There were two matches up the club last night, with neither quite going to plan…
The Bodley B were closing out their season against Blanchardstown in a rearranged game. Blanchardstown have been down the bottom half of the table all season, while we were unbeaten since starting off with defeats against the top two, Drogheda and Gonzaga, so we were hoping to sign off with a win. Luke-Andrew picked up a typically quick-fire win, going an exchange up and then almost immediately getting a back-rank mate. Elsewhere, though, it wasn’t looking great. Mark seemed to have a big attack going, but then dropped a piece, Paddy had a strong position going but didn’t really capitalise, while on board 1, the most eagerly-anticipated Bodley match in a long time – Danny Dwyer v Alex Byrne – had started as a slight damp squib when Danny opened with the French Exchange (boo!)
Things started to turn, as they tend to do in the Bodley. Mark got to this position –
– and uncorked 1. … RxP+?!?! The “?!?!” is because it’s a blunder, but on board 5 in the Bodley, with the position on the board, it’s the best practical shot. And it worked. The game continued 2. KxR g2 3. Ra7 (Rc6+ also wins) Kb8 4. Rg7?? and black queened and went on to win. Instead, 4. Rb7+! wins for white. 4. … KxR allowed 5. Bf3+ and the pawn falls all while – just in case – white has the correct colour bishop to promote the a-pawn. 4. … Ka8 allows the trivial 5. Rb1, and the pawn is stopped.
Elsewhere, Paddy was being forced back onto the defensive and soon lost, while Alex was getting into big trouble on 1 and soon resigned, ending his unbeaten start to his club career. That left just Cal for the last half-hour or so, who managed to hold a R+2 v R+3 ending to earn us the draw overall.
The (almost) final table shows how well we’ve done overall –
We’re comfortably third, and are the only team outside the top two to have scored 50%! There were no board prizes because of the squad rotation system, but all in all, a very promising season.
In the next room, the Heidenfeld needed any win against Naomh Barróg to ensure safety for another season. When they arrived without their third-strongest player – a mere 1490 – and had four 1100s, we had grounds to be optimistic.
There was a problem though. Naomh Barróg have been making the best possible use of the 150-point rule all season to maximise their points, so I’d set the team up to counter what I reckoned was going to be their line-up based on previous games. So their second-strongest player – a 1600 – was likely to be on board 3, where I stuck Ross. Their fourth-strongest player – a 1340 – has been sandbagged on board 8, so I did the same with Odhrán. Brendan Cuffe was on 6 to get a quickfire white win against one of their 1100s, while Brendan Cooney was down to take on their 1490 on 2, to give Ciarán (chasing a board prize) and me (chasing any sort of a win!) the best chance of achieving our goals.
But instead, Brendan Cooney was up against the 1600, the 1340 was up on board 6 against Brendan Cuffe, and Odhrán and Ross – who both play up better than down – were facing 1100s. The whole cunning plan was out the window.
Still, we just needed 4½ – how hard could it be? The answer turned out to be quite hard. Brendan Cuffe did launch a huge attack, went two pawns up but never got around to castling. Still, neither did his opponent, so he just needed to take time out to consolidate and go on to get that early win we were looking for to settle nerves. Instead, this happened –
1. g3 will help white start to unravel his position, but black definitely has compensation for the two pawns. Instead, Brendan went to swap more pieces off with 1. Ne4?? The idea, I presume, is 1. … NxN 2. BxB+ KxB 3. Qe5+ Kg8 (or f6) 4. QxN, and things are a bit simpler, although the line doesn’t actually work because black can play 2. … Kg8 and he’s still threatening the game continuation. That continuation was quite nasty – 1. … Qd3+ 2. Kg1 Ne2+ 3. Kf1 Ng3+ 4. Kg1 Qf1+ 5. RxQ Ne2#. An unusual variant on the classic smothered mate trick where white’s king has a rook on either side.
Still, these things happen. It couldn’t happen again. Or could it? After Luke had taken a draw – when in a worse knight ending – Ciarán also walked into a knight mate; his last move cut off his king’s only escape square, and his opponent – a piece down – fairly apologetically dropped in the mate and ended Ciarán’s board prize chances. It was his second defeat of the season – both times with horrible blunders against the sides most likely to go down!
When Michael Hanley lost on time – in a worse position anyway – against their 1950 board 1, we were amazingly 3½-½ down and in serious trouble. Last season, we’d been edging towards safety courtesy of a small unbeaten streak when we played Naomh Barróg in the penultimate round – everything went wrong, our top scorer lost his board prize chances in a game where he was much higher-rated and a 6-2 defeat meant we were looking over our shoulders going into the last round. We were now looking at a repeat, only this time, every half point we dropped counted double as Naomh Barróg are the team over our shoulders! Ross and myself were going nowhere despite huge rating advantages, Odhrán had a better pawn formation in a rook ending and Brendan Cooney had an attack going, but that was about as much as we had.
Against that, we weren’t in any real trouble on any of the boards, and the results were predictable, if frustrating. Ross and Brendan drew to bring us up to 1½. I had allowed BxN on f6 when I had to take back with the g-pawn, messing up my pawn formation, although Fritz doesn’t mind and says I had the tiniest of edges thereafter, which I gradually built, in a cramped position, to +3 without any loss of material – and then cashed in, won a pawn and with it threw away most of my advantage. However, Odhrán had ground out a win as per usual, and I decided, with time running out as well, to offer my opponent the draw I’d turned down an hour earlier, reckoning on a 5-3 defeat still being enough to keep us safe.
The league table is like this –
Strangely, we’ve not lost to any of the teams currently 3rd to 7th, and haven’t beaten any of the teams ranked 8th to 12th! Assuming Bray get 5 or fewer against Inchicore next week, we need just 3½ points – either that we win them, or Naomh Barróg or Bray (who play each other) lose them – to be safe. We’d like to get 2 of our own at least to beat last season’s tally. Sounds so easy, and it’ll probably happen, but until it does, it’ll be quite a nervy final day!