The Armstrong started off the new season the same way they began the previous three – with victory over Dublin.
It wasn’t quite a repeat of last year’s comfortable 6-1 victory, though – four of the games ended with less than a minute left on the home clock, so this was definitely a tie that could have gone either way.
It started off routinely enough though; John Healy got up and left the room before 9:00, a win under his belt. The win was the club’s 1000th win, excluding walkovers, in the league since 2003/04 (as far back as the LeinsterChess.com archives go). But things were going wrong on the bottom two boards, where myself and Ciarán had 300-400 points to spare over our opponents. Ciarán’s opponent had blundered as early as move 3 in a French Winawer – 1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 c5??, which just gives away a pawn. But there was a long way to go, of course, and as Ciarán tried to consolidate the pawn advantage, his opponent came back into it, throwing in an interesting exchange sac which gave him the bishop pair while Ciarán’s bishop was trapped on a6. Things weren’t much better for me, a pawn down against Paul Guinness and looking at more material loss.
Kevin McHugh was next finished though, going down on board 3 – amazingly, the first time in almost seven years that we’d lost a game at home to Dublin! But we were looking ok on the other boards – Brendan Lyons got a pawn up to c2, and his opponent was forced to give up the exchange to prevent it queening; Brendan was able to convert. Gerry picked up a win on 2 and we were 3-1 up going into the final 20 minutes of the evening.
I was the first of the four to finish, when my opponent retreated his pieces rather than go for the kill; my queen was let penetrate to h2 with check – but I was now two pawns down and with 50 seconds on my clock. I went for the perpetual initially, and my opponent was, I think, about to suggest a draw after the second repetition when I spotted a different line which looked like it might even win. I had to go on instinct…and fortunately was proved right, picking up a queen for knight – but now I had 40 seconds left! I was starting to wonder how to explain snubbing a safe draw with 45 seconds to go and ultimately losing the game on time to Gerry when I managed to swap off my opponent’s last piece, leaving it Q+3 v 3 and my opponent resigned, he apologising for dragging the game on beyond the queen win (no need; I’d have done the same!) and me apologising for an undeserved win (most definitely a need!)
Ciarán finished a roller-coaster game shortly afterwards accepting a draw a piece up with 40 seconds left, but tied down to stop his opponent’s king and rook from pushing a pawn across the line. There was much analysis of the final position afterwards, with the consensus that there was a win in there somewhere, perhaps even in the final position. Zdravko took a draw against Mark Collins and, inspired perhaps, debutante Mel Ó Cinnéide offered Jonathan O’Connor a draw on board 1…but Jonathan politely declined, demonstrating mate in two instead –
Mate wasn’t actually forced, but the alternative was to lose a rook, when the polite thing – especially with four seconds left – would have been to resign anyway.
So a solid start to the season. Next up is Trinity away on the 8th.