It’s becoming quite a boring year for the Heidenfeld, whose fortunes have transformed since Christmas. Our unbeaten run extended to four games when beating Inchicore on Thursday, a game which saw another insane win from Ciarán, another impressive way to throw away a game from me, another win from “rusty” Brendan Cooney and another good showing from our (many!) subs.
The latest mishap to befall us pre-match came about when Jack Donovan slept in (in the evening?!) and missed the meeting time in the school. He was uncontactable by phone, so I’d resigned myself to forfeiting board 8 and losing on the clock the 20 minutes spent waiting just in case. Instead, when I walked into the room, Inchicore had only started the clocks a few minutes previously, and Jack was sitting quite calmly at board 6. It turned out that, after arriving at the school a couple of minutes after I’d finally given up on him, he got a lift all the way to the venue, going out the M50 and so beating me going along the canal!
So a good start to the evening then, and that got better an hour later when Jack won in 14 moves, his opponent spectacularly blundering two pieces in one move. His opponent resigned immediately – it looked like he could regain one by ganging up two rooks on a knight pinned to the queen (both of which had just won pieces), but in fact post-match analysis showed there were even enough back-rank mate threats that the knight couldn’t be taken; the queen could take back and be immune from capture.
Board 8 was supposed to have been Finn, but he was bumped up to board 6 in the initial confusion. He would probably have preferred the lower board as, around the same time, he looked in all sorts of trouble, with an uncastled king sheltering behind a couple of advanced central pawns which were being targetted by all his opponent’s major pieces. However, that was the only board we were really behind on. And though our expected score ratings-wise was only about 3 – Inchicore had even gotten a new board 1 to play above the 1850 who’d been there all season – we soon picked up a spectacular flurry of points to turn the ratings on their head. First, Michael drew on 1 in a position where he looked to be a bit better (I thought he was winning a pawn actually) Rumour has it his opponent was rated as high as 2000 in Romania back in the day, so that could turn out to be an excellent result. Then Nicky won – she had blundered two pawns early on but had compensation as her opponent never got around to castling; she then gave up an exchange but was able to force a nice tactic to win her opponent’s queen – both queens were attacked, but Nicky could throw in a queen check and safely pick up her opponent’s queen. Shortly after, Ciarán overcame a mere 300-point rating difference when beating Conor Pender, who had played an opening I’d never seen before in real life – the French Wing Gambit. Fortunately, a DVD I’d given Ciarán just a couple of weeks ago came up trumps! As with previous nutty wins arising from strange openings, Ciarán has promised to show this one off on the website. His provisional FIDE rating is apparently set to be over 2000 (!), and he’s threatening to enter the Irish Championships as a result.
So amazingly, we were 3½-½ up, and ahead of our target with half the match still to go. I soon got things back towards normality when saccing a pawn, and then a piece, while still (unknowingly) in book. There’s a reason it was still book, and I missed a move which meant I just lost a piece. The other three games all went down to the last five minutes, however. Mariusz had been a pawn up, sacced a queen for two knights thinking he had mate, but his opponent wriggled out of it and converted the win. Brendan had been a pawn up for most of the evening, and finally converted after it had gotten to c7 and somehow stayed there for the rest of the game; black resigned when it was finally about to be forced home.
Surprisingly, that just left Finn, last to finish despite having seemed in huge trouble earlier in the night. He’d somehow fought out of the pressure only a pawn down, but then with five minutes left, he fell for a knight fork and lost an exchange. Still he fought on and could conceivably have claimed a draw by perpetual somewhere in the mix before eventually, with both flags starting to hang, the queens came off and his opponent could force home that extra pawn.
Still, 4½-3½ is an excellent result; the second round in a row we’ve beaten the team in third place. The table is like this now –
If we can beat Naomh Barróg in the next round, we could even be in the nice position of being mathematically safe going into the last round! Ciarán needs a win in that game to at least share the top scorer trophy with Mihailo, while 1½ in the last two games will win the trophy outright and bag a grading prize into the bargain. We’re looking like being a bit stronger next season – is it only a matter of time before the club can boast an Armstrong B team…?