Gerry’s winning run in the club championships – dating back to at least 2003, and including all previous 8 games in the current format – was halted last night, and other results mean that there’s now six players going into the final round with a chance of getting their hands on the salver.
With Eddie taking a bye in this round, it was no real surprise that John was first finished instead; if John and Eddie ever meet in a future club championships, the game will probably be over in seconds, having still managed to reach a pawn ending. Strangely, John’s game was remarkably similar to my game against Stephen in round 2 – although it did have one curious variation on a standard King’s Gambit idea that’s maybe worth sharing!
John Healy (1848) v Stephen Cunningham (1377); St Benildus Club Championships round 4; 12/08/15
1. e4 e5 2. f4 Nc6 3. Nf3 f6?!
f6 to defend a pawn on e5 is rarely good! Though Houdini doesn’t seem to mind too much.
4. fe fe
If instead 4. … NxP?? 5. NxN PxN 6. Qh5+ +-
5. Bc4 Bc5 6. b4
Played purely with the aim of deflecting the bishop and allowing castling. Black’s best may be to retreat to b6, still stopping castling.
6. … BxP 7. 0-0 d6
In the pub after, we looked at the symmetrical idea of 7. … b5, trying to do to white what white just did to black. But black should maybe just defend and develop normally with Nf6 instead, covering the important h5 square and blocking the f-file.
I’m not sure now if white’s 8th, 9th and 10th moves are really necessary – in fact, they seem to move black’s bishop to a better square and weaken both long dark-square diagonals. White could maybe skip to his 11th move here.
8. c3 Bc5+ 9. d4 ed 10. cd Bb6 (D)
How to continue before black gets developed?
The fact that there’s no pawn on f7 doesn’t need to stop this move! But Houdini gives it as an outright blunder.
11. … KxB 12. Ne5+ Ke8 13. Qh5+ g6 14. NxP (D)
Houdini scores this -7! Move 12 would have been NxP+ in the alternate game where moves 8, 9 and 10 were skipped – so a free pawn.
14. … PxN??
And Houdini scores this as mate in two. Best for black was 14. … BxP+! 15. Kh1 Nf6 and white can almost resign. A continuation might be 16. RxN QxR 17. NxR+ Kd7 18. QxP+ Ne7 19. Qh3+ Kd8 and white has no more checks, and all his pieces in the corners are hanging – the rook on a1, the knight on h8 and the king on h1 is threatened with Qf1#. All three of these are brought about, incidentally, by the important zwischenzug 14. … BxP+
It seems Stephen missed this move, expecting instead QxR – which is strange, as my round 2 game against him finished with the exact same motif!
15. … Kd7 16. Qf5 1-0
It’s mate next move.
On the bottom board, Frank fell foul of a fork after placing two undefended minor pieces on the 5th rank against Kevin May – who was rusty enough that he missed the fork first time round, and had to wait another move before playing it. From a piece up, there was only going to be one winner. Ross availed of a tactic against Denis Dempsey to win both a and b pawns, which gave him protected passed a and b pawns of his own as well as the material advantage, which was enough for victory. Anastasija had two bishops for a rook against Des, which proved enough to win in an interesting game. Brendan was for a while more worried about how to remove the security tag from his new t-shirt after the shop he bought it in forgot to, noting that he was losing his game anyway, but he maybe underestimated his own position and escaped to Q, R, N+2 v Q, R+5. However, when his knight got pinned to his king, he missed a one-move tactic to escape and win and instead, Liam took the knight and his first win of the tournament.
Further up the way, Seán and Ciarán were throwing pawns at each other, having castled on opposite sides – Seán’s attack looked more dangerous, but the game fizzled out into a rook, knight and pawn ending where Ciarán’s knight was far superior and the main pawn weaknesses were Seán’s. Board 2 ended in a draw – Zdravko had a passed pawn, but the game seemed to peter out with Dave blocking and attacking it, while Zdravko defended, and neither side was eager to move from that situation. Mariusz had a raging attack going against Aodhán, who was desperately hanging on. He had to give up rook for queen at one stage, but Mariusz was into his final minutes and the board was still fairly cluttered. With 20 seconds left, Mariusz finally got to this mate in one position –
The round to date had been relatively devoid of upsets – Liam beating Brendan the only one really – but that changed with the last two games to finish. Mihailo had sacced a piece for a king hunt against Desmond, but Desmond found a defensive resource Mihailo had missed and was just a piece up. This was duly converted into a win which means Desmond has one hand on the under 1600 grading prize – which he could add to last year’s under 1200 grading prize.
Board 1 was the last to finish – an interesting game where I completely threw away a crushing position…
Kevin Burke (1663) v Gerry O’Connell (2000); St Benildus Club Championships round 4; 12/08/15
1. e4 c5 2. c3 Nf6 3. e5 Nd5 4. d4 cxd4 5. Nf3 Nc6 6. cxd4 d6 7. Bc4 e6 8. Qe2 dxe5 9. dxe5 Nb6 10. Bb3 Bb4+ 11. Nbd2 Nd5
All fairly standard up to here – except that Gerry had already used an hour on his clock by this stage, compared to my 13 minutes.
12. O-O Qc7
Houdini says Gerry can castle here; he didn’t feel comfortable doing so, and I’d have been happy to see it – Ng5, Qe4 and Bc2 can all come in quickly. White’s play is easy, if nothing else.
13. Qe4 h6 14. Nc4 Bd7
The last couple of moves confirm Gerry isn’t castling kingside. Houdini suggests 14. … b5 – which would confirm it doesn’t want to castle long!
15. a3 Be7 16. Rd1
Forcing the castling issue – otherwise Nd6+ wins material due to various pins and forks. Also, it’s a rook on d1, which can’t be bad.
Battle lines are fully drawn now. I have Ba2 and b4-b5, while Gerry has an open g-file and may get some joy rolling his central pawns. Houdini actually suggests 18. … BxP, reckoning that the space for the bishop is worth the isolated e-pawn and the potential for me to use e5 for both my knights to work through.
19. Rac1 Kb8 20. Ba2 Rdg8 21. b4 a6 22. Nd4
I was unsure about this move – in the end, my hand made it instead of my head really. I could see it was going to bring Gerry’s bishop to c6, and then after a future Nf4, Gerry has three pieces pointing at g2. But I didn’t want to move any of my other pieces from where they were – so process of elimination resulted in this move. Houdini gives me a definite edge after 22. Na5 Bd6 (part of the reason I didn’t want to move my knight from c4 to begin with) 23. g3 Rd8 24. NxN PxN. I wasn’t really considering this last move, but it seems black is ill-advised to play 24. … BxN because 25. Nd4 applies an awful lot of pressure.
I wanted to play 24. Na5 here, but 24. … RxP+ had me worried. I had been looking at 25. KxR Ne3+ 26. Kh3 (26. Kg1 Rg8+ and mate) Bg2+ 27. Kh4 Nf5+, which wins the queen – but I’d actually missed at the time that it would leave black’s queen hanging – but I have to give up a rook to get it – but then black sacced a rook at the start of all this! Anyways, I’d also missed 27. … QxP#, but I figured there was something nasty in there somewhere and let the whole line go. But 25. Kf1 is an option – I’d been a bit concerned about the reply 25. … Rhg8 and a potential king hunt. Houdini says there’s nothing there, and calmly goes in for 26. BxN PxB 27. NxB+ PxN 28. Bf4 Bd6 29. BxB QxB 30. Qb6+ Ka8 31. Qxa6+ Kb8 32. Qb6+ Ka8 33. QxP+ (not RxP+, which is mate in 10 for black after 34. Rg1+) QxQ 34. RxQ Rg1+ 35. Ke2 RxR 36. KxR and white’s pawns are just better than black’s; Houdini scores it +1, though even with the connected a and b pawns, that’s still far from trivial against someone like Gerry! So I played it safe.
24. g3 e5 25. Qd3 Ka8??
Neither of us were sure of the point of this move after the game – but it’s a massive blunder. +7 says Houdini, which calls for Rd8 instead, partly to challenge the queen, but also to remove the rook from the glare of the bishop on a3. Instead, black is now losing material quickly.
26. Na5 Nf4 (D) 27. Qf1
This is ok, but there’s a more forcing continuation for white here. What is it?
27. RxB! is playable. If 27. … PxR?? 28. QxP+ Kb8 29. NxP+ QxN 30. QxQ, or if 27. … NxQ 28. RxQ and white is a piece up with more material falling on the seventh rank. Black’s best is 27. … QxR 28. BxN Qc7 29. BxR RxB and again I’m a piece up.
27. … Qc8 28. Bxf4 exf4 29. Bxg8 Rxg8 30. Nxc6?! bxc6
30. RxB is stronger; the point being that after 30. … PxN 31. Rc1, I’m winning the c6 pawn and have three pieces swarming around the black king. Here, though we were both into our last 3/4 minutes, and I wasn’t calculating tactics like this.
31. Qd3 fxg3 32. hxg3 Rd8 33. Qe3 Rxd1+ 34. Rxd1 Qc7 35. Qxh6?!
This is still winning (+6 or so) but Zdravko commented on it immediately after the game. The pawn is meaningless, and 35. Qe6! instead (+11) allows my rook and queen infiltrate and decide the game more or less immediately – the threat of Rd7 winning the bishop can’t be adequately met. So for example 35. Qe6 Bd8 36. Qe8 and the bishop is still lost. The king, not a weak pawn, should be the target at this stage.
Here I wanted to stop 38. … BxP+, when I can’t take back because of the reply Qc2+ winning the rook. So I protected the rook while threatening Qd7 next move – but completely missed black’s reply. Instead 38. Qf3 defends all my pieces and is just winning. Black’s reply saves the game.
38. … Qxg3+ 39. Qg2 Bxf2+ 40. Kh1 Qh4+ 41. Qh2 Qxh2+ 42. Kxh2 Bc5 43. Rd3=
With under a minute left each, I offered a draw here, figuring Gerry realised he’d been left off the hook. He declined and played on, which fairly scared me!
43. … Kb6 44. Rf3 Bd4 45. Kg3 a5 46. Kf4 a4 47. Kf5 Kb5 48. Ke6 Kc4 49. Kd6 Bc3 50. Kc6 Bd4 51. Kd6 ½-½
And here, with 20 seconds each left, Gerry offered a draw – for him to win the a-pawn, he has to give up the f pawn I think, and then I can sac the rook on the last pawn to draw.
So after all that, the full round 4 results were –
|8||Kevin Burke (3)||1663||½-½||1||Gerry O’Connell (3)||2000|
|10||Dave Willow (2½)||1628||½-½||3||Zdravko Manojlovic (2)||1864|
|4||John Healy (2)||1851||1-0||18||Stephen Cunningham (2)||1377|
|22||Aodhán Keane (2)||1120||0-1||5||Mariusz Lokasto (2)||1755|
|12||Mihailo Manojlovic (2)||1574||0-1||20||Desmond Beatty (2)||1241|
|24||Seán Devilly (1½)||1107||0-1||9||Ciarán Ruane (1)||1662|
|19||Denis Dempsey (1)||1249||0-1||11||Ross Beatty (1)||1617|
|23||Liam Kelly (1)||1111||1-0||13||Brendan Cuffe (1)||1499|
|15||Anastasija Manojlovic (1)||1459||1-0||25||Des Carroll (1)||1006|
|17||Kevin May (½)||1400||1-0||26||Frank Kelly (½)||672|
|21||William Kenny (½)||1197||1-0||Bye|
|6||Ciarán Mahon (1½)||1702||½-½||Bye|
|14||Odhrán McDonnell (2)||1479||½-½||Bye|
|7||Dylan Boland (2)||1667||½-½||Bye|
|16||Eddie Gahan (½)||1402||½-½||Bye|
There are no postponed games, so we should have a final round draw this evening.