Bunratty 2016 saw differing fortunes for the three Benildus players playing up a section on last year’s Bunratty, and solid but unspectacular tournaments for those weren’t.
Ross was playing up in the Challengers after winning the Majors last year, though he had previously played up in 2014. He started off with a defeat against the fifth seed – who curiously drew all the rest of his games – but then went on a winning run, starting off with derby wins against Odhrán and Brendan before adding two 1800 scalps to wind up on board 4 for the final round. A win, as it turned out, would have given him a share of first, but he went down to an attack on h7, losing a couple of pawns, which gave him no chance in the ensuing double rook ending. 4/6 wasn’t even enough for a grading prize, but it does at least push him over 1800 for the first time.
Ross’ run mirrored Dylan’s performance last year – a Swiss submarine falling just short of earning a share of first with a final round defeat, having played the Majors the year before. This time, Dylan was seeded, and started off with a win over Odhrán before throwing away a win in the second round against a player who ultimately finished just half a point off the title. With both sides having just queened, Dylan – who’d been on increments for ages – offered a draw. His rather surprised opponent commented that he was more than happy to accept as he was completely lost in the position – Dylan could immediately swap the new queens off, win his opponent’s remaining three pawns and promote at leisure. Still, he ended on a decent 3½/6, marking what I think might be the first time juniors have taken the club’s top two results at a weekender!
The third junior in the challengers was Odhrán, playing up for the first time. He got a fairly rough time of it – as outlined above! Two derbies and a bye isn’t really what you travel to the other end of the country for. He then uncharacteristically lost a rook and pawn ending a pawn up before recovering to pick up to draws in the final two rounds and about break even in the end.
Myself, Brendan and Ciarán filled out the club’s quota in the Challengers and, all unseeded, took a solid 1½/3 between us in the opening round. The winner of the recent Gonzaga weekender (me) beat the runner-up in the recent Gonzaga weekender…of the next section up, while Ciarán had a humorous end to his game. In a position along the lines of this –
– Ciarán, as black, is just lost; white’s threat is Kf8 and Rc7, win the f7 pawn and then sac the exchange back to reach a winning pawn ending. So Ciarán tried 1. Be6??!!, attacking white’s rook – a cheapo, but it worked. White grabbed king and bishop…and then without even completing his move, realised his mistake – it’s immediate stalemate.
We ended up in the bar analysing where Brendan had gone wrong in his game. This interested the players at the next table, who joined in with all sorts of mad variations, conjuring up a fairly nasty counter-attack where we had all agreed Brendan was just getting mated in a couple of moves’ time (as happened in the game). Our co-analysers, it turned out, were Peter Wells GM and Thomas Rendle IM, and before long, tournament organiser Gerry Graham had roped myself and Ciarán in to some head and hand chess with the IM and GM…which went on until 3:30am. The magic of Bunratty can waver a little bit when you’re setting your alarm for four hours away!
The Saturday, so, was tough. Between the three of us, we managed just two wins, with Ciarán ultimately withdrawing after round 4, having picked up a second 1800 draw. He spent Sunday’s final round in the company of Desmond Beatty and Nigel Short GM – who had agreed a very quick draw to win the Masters outright- watching England lose in the cricket, much to Short’s annoyance! Brendan ended on a solid 2/6, with two 1700 wins, while I fared a half point better, though I did keep up my decent record against either titled players or future titled players –
|Sam Collins (now IM)||1996 Irish Open – Novice||Lost|
|David Fitzsimons (now FM)||2003 Irish Open – Junior||Won|
|David Fitzsimons (now FM)||O’Hanlon 2003/04||Drew|
|Poornima Menon (now WFM)||Kilkenny 2004||Won|
|Sarah Jane Hearne (now WCM)||Bunratty 2009||Lost|
|Conor O’Donnell (now FM)||2011 Leinster Championships||Drew|
|Gearóidín Uí Laighleis WCM||Ennis 2011/12||Won|
|Gerry MacElligott CM||Bunratty 2013||Drew|
|Diana Mirza WCM||Bunratty 2016||Drew|
Tom O’Gorman can’t be far off being added to that list as well.
I ended on 2½/6 – as I’d told people I would when reaching 2½/4 after the Saturday games, because I always end on 2½/6. (As an aside, I’m on 2½/6 in the Armstrong as well) This at least was a good 2½/6, and I should have done better in my final two games. On Sunday morning, I had a dream attack going with the Classical Dutch, and when my opponent countered by attacking a piece, I ignored it as I had mate. Except I didn’t; I’d missed the one (annoyingly obvious) defence; had I just saved my piece, my attack would have still been on. In the last round, I got a fun poisoned pawn variation of the Winawer with white – the same line Mihailo had played against me in Gonzaga. Ciarán had played the same opponent earlier, and I’d spotted a blunder on move 14, allowing the dangerous light-squared bishop get swapped. Ciarán hadn’t spotted it either, and I’d hoped my opponent would make the same mistake again. Unfortunately, that wasn’t to be, but when I was given the chance to swap the piece off a couple of moves later, I completely overlooked it…and duly got crushed by the same piece.
In the Majors, Liam was playing up for the first time. Like Odhrán, he had a tough intro, losing his first three games and getting the bye. Things looked better for Liam when he reached this position in round 5 –
Every single black piece is pinned or forked! Black, a rook up, played 1. … Ke7, hoping to escape by giving up the b8 rook for the f7 pawn. But there should follow 2. QxR KxP 3. BxR+ QxB 4. QxQ+ KxQ, when white is now an exchange up. Instead, he replied 2. RxN??, and was rather harshly hit with 2. Re1#. Still, he did bounce back with a win in the final round and a weekend of playing 1300s won’t have hurt at all for the next tournament!
While the juniors were for once leading the way for the club, the Minors saw us with just two entrants, both non-juniors and both playing just their second weekender. Both Des and Frank ended on 3/5 in the end, though they arrived there from opposite directions. Des drew his first two and won his next two before losing in round 5 and taking a bye in 6, while Frank lost his first, took a bye in round 2, was winning easily before blundering in round 3 and then won all the rest, including one in 9 moves. Both dropped rating points but both have a nice solid base to build on in future tournaments.
To finish, here’s my best effort from the weekend…kind of! After messing up the opening horribly, I recovered quite strongly to beat my opponent for the second Bunratty in a row.
Kevin Burke (1653) v Keegan O’Mahony (1832); Bunratty Challengers round 4; 20/02/16
1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. ed cd 4. c4 Nf6 5. Nc3 Nc6 6. Nf3 Bg4
All a fairly standard Panov-Botvinnik so far.
This is a problem, though – I’ve left a move out. I need to play 7. cd NxP first, and then 8. Qb3 is the line. This continues 8. … BxN 9. PxB e6 (NxP?? 10. Bb5+ NxB 11. QxN+ Qd7 12. QxN wins a piece) 10. QxP NxP 11. Bb5+ NxB 12. Qc6+ (stopping black from castling) Ke7 13. QxN Qd7 14. NxN+ QxN 15. Bg5+ f6 (apparently this pawn move is a little bit awkward for black) 16. QxQ PxQ 17. Be3 (D)
Apparently, this ending slightly favours white for reasons I don’t really understand – partly because I’ve never played the line. My Fritz database shows 19 games reaching this position – 3 ended as wins for white, and the remaining 16 were draws, 1 one of which agreed in this very position.
I’ve been studying endings, so had no problems going in for this for a bit of practice. Instead, I got a much more entertaining game!
7. … BxP 8. QxP
I should cut my losses and just take back the bishop, losing the d4 pawn. But I still hadn’t realised I’d messed up. In the proper line, 8. … NxP isn’t an option because, as we’ve seen, there’s a trick to win a piece. But as it’s not there in my game…
8. … NxP
…white happily grabs the pawn.
By this stage, we’ve both realised I’ve messed up rather badly. The hanging rook is an obvious temptation for black, but Fritz’ top two picks here involve opening lines to the king. 9. … e5 is one, to bring the bishop into the game (via b4 with check if I try for counterplay with Nb5) and get castled quickly. It’s not clear where white’s king is going to find safety.
9. … NxP+ is marginally preferred though – 10. Kd1 dc+ 11. Kc2 Nd4+ 12. Kb1 Qc8 and black gets the queens off the boards (otherwise Qf5+ is decisive at once), and he can convert from two pawns up at his leisure. A nice example of how to hit an open king. In either case, Fritz puts increasing the pressure ahead of cashing out too quickly with extra material.
9. … Rb8 10. Qxa7 Nc2+ 11. Kd1 NxR 12. c5 (D)
I have to play this to stop the d-file from being opened. As an added bonus, it also wins some material back for me. Now black thought for 23 minutes, and I started to realise I might have a chance here again! I’m a rook down, but other than that, everything is in my favour. My pieces are all either in the game or have obvious and quick routes in (e.g. Bb5+, Re1, Bf4) while black has a rook, bishop and knight all out of the game. In addition, my next move means he can’t castle either. The question is can I get a decisive attack before black gets his pieces untangled?
Where has black gone wrong? Probably by taking my rook. It seems bringing pieces into the game and going straight for my king – like in the previous two lines – is the way to go. Which in itself is quite instructive.
12. … e6 13. Bb5+ RxB
13. Nd7?? 14. BxN+ QxB 15. QxR+ and I’m the one who’s up material, with a supported pawn on c5 to boot.
14. NxR Qc8?
Attacking my c-pawn, but Fritz says the only way for black to keep any sort of advantage is 14. … Be7, trying to get pieces out.
I never actually considered 15. b4 in response, which is daft as in addition to protecting the pawn on c5 and getting a pawn storm going, it threatens Bb2, ending any chance of the knight emerging. Either b4 or Nc7+ is good for me – it’s just annoying that I never even noticed 15. b4!
15. … Kd8 16. Bd2
Supporting my pieces with the threat of Ba5 – so 16. … BxP?? 17. QxB QxN 18. Ba5 wins the queen.
16. … Nd7 17. c6!
I thought about 17. Ba5, but now it doesn’t give me any advantage after 17. … BxP 18. NxP+ Ke7 19. NxB QxN 20. Re1+ Kd6, or after 17. … NxP 18. NxP+ Ke8 19. NxN BxN. In particular, unless the queens come off and I can win the knight on a1 to have an easy endgame, I want to keep the c5 pawn, as it’s already becoming a bit of a bone in black’s throat. So on that last point, why not push it some more?
17. … Bc5
Surprisingly, 17. … Nb8 is mate in 11 because the knight on b8 is defending nothing. 18. Bg5+ Be7 19. NxP+ QxN (to stop 20. QxB#) 20. c7+ and mate, or 18. … f6 19. NxP+ Ke8 20. Re1 Bd6 (to give the king a space to run to; 21. NxP+ Kd8 22. Re8# was the threat) 21. NxP+ Ke8 22. Nd8+ – a needlessly fancy move to finish! Any knight move is ok, and it’s mate in a couple of moves.
17. … Nd5 is better, but not by much, with 18. Bg5+ still the way to start.
I could take on d7, win my piece back, be level on material and still have hopes of winning that knight on a1 – but my attack would be gone and black could have ideas of counterplay on c2 if his queen can get there. So, learning from black’s mistake earlier in the game, I ignored immediate material and went for the king.
18. … Nf6
The best defence. 18. … f6 is met with 19. NxP+ Ke7 20. NxB QxP 21. Re1+ Kd8 22. Be3 and I’ve achieved the goal mentioned at move 17 – I’m up a piece and the queens are coming off. 18. … Be7 19. PxN+ QxP 20. Qb8+ Qc8 21. QxQ+ KxQ 22. BxB KxN and again, I’ll win the knight on a1 and have an easy win from a piece up and no queens.
Not too hard a move to find – the knight is dead after 19. QxB anyway, so it may as well win a pawn.
19. … QxN??
Black cracks under the pressure; this is a fatal mistake. He needed to take with the pawn; surprisingly, this deflects the queen away from too many defensive squares.
20. Qa5+ is a nice finish – 20. … Kc8 (other moves lose the queen to the Re1 pin) 21. Qa8+ Kc7 22. Qb7+ Kd6 (Kd8 23. c7+) 23. Bf4+, winning the queen. Note that a black queen on c8 would have stopped this line. But my move wins too, which is all that matters. Though it’s not entirely straightforward.
20. … Qf5
A desperate – but dangerous – attempt at counterplay. My bishop is hanging, my f3 pawn is hanging (with a check which would also hang my rook), there’s check on d3 which could bring the knight into the game (Ke1 Nc2+, say), and if my queen goes too far away, there’s a nasty check on c2. So – how to win from here?
21. Qd6+?? Kc8 and white has no more checks and is losing.
21. … Ke7 22. Qc7+
22. Re1+?! is the obvious follow-up, but after 22. … Kd6 23. c7+?? Kd7 white has again run out of checks. Though I can still win with 23. Qb4+ KxP 24. Qa4+ and wherever black goes, either the bishop or the rook is coming into the game with check next. But the text is far more accurate.
22. … Kf8 23. Qd8+ Ne8 24. Be7+ 1-0