There were a number of surprises last night in a dramatic night up the club!
There were three events on – the Armstrong were up against reigning league champions Phibsboro, whom we’d only beaten once in the past ten seasons. They’re not as strong as last season though, with only four of the side that beat us 6½-1½ last year. We started well – the two Johns picked up early wins; John H in a typically wild Evans Gambit which he has threatened to annotate for the site and John G after his opponent “took liberties with his time”.
Highlight of the evening was Mel Ó Cinnéide’s first result for the club after three opening defeats – and a well-timed one it was too, beating Stephen Brady FM with the black pieces. The result was only Brady’s tenth defeat in the past ten and a half seasons. All bar three have been against titled players (Colm Daly FM, Sam Collins IM and Alex Baburin GM), with Mel and two wins from Gerry O’Connell accounting for the other defeats.
Dave Willow drew on the bottom board and Zdravko and Gerry lost as Phibsboro clawed back to 3½-2½ behind, but Kev McHugh drew before Brendan Lyons sealed the win when both sides promoted – Brendan just happened to promote with mate. A 5-3 win pushes us nicely back into mid-table after dropping into the relegation zone following hammerings in rounds 2 and 3.
Downstairs, the Bodley were taking on title favourites Wicklow. Wicklow had their strongest team of the season available – “just” a 1900, two 1400s and two 1300s, although we had our strongest ever Bodley team out, with an average rating of 1180 after Kilkenny. Even though Wicklow had struggled in their opening two games, it looked like an honourable defeat was our realistic ambition against a side who’d been promoted from the O’Hanlon two seasons before.
For a long time, it looked like that would be the outcome. Mihailo went wrong early in the middlegame against Séamus Duffy – who’d drawn against two 1000s in the first two rounds – and lost, while Jack also lost against Eddie Humphreys. Finn was in a level-ish endgame, Dan was under a bit of pressure and Anastasija was drifting towards time trouble, though all three games were still quite competitive. On 5, Finn’s opponent sacced a piece in a desperate attempt to break through – it didn’t work at all, and Finn wound up just up a piece in a rook and pawn ending, which he was able to convert with relative ease.
The other two games went right down to the wire. Dan, close to zugzwang, hung a piece to a rook fork and it looked all over, while Anastasija had a R+4 ending which was very tough to call. However, we handled the time trouble much better than Wicklow – Dan’s opponent was by his own admission surprised to glance at his clock and suddenly see he had 46 seconds left; he gave the piece back in a desperate attempt to either queen or get rid of all Dan’s material, but when his flag fell, Dan had one pawn left standing and claimed the win. Meanwhile, Anastasija was let get her king in at her opponent’s pawns first and queened, though was now down to her last minute in a Q+2 v 2 ending. When her opponent – down to his last two minutes – moved into check and pressed his clock, Anastasija claimed an extra two minutes on the basis of an illegal move, and her opponent threw in the towel. All three wins made the High Fives, though Dan lasted only two minutes at number ten on the best wins before being dumped off by Anastasija!
If nothing else this season, we can now claim revenge for that amazing 2007/08 Ennis season, when Wicklow won 6-0 on the last day to pip us to a Heidenfeld spot; all the players who played for Wicklow last night also played on when we beat Wicklow 4-2 that season. We know ourselves that it’s perfectly possible to win all your matches but still not win the league, so the Bodley is far from over – in fact, Wicklow are realistically still favourites. But last night’s result means it’s just gotten quite interesting! Next up is Dún Laoghaire, who held Wicklow to a draw in their opener and who are arguably the only other team with a credible shot at the title.
In the main room, our visiting Master from Poland was getting underway in a marathon simo session. 17 players in total took on Anatol Lokasto – son Mariusz later pointed out that this was one for every IM norm he’s achieved! Inconsistency meant he was never quite able to get his rating above 2400 to claim the title, but that wasn’t really a problem last night.
Being a complete outsider meant that he wasn’t aware of anyone’s ratings, so had to treat each game with the same respect, so it was past 11pm when the session finished, after three hours of play. Cal was first to finish, walking into a mate on h7, which was a relief to some other – more senior! – players who were already struggling; Anatol had engineered a big space advantage on many boards, had queened against me and was a piece up against Mariusz since about move ten – he’d not only fallen for a pawn fork on bishop and knight, but the knight was itself pinned to the king! Despite all that, it was Mariusz who pulled off the evening’s only win, breaking open his dad’s kingside defences to deliver mate with a pawn on f2 and a bishop and queen raking down the open diagonal. There was one other draw, while William and Declan claimed the honour of last to finish and Ross was singled out after as the one to keep an eye on. Given the short notice, we hadn’t time to get a proper present together, but every visitor to Ireland has to leave with a Christy Moore CD, and Anatol is now no different! Many thanks to him for giving up an evening of his holiday to pop out to the club, and indeed to Mariusz for organising.