The Bodley A had a third big win of the season last night, but it was far closer than the 4-1 scoreline suggests!
Opponents Rathmines started the night half a point behind us in second place, but were missing two players who were each on 2/2, while we had – from boards 1 to 5 – the reigning Bunratty champion, the reigning Galway and Leinster u-14 champion, the 2011 Bunratty runner-up, a player who’d scored 6/10 in the O’Hanlon last season and another Leinster u-14 champion – arguably our strongest Bodley team ever. For the third game in a row, our opponents’ strongest player was lower-rated than our weakest player.
As with the two previous games, things started off well and went a bit pear-shaped before we snatched a result that we maybe didn’t deserve. Mihailo was first finished again, picking up a piece relatively early on, which became a rook and a piece when his opponent didn’t back out of the combination early enough; a storming start to the season has seen him already overtake last season’s points tally!
Finn was also a piece up, but then things went spectacularly wrong. Swapping off queens to pick up a second piece looked like a plan that couldn’t go wrong – but it did. Having castled queenside, the swap meant that Finn allowed a pawn in onto c6; a white rook rook on b7 with check, not only recouping one of the pieces with a fork, but also – with the aid of the pawn – completely dominating the seventh rank while Finn’s forces were all on the back rank blocking each other in. When the second rook came to a1 – threatening mate – and then to a7, threatening to win another piece (and then threaten mate), Finn had to throw in the towel.
On 1, Jack was a piece and a pawn up and cruising when his opponent’s phone went off. His opponent was unaware of the rule, but Jack claimed victory anyway. A harsh lesson for Rathmines, although there was the consolation that the position was in all likelihood beyond saving. There was another harsh lesson on 3 where Michael, who seemed to have been on the attack all game, swapped off into a losing king and pawn endgame. His opponent, down to his last three minutes, offered a draw, which Michael turned down, gambling on either a stroke of fortune – king and pawn endings can go drastically wrong in one move – or a win on time. It was a brave – probably foolhardy! – gamble, but it paid off when his opponent’s flag fell with Michael one move away from a fatal zugzwang.
That left just Dan, who hadn’t played the most active King’s Gambit ever, and the crushing win which that opening often heralds in the lower reaches of the Bodley hadn’t even hinted at happening. When Dan wound up with an isolated – and then dead – e-pawn, things weren’t looking great, but he picked up a piece straight after and, though he missed a crushing capture on f7, swapped off into an endgame a piece up. It wasn’t absolutely trivial with less than five minutes to go, but rather than mop up pawns, he just marched his sheltered king up the board to deliver back-rank mate.
An average of 4 points a game is title-winning form, but our credentials will be severely tested next week when we play Wicklow, title favourites but already 6 points behind us (with a match in hand). A draw there would set us up perfectly for the remainder of the season!
In the next room, Rathmines had brought along 10 subs for a series of (slightly noisy!) friendlies – many thanks to Nick Scallan and all at Rathmines for arranging that!