line recommended by Tarrasch. White aims to control the centre with his pieces, not his pawns} c5 6. dxc5 Nc6 7. Bf4 Bxc5 8. Bd3 f6 ({Not} 8... Qb6 9. O-O Qxb2 $2 10. Nb5 $1) ({ nor} 8... O-O 9. Bxh7+) 9. exf6 Qxf6 $2 ({Bad. Black leaves his central black squares unprotected. Better is} 9... Nxf6 {though after} 10. O-O O-O 11. Qe2 { White has the easier game}) 10. Bg3 ({Superficial would be} 10. Bg5 Qf7 {and Black stands well}) 10... Bb4 ({Black feared a possible Nb5. Playable was} 10... a6) ({If} 10... O-O 11. Bh4 {is awkward} ({or White can continue quietly with} 11. O-O {followed by Qe2 and Rae1 meeting ..Nb6 and ..Bd7 with Ne5 and a positional bind}) 11... Qf7 $2 12. Bxh7+) 11. O-O Bxc3 12. bxc3 Nce5 (12... Qxc3 13. Qe2 {did not appeal}) ({Nor} 12... e5 13. c4 ({or} 13. Bb5)) ({Best was} 12... O-O {when} 13. c4 {retains White's advantage}) 13. Nxe5 Nxe5 14. Qh5+ Nf7 ({If} 14... Ng6 15. Be5 Qf7 16. Bxg6 Qxg6 17. Qxg6+ hxg6 18. Bxg7 Rh7 19. Be5 {with excellent chances - Black's pawns are weak, his bishop is very bad}) 15. Rfe1 Kf8 $1 {This would also be Black's reply to 15.Bb5+} 16. c4 g6 17. Qe2 Bd7 18. Rab1 b6 19. Qd2 Kg7 20. Re3 Rhf8 21. Rf3 Qd4 {Black must not allow White control of the diagonal a1-h8} 22. Rf4 Qc5 23. Rh4 {Resourceful defence has enabled Black to hold his position, but White's advantage - the two bishops, attacking chances based on Be5+, more space - still persists} d4 24. Re1 Rac8 ({[24.Re1 -] Preventing} 24... e5 {because of} 25. Bxe5+ Nxe5 26. Qh6+ Kf6 27. Rf4+ Ke6 28. Rfe4) 25. h3 {A waiting move, giving his king a bolt-hole, just in case} Rc6 $2 {Preparing ..e5 but this is a bad blunder} 26. Be5+ ({(?) Obviously good was} 26. Be4 Rcc8 27. Bb7 Rcd8 28. Rxd4 {- White was running short of time}) 26... Nxe5 27. Qh6+ Kf7 28. Rf4+ Ke8 $2 ({After} 28... Kg8 29. Rxe5 Qe7 {Black has survived. White can try} 30. Rxd4 ({or} 30. Rxf8+ Qxf8 31. Qg5 {with an attack (h4-h5 is hard to meet)}) ({or} 30. Rh4 { threatening 31.Bxg6})) 29. Rxe5 Qe7 30. Rxf8+ Qxf8 31. Qxh7 Qf6 32. Qxg6+ Qxg6 33. Bxg6+ Ke7 34. Bd3 Kd6 35. f4 Rc8 36. Kf2 Rf8 37. Kf3 {(?)} Bc6+ 38. Be4 { (?)} Rc8 39. Bxc6 Rxc6 40. g4 Rxc4 {The smoke has cleared. Thanks to White's time pressure inaccuracies, the result of the rook ending is not altogether certain} 41. Re2 Rc3+ 42. Kg2 Ra3 43. g5 ({Better was} 43. h4 {- this allows the black king to get over}) 43... Ra5 ({Much stronger was} 43... Rxa2 { threatening ..d3. After} 44. Kf2 ({or} 44. Kf3) {Black can still try} 44... d3 {which gives White some anxious moments e.g.} 45. cxd3 Rxe2+ 46. Kxe2 Ke7 47. h4 Kf7 48. h5 a5 49. Kd2 b5 50. Kc3 a4 51. d4 Kg7 {and if White tries to force matters by} 52. d5 exd5 53. f5 a3 54. Kb3 b4 55. h6+ {Black wins by} Kh7 $1 { Thus the king ending would appear to be drawn}) 44. h4 Ke7 45. Kf3 Kf7 46. h5 Rxa2 47. Ke4 Ra4 48. Kd3 a5 49. Rh2 Ra3+ {Black must get his Rook over but it's too late now} 50. Kxd4 Rg3 51. h6 Kg8 52. h7+ Kh8 53. Ke5 Rg4 54. Kf6 Rxf4+ 55. Kg6 Rd4 56. Rf2 Rd8 57. Kh6 {An interesting, but imperfect game.} 1-0
My thanks to Brian McComb for access to his copy of the 1968 Ballyclare tournament bulletin containing the Moles-Heidenfeld game and notes

Monday, 27 October 2014

In search of the donor of the Williamson Shield

In 1904 H. B. Williamson presented a Shield to Standtown Chess Club to be used in connection with a Championship tournament. However, very little is (or was) known about the donor of the Shield. Contemporary newspaper reports only refer to Williamson being a member of Strandtown Chess Club while on an extended trip to his native land. Over 60 years after Williamson had donated the Shield, Albert Long, the secretary of the Ulster Chess Union, resolved to find out more. Below is the information he found out and then recorded in his ring binder on the history of the Ulster Chess Union.

Enquiries were made during 1968 and with the help of the Secretary of the Ulster Unionist Council [Mr J. O. Bailie], Miss Dorothy Williamson, 8 Tweskard Park, Belfast (his niece), the Pharmacy Board of New Zealand, the Department of Justice, Wellington, the New Zealand High Commission, London and the "New Zealand Daily Herald" the following facts were obtained.
Hugh Bellis Williamson was born in Coleraine about 1850, the eldest child of Hugh Williamson and Sarah Williamson, nee Caskey. A younger brother was Councillor Dr. Williamson.
H. B. Williamson, having studied chemistry, married Jessie Margarette Allen in Dublin in 1876 when aged 26 and emigrated to New Zealand about the same year, where he set up business as a pharmacist at New Plymouth (1876) and then at Wanganui. 
He had four daughters.
He died Tuesday, 23rd March, 1926 at his home in Epsom, a suburb of Auckland, where he was living in retirement.
The announcement in "The New Zealand Daily Herald" reads:
Williamson - On March 23 at his residence, 648 Manukau Road, Hugh Bellis, late of Wanganui. No flowers.
There was no obituary or photograph, and although his niece, Miss Dorothy Williamson (mentioned above) tells me she has numerous family portraits, she is unable to identify any as being that of her uncle. She was very young when he was last in Belfast on a visit in 1904.

Unfortunately Miss Williamson appears to have died shortly after these enquiries were made. However in December 1968 Albert Long was again in contact with J. O. Bailie, who was able to tell him a close friend of Miss Williamson, Mr William Kennedy, a Unionist M. P., had acquired some of her personal effects. In Long's ring binder a note dated 22nd April 1969 reads as follows:

Through the courtesy of Mr. Wm. Kennedy (M. P. Cromac) 8 Cooke Street, Belfast, I was able with the help of Mr. Larmour, to search the photograph albums belonging to the late Miss Williamson, and succeeded in finding one of H. B. Williamson, taken in Wanganui, and dated 1887.

In a letter to Kennedy Long says:

I need hardly say how grateful I am for you kindness in this matter, which has pleased me beyond all expectation and will be a source of great interest to a large number of people.

So, in the hope that this information is of interest to a new generation, here is the photograph of Hugh Bellis Williamson, generous benefactor to the chess players of Belfast.

Postscript: This Time Traveller article was originally published in August 2001. Julia Rhodes, H. B. Williamson's great granddaughter, contacted me a dozen Augusts later and she pointed me in the direction of the obituary that had eluded Albert Long.
Many friends in New Zealand will learn with regret of the death of Mr. Hugh Bellis Williamson, of 648, Mamikau Road. He was formerly a resident of Wanganui, and since his retirement from professional life, had lived in Auckland. Born in Ireland, Mr. Williamson came to New Zealand in the 'seventies. He carried on a chemist's establishment for many years at Wanganui, and was highly esteemed by all who knew him. He took a keen interest in chess, and for many years he was secretary of the chess club, which, in company with the Hon. John Ballance and the Hon. John Bryce he helped to found. Mr. Williamson was a vice-president of the Auckland Chese Club, and it was whilst playing a game there last week, he had a stroke, which was the cause of his death. Deceased was a prominent Freemason having been associated with Lodge Tongariri, English Constitution, since 1878, doing yeoman service in the early days of that lodge. His kindly disposition and readiness to extend a helping hand to those less fortunate endeared him to all who knew him. His Masonic brethren accorded him the last service prior to cremation yesterday at Waikumete. Captain W. H. Feldon, W.M., of Lodge Te Awamutu, conducted the service assisted by Mr. A. Eady, W.M,. of Lodge Prince of Wales. 
Source: Auckland Star, Volume LVII, Issue 72, 26 March 1926, Page 10

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Ulster Championship 1952: A Welshman wins


The 2014 Ulster Senior Championship, held over the August Bank Holiday weekend, was won by Gabor Horvath, who hails from Hungary but was eligible to compete for the title under a residence qualification. In 1931-1932 the local chess clubs went through a process of formally founding the Ulster Chess Union and establishing an Ulster Championship. Rule 1 of the Rules adopted in 1931 for the Ulster Championship stated:

“1. The championship shall be open to chess players born in the Province of Ulster, or who are, and have been, for more than twelve months resident therein.”

The rules have had the odd tweak since then but, as far as I am aware, twelve months residence has always been sufficient. Indeed a number of players, including (now IM) Brian Kelly, have qualified to play and win the title under the residence qualification.

A Time Traveller article, originally published in August 2002, had featured another Ulster Champion who had come to live in Northern Ireland.

Ulster Championship 1952: A Welshman wins

10 competitors entered the 1952 Ulster Championship. The 1951 champion W. D. Kerr was not defending his title, but two former winners, R. A. Heaney (1946) and G. A. Kearney (1950) were taking part. Perhaps the most interesting entry was that of Miss H. F. Chater, the first woman ever to enter the Ulster Championship. She was the aunt of the Vice-Chancellor of Queen's University, Sir Eric Ashby, and had come to Northern Ireland to live with her nephew. She was qualified to compete in the Championship by having been resident in Ulster for the required period of a year. As we shall see the eventual winner of the Championship also qualified by residence.

The tournament was a nine-round all-play-all. After seven rounds the leader was Robert Jones, who had only dropped half-a-point up to that stage. In Round 8 his two main rivals, Heaney and G. J. Boyd had to meet, with Heaney proving victorious. At the same time, Jones suffered a surprising defeat to Miss Chater and lost the lead to Heaney. However, the luck of the draw had paired Jones and Heaney in the last round, so it was still all to play for.

The Ireland's Saturday Night for 12th April 1952 takes up the story:

In the final for the Ulster Championship R. Jones, with a score of 6.5 met R. A. Heaney, who had 7.0 to his credit. The game was a Queen's Gambit Declined. Heaney, with Black adopted the Orthodox Defence, and a keen struggle resulted, which went to 66 moves, when Black resigned. Mr. Jones thus becomes Ulster champion at the first attempt. He won the Intermediate Championship earlier in the season, which is a record.

Final scores: R. Jones 7.5; R. A. Heaney 7.0; G. J. Boyd 6.5; T. C. Gallery 6.0; A. W. Turner and G. A. Kearney 4.0; F. E. Wallace and Miss H. F. Chater 3.5; J. B. Steen 2.0; J. W. B. Dodson 1.5.

The new champion is a Welshman, who taught in Eastbourne Grammar School until the war, when he joined up. After the war he came to Belfast, and is in business here. He is also studying at Queen's for his Arts Degree.
[Event "Ulster Ch"] [Site "Belfast"] [Date "1952.??.??"] [Round "5"] [White "Jones, R."] [Black "Turner, A.W."] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "D56"] [PlyCount "55"] [EventDate "1952.02.??"] [EventType "tourn"] [EventRounds "9"] [EventCountry "IRL"] [Source "David McAlister"] [SourceDate "2008.03.19"] 1. Nf3 d5 2. c4 e6 3. d4 c6 4. Nc3 Nf6 5. Bg5 Be7 6. e3 Nbd7 7. Bd3 h6 8. Bh4 O-O 9. O-O dxc4 10. Bxc4 Nd5 {A common variation of the Queen's Gambit Declined has been arrived at by transposition. Here White usually exchanges Bishops.} 11. Bg3 f5 12. Nxd5 exd5 (12... cxd5 {might have been better, leaving support for the f-pawn, which now becomes an object of attack.}) 13. Bd3 Nf6 14. h3 Ne4 15. Bh2 {Having refused an even exchange, White will not let his Bishop go for the Knight.} g5 16. Ne5 Qe8 17. f3 Nf6 18. Qc2 Nh5 19. g4 Ng7 20. f4 Bd6 21. fxg5 hxg5 22. Rf3 Bxe5 {The exchange brings White's dark-squared Bishop to the attack, which soon becomes irresistible.} 23. Bxe5 fxg4 24. Rxf8+ Qxf8 25. Rf1 Qe7 26. Bh7+ Kh8 27. Qg6 Be6 28. Qh6 {Black resigned as the threatened discovered check will be followed by mate.} 1-0

Game annotations from the Ireland's Saturday Night for 12th April 1952

Starting again

At the beginning of the new millennium, I started a website called the Ulster Chess Chronicle. It was a mix of chess results, news, articles and history. More recently I hived off the news into another blog, NI Chess News, and this also gave me an opportunity to add there a few personal comments on the NI chess scene.

I've now decided to re-start the history part here. Brand new posts on the history of Ulster chess will appear here, but my present intention is to incorporate all the old material here also - though I've not yet worked out how best to do that!