With Gonzaga streaking ahead in the Armstrong, St Benildus have at least taken second place at the Christmas break – though with several tough matches to come.
On Saturday, we played the delayed round 4 game against Kilkenny. Kevin McHugh had drawn board 2 against Éamon Keogh a couple of weeks previously, and we came flying out of the blocks on Saturday when winning the first five matches. John Gibson was first to win, with a nice game in the Budapest involving numerous piece sacs from as early as move 7, the combined effect of which was to completely rip open his opponent’s king and pick up ruinous material. I’ll add this into the upcoming recent games summary.
John Healy was also going for the throat with an Alekhine-Chatard attack, and though his opponent went in for what I think is one of the quieter lines (declining the gambit), John soon wound up two pawns to the good and won with ease from there. In the clash of the titled players, Mark Quinn IM on board 1 hung a pawn to Stephen Brady FM wth a fairly standard tactic – the defending pawn was pinned – and was in trouble from then on. Stephen won an exchange and then even had the luxury of being able to swap off into a won opposite coloured bishop ending! He now takes the lead in the Top Scorer trophy race with 5/5, and is on course for our first Armstrong board prize in many years.
Gerry beat veteran Mick Crowe, while Mariusz beat another titled player, though on board 8. After going a piece and two pawns up against Poormina Menon WFM, Mariusz started to weave a mating net. John Healy, watching on, was a bit concerned when Mariusz missed mate in 2 – but it was ok; Mariusz had just spotted a different one.
So 5½-½ up, and only Brendan and Pawel were left, both in time trouble. Pawel was coming under a bit of pressure, and dropped a rook – whether a blunder or unavoidable I’m not sure – and so resigned. Brendan 5 minutes against 1, and R, B+N v R+2B and a few pawns. But he managed to get into big trouble, getting to N+2 v B+4. Time was getting seriously low at this stage, but his opponent managed to finally deliver mate with seven seconds on his clock – compared to 12 for Brendan.
Still, 5½’s a solid – if maybe not title-winning – performance, and it puts us half a point ahead of reigning champions Trinity, and five points behind Gonzaga, who have the biggest gap at the top of any of the tables…our Heidenfeld aside! But the second part of the Armstrong’s season promises to be much tougher – we have Gonzaga, Trinity, Phibsboro and Elm Mount all to come.