While we couldn’t make it a fourth major tournament in a row with a title – after Bunratty, Drogheda and Galway – there were still many reasons for considering Kilkenny 2013 a big success for Benildus.
There were 15 Benildus players in total, plus an honorary member in Anatol Lokasto in the top section. Lokasto snr hadn’t played a tournament in close on ten years, but Kilkenny (and Bunratty) are special tournaments! His first game was against Gonzaga’s Gordon Freeman; when Freeman resigned at the end, Anatol confided that he was a specialist in the line of the Pirc Freeman had chosen, having written a book on it.
His reward was two GM games on Saturday, starting with top seed Gawain Jones GM on board 1 as black. The game reached the following position, when white missed a lovely mating attack. See if you can find it before scrolling on! That many of black’s pieces are too far from their king to help defend is the key.
1. BxN BxB 2. Rh8+! BxR 3. RxB+ KxR 4. Qh6+ Kg8 5. f6 and mate on g7 is unavoidable. Jones missed that tactic, but won soon after anyway. The game in full is here.
He played – and nearly drew with – Alex Baburin GM in round 3 before finishing off the tournament unbeaten; two draws and a final round win over another Gonzaga player, Conor O’Donnell, who had started the tournament with this draw against Bogdan Lalic GM.
There wasn’t much to shout about in the Majors; myself, Ross and Mariusz managed two wins and three draws between us over the weekend, and one of those wins was when I hung a piece against Mariusz on move 7! I got my first ever 0 (½/6 was my previous worst, back in 1998!); this was my best effort of the weekend –
Catherine Hearne (1315) v Kevin Burke (1620); Kilkenny Major round 4
1. d4 e6 2. Nc3 Nf6 3. Bg5 h6 4. Bh4 Be7 5. e4
Has white dropped a pawn on move 5? It would be nice if she had! Alas – though she thought she had – she hasn’t really. 5. … NxP?! 6. BxB NxN 7. BxQ NxQ 8. BxP Nxb2 and though black is a pawn up, white has the bishop pair, an open b-file and can play 9. Bd6 next, stopping black from castling. I’d seen 9. a4, planning 10. Rb1, trapping the knight, but missed the option of 9. … d5, and the knight escapes via c4. Even still, it didn’t look a particularly nice line for black to go in for, so I was inclined to play safe anyway.
5. … d5
A French…something or other. Certainly unlike any I’ve ever played before!
6. de NxP 7. BxB NxB 8. Nf3 0-0 9. Bc4 Nc6 10. 0-0 b6 11. Ne2?!
Too slow, says Fritz, saying this gives up white’s first-move advantage. White is looking to shore up the d4 pawn with c3, but Fritz prefers the more positive 11. Re1.
11. … Bb7 12. Ng3 Qc8?!
With thoughts of Ba6, swapping off the light-squared bishop if necessary. Similarly slow, though.
13. c3 Rd8 14. Qc2 Nd5 15. Rfe1 Nf4 16. Ne2 Na5 17. Bb5?
A move which leads me to play quite well for the first time all weekend!
17. … Nh3+!
17. … BxN 18. NxN gets nowhere; the goal is to make as much a mess of white’s kingside as possible.
18. Kf1 BxN 19. PxB c6 20. Bd3 Qc7 21. Kg2 Rd5! (D)
The only move to keep the attack going. The black knight is immune from capture, though it took me 15 minutes to be sure of this! Again, solution after you scroll on…
22. KxN?? Rh5+ and either 23. Kg2 QxP+ 24. Kf1 Qh3+! (one of the moves it took me – and my opponent, who spent 25 minutes on her reply – so long to find; the immediate 24. … Qh1+ fails to Ng1, and the king escapes) 25. Kg1 Qh1#, or else 23. Kg4 QxP (the other move it took me a while to find; non-check moves are scary in positions like this!) and either 24. f4 Qh3# or 24. anything else Rg5#. A couple of times, my opponent decided I’d missed something and was about to take the knight, but eventually saw Qh3+, trusted that I’d seen everything else and opted out. Damn!
22. Ng3 Nf4+
This still has to achieve something, of course, or else 21. … Rd5 wasn’t that great after all! But getting the bishop off the board means Bd4, kicking the rook, isn’t an option, while the queen on d3 causes immediate problems for white because it faces the rook on d5.
23. Kg1 NxB 24. QxN c5 25. Re4 Nc6 26. Ne2 Rad8 27. Qc2 cd 28. cd Qd6
You could barely ask for a weaker IQP!
29. Rd1 e5 30. Qd2 NxP 31. NxN RxN?
31. … f5 is simple. I had six minutes on my clock to my opponent’s six seconds (with increments), and in my mind, the game was an easy win regardless… It is still a won position though.
32. RxR QxR 33. QxQ RxQ 34. RxR PxR 35. Kf1 (D) f5??
A winning move four moves back; a huge blunder now!
King and pawn endings require more thought than at first appears. With the text, I wanted to let my king cut a corner into the centre of the board (Kg8-f7-e6 instead of Kg8-f8-e7-e6) while advancing the king-side pawns I still reckon will win me the game. Instead, the correct move is 35. … Kh7!, and while white takes the pawn on d4, I head for the one on h2, and push my h-pawn to victory. Again, the text is still a win, but at the start of a king and pawn ending, it’s worth taking a few minutes to formulate your plan, and the next few moves can follow quickly.
36. Ke2 Kf7 37. Kd3 Ke6 38. KxP=
A draw offer I was in no mood to even contemplate, understandably!
38. … g5 39. h3 h5 40. b3 h4!
Now to engineer a g4 push, creating a passed pawn.
41. Ke3 a6 42. a3 a5
It can’t hurt to advance my queenside pawns while I have the chance, giving me the option of cutting across to that side and winning if needs be.
43. a4 Ke5?? (D)
I knew this was a blunder as soon as I played it; I can only blame being into my final 90 seconds! 43. … Kd5 is an easy win, as 44. f5 can be met with … g4, and the crucial passed pawn is created. Now, I have to deal with the check. Fritz gives this as a dead draw.
44. f4+ gf 45. Kf3 Ke6 46. KxP Kf6 47. f3 Kg6??
47. … Ke6 was a draw
48. Ke5 Kg5 49. g4+ Kg6 50. Ke6 1-0
I make it three times over I won that game, and still lost! Such is chess at times…
In the James Mason, Odhrán was up against the top seed in round 1, and one of the bottom seeds, Dan O’Brien, in round 2. Both of those went to seed, and Odhrán ended up on 4/6, with three 1400+ scalps, 99 points gained and missing out on a grading prize on tie break. That was only a middling performance from us in the section though – Mihailo narrowly lost out to John Buggy in the last round when a win would have had him joint-third, while Finn, as in Bunratty, proved hard to beat and managed a victory over Irish Junior, Drogheda and City of Dublin champion (and Bunratty runner up!) Jacob Miller into the bargain. Nicky Benson beat two 1400s and also ended up points, while Dan avoided making it a Benildus 1-2 on 0 points (well, a bye…) when winning his last round game to almost break even points-wise. Mihailo had an unusual game on the Sunday morning against the recent conqueror of Dylan in the O’Hanlon, which started 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 h6? 4. d4 f6?? 5. de Qe7 6. Nh4 Rh7?? 7. BxN and won with ease; the full game is on the Inchicore site, with his opponent blaming a late night!
That just left the Challengers, where Tim Casey was the surprise package, picking up a grading prize in his first ever tournament, which is pretty much unprecedented. He was on 3/4 and a 1050 rating performance before two defeats to close with, but still an excellent performance, and sixty quid in the bank. Alex Byrne was the highest scorer of the weekend on 4/6, with two draws and a loss to players who finished in the top ten; like Odhrán, he missed out on a grading prize on tie break. William Kenny ended the weekend up more points than any other entrant with 3½ – too many draws maybe (!), but he only lost to runner-up Liam Coman. Liam Kelly scored 2½/6 in his first tournament, including a win in the second derby of the weekend, beating Richard. Elsewhere, Cal scored 3 and Declan got 2½, with both making healthy points gains.
It remains just to thank Mr Scott (as always!), Cathal McDonnell and Frank Kelly for arranging the weekend and looking after everyone in the cottage! Gonzaga is the next major tournament at the end of January, with the Leinster Junior Championships in the first few days of the new year.