The Bunratty tournament in Ireland is one of the highlights of the chess year and always attracts an impressive field. This year grandmasters Luke McShane and Mark Hebden shared first prize on 5/6 in the main event. It is traditional in Bunratty that, although prize money can be shared, the title must go to a sole victor. McShane, accordingly, demolished Hebden 2-0 in a play-off. Places 3-8 were shared by Nigel Short, David Howell, Matthew Turner, Adam Hunt, Bogdan Lalic and David Fitzsimons.
McShane’s play was characterised by a fierce will to win. During the game which preceded the following extract he had already declined a draw in a slightly worse position. His determination paid off and was rewarded with the full point.
McShane-Turner: Bunratty Masters 2019 (See diagram 1)
Here 52 ... Rb2 is very good for Black but instead he blunders. 52 ... Rb1 53 Re8+ Kf5 54 Rxe4 Bxf2 Black can still draw with 54 ... Ba5 (not 54 ... Kxe4 55 Nd2+) 55 Rd4 Rd1 56 Rd5+ Kf4 57 Rxa5 Kxf3 as White, despite the extra piece, cannot untangle 55 Kxf2 Rb2+ 56 Nd2 Rxd2+ 57 Bxd2 Kxe4 58 Kg3 h4+ 59 Kf2 f5 60 Bc1 Kd4 61 Bg5 Kc3 62 Ke1 Kc2 63 Bd2 Kb3 64 Kd1 Kc4 65 Bg5 Kd4 66 Kd2 Ke4 67 Bxh4 f4 68 Be1 Kd4 69 Bf2+ Ke4 70 Bb6 Kf3 71 h4 Kg4 72 Bf2 Black resigns
Nigel Short, the newly appointed Fidé vice-president, started off well but faded with several draws towards the end. Against his young opponent in the following game, Short was merciless in picking off exposed pawns.
Li-Short: Bunratty Masters 2019 (See diagram 2)
30 ... N5xa4 31 Nf3 Nc5 32 Nh4 Qe8 33 fxe5 N5e4 34 Qe1 dxe5 35 Bd3 Bd6 36 Rc2 Nc5 37 Bc4 a4 38 Bxc5 Rxc5 White resigns
Mark Hebden played with great flair and a typical example was the pawn sacrifice which led to the ensuing attack.
Hebden-Heidenfeld: Bunratty Masters 2019 (See diagram 3)
26 g5 f5 27 Re5 Bf8 28 Rxf5 Qe6 29 h5 Be7 30 g6 Rf8 30 ... h6 is the best try. 31 Rxf8+ Rxf8 32 Qg3 hxg6 Suicidal. 32 ... Rf6 keeps Black in the game. 33 hxg6 Rf6 34 Re1 Qd6 35 Qh4 Black resigns 35... Rxg6 36 Qxe7 wins.