Smile of Fortune

Brown BullThe latest Checkers Irish Open 2022 was held in the north of Ireland in the small village of Moville at the end of October. The tournament took place right on the eve of the colourful Halloween holiday, whose history just starts from Ireland and Scotland and goes back to the ancient Celtic traditions. The holiday is celebrated on the eve of All Saints' Day, it is considered the only day of the year when the spirits of the dead can return to earth.
Competitions were held in two groups, with a total of 31 competitors. Unfortunately, this year’s entry list was much weaker than in the past Irish Open 2021. A number of the strongest players in the world flocked to Ireland last year, hungry for the game due to the pause caused by the Covid pandemic - Sergio Scarpetta and Luciano Negrone from Italy, Alex Moiseyev from America and from France the Scotsman William Docherty. The only 2 foreigners, apart from the Scots, who came here this time were Nadiya Chyzhevska from Ukraine and myself from Germany. However, it was the biggest English-American Checkers event in Europe this year. Swiss system, 8 rounds. The venue for the tournament was the authentic „Trawlerman Bar“, an Irish pub.

The game time control was the same as in the last year: 1,5 hours for both games without adding extra time for each move. This is a very convenient control for referees as it makes it easy to set the start of the subsequent round. It is difficult only for the players in case of a difficult ending because it is not clear how to use the time and possible conflict situations related to playing for time.

14 checkers players competed in our strongest master group. Among them were 3 grandmasters - Irishmen Shane McCosker and Hugh Devlin, as well as the former female world champion Nadiya Chyzhevska. On this tournament fortune smiled at me at last. I had luck as never before in my entire sporting life. Checkers is not a race where the fastest one always wins. Here it is necessary that the opponent makes a mistake at least once. Only skills are not enough. And no matter how hard you play, you can't win without your rival making a mistake. Luck was clearly on my side. My opponents made mistakes and I managed to use almost all their mistakes. When I did not exploit their first mistake, they made a second one. In recent years I’ve always managed to lose in the last rounds of the Swiss system draw and immediately fell sharply down the crosstable. In this tournament I did not lose a single game and never even got into a critical situation. Finally I won with a huge margin of 5(!) points from my next pursuers and the result was +11 =5 -0 or 27 points. Interestingly, last year at the same tournament I scored only 50% (+3 =10 -3). Progress is tremendous – a great jump forewards.

Bill Docherty, in congratulating me on my victory, wrote:
Hahaha....remember what Aime Jacquet said about the French team when they won the 98 world cup. Something along the lines of "luck is only proportional to the amount of time training and skill one has."

The only lady in the tournament performed superbly, scoring the same number of points as the Irish grandmasters, drawing both of them and losing only by the coefficient - 2. Shane McCosker, 3. Hugh Devlin, 4. Nadiya Chyzhevska - all 22 points.

Crosstable of Masters

Crosstable of Seniors

The closing ceremony of the tournament in Moville was very mundane and could not be compared with the solemn and memorable closing of the checkers tournaments in Chianciano, Italy this year. Everyone was in a hurry to go home. Cups in the form of tablets were quickly distributed to the winners and envelopes with cash prizes were presented. I managed to hold on and take a picture with the Challenge Irish Checkers Silver Cup from a long time ago. The organizers plan to donate it to a museum in Dublin.

I had heard that there was big prize money awaiting the winners of the tournament and the organizers had found a sponsor. So after my triumph in such a representative tournament, I expected to at least cover my travel expenses. However, my disappointment was great when I found only 150€ in my 1st place envelope. With a mandatory entry fee of 40€, the prize was only 110€, which covered only one fifth of my "low cost" trip. Of course, such prizes do not encourage top players from other countries to come here.

I look with sadness at the situation with Checkers in its homeland. The old guard is gradually leaving, and the new one does not appear. There is no work with youth, there is no advertising and information on the internet. I don't see a future for Checkers here. But it was different just 40 years ago: Watch the video

I think that the future of Checkers is in Africa now. They have a whole galaxy of young high-class players. If they manage to find sponsorship or get government support for travel to competitions, they will gradually begin to dominate the checkers.

I play Checkers not for money, but for pleasure, and in general I was very pleased with my trip to Ireland. It turned out to be a fascinating and informative journey, full of new experiences, unexpected surprises and interesting meetings.

I had luck to be invited by my old Irish friend Garrett Owens. We have known each other for a long time. Together we have taken part in several tournaments - the 1st and 2nd World Mind Sports Games in Beijing and Lille. I visited him for 3 days before the competition. Garrett showed me the real Ireland. The house where he lived, I would even say - a two-story palace, Garrett built for himself with his own hands. A beautiful project, spacious rooms, lots of light. It is situated 5 km from the nearest town. One- and two-storey houses located here mainly along the road. Everyone in the neighbourhood knows each other, helps and communicates. They are all happy with their life there and do not want to live in the city for anything. I am a city person and it is very unusual for me. In my successful performance at the championship, there is certainly Garrett's merit. I played a lot of practice games with him and he warmed me up well before the tournament.

Garrett showed me the most interesting and exotic places in two lovely small towns. I especially liked the amazing medieval Carlingford. There we first visited the ruins of the King John's Castle, then we climbed up the hill, from there a stunning panorama of the bay opens and a view across to Northern Ireland. This is already the UK, which after Brexit is no longer Europe. The bay is home to many oyster farms. The town hosts oyster festivals during the summer.

After that we went down to the folklore park with leprechauns and fairy undeground cave. According to legend, leprechauns still live in Carlingford – these are little men - gnomes, who hide their pots of gold in the place where the rainbow ends, touching the ground. There is also a statue of the famous „Brown Bull“ in the park – the hero of mythological epic of Ireland. His figures are often found in the country. From time to time the city organizes events to search for leprechauns to attract tourists.

And of course the town itself is very well-kept and pretty. We visited a few of Garrett’s favorite pubs. There is some special and cozy atmosphere, conducive for relaxed conversation. In the evening, I rode Garrett's electric bike and we also walked along the seashore.

The next day Garrett showed me the highlights of another town, Dundalk. It is much larger, more impressive,and the houses are taller. Here we toured the police building, the Marshall Shopping Centre. Garrett gave me a number of historical facts. He told me about and showed me the Memorial to the fallen warriors during the World War. The monument still causes constant discussions, as the soldiers fought on the side of England. In the central library, he picked up the 2008 folder of the central local newspaper from the archive and proudly showed me an article about himself with a large photo. So, my guide was a local celebrity. He was constantly greeted by various people in the town. At St. Patrick's Cathedral we placed candles. In the visitors' book Garrett also wrote that he wished that his friend Igor Martynov would win the upcoming Irish Open 2022. I laughed at the time, but as further events showed, they up there in Heaven had read this entry!!!

Then Garrett showed me perhaps the coolest place in Ireland, Fitzpatrick's Bar and restaurant, which has a large collection of ghosts just in time for Halloween Eve. Wonderful company, one more beautiful than the other! There, at the restaurant, Garrett treated me to a delicious dish - Fitzpatrick's Seafood Chowder. As I understood, it's a soup of five types of seafood.

During the entire trip, I had many interesting meetings and informative conversations. There are no chance meetings. Every person in our life is either a test, or a gift, or a punishment.
One evening we spent together talking with Nadiya and her friend Irina, also from Ukraine. It was very interesting to learn about the situation in their country from direct witnesses of these events.
Another evening I talked to a neighbour in a bar. To my surprise, he had not only heard about Riga and Latvia, but had also visited them. It turned out that his son was married to a Latvian woman. They had already visited her parents several times and travelled to beautiful places in Latvia.
The most surprising encounter I had was on the bus back to Dublin. A young Irishman with a thick book in his hands sat next to me. After a while, I took a closer look and read the title of his book: «Crime and Punishment». Waw, it was the famous novel of the Russian writer Dostoevsky! We chatted with him all the way. The drive was long - through the country 5 hours, sunny day, we sat in front with a good view. We both enjoyed it immensely.

I spent one day in Dublin, but my adventures did not end there. Apparently, I contracted Covid on the plane and got a positive PCR test three days after arriving home. House arrest for 5 days. I spent three days in bed exhausted, with fever, headache and cough, and then felt better. Nevertheless, I was glad that I did not catch the virus before or during the trip, but only after. Fortune has smiled on me again!

More my pictures you can find in my Irish photo album. Click here

The next game in the last round was the most interesting and dramatic game of the tournament, I sat nearby and could watch the whole game. It was Danny's second victory over Shane this year.

Donald Olyphant - Shane McCosker

1. 10-14 22-17 2. 7-10 17-13 3. 3-7 24-20 4. 14-18 23x14 5. 9x18 26-23 6. 10-14 28-24 7. 11-15 30-26 8. 8-11 23-19 9. 7-10 26-23 10. 4-8 31-26 11. 5-9 (A) 32-28? (B) 12. 2-7? (C) 26-22? (D) 13. 1-5 22-17 14. 18-22 25x18 15. 15x22 19-15 16. 11x18 24-19 17. 7-11 19-15 18. 10x26 17x1 19. 9-14 1-6 20. 26-30 6-9 21. 14-17 (E) 21x14 22. 30-26 (F) 0-1

I had a tough fight with the well-known Irish grandmaster Hugh Devlin. Interestingly, we participated in many competitions together, but played only for the first time.

Igor Martynov - Hugh Devlin

1. 10-15 21-17 2. 9-13 17-14 3. 6-9 24-19 4. 9x18 23x14 5. 15x24 28x19 6. 7-10 14x7 7. 3x10 26-23 8. 11-15 27-24 9. 8-11 23-18 10. 5-9 31-27 11. 2-6 27-23 (A) 12. 13-17 22x13 13. 15x22 25x18 14. 10-15 19x10 15. 6x22 13x6 16. 1x10 23-18 17. 12-16 32-28 18. 4-8 24-20 19. 16-19 30-25 20. 22-26 25-21 21. 26-30 21-17 22. 19-23 18-14 23. 10-15 14-10 24. 23-27 10-7 25. 8-12 7-3 26. 27-32 (B) 3-8 27. 32-27 17-14 28. 27-23 14-10 29. 30-26 10-6 30. 26-22 6-2 31. 23-18 2-6 32. 18-14 6-2 33. 22-17 28-24 34. 17-13 24-19 35. 15x24 8x15 ½

Tired after the exciting first game, Hugh made a blunder in the second.

Hugh Devlin – Igor Martynov

1. 10-15 21-17 2. 9-13 17-14 3. 6-9 24-19 4. 9x18 23x14 5. 15x24 28x19 6. 7-10 14x7 7. 3x10 26-23 8. 11-15 27-24 9. 8-11 25-21 10. 5-9 30-25 11. 1-5 22-18 12. 15x22 25x18 13. 9-14 18x9 14. 5x14 29-25 15. 11-15 25-22 16. 4-8? (A) 24-20 17. 15x24 22-18 0-1

Igor Martynov - Danny Olyphant

1. 11-16 24-20 2. 16-19 23x16 3. 12x19 22-18 4. 10-14 18-15 5. 19-23 26x19 6. 7-11 15-10 7. 6x24 28x19 8. 1-6 25-22 9. 6-10 22-17 10. 9-13 30-26 11. 13x22 26x17 12. 11-15 27-24 13. 8-12 (A) 29-25? (B) 14. 4-8? (C) 32-28? (D) 15. 8-11 (E) 31-27 16. 5-9 17-13 17. 11-16 1-0

Tom Kee – Igor Martynov

1. 10-14 22-18 2. 6-10 25-22 3. 11-15 18x11 4. 8x15 29-25 5. 9-13 23-18 6. 14x23 27x11 7. 7x16 22-18 8. 4-8? (A) 18-14? (B) 9. 10x17 21x14 10. 8-11 25-22 11. 1-6? (C) 22-18 12. 13-17 32-27 13. 16-20 24-19 14. 6-9 19-15 15. 3-8 15-10 16. 11-16 26-23 17. 17-22 10-6 18. 8-11 6-1 0-1

Igor Martynov - Bill Dobbins

1. 10-15 23-18 2. 6-10 18-14 3. 9x18 24-19 4. 15x24 22x6 5. 1x10 28x19 6. 11-15 27-24 7. 15-18 26-22 8. 2-6 22x15 9. 12-16 19x12 10. 10x28 25-22 11. 8-11 21-17 12. 11-15 29-25 13. 4-8 30-26 14. 8-11 26-23 15. 11-16 23-18? (A) 16. 16-19 18x2 17. 19-23 2x9 18. 5x30 22-17 (B) 19. 30-25 17-14 (C) 20. 23-26 1-0