The Armstrong B could only manage three draws against Balbriggan – but may yet end up having won their first match of the season!
We’d played one game nearly a month in advance at Balbriggan’s request, with Brendan going up against Thomas Brezing on board 4 – this was always going to be the one board we were heavily out-rated on, and we did go down to an expected defeat.
In the ensuing weeks, though, there was a problem – Balbriggan were going to be short one of their top boards, which meant problems with the 150-point rule. And on the day, they were short two players, and with no subs available due to a clash with their only other team, and no real alternatives on our side for postponing (due to mocks, Irish Junior Championships planning, a trip to Curragh next week and then Bunratty), we picked up walkovers on 7 and 8. This gave us a slightly unsatisfying 2-1 lead starting off the main day – although as the players we’d declared on 7 and 8 had won the U-1900 section in Enniscorthy and finished as joint runner-up in the U-1800 section in Gonzaga in recent weeks, we would probably have been expecting 2/2 against subs from the bottom of the BEA.
Over the board, John Gibson was first finished; he sacced two pawns early on in an opening, an old Tim Harding theory book of which contains at least 30 of his games, declared the position “exceedingly interesting”…and was mated inside 16 moves! So a bit of a blow there.
Zdravko was next to deliver bad news of sorts – he got a lovely middlegame position against Bartek, but spent too much time looking for a killer blow which just wasn’t there, and when it finally arrived, he was into his last 7 minutes or so, so he just grabbed a couple of pawns instead, which allowed black a chance at counterplay. And when, into his last three minutes, Zdravko overlooked a discovered check which cost an exchange, both sides were relieved to agree a draw.
Mariusz was also a pawn up on 6, but his queen ended up out of the game on b8, and with black’s queen on e5 far more active, Mariusz had little alternative but to swap queens, wrecking his pawn structure, giving up a pawn and hoping to hang on in a slightly inferior rook and pawn endgame, in which he did at least hold the draw. Tim fought back from facing a doubly-defended pawn on a7 to claim a draw against former Irish champion Richard O’Donovan, which just left Dylan on board 3. He had looked slightly worse throughout, but then gave up a piece to get a strong passed pawn on d3, with a queen on c1. Black, however, was able to conjour up a mate threat and at the same time get two pieces back to defend the queening square, and Dylan was simply busted – especially as he had to give up another piece to stop the mate.
So over the board, the game ended in a 3½-4½ defeat, but it’s not entirely clear what happens regarding the unfortunate incident on board 3. The rules say board 3 is an illegal player and we win the match – so a 4½-3½ win for us – although when last this happened in the Armstrong, we were the victims, and boards 3 and 4 were declared illegal and we lost both! That would give us a 5½-2½ victory – which seems a bit harsh – but for now, we’ll note the league table with the over-the-board result and see what happens –
Next week is a massive match away to fellow promoted side Curragh, while we nervously await the result of yesterday’s round 8 match between Trinity and Kilkenny, who have ominously brought Alex Baburin GM out of retirement again…