Six players will go into next month’s final round of the Frank Scott Shield with a chance of lifting the title.
As the tournament goes on, the ties are becoming more evenly matched, and by the time Diarmaid formally claimed a walkover win against Stephen, not much separated the other six games. The first non-walkover result was a bit of an upset – Luke-Andrew gaining revenge on Aodhán for last year’s victory, which ultimately decided each of the top three places, with an interesting win this time around –
Aodhán Keane (1225) v Luke-Andrew Feeney (968); Frank Scott Shield round 4; 11/11/15
1. c4 Nf6 2. Nc3 e5 3. Nf3 Nc6 4. g3 Bc5 5. Bg2
5. NxP is worth considering here. 5. … NxP 6. d4 forks bishop and knight and wins the material back. Here, however, black does have the option of 5. … BxP+ 6. KxB NxN, with material still level, but white’s king is a bit exposed. The databases give this as a good line for black, but the idea crops up in other openings and is worth keeping an eye out for – particularly for black, when it can be more useful in stymieing white’s early development and attack.
5. … d6 6. 0-0 Be6
The databases almost exclusively show 6. … 0-0 or 6. … a6 (to give the bishop an escape square) here.
7. d3 seems stronger, protecting the c4 pawn and stopping black’s e4 push, which causes such headaches later on.
Another option is the counter-intuitive 7. Ng5 BxP 8. BxN+ PxB 9. Qa4 Bb5 10. NxB PxN 11. QxP+ Qd7 12. QxQ+. Here, black can give up a pawn for development with 12. … KxQ 13. Nxf7 Rf8 14. Ng5 h6 15. Nf3 e4 16. Ne1 (D) where white’s awful pieces give black compensation for the pawn.
It’s a long line, and the game mightn’t necessarily have reached exactly this position, and the position is probably fairly drawish, but it does show that you don’t always need to be bound by solid ideas such as “The pawn is attacked; I must defend it” or “I can’t give up my g2 bishop for a knight”
7. … Qd7 8. e3
Presumably with the idea of playing 9. d4, but the move never gets played.
8. … Bg4 9. Ne2?!
This is the start of white’s transition to the tangled-up state we’ll see in a few moves’ time. The idea, presumably, is again to try for d4. The immediate 9. d4 loses a pawn – but it’s Fritz’ pick anyway. 9. d4 ed (9. … Bb4 10. Qc2 Bf5 keeps black’s edge by harrying the queen to a poor square – but at least then the hanging pawn isn’t a consideration) 10. ed NxP 11. Re1+ Kf8 and white has compensation for the pawn as black’s rooks are uncoordinated. Alternatively, 11. … Ne6 12. Nd5 0-0-0 13. NxN PxN 14. Bb2 and white gets pressure on black’s poor pawns which is worth giving up the centre pawn.
9. … e4
Maybe Qf5, bringing the queen towards the action with tempo, was stronger. But this is ok too – albeit that it has the drawback that the pawn is now less well defended than before – which will crop up later on.
10. Nh4 g5
Starting an interesting phase of the game!
This is good enough to survive the trapped piece – but better was 11. f3! 11. … ef 12. NxP is straightforward enough, and black’s best reply. 11. … PxN 12. PxB NxP 13. BxP is also good for white. The main point is that white opens the f-file, when the pinned knight on f6 can quickly be attacked twice.
11. … NxP?
BxN was required here, so that the f3 push doesn’t come with tempo on the bishop.
12. BxN Rg8 13. BxP?
The wrong bishop takes the wrong pawn. Better than 13. BxP was 13. BxP – as in G2xE4. The h-pawn was going nowhere.
13. … Ne5 14. Bf6
Again, taking on e4 was an option – after 14. BxP Nf3+ 15. Kh1 NxB 16. PxN 0-0-0 (covering b7), black has an attack, but white is two pawns up, which should compensate. But it’s quite sharp, and probably easier for black to play! White can quickly go wrong – for example 17. d4 d5 18. Bxd5?? QxB+! 19. PxQ Bf3#
14. … Nf3+ 15. Kh1
White blunts black’s attack by taking – 15. BxN BxB 16. Qe1 Qh3 17. Nf4 and the mate square is covered.
15. … Qf5 16. Bc3?? (D)
The bishop was hanging – but this is a decisive blunder. Fritz says white holds on after 16. b4! QxB 17. PxB dc. If 16. … BxP 17. Qa4+ Kf8 18. QxB QxB 19. QxP Nxd2 20. QxR+ Kg7 21. Qxa7 NxR 22. RxN BxN 23. Rc1 and white is a passed a-pawn up. If 23. … QxP 24 Qd4+ Qf6 (Kf8?? 25. Qd2 and the bishop will fall) 25. BxP and white is still a pawn up. And if 23. … Qb2 24. Rg1 BxP 25. BxP and white is still a pawn up as 25. … QxP?? is met by 26. Qd5+, winning the bishop.
Instead, black just has a decisive attack here – how to conclude it?
Those watching the game looked at two moves here – 16. … Nxh2 and 16. … Qh5. The former doesn’t actually work as well as it seems. The idea is that after 16. … Nxh2 17. KxN Qh5+ 18. Kg1 BxN, black appears to be winning an exchange, but 19. Qc2! defends well, with the idea that 19. … BxR? 20. QxP+ and white’s bishop pair, better pawn structure, extra pawn and safer king are more than worth the exchange. In fact, if black’s not careful, white can even not bother taking back the bishop – 20. … Kd7 21. Bf3 Qg5 22. Qxb7! Bd3? 23. Bc6+ Ke6?? (better to give up the rook) 24. Qxc7 (threatening Qd7#) Rad8 25. Bd5 Kf5 (QxB is the only other move, which just gives up the queen) 26. QxP+ Kg4 27. Qg3+ Kh3 28. g4+ Kh4 29. Qg3# (27. Bg3+ Kh3 28. Bg2+ Kg4 29. Qf3# also works, and even 27. Kg2 sets up unavoidable mate)
Going back to the diagramme, and 16. … Qh5 is just crushing (as is 16. … Rg6). A continuation might be 17. h4 NxP! 18. Nf4 Qh6 and white’s best is to try struggle on with 19. QxB RxQ 20. BxP – clearly nonsense, but white can’t adequately protect both his queen and the threat of Nf3+, with mate to follow.
Luke didn’t play any of the above three moves though…
16. … Ng5??
This doesn’t really threaten anything – in fact, the knight ends up back on f3 in a couple of moves’ time – and gives white time to defend.
17. b4! Bb6 18. Qa4+ c6 19. Nf4 is a better way of bringing the queen into the game. The text is ok too – if you can find the key 19th move!
17. … Rg6 18. Nf4 Nf3 (D)
So – what is the key defensive move here?
The game continued –
19. Qc1 Rh6 20. h4 NxP 21. Bg7 NxB+! 22. BxR NxN 23. BxN Qh5+ 24. Kg1 0-1
– and white threw in the towel rather than wait for 24. … Bg3 and 25. … Qh1#
21. PxN is no better for white – 21. … RxP+ 22. Kg1 Bf3 23. Qc2 (not that anything else works) RxN! 24. BxB RxB 25. Rc1 0-0-0 and white can’t avoid the mate.
But – had white played 19. Qb1!, the same line is crucially different. 19. … Rh6 20. h4! NxP?? 21. PxN RxP+ 22. Kg1 and now black doesn’t have Bf3 as in the previous line because white simply takes and the defending pawn is pinned. But without that move, white next takes the e4 pawn, is a piece up and black’s attack is over.
Of course, just because Fritz can find that a line is ok doesn’t mean even a top player will find it over the board! But computer analysis like this is handy for finding new ideas – new defensive patterns and attacking ideas which can be used in future games.
On the other boards, William had won a queen for piece against Cal, Ross had gambitted a pawn against Odhrán, who had just held on to it, Dylan was a pawn up against Seán, while Ben and Liam were heading for a heavy-piece ending. On the bottom board, meanwhile, Daniel beat Tim to record his first win of the tournament in a Falkbeer.
Cal, unsurprisingly, didn’t hold out against William, while Liam won what looked a potentially tricky queen and pawn ending a pawn up – the game ended with a phalanx of pawns on e5, f5, f4 and g4 up against a lone black pawn on g5.
That just left the top two boards. Dylan had gone horribly wrong against Seán, and from a position where he had been two pawns up and attacking an exposed king – neither king had castled – he suddenly got his queen trapped on the side of the board. There were some tactics, but they didn’t work, and Seán wound up just rook for two pawns up, with Dylan in huge time pressure to boot. The curse of the top seed had struck again.
On the top board, Ross had some compensation for his gambitted pawn in the form of a knight on b5 hitting backward pawns on a4 and c4, defended by a hapless bishop on b3. But when Ross exchanged the knight, Odhrán was left with a protected passed pawn on b4. Ross was still more active, and Odhrán locked up the position to prevent Ross’ king invading before forcing off the last set of pieces, winning a second pawn as a result. But the resulting 7P v 5P position had no way for either king to breakthrough, and neither of Odhrán’s passed pawns could safely run. But, without any other alternative, he ran them anyway, and with Ross into his last minute, a hectic scramble ensued as both players ran pawns on opposite sides of the board and queened at the same time. The queens came off, and the kings raced to the last remaining pawns, h-pawns both. Odhrán won the pawn, but wasn’t able to get his king off the h-file, which allowed Ross deliver stalemate in the corner with just three seconds left on his clock.
So going into the final round, two of the favourites in Odhrán and Ross are joined on 3/4 by Seán and Luke-Andrew. Dylan and Liam are lurking on 2½. Ross has actually played everyone else on 3/4, and so may face a fairly tough final game against Dylan if colours and other pairings allow. The draw will be available over the weekend.