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AFTER a one-year gap, there was a much-welcomed return to the tournament circuit for the 6th Oban Chess Congress, held at the weekend at the Royal Hotel in Oban. What started off in 1993 as a way to celebrate the 60th anniversary of Oban Chess Club, soon grew in stature and became a popular "must-play" event for players all around the country.
With some generous support from Argyll & Islands Enterprise and the backing of around 20 local businesses, the congress director, Jonathan Davies, and his enthusiastic committee, put together yet another memorable weekend. With tournament attendance's falling throughout the UK, Oban always manages to buck the trend due to the local hospitality and a whole host of social events.
This year 144 competitors (just three down on their high of 1994), not to mention accompanying wives, girlfriends, family and friends (most of whom filled out the Royal Hotel for the weekend), turned up for a fun-filled three-day event, which combines play with opportunities for socialising: Quiz Night, Tenpin bowling and let's not forget the traditional Oban Ceilidh, where the competitors were encouraged to have "a wee swally or two" - just to make for more interesting play!
The main tournament, the Harper's Open, was won by IM Stephen Mannion. Each of the four tournament winners, Stephen Mannion, Donald Heron, Frank Murray and James Hanley received, as in previous years, a unique memento of their weekend in Oban with superb glass trophies, specially made for the tournament, donated by Caithness Glass.
Harper's Open - 1 IM S Mannion (Cathcart) 4.5/5; 2-3 A Grant (Cathcart) & A Stalker (Holy Cross) 4. O'Donnell's Challengers - 1-3 M Roth (Perth), D Heron (W.Dragons) & S Balmer (Edinburgh) 4/5. Halfway Filling Station's Major - 1 F Murray (Cathcart) 4.5/5; 2-4 D Malcolm (Troon), R Birkett (Inverness) & I Johnson 4. Royal Hotel's Minor - 1-2 M Monaghan (Cumbernauld) & J Hanley 4.5/5; 3-4 L Baker (Glasgow Montrose) & D Cubitt (Edinburgh) 4.
A fittingly entertaining last round game to win the Open from IM Stephen Mannion. The speculative piece sacrifice in the opening, which gives White a menacing phalanx of pawns storming up the board as compensation, was the invention of the legendary Soviet openings expert and leading player of his day, Yefim Geller.
S Mannion - E Horton Oban Congress, (5) French Defence 1 e4 e6 2 d4 d5 3 Nd2 a6 4 Ngf3 c5 5 exd5 exd5 6 Be2 c4 7 0-0 Bd6 8 b3 b5 9 a4 c3 10 axb5 cxd2 11 Bxd2 Nf6 12 c4 0-0 13 c5 Be7 14 b4 Ne4 15 Ra3 Bf6 16 Bf4 Bb7 17 Qa1 g5 18 Be5 Bxe5 19 Nxe5 f6 20 Ng4 Nd2 21 Rd1 Nc4 22 Bxc4 dxc4 23 d5 axb5 24 Rxa8 Bxa8 25 Qxa8 f5 26 Ne5 Qf6 27 Nf3 Na6 28 Qb7 c3 29 d6 Nxb4 30 Qxb5 c2 31 Rc1 Qb2 32 Qc4+ Rf7 33 Re1 Nd3 34 d7 Nxe1 35 d8Q+ Kg7 36 Qxg5+ Kf8 37 Nxe1 Qb1 38 Qh6+ Kg8 39 Qhe6 1-0
|Oban 1999 Photo Montage by JBH|
|Prizewinners: (l to r) IM Steve Mannion, Donald Heron, James Hanley, Frank Murray|
|IM Steve Mannion receives top prize|
|IM in the money!|