Tim Harding’s War On Gonzaga – Is He Right?
Well, not exactly true to say that Tim Harding has gone to war, but he recently launched a scathing attack on Gonzaga Armstrong Champions for, in effect, being too good!
In a public post he had the following views to express:
Gonzaga beat Bray 5-3 so it’s time to congratulate Gonzaga on winning the Armstrong yet again, with a round to spare again, but something needs to be done about this.
They are averaging almost 6.5 points per match.
Gonzaga seem determined to try and recruit more and more titled players (Stephen Jessel registered but only played in the 4NCL; they’re targetting Alex Lopez now, I hear).
Surely this cannot be healthy for Irish chess to have a situation where the other 11 teams in the Armstrong know from an early stage that they are only competing for the runner-up spot?
Phibsboro are not quite relegated yet but would need to win their last match 8-0 and have both teams above them collapse in the last round.
Here are the pairings for 23 April with current team totals:
Trinity [49.5] v Gonzaga [63.5]
Bray/Greystones [32.5] v Phibsboro 
Balbriggan  v St Benildus 
Rathmines  v Blanchardstown [27.5]
Kilkenny [37.5] v Dublin 
Elm Mount  v Dun Laoghaire [34.5]
But that was only the start of his expression of dissatisfaction, frustration, irritation (?) and exasperation with the champions Gonzaga who he suggests are doing Irish chess no good by being so good. He then proposed a solution to a problem that he alone seems to have identified and come with a solution to.
With a view to making the Armstrong more of an equal and perhaps national competition. I think it is up to:
a) Rival clubs to see what they can do to improve their teams (also in some cases their club playing conditions).
b) Prospective Gonzaga recruits like Jessel & Lopez, and 2300+ players currently unattached to Armstrong clubs (e.g. Mark Heidenfeld, Philip Short, and Ryan Rhys Griffiths if he returns to Ireland) should turn down any invitations from Gonzaga and consider joining other clubs to balance things up a bit.
I realise a lot of these people don’t live in Dublin but a lot of clubs now play their matches on Saturday afternoons…
c) Gonzaga might examine their collective conscience and think of what is best for Irish chess. I understand them wanting to build up eligibility of a stronger team for the European Clubs (which they have now done with French GM Sebastien Maze) but otherwise their overkill policy doesn’t make much sense.
In particular, while one of the great early teenage prospects we have in Ireland (Tom O’Gorman) has been getting great experience playing top board for Dun Laoghaire, his close rival Henry Li is playing much too low because the Gonzaga team is so strong. Henry has played mostly board 4 or 5, but even board 6 in one match and board 7 in another. No other club has a player rated 2200 with FIDE anywhere near as low as that.
Maybe they could lend Henry to another club (NOT Trinity) for a season until their 2nd team (likely to be in the Heidenfeld next year) gets up to the Armstrong. Then have him back as top board for their 2nd team in 2018/2019.
After all they already have Sam Collins (who has two GM norms), Conor O’Donnell (an FM likely to get to IM once he has the Leaving Cert out of the way) and Killian Delaney who is pushing FM standard, as well as some other very useful players of 2000+ who outclass pretty much all the opposition on the lower Armstrong boards.
d) In general, harking back to what I said a few days ago about playing conditions at some matches, maybe LCU should consider making the Armstrong a competition to be played on Saturdays only with good standard conditions, as we have at present only for the final round – proper heated and well-lit playing rooms, all matches to start dead on the scheduled time and using clocks that accommodate time increments.
They could begin by insisting for the 2017/18 season that teams be declared somewhat in advance (say noon on the day by email) to the opposing captains and league controller, as this would end the common practice of hanging around until about 7.25 while lists are exchanged with sometimes tactical switching of board orders based on who can be seen in the room.
Such an improvement of conditions might also induce some strong Dublin players who weren’t in any league team this season (e.g. Peter Cafolla1?) to play in the competition again?
If LCU cannot do more to ensure a level playing field, then they should stop submitting the event for FIDE rating.
The lower divisions could stay the way they are.
On a more worrying note however, Tim also recently indicated that he may well have played his last Armstrong cup evening game (during the week), as he is not at all happy with some aspects of the way matches are played and the circumstances or venue. In relation to a previous comment about his teams recent loss.
DL 4.5 TCD 3.5
Trinity lost for the the first time this season to a revivied Dun Laoire
Hearns, O’Gorman T and Courtney won.
The other 5 were drawn including 3 opposite colour bishops endings.
Tim had this to say:
Thanks for the result since I left after my game. In defence of our team, I should say:
a) We were missing two of our first team regulars (glad to hear the subs got draws).
b) We arrived in the middle of a terrible rainstorm on one of the coldest nights of the year.
c) No keyholder arrived up to let people in until about 7.10 – three of the visitors and some of the home team had to stand in the rain for at least ten minutes.
d) There was absolutely no heating in the playing room (though, curiously, heat did come on eventually in the lobby). Obviously this was the same for everyone but the home team would have been more used to it.
That’s the second time this season I have had to play at an absolutely freezing venue (Bray was the other). This really isn’t good enough in the 21st century.
Probably this is the last time I will play an evening match in the leagues.
So the question becomes: Is He Right? Or does anybody actually care?