Edit – final standings added
There were six players in with a chance of the title at the outset – Gerry and myself on 3½, and Mariusz, John, Desmond and Dave on 3. But while those games were still starting to take shape, a couple of quick results came in on the bottom boards. Frank fell foul of a king/queen fork against Des, while Eddie was quickfire as ever in getting to a major piece and pawns ending – he was a pawn down, but had queen and two rooks pointing at Denis Dempsey’s king. Various sacs seemed in the air; Eddie chose a rook sac on g6, which opened up access to the seventh rank for his queen with check, and that soon proved decisive. Meanwhile, on board 9, Seán had unluckily gotten tangled up early on in an Exchange Slav and had had to give up a piece to stop nasty fork threats on c7; Kevin may be rusty, but he never was one to back down from a piece up!
The next game finished fairly cleared things up at the top. Myself and John had reached the following position –
– with John, as white, to move. I can confirm that this position looks rather daunting from the black side! I’d been happy at earlier progress in denying white’s king much safety, but then reached this position and realised I had barely any moves, and threats like Qh4 or Qg5 looked hard to deal with. The game continued
17. Qh5 Rd8!
The point of this is that I can now get my queen back to d8 in time to give extra cover to f6, while giving my king a flight path. If 18. RxR QxR (as happened in fact), or if 18. Nf6+ PxN 19. ef RxR+ 20. KxR Qd8+ and 21. … BxP. If white tries to get creative with 20. Rd2+, I can swap rooks on h1 and the material advantage will be enough to withstand the coming attack. Finally, if 20. QxR Bf8 and again, I’m protecting all the weak spots.
18. RxR QxR 19. Nf6+??
As seen above, this now doesn’t work.
19. … PxN 20. ef BxP (D)
A couple of people were now starting to gather, and saw John quickly play 21. Qg5+??. I was still writing my move down at the time, and didn’t have time to see, much less analyse, the move, before I heard a quiet “Ah, sh… I resign” The first thing I saw was that I was losing the bishop and had to be in trouble; possibly I could even resign now. Then I worked out what John had just said and looked at the position again to see that my bishop wasn’t pinned – which is what John had missed when playing Nf6+. I was so confused I started to analyse why I couldn’t just play BxQ before again remembering that my opponent had just resigned and I didn’t need to go on!
But going back to the first diagramme, there is interesting stuff afoot. White can just go for the sac immediately with 17. Nf6+! Then I’ve got a couple of replies, neither particularly encouraging –
- 17. … BxN 18. PxB g6 isn’t really worth going into too much detail on – white hasn’t sacced anything and black has a permanent weakness on g7 to worry about. Fritz gives at objectively the best, though the play is easy for white.
- 17. … PxN 18. ef e5 (to cover the threat of Qg4+ and Qg7# – but white just goes for mate on h7 instead now) 19. Qh5 BxP 20. Bh3! and I have to give up my queen to avoid Bf5 and QxP#
- 17. … Kh8 just loses material after 18. Nd7 forking both rooks, and black has no compensation. But white may have better in 18. Be4!. For example 17. … Kh8 18. Be4 BxN 19. PxB g6 20. h4 and white again has the sacrificed material back and has a strong attack to boot. Or 17. … Kh8 18. Be4 Rd8 (to stop white from playing Rd7) 19. Qh5 RxR+ 20. KxR h6 21. Qxf7 and white’s a pawn up but much better positionally
Anyways, that reduced the title to a two-way race – if Gerry beat Mariusz, he would almost certainly win on tie-break, but if Mariusz could draw or even win, the salver was mine. Gerry was a pawn up, but it was a bit lonely on c5, and the game seemed to hinge on whether or not he could hold on to it. The other top board was fairly close as well; Dave Willow was a pawn up against Desmond, but it was an isolated doubled pawn and it wasn’t clear how to make much headway.
Lower down, Aodhán capped a good tournament with a win over Anastasija – a 1760 rating performance for the player who, ten months ago, didn’t think he’d be up to the standard of the Frank Scott Shield! Ross made a Nf6+ sac work against Liam – though granted he was a piece up at the time, which made it a bit easier! – and took the point. Odhrán and Ciarán, meanwhile, both completed Swiss submarines in winning their last three ties. Odhrán had reached B+5 v 5 against Mihailo, but Mihailo was able to swap off a couple of pawns to get to B+2 v 2, and was just one tempo away from being able to salvage a draw in a wrong-coloured rook’s pawn ending. Ciarán had held off a direct kingside attack against Stephen and then won a couple of pawns on the other side of the board, which gave him passed pawns to push to victory. Meanwhile, Dylan and Zdravko shared the spoils on 4.
Boards 1 and 3 were the last to finish. Desmond held the draw against Dave despite Dave’s isolated, doubled pawns now being isolated, doubled, passed pawns. Meanwhile, Gerry had kept his c pawn, which was now on c6 and becoming a major headache for Mariusz, whose afterwards said he was well in the game up to move 23, when he made one mistake which Gerry seized on and punished. Mariusz ended up saccing an exchange and then resigned when promotion could only be stopped by giving up further material.
So that just left the prizegiving. Aodhán’s first round win over Ross ended up being unsurpassed for the David v Goliath prize –
Aodhán’s 3/5 score also earned him the grading prize, but as he had already won the more prestigious (in the controllers’ opinion!) David v Goliath prize, which was the exact same trophy anyway, we invoked the usual chess tournament rule that you can’t win more than one prize, and so the under 1200 grading prize went instead to Liam, on tie-break from Des –
Liam can add this to his Frank Scott grading prize from last year. Three players finished joint third on 3½/5. Desmond took a fairly impressive third on tie-break with an 1820 rating performance –
Surely an inspiration for Frank Kelly as he starts off on his chess career! Desmond, of course, also topped the under 1600 grading prize, so the grading prize dropped down to Odhrán, who also scored 3½/5 –
It’s worth mentioning Dave Willow here, who was unbeaten throughout and was only pipped to third place on second tie-break.
Also pipped on tie break was myself, to come second and be left to rue not putting Gerry away when I more than had him on the ropes!
Once again though, Gerry has come out on top, and the rest can just look ahead to 2016 for another chance to dethrone him.
The formal final standings are as follows. A * indicates a grading prize/David v Goliath prize