A deluge of points since Wednesday means St Benildus – for a few hours at least – are top of three separate divisions. Meanwhile, six of the 11 players with 100% winning records put them on the line – two of them twice – and four of the six remain.
On Wednesday, there were 16 games down for decision, as the O’Hanlon, Bodley A and Bodley B were all up. This meant that both clocks and subs were quite at a premium, with the O’Hanlon and Bodley A teams only filled at lunchtime, and one board using a good old-fashioned analogue clock. Fortunately, the three teams needed just one sub between them – and he was first to finish. Having first had to be shown how an analogue clock worked, Seán Devilly made fairly short work of his opponent on board 5 for the Bodley A, winning in around an hour, even if he did blunder a piece when completely won! At least the win does make it into our High Fives for best win.
The Bodley A continued to rack up the points as they went in search of a 13th successive match win. Desmond had two bishops for two knights and had enough open space for that to be decisive – he is now on 4/4 as the Top Scorer trophy race starts to get interesting. Jack and Finn were a pawn up, while William’s opponent hadn’t attempted to challenge William’s King’s Gambit, declining it and playing normal developing moves – meaning William had a normal position but with a pawn on f4 instead of f2.
But then Jack had one of those moments where he saw a move he wanted to play, realised straight away it would lose a piece to a pawn fork…and then played it anyway. Having gotten nothing at all out of the blunder, he was simply losing. But then his opponent blundered back – saccing a piece which could be taken back one of two ways. One way led to mate…but the other was just a free piece. A short time later, his opponent literally tossed the board aside in a fit of pique, which Jack took to be a resignation. 3-0 up, and win 13 in a row was confirmed.
We were also 18 games unbeaten, and were looking good in the other two as Finn was still a pawn up, while William was starting to turn the screw. But as time ran low, Finn lost his pawn, ended up in a Q+3 each ending – and then amazingly swapped off into a losing pawn ending. The game was trivial enough after that, but William converted well to at least give us another 4-1 win. With just two points dropped, we’re well clear of third, especially after Malahide could only draw against Naomh Barróg in this round.
The B team, meanwhile, are in a relegation battle after going down to table-proppers Inchicore. Mark had a bit of a nightmare, getting a knight pinned to death on e7 and losing early. Cal dropped a pawn but got through to a 2R+5 v 2R+4 ending where his opponent had doubled, isolated pawns but much better piece activity. He did at one stage pick up his king and have it hover over a square which would have allowed mate in 1, but backed out of that just in time only to end up in a lost pawn ending anyway.
On 5, Richard took a draw in a very locked position, while Aodhán, who had been in trouble earlier on (his opponent missed a straightforward tactic to win an exchange), got out of his bind and his opponent panicked, giving away a piece and then an exchange to stop a double-rook attack on g7.
Tim was last to finish – he had been just a piece up and we were looking at a 2½-2½ draw, but then he allowed a pawn to f3 with a mating attack, and despite a desperado couple of checks, he had to throw in the towel. The Bs’ predicament is clear from the table – they’ve yet to play the teams in bold, and there are a lot harder games coming! One relegation spot is to their benefit of course, while the round 6 tie against Rathmines B is looking to be vital.
The O’Hanlon, meanwhile, had a full team bar Ronan Sweeney. Eddie had a typically quickfire game, though after going up a pawn early on, it turned out a second pawn was too much, and his opponent got a lot of counterplay with doubled rooks down the open e-file, which soon won ruinous amounts of material.
But we bounced back. Anastasija and Stephen both won, while Nicky spotted a hanging h6 pawn at the third time of asking to make it 3-1. That left Dylan – whose lift was waiting – and Odhrán, who had three pawns for a piece entering an endgame. Dylan won a pawn but then seemed to push his passed pawn too early – it fell, and the game was drawn. Odhrán, meanwhile, got his pawns rolling and was able to force one home to win, giving us a 4½-1½ win overall. So despite defeats in their first two games, the O’Hanlon sit top of the table – at least until the rest of the round 4 results come in…
On Thursday, the Heidenfeld headed out to Phibsboro. While we were expecting a win over a side bottom of the table, on Thursday morning, we had gone through 27 players and still only had seven on the team! Fortunately, the rains came to our rescue, as a Phibsboro player found a big leak in his roof and asked to postpone – which suited us, as we’d been asking about postponing a game too.
But with the rains and the traffic, we arrived at various times between 7:20 and 7:50. And when I arrived, it was to find Ross playing on my board, and Desmond playing on Ross’ board. This led to a problem, as there was now no room for me! Desmond hadn’t seen my text with the revised team (after the postponement) and was playing on the board he had been down to play the day before. Some little chicanery later, and Phibsboro very kindly switched their board order (meaning colours were reversed on 6 and 7), and we were all underway.
Already though, Brendan Cooney was an exchange up, and he converted with little fuss. Ciarán Mahon was happy to duck out with a second draw while he de-rusts – though he wasn’t too rusty to see the other Ciarán completely overlook a mate in two! Granted, taking a free rook was an ok alternative, and the game was over next move, but a strange one. You of course would never see huge blunders at the very top level (see move 26 of today’s Carlsen v Anand match!).
Sub William Kenny had a very promising position early on after his opponent gave up both bishops for knights, but William didn’t capitalise and ended up giving both bishops back to arrive in a lost double rook ending. I won after a position in which Fritz says I had more pressure than I thought, which left just the two Beattys. Ross was a pawn up, but Desmond was in a fairly open position where it looked like his king was coming under a lot of pressure. When myself, William and Ciarán, analysing at the far end of the room, saw him stop his clock and get up, we feared the worst – but he’d won – an excellent win when 200 points out-rated. Ross was unable to convert from a pawn up and settled for a draw, but the 5-2 win (with Mariusz to play next week) means we’re top of the Heidenfeld as well, by a whole half a point!
In individual terms, William and Finn have seen their 100% starts to the season ended, but Jack, Ciarán R, Desmond and Stephen continue theirs. Ciarán R and Desmond on 4/4 head the Top Scorer trophy chase, though Mariusz and Stephen Brady have a match in hand.