Mihailo and Dylan claimed runner-up spots to Conor O’Donnell in the Leinster under 16 and under 19 tournaments respectively, but arguably the best Benildus performances of the tournament were elsewhere.
In the under 16s, Mihailo overcame a near disastrous start to almost win the tournament outright. In round 1, he was an exchange and a pawn down against William Kenny only to be offered (and accept) a draw as William’s time ran rather low. In round 2, he was in serious trouble against an unrated player – who was casually mopping up Mihailo’s pawns en route to an easy win – when one miscalculation meant Mihailo could block the rook’s path back to Mihailo’s only threat, a pawn on the second rank. The pawn queened, Mihailo eventually claimed the win and didn’t look back! Wins against Shane Melaugh and Alessio Roselli followed to set up a board 1 final round tie against Conor O’Donnell. A win and Mihailo would take the title, while Conor needed just a draw – but there was a €70 bonus on offer for players finishing on a perfect score, so Conor wasn’t holding back. Mihailo went up a pawn and had given Conor doubled f-pawns and, as the game entered time trouble, Mihailo opted to grab a second pawn – which was going to fall sooner or later – which allowed Conor time to mess up Mihailo’s pawns as some compensation; the game was now R, N+6 v R, N+4. Conor’s knight invaded – always nasty when in time trouble! – and picked up one pawn, then another. Conor threw in a check; Mihailo moved out of it – but into check; Conor missed it; one of the under-12s called it and was promptly thrown out of the playing area! Note to others – never interfere in another game while it’s ongoing! Unfortunately, by this stage, victory – and the title – had slipped from Mihailo’s grasp, but he was at least able to hold on for a draw, with the €70 bonus meaning he had a draw offer at R v R refused, and had to call the arbiter to claim what was his. In the final ranking, he ended up third on tie-break, but still ends up as the first 2015 entry on the club’s ever-growing Roll of Honour.
William, meanwhile, had followed up his draw against Mihailo with a walkover win (which unfortunately means he only played four games in the tournament and is ineligible for bonus points), a win against Liam Coman and then victory in the second (and last) club derby of the weekend, beating Dylan when, having dropped a pawn, he threw pieces at Dylan’s kingside until he cracked. A final round tie against Henry Li was a step too far, but he should still gain 70 points or so – to the cusp of the 1100 point cut-off to allow entry to the club’s Senior Club Championships in the summer.
Elsewhere, Cal had a tournament to forget, ending on 2/5, while Dylan finished on 3/5, losing to William and Conor O’Donnell, a game where he sacced a g-pawn for an attack and then missed a tactic to win what looked like a free exchange, after which, the 700-point rating gap finally started to tell.
He had another shot at Conor in the under 19s, playing a similar opening and again going on the attack before going slightly wrong and allowing Conor back into it to win. That was Dylan’s only slip up of the tournament, though, and when second seed Rudolf Tirziman hung a piece in the final round, Dylan couldn’t be caught in second, and he makes a first appearance on our Roll of Honour. He could have won outright, but again Conor O’Donnell came through a tough game to win his final round tie – and the double – from a pawn down. Anastasija was our other entrant in this section – and she also got a shot at Conor O’Donnell! Conor ground out a tight game in an ending, but the fact that the club’s top school players are losing their fear of playing Gonzaga’s board 1 can only be a good thing!
In the under 14s, we had two players playing their first-ever tournaments. Daniel Fox picked up a respectable 1½/5, though he missed an early free piece in his last round game which would have made the score look a lot better! Seán Devilly, meanwhile, got top seed and reigning champion Henry Li in the first round and went down to a fairly expected defeat. He then beat an unrated player, a 1030 and an 830 to be on board 2 against the third seed – a 1280 – for the final round. Unperturbed, he went one pawn up, then two pawns up, then won a piece for a pawn which had gotten to the second rank. The rooks came off, so it was N+3 v 2 pawns. Unfortunately, Seán hasn’t yet finished reading up on his endings book, and he miscounted in letting the knight go, thinking his pawn was going to run. But by one tempo it wasn’t, and a draw had to be agreed. Still, it was enough for fourth place, and a provisional rating of around 1250 (if his unrated opponent is considered as 700; he only picked up a bye and this could change a lot). If the rating of 1250 stands, this might put him in the unusual position of being unable to play down in Gonzaga or Bunratty – so he may end up skipping the weekender bottom section entirely without ever having played in it! That may well be a unique event in Irish chess if it happened.