With the O’Hanlon winning again and the Bodley B taking a point off runaway league favourites Gonzaga, last night’s league action was quite satisfactory overall.
The Bodley had the slightly unusual position of an 8-board match, with three friendlies in addition to the regular five as we both have large enough squads. With Gonzaga’s bottom board being a good 400 points ahead of our top board, a long night was in prospect!
Although we lost the first two boards relatively quickly – Luke-Andrew missed a tactical zwischenzug when he could have settled for strong pressure against a very weak isolated pawn, while Mark learnt the hard way of the dangers of grabbing b2 pawns, when finding his queen immediately trapped – we were battling hard on the other boards, where we were at best 500 points outrated. Cal, on his league debut, played the dreaded Giuco Piano (d3 version), ended up with doubled f-pawns and looked in the usual trouble that opening can get you into. However, he managed to escape into a favourable middlegame where his knight – even on the rim – was better than his opponent’s bishop and his pawns structure was better as well. He wasn’t able to hold the endgame, however, finally going down when B+5 v N+5 became a trivial king and pawn ending. Still, quite a respectable performance given the close on 700 point rating gap!
William on 4 was in a similarly tight game with another 700 point rating gap. He reached B+4 v B+4, with same-coloured bishops, but miscalculated when trying to promote and ended up with a lone bishop against three pawns, and then lone king against two pawns.
On 5 was the first Gonzaga winner of the Benildus charity blitz, a bit of a sore point with us! Looking to restore club honour was Alex Byrne, sandbagged onto board 5 after his giant-killing exploits in the past couple of weeks. And, amazingly, it paid off as Alex played a very nice game, giving his opponent a couple of relatively minor (for board 5 in the Bodley anyway!) weaknesses which he was then able to target. Picking up a pawn – and gaining an outside passed pawn as a result – he had to rush to the other side of the board to head off a pawn-storm from his opponent which was backed up by three major pieces, but when the game reached something like this position –
– his opponent, with his flag hanging, has just played 1. Rg1-g6. With the other rook on h1, it’s a brilliant idea (1. Rg6 PxR 2. QxP QxQ?? 3. PxQ# is a threat, for starters), if not absolutely watertight. Without the rook on h1, however, it’s just a free rook as black has one vital move to avoid the mate threat. Once Alex made that move, white resigned. At this stage, the only thing keeping Alex from getting a monopoly on the Top 10 Wins is that the two best teams are out of the way; it does get a little bit easier after this!
The O’Hanlon were up against Elm Mount in the next room; we looked in danger of a thumping at one stage when Harry dropped an exchange early on, while Stephen lost a pawn and Nicky lost a piece for two pawns. Slowly but surely, though, we started turning it around. Stephen’s bishop for knight gave him enough compensation for the pawn and he agreed a draw. Eddie’s opponent hung a piece and resigned immediately. Dylan, in an adventurous position as usual, won a pawn and removed one of his opponent’s bishop pair which had been pointing threateningly towards his king; he later went up a piece and took the game with it. Odhrán, in a solid position as usual, reached a N+7 v N+6 endgame which – as with most knight endgames – had plenty of play left in it, but he converted the win well. Harry had lost in between, which left just Nicky, who had rustled up a good attack. She got her piece back, but in the meantime her opponent had set up a counter with knight and rook, which was launched immediately. Nicky’s king was short of squares – go to h2 and her opponent had perpetual; go to f2 and her opponent could fork king and queen. Not wanting to settle for a draw after fighting so hard to get back into the game, she chose option b…
There’s a bit of a culture shock in the next game – away to Ballinasloe, with a 2080 on board 1 and 1700s on 2 and 3!