A manic week for the club – with all five teams playing in the space of three days – started well last night with a win for the Heidenfeld and, maybe, for the O’Hanlon too.
There was near disaster in the Heidenfeld when it turned out Brendan Cuffe had forgotten about the match entirely. As Tallaght are one of our main relegation rivals, and as a forfeit against their unrated bottom board would have been very annoying, this caused quite the panic for a while! With twenty minutes to the start time, he was reminded about the game, cancelled guitar lessons he was due to give, nabbed a lift from somewhere, got lost…and eventually arrived just in time to see Harry Higgins accepting his opponent’s resignation, the Tallaght player having blundered a piece. Brendan quickly got into a mad line of the Fried Liver (with a white Qf3) and it looked for a while like he could lose quickly, but his opponent was unrated (and on 0/4 for the season), so once Brendan weathered the attack, he was always favourite to win. A nice sac to gain a vital extra pawn in an endgame ultimately proved decisive.
Ronan Sweeney was playing his first league game in almost five years, but rustiness showed as he went down to an 1180-rated player who annoyed him by playing the c3 Sicilian. Within seconds, Ger too resigned; he had opened his opponent’s king up a bit and tried a speculative piece sac, but his opponent forced the queens off first, and then took what amounted to a free piece. Ciarán’s recent study of pawn endings for this site stood him in good stead as he correctly calculated a N+4 v N+3 ending, allowing his opponent a passed pawn which could just be stopped by the knight, while Mariusz had a good attack going, apparently missed a win and had to settle for perpetual in the end.
So we were 3½-2½ up with the last two games entering time scrambles, and we really couldn’t afford to lose to a side just three points below us in the table. Michael, however, had done something I’ve never, ever seen him do – got crushed in the opening, and ended up a piece down. He managed to get an exchange for it (by force apparently) and the game got quite interesting actually, with all the major pieces (bar black’s rook) on the board. Michael got a lot of pressure, missed a straightforward win (as did his opponent!), and then missed another less obvious win with 90 seconds left (to swap off to Q, R+5 v Q, R+4), but put his queen on the wrong square, which allowed his opponent to queen (actually, he ended up being mated instead).
The last game to finish was my own, in which I got a nice position against Terry Fayne, who played the Reti to avoid the fun gambit line of the French we’d played in Bunratty a couple of years ago and which he figured I’d been studying in advance of this game (he was right!) He got a backwards position and then trying to free himself, he hung an exchange. He did manage to double my pawns around my king and have two knights swarming, which was really head-wrecking given I was into my last five minutes, but the Christmas blitz last week stood me in good stead and I did finally manage to break through, aided by the fact that his two knights were a bit immobile as they were defending each other, and I could afford to swap rook for both, so he was fairly tied down.
That’s the first game in round 8 in the Heidenfeld, so we won’t know for sure where we stand for another week or so. All we do know is that we now have a four point gap over Tallaght, who have yet to face the all-conquering Celbridge side.
The O’Hanlon, meanwhile, bounced back from the weekend’s disappointing loss to Curragh with an amazing result against Dublin. Dan and Desmond won against 1450 and 1324 respectively, which means the site’s Top Five wins and needs to change to Top Tens just to include any wins with under a 500-point rating gap! Nicky also recorded an excellent win, while Eddie and Odhrán lost.
The last game saw Ross reach 7P v N+4 but with 30 seconds left, when he offered a draw. His opponent accepted, but afterwards, it turned out that his opponent thought he was accepting Ross’ resignation! The players had started to analyse the position, and it couldn’t be reconstructed as Ross wasn’t taking moves down, and Dublin’s player hadn’t his glasses with him, so wasn’t writing the moves down legibly! Dublin have claimed a win – which would leave the score 3-3 – while we’re pondering an appeal. Regardless of what happens though, the performance against the team second in the league is highly commendable and gives us hopes again of a remarkable survival.