It was a busy night for the club last night with 12 games down for decision – eleven of which were against Bray. The one which wasn’t saw the conclusion of an amazing tie as Kevin McHugh’s victory ensured a 4-4 draw against Gonzaga. The draw leaves Rathmines A in pole position to win the league for the first time in five seasons, but more importantly establishes a nice barrier between us and the bottom two. After including other round 8 results so far, the table looks like this –
Rathmines B v Trinity is the only outstanding result; Rathmines A play Kilkenny in two weeks’ time, while Dublin may regain three points on appeal. We’ll probably have a four point gap to the relegation zone ahead of our next game, at home to Elm Mount B.
Playing alongside Kevin was the BA. Captain Eddie Gahan reports that it was a bit of a get-out-of-jail-free night though. He himself “ballsed it up” and lost. Ed Tobin and Michael Kearney accepted draws in lost positions. Harry was a pawn up and maybe should have won but ended with a draw, while Brendan won on time after his opponent’s flag fell in a completely drawn position. His opponent could maybe have claimed a draw, but of course once your flag falls, it’s only a draw if your opponent doesn’t have mating material; any technical draw claims must be made before your flag falls. Brendan’s win moves him onto 6/7 for the BA; a board prize is coming into view there.
As with last time, it would have been nice to pull further ahead, but not letting rivals (Bray were fifth) catch up is just as important. Every title challenge has one slip-up; if that was ours, it didn’t harm us too badly. We now have a 7½ point gap to third-placed Inchicore, who play Dún Laoghaire on Thursday, while it’s 6 points back to Ballinasloe A, who were away to Rathmines B last weekend. I’ll ask the BA controller if he can provide a sneak round 7 update in the next couple of days. The BAs play Dún Laoghaire next.
While Bray’s BA went to Benildus, our Ennis went to Bray. A serious crash on the M11 at the Bray north exit meant traffic was backed up for miles; we decided to be clever and head via Shankill only to find everyone else was doing that as well. To their credit, Bray very sportingly agreed to hold off starting the clocks until we arrived (just past 8), and play 1:30 each. The games were generally fairly topsy-turvy affairs; Ray Bowe won a pawn but was first to finish after losing a rook – his opponent, Vincent Denard, was playing his third match of the season against St Benildus, having lost against both our Bodley teams. On board 6, Dan O’Brien looked in all sorts of trouble as his opponent had three pawns and a rook for two pieces and three connected pawns racing towards promotion, pushing back everything in their path. However, his opponent seemed not to push home his initiative and the game ended in a draw with material back at R+P each. White’s pawn had been on f7 for a good while at this stage, but white never got around to getting his king up to support the final push home.
On 4, Kevin May had a nice win against Mervyn Honner after saccing two pieces for a rook and a pawn to drag Mervyn’s king out into the open. Ger’s opponent seemed to neglect development entirely, so Ger launched a king-side attack which, once it broke through, was unstoppable. Ciarán got into all kinds of trouble in a curious French line (1. e4 e6 2. c4) and was heading for defeat when his opponent overlooked a tactic which cost a piece, and the game soon followed – see diagram below.
Black has just played 29. … Rhe8. It’s actually a game-losing blunder – f5 is equal, even though white has the rook pair and seems to have more activity against the opposition king. Ciaran thought he was setting a trap, and white duly fell into it – 30. Nc6+ QxN?? 31. QxQ?? PxQ and black went on to win. Better was 31. PxQ! RxQ 32.Rxb7+ Kc8 33.Ra2 Re6 34.Raxa7 Rxc6 35.Rxf7 Kb8 36.Rxg7 and the power of the rook pair is shown.
The full game with a few comments went like this –
Ruane, Ciaran (1531) v Janowski, Tom (1309), Ennis Shield, 25 Jan ’12
1.e4 e6 2.c4 d5 3.exd5 exd5 4.Nc3 d4 5.Ne4 Bf5 6.Qe2 Qe7 7.d3 Bxe4 8.dxe4 Qb4+ 9.Qd2 Qb6? [9…Nf6] 10.a3 c5 11.e5 Ne7 12.Bd3 Nbc6 13.f4 0-0-0? [13…Na5] 14.Nf3 h6 15.0-0 g6 [15…Na5] 16.Qe1 Bg7? [16…Nf5 17.Bxf5+ gxf5 18.Qd1] 17.Rb1 Qc7 18.b4 cxb4? [18…Nf5] 19.axb4 Kb8? [19…Nf5] 20.Ba3? [20.b5 Na5 21.Bd2+-] 20…Rd7 21.b5 Nd8 22.Bd6? [22.c5] 22…Rxd6 23.exd6 Qxd6 24.Rf2? [24.Ne5] 24…Ne6 25.g3 Nc5 26.Ne5 Nxd3? [26…Rf8] 27.Nxd3 Nf5? [27…Qa3] 28.Qe4? [28.c5] 28…Ne3 29.Ne5? [29.c5] 29…Re8? [29…f5= 30.Qd3 Bxe5 31.fxe5 Qxe5] 30.Nc6+ Qxc6 31.Qxc6?? [31.bxc6 Rxe4 32.Rxb7+ Kc8 33.Ra2+- Re6 34.Raxa7 Rxc6 35.Rxf7 Kb8 36.Rxg7 Nxc4] 31…bxc6 32.bxc6+ Kc7 33.Rb7+ Kxc6 34.Rxf7 Rb8 [34…Bf8] 35.h3? [35.Ra2] 35…Rb1+ 36.Kh2 Rb7 37.Rxb7 Kxb7 38.g4 Nxc4 [38…d3!] 39.Kg2 d3 40.Kf3 d2 41.Rf1 Nb2 42.Ke2 d1Q+ 43.Rxd1 Nxd1 44.Kxd1 a5 45.Kc2 Kc6 46.Kb3 Kd5 47.Ka4 Bc3 48.f5 gxf5 49.gxf5 Ke5 0-1
Ciarán is now on 7/8 for the Ennis – six straight wins after starting with two draws.
I had my most enjoyable game of the season to date, finally winning a King’s Gambit game in something approaching proper King’s Gambit style –
Burke, Kevin (1617) v Brisson, Benjamin (1486), Ennis Shield, 25 Jan ’12
1. e4 e5 2. f4 Nc6 3. Nf3 Bc5
A line I hate; the bishop can make castling quite difficult, although here 2. … exf is better for black than Nc6. In the game, I aimed to swap the bishop off as soon as possible; Fritz gives the following as grand for white – 4. fxe NxP 5. NxN Qh4+ 6. g3 QxP+ 7. Qe2 QxR 8. Ng6+ Ne7 9. NxR (D)
Positions like these are why I like the King’s Gambit so much! Unfortunately, I didn’t see Qe2 – partly because I wasn’t looking for it; anything with Qh4+ and Qxe4+ is usually bad! – and partly because I just played to my plan, which is about level.
4. Nc3 d6 5. Na4 Bg4 6. NxB PxN 7. Bc4
Fritz wants to play 7. d3 here instead, protecting the f-pawn. It doesn’t seem in the spirit of the opening though!
7. … BxN?!
This exchange is usually good for white.
8. QxB Nd4
Here, I spent 20 minutes looking at 9. Bxf7 or Qh5. Unfortunately, 9. Qh5 fails to Nxc2+, when after 10. Kd1, Ne3+ picks up the bishop as the pawn is pinned. Any other king move allows the queen to defend f7, while I didn’t have enough material out to make the tempting f7 sac work, so I humbly retreated, happy with my bishop pair and material equality, and down quite a bit of time in a shorter time-control game.
9. Qd1 exf 10. O-O f3!? 11. c3 Qg5?
This looks threatening, but it goes nowhere. Black needs to finish development with Nf6.
12. Rf2 Ne2+ (D)
Fritz doesn’t like this, saying I should take the knight and regain my pawn with a clear advantage. At the time, I didn’t see why I should give up my best piece when the knight can’t stay on e2 anyway (it’s hanging after RxP). It seems the problem is black’s c5-pawn. Fritz suggests 13. BxN PxB 14. QxP O-O-O 15. d3 Qg6 16. Rf5 c5 17. d4 and the c-pawn dies.
13. … NxB 14. Qa4+
Again, not a plan Fritz likes. I’m committing myself to the f7 sac (14. … c6 15. RxN b5 and black has a piece for a pawn). It turns out the f7 sac isn’t sound though, and I basically wind up a piece down with not enough compensation. The main problem is that black’s knight on c1 is actually holding his position together – it stops the queen check on b3, from where the queen would invade on b7 with an advantage. I’d been looking at following up with RxP+ and Qc4+, but it’s not as strong. While I waste time capturing the knight, black plays Nf6 and gets his king to safety.
14. … c6 15. Bxf7+? Ke7??
Fortunately – as so often happens – my opponent believed my attack and I’m back in the game. There’s an interesting book in the club library called Pawn Sacrifice, where the author says sacs are often far more effective than they should be, mainly for purely psychological reasons. His thread throughout the book is to hell with Fritz; play for complications and you’ll have more fun. In retrospect, I may have pushed it here though!
16. RxN PxP+? 17. RxP Qe5 18. Rg1 (D)
Now after 18. … KxB comes 19. Qb3+ Ke8 20. Qxb7 Rd8 21. Qxc6+ and white is starting to rack up enough compensation for the piece.
18. … b5?
This lets white’s queen invade into black’s position.
19. Qa6 KxB 20. Qxc6?!
I didn’t really like 20. Qb7+ Ne7 21. Rxg7+ QxR 22. RxQ+ KxR 23. QxN+, when I’ve Q+6 v 2R+5. Fritz tells me not to be silly and that black’s pawns are going to start falling (giving +4.5). 21. Rf1+ is better again though (+7). The text is to improve on the first line by stopping 20. … Ne7, when Rf1+ is winning, and also to cut off the d6 square for the king (so I’m now threatening 21. Qb7+ Ne7 22. Rf1+ and the king has to go onto the back rank, when both rooks fall). However, it does allow black time to defend, although I’m still winning (+2.8). He needs to play 20. … Re8; anything else is crushing. Black’s reply is mate in nine, for example.
20. … Ne7?? 21. Rf1+ Nf5
After 21. … Qf6, white wins with 22. Rxg7+! KxR 23. QxQ+ Kg8 24. Qf7#
22. RxN+ QxR 23. PxQ?
It’s not often taking a free queen is “weak”, but here, it loses the mating thread, which starts off with Qc7+, forcing the king to the back rank. And then taking the queen.
23. … Rhe8 24. Qd7+ Kf6
It’s easy after 24. … Re7 25. Rxg7+ KxR 26. QxR+
25. Qxg7+ KxP 26. Rf2+ Ke4 27. Re2+
Again, missing mating lines, but the text picks up a rook. 26. d3+ leads to mate. 26. … KxP 27. Qd7+ Ke3 28. Qf5 Rf8 29. Qxc5+ Kd3 30. Qd4#
27. … Kd3 28. RxR RxR 29. Qd7+ Kc2 30. QxR 1-0
Actually, the game went on another 10 moves until I threatened to get a third queen, but I don’t think anyone wants to see that!
Our next game is the eve of the third anniversary of my last Ennis defeat! 21-5-1 is my Ennis record over the past four seasons (having missed last season due to being in the Heidenfeld). More importantly, we’re now 5 points clear of third and 5½ clear of fourth, who play each other next week. We really shouldn’t be strong enough to be challenging for promotion, especially with so many subs used, but the wheels are stubbornly refusing to fall off. Granted, if we get promoted, we’ll get hammered as badly if not worse than last year in the Heidenfeld, but we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it!