In which Desmond, the Armstrong, William, the Heidenfeld and Stephen Brady all lost their 100% winning records.
It was a busy week, with three matches on Wednesday and a fourth on Saturday. The Bodley B were playing their last relatively easy game for a while – the As’ three promotion rivals all await in the final four games – and the pressure was on to get a decent result to steer clear of the drop zone. We started off well, with Tim winning a piece inside the first ten moves, though by the time Aodhán got the first result (a win for us), Tim had dropped the piece – but had thankfully also seen the back-rank mate which was the reason what he thought was a piece swap didn’t work! Aodhán’s win came later than was necessary after he (as black) missed a tactic at this stage (as ever, see if you can spot it before scrolling on) –
1. … BxP+! wins. 2. KxB Ng4+ (but not NxP+ 3. QxN) 3. PxN QxQ and black has won a queen for two pieces and should win easily. As it was, white only lasted a couple more moves anyway, and we were 1-0 up.
Cal, meanwhile, lost on 1 after falling foul of a number of forks, but not before reaching this position, where white to play can launch an attack –
Actually, white has a lovely position here, but unfortunately Cal went a bit defensive and withdrew the knight. 1. Qb3 is Fritz’ choice, but after a bit of thinking, it gives second place to my first choice on looking at the position – 1. NxP! Black is going to get ripped open, though it’s an intuitive sac rather than one you can calculate the whole way – white has lots of pieces pointing towards the king, and can remove at least two of the pawns giving it cover. 1. … KxN is forced. 2. Qb3+ Ka8 (Kc8 is suicide – the a-pawn and e-pawns are hanging, and the d-file is going to open as well) 3. de (a crucial zwischenzug to open the dark-squared bishop’s diagonal) QxP 4. Bxa6 Na5 5. Qa4 Bd6 (with the subtle threat of mate) 6. g3 Qh5 7. h4 (not b4, as black is threatening Ng4 and unpleasantries!) Rhe8 8. Bd4 (again, not b4 as the reply RxB is nasty, and white’s king gets torn open) Kb8 and finally 9. b4, and black’s king will come under decisive pressure. An interesting study in how to rip open a king’s shelter – but also to make sure you consider your opponent’s threats when attacking too!
Paddy lost, although he did at least spot his opponent’s threat when resigning, which is more than could be said for his opponent, who thought he was just winning a rook when he was actually threatening mate in two! Richard won after getting a nice knight to d3 and then a pawn to c2, both of which won material. Tim, meanwhile, held a draw to mean the match was tied overall, even if Tim’s search for a first league win goes on.
By this stage, the Bodley A were still locked at 0-0 against Naomh Barróg, in what was proving far and away our sternest test of the season. Jack and Seán won pawns early on, but William and Finn had dropped them. Seán then dropped an exchange and his position quickly went downhill from there, but William won back the pawn and then another while Finn had won an exchange (but missed the chance to just win a clean piece) and Jack had a monster pawn on d3. Desmond joined in the material gains, picking up a pawn of his own, and it looked like another 4-1 might be on the cards. Jack and Finn won – Jack is now on 5/5 – while Seán lost, but Desmond then hung a piece, while William was quickly running out of time. Desmond scrambled a draw by perpetual, while William also took a draw in time trouble to mean we won 3-2 overall. Given Enniscorthy had beaten Naomh Barróg 5-0, it was the first real blow in our title hopes, but Naomh Barróg had at least taken 2½ points off Malahide and Curragh behind us.
So the league table now is –
It looks like a clear shoot-out between the top four teams for three promotion spots – and the first clash of any of the top four was today, with Enniscorthy beating Curragh 3-2. Top four games will now come with regularity – Enniscorthy v Malahide is in the next round, while our own Bs may have a say in the promotion race as well! The As have to play teams in italics, the Bs have to play teams in bold.
In Bray, the Armstrong’s title hopes were ended after a disastrous 6-2 defeat. Only Brendan Lyons won; Stephen Brady FM was held to a draw by Johnny Joyce, ending his 100% winning start to the season, while Zdravko walked into mate when in a winning position. John Healy thought he had gotten a decent opening initiative against Eric Bennett and was somewhat surprised to be quickly crushed, while Gerry and Mel eventually went down in endings late on to seal a result which more or less ends the Armstrong title race, as the table shows –
It’s not going to get any easier as we play reigning champions Trinity and champions elect Gonzaga in our next two games.
That just left the Heidenfeld, who had a massive first versus second clash against Curragh on Saturday. Mariusz gave us a great start when his opponent hung a piece, and things were looking quite good as Ciarán and Brendan came towards the end of their games – Ciarán had a relatively trivial ending (B+2 v N), while Brendan had a good attack going. Then disaster – Brendan retreated when he could have sacced down the h-file for what I think was a very strong attack, and then a few moves later completely miscounted in an exchange series to come out a queen down. Meanwhile, Ciarán – into his last two minutes – got to this position –
– and uncorked the spectacular 1. d5??? His opponent gleefully played 1. … NxP, and the game is drawn. Instead 1. Bd7 (or 1. Bd5 actually) both win immediately – black has to sac the knight again, but this time white’s d-pawn runs home.
We lost as expected on the top two – Ciarán M putting up a decent fight to reach a bishop ending a pawn down against a 2300, while Michael got a decent position against a 1990 before I think getting a bishop trapped deep in opposition territory and losing a pawn as a result. Suddenly, from having a 3-0 lead in our sights, we were 3½-1½ down.
Things weren’t looking great elsewhere either. Mihailo had a nightmare and lost – 4½-1½. Ross was struggling to hold a rook and pawn ending a pawn down, while I had sacced an exchange but then dropped a pawn I hadn’t meant to to let my opponent right back into it.
But at the death, we turned things back to respectability. Ross did finally hold the draw, while I got my passed pawns – compensation for the exchange I’d sacced – rolling and with about a minute left on my clock delivered mate to haul us back to a 5-3 loss. Our first defeat of the season, but by no means a disaster; round 7 has been quite kind to us, with Inchicore A dropping 3½ points to Lucan, Celbridge only taking 5 points off Rathmines B and Rathmines A even losing to Inchicore B. If anything, despite losing ourselves, round 7 has strengthened our hold on the runners-up spot –
We have the bye in the next round; Celbridge play Rathmines A and then Curragh next and will hopefully drop a nice few points there! But a big defeat in any of our final games – particularly against Inchicore A – could yet spell disaster for us.
My game was the best I’ve played in a while, so might be worth sharing –
Pearse Dunne (1769) v Kevin Burke (1620); Heidenfeld v Curragh; 31/01/15
I hadn’t actually expected to be playing Pearse; I was on 3 partly to sandbag (we were focusing on the bottom five boards for results) and partly because I’d beaten the player I’d expected – Richard Arundell – before, and hoped that psychological boost might help overcome a 300 point rating gap!) But up against a mere 1760, there was suddenly a bit of pressure to maybe deliver a result!
1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. e5 c5 4. c4 Nc6 5. Nf3 Bd7 6. Be2 f6
6. … Nge7 is normal here, but this is playable too. Though I don’t think I’ve ever played it before.
7. 0-0 cd 8. cd fe 9. fe g6 10. Nc3 a6
I want to play Bg7, but first of all want to ensure the knight can’t get into d6 via b5. Fritz actually gives white a clear advantage here though, starting with 11. Bg5. But white didn’t play that.
11. Bd3 Bg7 12. Re1 Ne7 13. Bf4 0-0 14. Qd2 Qa5 15. Bg5 Re8
The exchange sac doesn’t quite work now – I need to protect the knight first, as 15. … RxN? isn’t as good after 16. PxR NxP 17. RxN! BxR 18. BxN and white is a piece for pawn up. I could try 16. … d4, which aims to cut out some of that (by bringing the knight to d5 to stop it hanging), but I still don’t really get enough. I figured I’d defend the knight and try again next time.
16. a3 (D)
Everything calls out for a sac! It helps that I’ve just finished watching a DVD on exchange sacrifices, and was looking for an excuse to test out my new-found knowledge. I get a pawn, give white awful pawns around his king, force his bishop back, get two great knights, open up my dark-squared bishop, gain the psychological edge – what’s not to like?
16. … RxN! 17. PxR NxP 18. Be2 Nf5 19. Ne4?! QxQ 20. NxQ
We both agreed after that white probably shouldn’t have offered the queen trade here. White’s knight on d2 is worse than on c3, and my queen was my only offside piece.
20. … Nd4
Played to get the bishop pair, though Fritz doesn’t like this, and wants 20. … Bb5 instead. After 21. BxB NxP+, I’ll get the bishop pair and a pawn. The text still gives me an advantage though.
21. Rac1 NxB+ 22. RxN Bb5 23. Re3 Nf7
This also wins a pawn, though Fritz is unimpressed. I’m not entirely sure why! Maybe it’s to do with how quickly I drop it back again…
24. f4 BxP 25. Rce1 NxB 26. PxN (D)
I’ve undoubled white’s pawns, but I figured the two bishops on an open board was worth it.
26. … e5?
And with that, I give away all my advantage. 26. … d4 is ok, when I lose the e-pawn but gain the a-pawn. Instead, I’ve just cut off an escape route for my dark-squared bishop, which will immediately prove a problem!
27. Rb3 Bd4 28. Nf3 Bc5 29. RxP Rd8 30. Nd2 Bd6 31. Re1 Bf4 32. Nf3 Rd7 33. h4 Bc4 34. Rb2 b5 35. Nd4 Bd6 36. Re3 Bc5 37. Rd2 a5 38. Re8+
Here, I felt white was just starting to get in behind my position too much for comfort, though Fritz gives the position ever since my blunder as pretty much dead level. But with the material imbalance, there’s plenty of play in the position yet.
38. … Kf7 39. Rh8 Kg7 40. Ra8 BxP 41. Nd6+ Ke7 42. Nd8+ Ke7 43. Nc6+ Kd6 44. NxP Bb4? 45. Ra6+ Kc7 (D) 46. NxB?!
44. … Bb4 was wrong; Bc5 is better says Fritz. Note 45. … Kc5 would have been a slight in accuracy in light of 46. Rc6#! But on move 46, white went wrong.
Best was 46. Ra7+ Kc8 47. RxR KxR 48. NxB PxN 49. RxP+, and while it’s still far from easy – in fact, I may be able to draw as the pawns come off the board – most of my threats are gone. I saw this in the game and thought I was in trouble. Fortunately, my opponent saw it one move later, when it doesn’t work! After swapping knight for bishop, I can play 47. Ra7+ Kc6 48. RxR BxR and the rook is struggling to get back to stop my pawns.
46. … bxN 47. Rb2 Bc5 48. Kf1 c3 49. Rc2?! (D)
The beginning of the end for white. Rooks need to be active in endgames, and they don’t like to blockade passed pawns. 49. Rb5 – or even Rb3 – was essential. That said, at this stage, I was into my last five minutes, and there wasn’t exactly an end to the game in sight!
49. … d4 50. Ra1 Rf7?!
Better is to bring my king into the game first. I wanted to activate my rook, but this move doesn’t really achieve anything.
51. Ke2 Kd6 52. Rf1??
This is the losing blunder. White’s rooks are awful. Black’s pieces are all working together.
52. … Kd5 53. f4 Kc4 54. Rf3 Re7+
This is won for black anyway, but I missed 54. … d3+ 55. RxP Re7+ and white must lose the rook. (I was looking at it but missed that 56. Re3 isn’t playable because the bishop is on it as well – I was down to three minutes left and Re7+ wins anyway)
55. Kd1 d3 56. Rc1
Fritz calls mate in 18. But it’s fairly trivial from here; white’s only hope is my clock and the kingside pawns, but I have both under control
56. … Ba3 57. RxP+ KxR 58. h5 Rb7
Subtle threat alert!
Here, Fritz says I can actually ignore the pawn! 65. … Qd4 66. g8=Q Bd6+ 67. Kg2 Rg1+ 68. Kh3 Qg4# (and other mates in two for white’s other 67th moves.) Obviously, with 60 seconds left on the clock, I went after the pawn.
66. Kg4 Qg6 67. Rf5 Rg1+ 68. Kf4 Rf1+ 69. Ke4 QxR# 0-1