A third consecutive weekender 1-2 for Benildus, new ratings highs for the prizewinners plus Ross and myself and a decent debut performance from Fianchetto Frank – a look back at Cork 2015.
In the Masters, myself, Ross and Alex were hoping for the chance to get higher-rated opposition than we’d usually face – the top section in Cork is 1600+, and though it was weaker this year than previous years, it’s not every day us mere mortals get to play in a section with two titled players. Alex played one in the first round, losing to Philip Short FM, and though myself and Ross didn’t get a shot quite that high, we did both play players around 2000, with Ross drawing his game in the final round as white, and me on the verge of reaching a better endgame when I was hit with a tactic I never saw coming – it only cost me a piece, but by the time I saw it, it had cost me a rook.
All three of us ended up on 3/6, though I had the harder route there after winning my first round game against a player who’s gained 200 points since hammering me in Bunratty a couple of years ago. That was the only win against the seeding in the first round; Ross’ draw was the only other board which the seed didn’t win in the first round.
By and large, the three of us hovered around the same score, and so a derby was always on the cards – it came in round 3, when I met Alex. He changed from his more usual French for this one, but my plan of swapping off early to reach an ending – often the best way of overcoming juniors! – had reasonable success; it won’t have endeared me to the throngs watching, but I did manage to reach a completely drawn R+6 each ending, and though Alex turned down my draw offer to try find some way through, I only had to sit tight and count up the repetitions over the board to claim the half point.
I followed that up with a win in an opposite-coloured bishop endgame in round 4, before a 12-move 30-minute hammering in round 5 (“At least you can make Mass”, quipped my neighbour when I resigned. “Hey – He wasn’t looking after me this morning; I don’t see why I should look after Him now”, I replied) and a final round draw which I offered because I got the feeling both of us knew we were worse (Fritz says I was right).
All this took me above 2½/6 for the first time in the 1600+ section of country weekender, and for good measure I sneaked top Benildus finisher on tie-break, while both myself and Ross recorded performances around 1900 for healthy points gains.
William was the only Benildus player in the Majors, and he was involved in what must be one of few games in Irish chess to last over two days (adjournments aside). A crashed computer meant the first round was delayed to 8:15 – and it later turned out William’s clock was set incorrectly to give 30 second increments instead of 15! The game reached an opposite-coloured bishop ending where both players got passed rook pawns which cost their opponent’s bishop. William, with black, was the first to give up his bishop, at which stage the controller – wondering why there was still a game going on at midnight – came in and rolled his eyes; sure black was clearly lost. He was wrong though, and after William got the bishop back, it was a straight race in a king and pawn ending with d and f pawns each. William queened first, his opponent queened straight after and the game went on as William tried to arrange a skewer. At this stage – now 12:30am – the controller stepped in and brought an end to proceedings by declaring a draw. Still, an encouraging start to the tournament given William was up against the 10th seed, who had a 300-point rating advantage. The rest of the tournament didn’t quite go as well, though a fifth round win made it a solid 2/6 in the end.
The Minors was where we really shone. Desmond was second seed, and after the top seed lost in the first round, board 1 was Desmond’s for the rest of the tournament – though unfortunately the live boards died in the round 1 computer crash, so he never got to be live on the internet.
Round 3 was the big one for Desmond – he beat Liam Kelly in the second club derby of the weekend, and as it turned out, all three joint runners-up (including Liam) lost in this round, leaving Desmond a clear shot at the title. By round 4, there were just two players on 4/4 – Desmond recorded a crushing win, and then took a 14-move draw in the last round to seal his first tournament win. Liam‘s only reverse was that derby against Desmond, and he capped a good weekend with a comfortable round 6 win against the player Desmond had beaten in round 5, and so ended up in joint second place (and was best of the three on tie-break).
Further down, Richard scored 3/6, including a first-round draw against the sixth seed, and he was joined on 3/6 by Frank Kelly, who recovered from slumping to 0/2 to start fianchettoing everything going en route to winning three of his last four games and maybe being up for some more of this competitive lark!
It remains to give the usual thanks to those who made the weekend happen – in this case, Frank and Sinéad, who looked after accommodation, food and drink – and to share a couple of games and positions.
Henk de Jonge (1850) v Kevin Burke (1635); Cork Masters round 4; 28/03/15
1. d4 e6 2. Nf3 f5 3. d5
I have no idea what this is. Fritz gives it ? in its openings book, but it is going to change the course of the game entirely from what I’d originally planned. I figured my opponent was angling for an early queen swap (though he doesn’t have to at all), hence my next move, which allows me take back with the bishop rather than the king, and which is part of the regular Dutch set-up anyway.
3. … Be7 4. de de 5. QxQ+ BxQ 6. c4?!
It’s not really clear what this achieves. It restricts the LSB on f1, and doesn’t really add anything to white’s game. Maybe just bringing a piece out was better.
6. … Nc6 7. Bd2 Nf6 8. Nc3 e5 9. e3 b6 10. Be2 h6
Played to avoid 10. … Bb7 11. Ng5, with an eye on the newly undefended e6 square. It also lets my opponent think about 11. … g5 and a king-side pawn storm, which guided his reply.
I had wanted to play 13. … e4, but I didn’t like the reply 14. Nd4, when white’s knights are nicely placed, and taking just builds up his centre. But I was asleep, and 13. … e4 was the correct move. 14. Nd4 just loses a pawn, even if white throws in the intermezzo NxN+. I’ll let you work out what I missed!
14. Be1 Re8 15. Nd2 Nc5 16. f3 a5
My opponent completely missed the point of this move, which was to use b4 as a springboard for my knight, and both are eyeing nice squares like a2 and d3.
17. Rg1?! Nb4! 18. NxN PxN
Now I’ve an open a-file to operate on, and the tempo I gain attacking a2 means I get to take over the centre, while lumping white with a potentially weak pawn on e3 as well.
19. Kb1 e4 20. fe (D)
How to take back?
20. … NxP is the obvious move, and what I played – and it’s good enough for a definite edge. But Fritz says 20. … RxP is even stronger!
Both the e and h pawns are now hanging, so white may as well go in for the sac – 21. NxR BxN+ 22. Kc1 (not Ka1 Nb3#!) Bf6 23. BxP RxP (now Nb3# is a threat again) 24. BxN BxP+ 25. Kd2 Bb4+ and the e3 pawn is falling, black’s pieces are swarming around white’s king and black is a better.
Needless to say, I never considered RxP.
20. … NxP 21. NxN BxN+ 22. Bd3 c5 23. g4??
A careless blunder under pressure.
23. … Bf3
I could also just take the pawn – 23. … fg 24. RxP Bf3 forks the rooks
24. Rd2 fg 25. Bf2 Bf6 26. Bf5 Rad8 27. Bd3?? (D) RxB
I’m not entirely sure what the notation sign for “When you see a good move, look for a better one” is – but whatever it is, it needs to go after my 27th move.
What should I have played first to improve on the idea I actually went for?
27. … g3! causes chaos in white’s ranks. If 28. BxP RxP and the bishop on d3 falls (29. Bh7+ does nothing as the rook on d8 is protected by the bishop). If 28. RxP RxB 29. RxR Be4 and now white’s rook on g3 can’t get back to defend its counterpart. Similarly, after 28. Be1 RxB 29. RxR Be4, the white rook is blocked off from reaching d1. So in all lines, white is losing a piece. All I got out of it was a pawn.
28. RxR Be4 29. Kc2 Rd8 30. Rd1
White is completely tied up, and I can improve my pieces at leisure. Instead, I jumped on a second pawn, and then realised I’d done what I meant to avoid – swapped off into an opposite coloured bishop endgame. It’s still winning, but I’ve made it a small bit harder for myself.
30. … Bxb2 31. KxB RxR 32. RxR BxR 33. Kb3 Kf7 34. Bg3 Ke6 35. Bf7 b5 36. cb BxP 37. Bb6?
White is trying to attack too much; he should be trying to keep his bishop active to hang on to any drawing chances
37. … Kd5 38. e4+ Kd4 39. e5?? (D)
Oops! What’s white missed?
One of the most common ways of winning opposite coloured bishop endgames is to block off your opponent’s piece’s route back to your passed pawn. Here, white has done that for me, and after…
39. … g3 0-1
…the pawn can’t be stopped.
Two other tactical snippets. In the position below, I’m a bit better as black against a 2000-rated player. My aim is to swap into an ending where white’s pawns are awful, and if the bishops stay on, my pawns are on the right squares. But there’s only one square for the rook to go. Which square is it, and why?
1. … Re8 is the only move to keep an edge. I played 1. … Rf8?? and got a rude awakening after 2. Bc4 Rf6?? (best was 2. … BxB 3. RxQ RxR) 3. BxB+ RxB 4. RxR and only then did I spot the point and resign – after 4. … QxR 5. Qe8+ forks king and rook. 1. … Rc7 or Rc5 are met with the immediate 2. RxB QxR 3. Qb8+ picking up the rook (forking king and both rooks, in fact, if I play 1. … Rc7) And 1. … Ra8 is met with 2. RxB QxR 3. Bb7 Qe8 (3. … Re8 4. Bd5 wins the queen) 4. Qd5+ and the rook falls again.
In the last round, I played an awful opening, but after I sacced my IQP, the game swung in my favour – first psychologically, then actually. How should I continue my attack from here?
1. BxN is enough for an advantage. 1. Qh5 is ok too, but allows black to defend a bit more tenaciously with 1. Qh5 h6 2. BxN Qe7! Nf3 f6. The first line might continue 1. BxN RxB 2. Qh5 h6 (actually, Fritz prefers 2. … RxN here, which doesn’t say much for black’s position) 3. QxP+ Kh8 4. RxR QxR, and here in my analysis at the time (and indeed afterwards with my opponent) I missed the continuations 5. QxP (my knight is hanging, but so is black’s rook) and 5. QxB+ RxQ 6. RxQ. I was concerned by my two hanging pieces (rook and knight), and only considered 5. Nf3, but after Qxb2, I’m a bit worse, so I eventually threw the whole line in the bin and tried 1. Qh4, which lead nowhere, so I offered a draw a few moves later (being just worse and into my last ten minutes), which I was slightly surprised to see accepted.