In fact, black was more than ok in tonight’s games in the third round of the Junior Club Championships – every one of the seven games was won by black!
Colm Hehir was stepping up to the top board, but was ultimately no match for an in-form Luke Hayden. Board 1 was last to finish in the first two rounds; not the case here, and Luke is now the only player on a 100% record.
Back-rank mate decided boards 5 and 6 – Conor Ward swapped off when a pawn down but with a big attack going against Luke-Andrew Feeney, made an interesting call to sac a piece for two pawns to get three connected passed queenside pawns…and then fell for the ultimate sucker punch. A similar fate befell the unfortunate Mihailo, who was three pawns up against Jack Donovan but in time trouble when he too overlooked the importance of giving his king air.
On 2, Dan O’Brien set up a massive clash with Luke Hayden next week after beating Jamie Kearns – Dan is the only rated player to have beaten two other rated players (Jack Donovan has also claimed two rated scalps). On 3, Anastasija’s greater endgame experience saw her through against Dylan Boland, arguably the surprise package of the tournament. It went down to five co-ordinated pawns and a piece versus five unco-ordinated pawns and a piece; as Anastasija’s clock ticked down to the last three minutes, she just about remembered how to mate with two queens against a lone king.
That left the first family duel of the tournament – cousins Odhrán and Finn facing off. This was a much closer game than the ratings suggested, and again, it reached a pawns plus minor piece ending. Frank reckons Finn could have sacced his piece to get an unstoppable passed pawn; instead, he sent his king in to clear a path, while Odhrán was doing the same thing on the other side. As it turned out, Odhrán’s bishop was much more adept at holding his position together than Finn’s knight, and it was Odhrán who forced his pawn home for the win.
So three rounds down, two to go. The top two meet next week, with four other players – Odhrán, Anastasija, Jack and Colm – all on 2 and very much in contention for the Frank Scott Shield. Even for those on 1/3, two final wins could see them sneak third place or the grading prize.