The Heidenfeld now have genuine promotion ambitions after a sixth straight win last night, this time against Rathmines A.
With a full team for the second time this season – the other time was in our only other match to date against promotion candidates – we were still looking at a 5-3 defeat on the basis of the ratings. The plan had been to target 2/2 on the bottom two boards – where Rathmines have been weak in previous games, hindered by not being able to sub from their B team – but that was scuppered to an extent when Rathmines also showed up with a full-strength team, and a board 7 who would have been our board 3.
Things didn’t look great as the game got underway; Ross I think missed an intermediate move in a tactic and wound up with rook for two bishops, but his opponent’s pieces were all working very well together, and Ross was getting completely squeezed out of it. Ciarán Mahon had dropped a pawn and had constant threats against his c7 square to deal with; it wasn’t a huge surprise when both those two games were first to finish, with us losing both before 10pm to go 2-0 down.
At that stage, we couldn’t really say we had the upper hand in any of the other games. I was quite cramped on the black side of a Tarrasch, Ciarán had sacced a pawn to try hold any advantage as white – and his opponent had turned it down – Michael was heading towards a drawish looking ending, Mihailo was under pressure against the same opponent he’d played last year while Mariusz was on about move 10, having stymied his opponent with an early Nh3 against the Dutch. Only Brendan had any sort of advantage, having picked up a pawn, but even then, his pawn structure was worse, so it wasn’t entirely clear as to how to make progress.
Ciarán got us off the mark after a sac which, he said, “would either win or lose the game”. It actually led quite quickly to a repetition of moves, so we had a draw, though there may have been a different move order which could have led to a win. Still, we were off the mark, and our score doubled as Michael also took a draw, but it was still looking like we’d be doing well to get to our expected score.
Things started to turn in the last half-hour. Mihailo’s opponent gave up a piece on the queenside for an attack on the king, but overlooked that Mihailo could just about defend, and so was a piece up. As Mihailo got untangled, the piece became more and more important, though his time was running quite low; he had a win, but maybe not the time to achieve it in! He had, and we were back in it at 3-2 down, much to my relief as I’d advised him to play on rather than claim a win when his opponent’s phone beeped for a text early in the game.
So there were three games left, and none of the six remaining players had more than about five minutes left. Mariusz took a draw, while Brendan Cooney ran a pawn to victory. That left me, who couldn’t even work out what score it was (I thought we were 4-3 down for some reason). My opponent had hung a pawn – quite possibly deliberately – and I’d chanced a draw offer as I was still quite cramped and running very low on the clock. It was turned down, I lost the pawn back again and then the turning moment – my opponent sacced a bishop unnecessarily, when an intermediate queen check would have left me in big trouble. With us both down to the last two or three minutes – though with increments – we weren’t really paying that much heed to each other’s plans. I hung both my queenside pawns and allowed my opponent to start pushing his two new passed pawns, while I went for mate on the light squares. Which, as it turns out, was quicker. Amazingly, it was our only result of the night which didn’t make our High Fives list for Best Win or Best Draw, both of which rapidly looks like they need to have separate “Excluding Heidenfeld” lists!
Only Malahide and Drogheda have played six matches so far; we’re a massive 10 points clear of Malahide after they lost 7-1 to the Curragh, our next opponents (!) And yet Malahide are still third, though others have a match in hand. Still, the season is resolutely refusing to go pear-shaped so far!