After a string of excellent results against the top teams in the division, the Heidenfeld started into a run of games against the weaker sides with a trip to Rathmines last night. However, the night almost turned to disaster before we rallied to claim “just” a 3½-4½ defeat.
Rathmines managed to put out about their strongest team of the season for the match, with no players below 1000 for only the second time in six games. Despite that, we still out-rated our opponents on the majority (5) of boards for the first time all season, with the expected score working out at 4½-3½ to us.
It didn’t quite work out that way though. Ger – claiming brain-mushiness from too much beginners’ coaching in Raphaela’s! – allowed a knight into d6 with check, got his king stuck in the middle as a result, lost a couple of pawns in the ensuing tactics and threw in the towel fairly early on.
The other boards were going ok though. Ross, Michael and Harry were all material up, Brendan and Ciarán had strong attacks and myself and Desmond at least had some compensation for material deficits. But then it all went spectacularly wrong…
Desmond and Brendan both dropped pieces – Brendan’s opponent missed a free pawn straight after, which would have been curtains – while Ross, who’d used 90 minutes on his first 12 moves, was suddenly facing a strong attack on his uncastled king. Harry was an exchange and a pawn up, but was down to his last ten minutes against an opponent with close on an hour on his clock and – as is Harry’s wont – was showing no signs at all of acknowledging the time pressure. Ciarán’s position went awry as soon as he cashed in to gain material, overlooking a fairly nasty counter-attack which seemed to re-gain the material with interest, while Michael’s opponent managed to swap off queens, denting a lot of his pressure. Had things continued as they did in that half hour, we’d have been looking at a potential 8-0…
But we rallied. Ciarán’s opponent – maybe happy to have squirmed out of a nasty position – immediately offered a draw, which was snapped up. Ross and Desmond both lost, Desmond after opting into an ending a rook down, which he dragged out for way longer than he had a right to, let alone against someone 500 points higher-rated, and it was 3½-½. Desmond, curiously, recorded our first loss on board 8 all season; an impressive stat when you look at the amount of subs we’ve been using this season!
By this stage, I could sense that my opponent was becoming frustrated at his lack of progress a pawn up – I got some decent counter-play and was trying to work out whether to swap off to Q+4 v 2R+4 with a probable perpetual, or whether to go for the full point. This involved trying to work out what was going on on the other boards too; we went into the match level with Rathmines one place above the drop, and every half point was vital. In the end, I figured going for the win was too risky and settled for the draw. It proved the correct decision within five minutes as Harry finished off the win with three minutes remaining on his clock while Brendan – still a piece down – somehow conjured up a strong attack which ended in mate.
Last to finish was Michael, who had gotten to a rook ending a pawn up – there was still a lot of work to do to convert the win, but as both players were low on time, he settled for a draw. 3½-4½ almost seemed like a win after a horrible mid-section!
So the league table looks like this now –
We play Drogheda and Tallaght in the space of nine days in January, which will tell us a lot about whether we’ll stay up or not. We could do without another night like last night though!