Alex Byrne won the Gonzaga Challengers just 12 months after scoring 0/6 in the 2013 Gonzaga tournament, his first ever tournament, while Mihailo has taken over from Odhrán as the number 1 ranked player in the school.
(Report from Desmond Beatty)
What a difference a year makes!
Alex Byrne played in his first open tournament in the Gonzaga Classic last year with a score from 0 from 6.
Desmond and Alex had conversations between each game along the lines of “see if you can last longer in the next game” which, by the way, he did.
This year, Alex was second seed, and arrived at the final round with a perfect 5/5 – including victory over the top seed – only to face Desmond on 4½/5 for the title decider on board 1.
Playing the French Defence (Rubinstein), with early minor piece trades, the first draw was offered just before things became exiting.
Having extricated his queen from a potential trap on the Q-side, Alex, trading queens, secured a passer which was knight-blockaded and later captured. Desmond countered to secure a protected passer. With both players running short on time, the game traded down to N+multiple pawns with Alex losing a few to go N+4 to N+1 down but blitzing Desmond’s advantage with a rampaging knight.
The last match to finish, a draw was finally agreed with less than a minute on both clocks giving Alex the “Gong” (ok, the winner’s cheque) and Desmond joint second (same as last year).
So a Benildus 1-2 in the Challengers with Alex Byrne showing what can be achieved with youth and talent but, more importantly, grit, determination and effort. Well done, Alex!
(KB adds -)
Elsewhere in the Challengers, we were generally down in mid-table. Liam Kelly recorded his second successive three-figure rating gain, up 100 in heading the rest of the pack on 3½. Tom Grennell also scored 3½, while William and Cal both scored 3, with Cal climbing above the first (of many!) psychological rating barriers, 700.
Tom and William picked up seven draws between them over the weekend – maybe Mihailo’s example could act as an inspiration for them. After three draws in each of Galway, Gonzaga and Bunratty, he’s added a bit of a ruthless streak to his game and has gained 450 points in six months to storm to the top of the school rankings. Gonzaga 2014 was the latest successful tournament – after opening with a win over John Phelan (1624), he lost to the second seed before erring in a level enough rook and pawn ending against Mariusz. Turning then to the lower half of the seeding list, he picked up 2½/3 to end up best placed of the Benildus players in the section. He is now number 5 u-14 in the country, and a place on the Ireland team in the summer is looking a distinct possibility, where he would join Alex, the number 4 u-12
Mariusz ended up on 3/6, losing to two other juniors in Fiachra Scallan and Tom O’Gorman. Dylan scored 3, while Anastasija – playing up for the first time – scored 2/6, including a win over Peter Lynch (1444) and a draw with John Connolly (1489) to gain 65 points. It leaves her just outside the Ireland squad, in fifth place with one of her main rivals gaining 49 points in the same tournament. Still, hopefully it’ll help recover her form in the Bodley!
Finally, there was a grading prize in the top section, where John Healy started off with a win as black against Conor O’Donnell en route to 4/6 and a share of second place. Peter Cafolla took runner-up on tie-break, but John did end the weekend with a few quid. His win over Conor wasn’t the result of the tournament though – it wasn’t even the result of the round, as Scott Mulligan stunned David Fitzsimons FM.
There’s two weeks now of league action before the weekender circuit decamps to Bunratty. Can the club keep up our recent run of tournament wins?!