Benildus’ best tournament down the years for honours has been Gonzaga, and the weekend’s edition upped our haul since 2002 to 7 section wins and 6 runners-up spots – and it also saw a new school number 1.
We had 13½ Benildians all told, if we include honorary member Alex, whose last game in Gonzaga was a draw against Desmond Beatty to win the bottom section last year. He started off this year with another derby draw – against Gerry in the top section! That was followed up with a first 2000+ win (against Tim Harding) before he was brought down to earth by Carl Jackson (extending Carl’s unbeaten streak to 44 games) and, in the final round, John Healy, who did things the hard way, having been worse for much of the game before going for an all-out king attack, which worked. Still, 3/6 was enough for a grading prize for Alex, though it was lower than the other Benildians. John ended with 3½, including a first draw against an FM, Daire McMahon. Gerry also ended on 3½, but Tim had a great return to tournament play after a few years away with 4½/6 and a share of second place. He sealed second with two Sunday wins, against Colm Daly FM and Henry Li – who had come within an ace of beating Colm in round 4 when, a piece and four pawns up, blundered into perpetual in time trouble. Still, probably the performance of the tournament (the result of the tournament surely being David Fitzsimons FM walking into mate in one against Conor O’Donnell when B+3 v N+2 up!)
We had nobody in the bottom section for once, which meant our remaining ten players were in the 1200-1800 Championship section, including William, who was playing up for the first time. Amazingly, we went through the first round unbeaten – just! Anastasija – who had earlier been an exchange up – ended up in a lost position with seconds remaining, but her opponent delivered stalemate. As Anastasija pointed this out, her flag fell, and her opponent claimed a win! The arbiter was called over and initially agreed, but on being asked to check the rules online, (correctly) changed his decision. Once you let go of a piece, resulting in stalemate, the game is immediately over, and so it didn’t matter that the flag had fallen as the game was already over. Top seed (after a couple of withdrawals) Ciarán also had to call the arbiter to claim a draw in a rook v rook ending where he had four seconds left, having fought back from two pawns down against Pádraig Sheehy. Mariusz had been in big trouble early on, but claimed a draw as his opponent had bishop and not one, but two wrong-coloured rook pawns! William also drew after not having enough time to convert what seemed a very promising position against Tom Fitzpatrick, while there were wins for me, Dylan, Odhrán, Mihailo and Ross, with Finn taking a travelling bye.
Round 2, by contrast, was a bit of a disaster. Ciarán hung a piece after being denied the chance to play a Scotch by 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Bc5!? When asked afterwards about the opening, his opponent admitted “I just play 2. … Bc5 to everything” Mihailo was three pawns up against Luke Scott only to hang mate. Odhrán drew with one of Rathmines’ Bodley A players while I struggled past one of Enniscorthy’s to end as the only Benildus player to get to 2/2. Ross probably had the result of the round, drawing with Danny Dwyer.
Round 3 was similar in some ways to round 2 – I struggled past another of Enniscorthy’s Bodley players, this time by virtue of a huge blunder in a king and pawn ending which turned it from a dead draw to an easy win, while Mihailo was again three pawns up only to hang mate. We also had the first club derby, with Frank Scott Shield champion Odhrán drawing with Dylan. And some players were starting to rack up multiple Benildus opponents – Brian O’Gorman was worst hit, playing four Benildus opponents over the weekend (Mariusz, Ciarán, William and Finn)
Round 4 almost started with disaster as Mihailo – not best pleased with the weekend so far! – brought out the Qh4+ Scotch variation, and was lucky his opponent missed a one-move tactic to win an exchange on move 7, having played a tricky line correctly up to that point; Mihailo recovered to win. Ciarán beat Anastasija in a game where he had a good attack but Anastasija had numerous mating counterattacks as the heavy pieces all stayed on. On board 2, meanwhile, I beat second seed Denis O’Connell with black to reach 4/4 and start thinking that maybe this was my weekend after all! Ross, who was on 2½/3, lost to drop back from the leading pack, but Dylan and Odhrán kept pace by winning to move to 3/4.
On Sunday morning, there were two of us on 5/5 – myself and 2. … Bc5 guy. I’d been wondering how to meet that move in the King’s Gambit, so wasn’t really prepared for the delayed Falkbeer I got instead. I got into quite a cramp, but my opponent’s e-pawn had advanced to e3, which was a bit too far for it to survive. Once I got untangled, my position improved quickly, though my opponent helped me considerably by making four moves in the final five minutes, and none at all as his clock ticked down from 90 seconds to none! When Danny Dwyer on board 2 hung a rook, I was guaranteed a share of second at worst, and a reassuring final round game against someone my own height. The club derby in this round was Mihailo v Ross, which went Mihailo’s way. Odhrán, Dylan and Ciarán all won as well, while Mariusz – who was working nights over the weekend, and got about six hours’ sleep over the three days – lost in controversial circumstances. Having again reached a dead drawn position – this time rook against rook and two rook pawns as shown –
– he called the arbiter over to claim a draw. The arbiter asked for the clocks to be stopped, but Mariusz didn’t press the button properly, and before it was spotted, he had lost seven of his nine remaining seconds. Amazingly, the arbiter said there was plenty of play in the position left, and asked them to play on. Mariusz made a move and offered a draw, which his opponent declined, saying Mariusz had only one second left. This, coupled with the fact he wasn’t trying to win (the only chance is to bring the king to b2, and hope white doesn’t know that Ra6 still holds) made it clear he was only interested in pushing Mariusz off the clock in a straightforward tablebase draw position. This is the whole point of being able to claim a draw, of course, but the arbiter had left at this stage, and Mariusz lost. It was the second wrong call of the weekend in three Benildus games which required the arbiter, and while running a tournament is a thankless task, it is very frustrating when games are decided incorrectly.
So to the final round. Boards 1, 3 and 5 were Benildus v Blanchardstown, while Dylan was on board 2 and in the final standings, seven of the top eight players were Benildus or Blanchardstown! We didn’t actually win any of the three head-to-heads, although I didn’t really try very hard, offering a draw after 15 moves, which was accepted, guaranteeing me outright first place and my opponents a share of second. It’s also the first tournament I’ve won twice, having won the 1200-1600 section in 2006, also on 5½/6 after a final round draw.
Elsewhere, Ciarán drew with Danny Dwyer, while Odhrán lost to Luke Scott after blundering a piece, though 4/6 was still good enough for a grading prize. But on 2, Dylan won to take a share of second. Further down the list, Mariusz beat Anastasija in the last derby of the weekend, while Mihailo, Ross and Finn all signed off with wins. William was the only Benildus player not to record a win, but did get three draws and plenty of experience for the next tournament!
All that means that Dylan is the new school number 1, having gained 129 points to overtake Mihailo. The gap between me and Ciarán is now just 9 points, while Anastasija has passed 1300 (and Alex has passed 1800!) All the ratings have been updated in the usual place on the site.