Gonzaga is easily the club’s most most profitable tournament on the weekend circuit – last year, the club won one of the three sections and had two players finish as runners-up; this year, we took one title and an amazing four runners-up spots!
We had an unusual duo in the Challengers, with Luke playing his first weekender in four years, and Des taking the dip for the first time. Luke – the third seed – lost to a 700 in the first round, citing rustiness. And for once, it seemed an excuse for a loss might have been accurate, as he won all the next five to end in a four-way tie for second – the Swiss sub meant he was the only one of the four not to have had a shot at the eventual winner. Des, meanwhile, scored a quite respectable 4/6, with two frustrating draws coming from two pawns up. One was B+3 v B+1, but opposite coloured bishops meant he couldn’t make any progress, while in the last round, he had Q+3 v 2R+1, another position where it proved surprisingly difficult to make progress. Still, during the tournament, he did also end up booking into Bunratty and paying his first instalment of Baburin Tax, so it’s safe to say it was an enjoyable weekend!
In the Championship, Cal was playing up for the first time, and started off with an excellent win against Gavin Melaugh – who’d drawn with both Dylan and Ross in the Leinsters earlier in the month. His weekend included a meeting with – and an inevitable defeat to – with the Great Benildus Slayer, Paddy Divilly, who had earlier drawn with Ciarán. Paddy’s recent history against Benildus makes for impressive reading –
|Cal Nolan||Gonzaga 2016||Won|
|Ciarán Ruane||Gonzaga 2016||Drew|
|Ross Beatty||Malahide 2014||Won|
|Ciarán Ruane||Malahide 2014||Lost|
|Alex Byrne||Cork 2014||Won|
|Anastasija Manojlovic||Bunratty 2014||Won|
|Kevin Burke||Malahide 2013||Won|
|Mariusz Lokasto||e2e4 Easter 2013||Lost|
|Ross Beatty||Gonzaga 2013||Won|
|Kevin Burke||Ennis 2011/12||Drew|
|Kevin Burke||Galway 2011||Lost|
|John Healy||Ennis 2009/10||Won|
|Ger Reilly||Ennis 2008/09||Lost|
|John Healy||Ennis 2007/08||Drew|
|Paul Dunn||O’Hanlon 2006/07||Won|
Both Cal and William recorded wins against Naomh Barróg’s Alan Corcoran – hopefully a good sign ahead of our BEA meeting in a few weeks’ time! – both ended on 2½/6 and both between them gained 130 points, split 90/40 in Cal’s favour.
At the top, the top three seeds were all Benildus – Ciarán, Mariusz and myself. By round 3, it was Benildus on each of the top 4 boards, with Mihailo joining in. Going into round 4, we were on a combined unbeaten 10½/12, and I was up against Mihailo on the top board. What followed was one of my favourite games in a long time!
Mihailo Manojlovic (1583) v Kevin Burke (1622); 23/01/16; Gonzaga Championship round 4
1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3!
An exclamation mark to encourage this kind of thing! I had feared the French Exchange – but Mihailo could sense a tournament win as well.
3. … Bb4 4. e5 c5 5. a3 BxN+ 6. PxB Ne7 7. Qg4
Apparently, before the game, Mihailo had asked Ciarán to suggest a playable line against the French to avoid my alleged reams of theory. And so Ciarán, on the next board, was rather surprised to see him play into one of the most theoretical lines in the French! Indeed, we previously linked to The New Winawer Report, a little monthly booklet on the Winawer, whose first issue starts analysis of a move 15 sideline. For my part, I’ve played this lots of times in blitz and online chess, but never in a proper game, so I was quite happy to see this too! 7. Nf3 is a quieter way for white to play.
7. … cd 8. Qxg7 Rg8 9. Qxh7 Qc7 10. Ne2 Nc6 11. f4 Be7 (D)
This is all theory; we’d used six minutes between us at this stage, which helped for later moves! White’s next move is the first departure – but it’s not unknown, and it does have the advantage that I now have to think for myself rather than trot out more theory.
12. g3 dc 13. Be3 Rd8?!
White is “supposed” to play 12. Qd3 here, and I wasn’t sure how to continue with the queen on h7 instead. I want to bring my rook to d8 and quickly blow open the centre to get at white’s king before he starts to run his h-pawn. But 13. … 0-0-0 just hangs the f-pawn. But of course, I lose the pawn on c3 as soon as white retreats the queen, which is more valuable then the one on f7 (which is sometimes sacced anyway). So 13. … 0-0-0 was the move, giving my king a bit of safety.
14. … Nf5 15. Bf2 d4
The d-pawn is sacced like this in some lines, but this isn’t a sac – 16. NxP?? NcxN 17. BxN Bc6 18. QxP and though the rook is safe (18. … BxR?? 19. QxQ), black just plays 18. … RxB and is piece for two pawns up with a huge attack against a shaky king.
Played to avoid the above – but active defence with 16. Bh3, undermining my knight on f5, seems to be better.
16. … Qa5
Getting out of the potential pin on the c-file, x-raying the white king and setting up my next move.
17. g4? (D)
This is the game’s decisive position. This move isn’t a blunder of itself – white has just overlooked my threat. What is it?
17. … Nb4!
A legitimate exclamation mark here. This is very strong.
18. Qd1 (D)
In fact, 17. … Nb4 is so strong that white’s best is just to give up the exchange – 18. PxN QxR+ 19. Qd1 QxQ+ But that’s clearly straightforwardly hopeless, so white may as well try to complicate matters and hope I go wrong – which I do, of course. How should black continue the attack?
18. … d3! is terminal here. 19. … d2 is the subtle threat. If 19. cd c2 20. Qd2 Nd3# – the queen is suddenly pinned and can’t take the knight. Any other 20th move just loses the queen. If 19. NxP NxP+ 20. Kd2 Rc8 and the knight is gone, the rook is going and the king won’t be long following. Instead, I immediately played…
18. … NxP+?!
…having seen it when playing Qa5. It’s ok, but when you see a good move in a position like this, sit on your hands and look for a better one
19. QxN Ba4 20. Qc1
Here, I realised that my planned move, 20. … c2+, just allowed Qd2 and white is a piece up for nothing; my Achilles’ Heel of missing that a pawn push frees up the square it had been defending hit again. So I had to have a re-think, and found the move I should have played two moves ago –
20. … d3
…except that compared to previous lines, the bishop on a4 is far less dangerous than the knight on b4.
21. NxP d2+ 22. QxP RxQ 23. KxR (D)
So the dust has settled. I’ve given up a rook, knight and pawn to get white’s queen. My knight is hanging; white’s is pinned. Both g-rooks are out of the game at present and neither king is really safe. But in general, the little advantages add up for black, who is better here.
23. … Ne7
23. … Ke7 24. PxN Rd8+, is tempting, but it’s nonsense after 25. Bd3 Bb5 26. Rg3
24. Bc4 Ng6
The knight finds a better spot, eyeing white’s pawns and now allowing Ke7.
Now white’s in trouble. Better was 25. Bg3, defending the key entry point on h2, though it does reduce the bishop to the status of giant pawn. Better again was 25. Rb1, looking to wrestle back the initiative – 25. Bc6 Bb5 or 25. b6 Rb4 for example.
25. … Ke7?
Played immediately again – and not great again! 25. … Rh8 was the move.
I was threatening 26. … Rd8+, winning on the spot – 27. Bd3 Bb5 wins the bishop, and any other move hangs the knight. But 26. Rab1 was a better defence – it stops 27. … Bb5, hits at b7 and allows the other rook defend on the kingside in case my rook gets in via the h-file.
Anyways, after a mutual error of calculation, I hit on the right track again.
26. … Rh8 27. Rab1 RxP+ 28. Be2 Bc6
Removing the bishop from the knight’s gaze, while defending b7 and covering h1 and meaning my rook isn’t going to be kicked. Not bad for a move’s work
29. Rb3 Nh4
My problem now is that white has a lot of pieces around his king – it’s hard to find a way to crack it open. The bishop, rook and queen are all doing good jobs, the king is reasonably safe – so the knight had to join the party.
30. Rc2 Ng2!
Better than Nf3+, which doesn’t really achieve anything. This forks the bishop and the f4-pawn; white is losing crucial material.
White is pretty much lost anyway – 31. Bg1 was the best, when I had planned 31. … Qd8+ 32. Bd3 (32. Kc1 Rh1 just wins the bishop) NxP 33. RxN QxB+, trusting that there was a win there, which there is – 34. Kc1 Qf1+ 35. Kb2 Nd3+ 36. Ka2 Nc1+ winning an exchange while still on the attack.
31. … Qd8+ 32. Kc1 NxB 33. Ne4?? Rh1+
And mate next move. I had been hoping to deliver mate with a queen sac – 33. Rb4 (or another nonsense move) Rh1+ 34. Nd1 QxN+ 35. BxQ RxB#
That, though, was to be the only defeat of the weekend between myself, Mihailo, Ciarán and Mariusz! I ended up with an almost exact replica of last year’s tournament – a King’s Gambit win as white in round 5 to move to 5/5, and a 14-move draw with black in the final round to end up as clear winner for a second year in a row. I even gained almost the exact same number of rating points (31 v 30), and started the tournament rated 1 point higher than I ended the previous one.
In the last round, the to three boards were the first three finished in the section, with Ciarán and Mihailo drawing, as did the other two players on 4/5. With my final round opponent also drawing, of course, that now meant five players on 4½, and every game involving players on 3½/5 was decisive as nine players ended up joint second! Mariusz was one of those; he had one rather unusual win where he had R, N+3 v 2N – and was down to his last minute for over an hour, playing off the 15-second increments. Eventually, he pushed his pawn to g7, where it won a piece, and the rest was trivial. His opponent, rather than resign, abruptly got up from the board, gave out that the time control was silly, that this wasn’t Mariusz’ fault but that under a proper time control, Mariusz would have lost the game ages ago, and then stormed off!
In the Masters, there was a huge upset in the first round when Dean Copeland – rated 1369, playing up because of his FIDE rating and who lost to Liam Kelly in the BEA earlier this season – beat Tom O’Gorman after Tom hung a queen. It’s not often you see a player gain the full 40 rating points in one match! For our part, Dylan lost to Conor O’Donnell FM in the first round but was unbeaten after that, Ross struggled to 1½/5, his win aided by a dropped piece after five minutes, and Gerry was still able to show them the way, coming joint third on 3½/5.
So after all that, definitely roll on Gonzaga 2017!