The club’s winning run in weekenders came to an abrupt halt in the Irish Juniors in Blanchardstown, a tournament which also saw an almost complete sweep of club derbies.
2015 was the first time the Irish Juniors were held in Dublin in almost a decade, and for the first time in a few years, the under 19 section was big enough not to be grouped in with the under 16s, while all told, numbers were well up on previous years. There was strength in depth too – Anastasija was 12th seed of the 13 in the under 19s, while Odhrán was tenth seed – and this despite the likes of Conor O’Donnell, Henry Li, Alex Byrne and Danny Dwyer playing in the lower sections.
We had eight players involved all told, and there were several derbies over the weekend, starting right from the off when Dylan and Odhrán met in the first round of the under 19s. With less than a minute each left, a draw was agreed – which was as good as it got for the club in the section for a long time. Anastasija lost her opener; in round two, she had the bye while Odhrán and Dylan both lost. In round 3, all three lost, and in round 4, we avoided a whitewash only when Odhrán drew with the bottom seed, who was rated below 1000. In round 5, we had another derby as Odhrán played Anastasija – it looked like he was facing into quite a strong attack, and then Anastasija – with queen for two rooks, no other pieces but attacking an open king – probably had a perpetual, but in time trouble, she got her queen pinned to the king and so ended up in a rook and pawns versus pawns ending, which Odhrán just about had time to win. Dylan beat the bottom seed, and then beat Anastasija in the final round. In the end, our combined score was 5½/18 – one bye, three derbies and 1½/2 against the bottom seed!
The under 16s were a little bit better. Finn started off with a very respectable draw against Agustin Plaza Reino – 1250 when I beat him in Gonzaga in January, but 1650 now! Mihailo won his opener, but when both met in round 4, it was on board 6 of 9. Finn, as white, was unsure what to play, knowing Mihailo’s opening knowledge was better, particularly with black. I suggested 1. a3 and play as black – why not? In the end, a compromise was reached, and 1. c3 was settled on. I headed over for the start – Finn took a few moments to play the move, but 1. c3 it was, to Mihailo’s audible shock. The plan was to turn the game into a Caro-Kann with colours reversed, but instead, after 1. c3 d5 2. d4, it actually turned into a Colle, and a dull draw was the result.
Mihailo recovered to win his last two games to take a share of second – and took outright second on tie-break, though the website doesn’t seem to agree! Finn, meanwhile, lost round 5 when, working out his next move, started wondering where his knight was gone – it had been captured a couple of moves previously without Finn realising he hadn’t captured anything in return. He promptly resigned, and was then rather unlucky to end up with a bye in the final round despite being on 2/5.
In the under 14s, Ross was the Benildus fore-runner, reaching 3/3 before losing a board 1 tie against Henry Li – who in turn lost to Pádraig Hughes in the next round, who had already beaten Alex Byrne. We had a couple more derbies in the final two rounds – Ross beat Seán Kelly in five minutes in the last round after Seán hung a queen and a rook, but in fairness to Seán, he had made it as far as the same board as Ross in the final round! He’d been helped by his two previous opponents both hanging queens as well; maybe they’d been a bad influence. In round 5, Seán Devilly went down to Alex Byrne after a tough fight; both Seáns ended up on 3/6, while Ross scored 4.
For my part, I was controlling the under 10s, which provided several interesting new moves. I’m not sure if my favourite position was the king in check from two knights, or the light squared bishop which captured a dark squared bishop. Several false checkmates were called, and the final round saw four draws – one a stalemate while two queens up and going for a third, one a five-fold repetition of moves which I, as controller, stepped in to call, one a three-fold repetition declared by a player and one an agreed draw while a rook up. It’s fair to say you won’t get a more eclectic mix of draws than that!