In which I narrowly missed out on a grading prize at the Irish Rapid, Dylan and Mihailo drew and a couple of Cooneys made their competitive bow out in the ALSAA.
Saturday and Sunday in Bray saw the 2015 (not a typo!) Irish Rapid and the Irish Blitz tournaments respectively, with myself, Dylan and Mihailo the three Benildus entrants in two very strong fields – in the Rapid, the top 10 of 40 players were all over 2000! The fact the tournament was an open also meant the chance of huge fluctuations in opposition – with Mihailo, for example, facing three players rated under 1450 (beating them all) but losing all his other four games against players 1850 and above.
Dylan, meanwhile, started the tournament on board 1, facing Sam Collins for the second time this season, and he followed that up with a draw against Paddy Divilly, thus becoming the latest Benildus player to fail to beat the Great Benildus Slayer.
I was also getting quite a yo-yo set of opponents – Stephen Moran (I did at least reach K+4 v K+5 before losing), a 1450 (a win), Killian Delaney (lost that one) and a 750 (a win). So I didn’t expect too much from my round 5 game against Eric Bennett – for whom rapid play and normal time controls aren’t hugely different anyway. But after he castled long against my Dutch, I flung pawns at his king, he and pushed his to keep me out – giving him a chain from a2 to e5, compared to mine from e6 to a3. There was no way through the pawns, but I did have the immediate, subtle-as-a-brick, Qf6, when mate on b2 was completely unavoidable.
In round 6, I was up against Tom O’Gorman, who missed a free piece in the opening (I didn’t see it either), and then hung a piece after we’d reached a level enough late middlegame (I did spot this one!) Despite Tom getting a pawn to f2, I was able to simplify, get rid of the pawn and, with Tom’s king stuck to the bank rank, form a nice mating net with rook, pawn and bishop.
So I was suddenly up on board 3 for the final round. Even more surprisingly, I was the higher seed on the board – playing the player seeded below me. In my pet line of the Dutch, I launched a strong attack, won a pawn – and then couldn’t really find out how to properly break through. I probably didn’t help my cause by locking up the entire centre, and when the major pieces finally found an open file, they all came off and I was left holding my extra pawn in an opposite-coloured bishop ending, which was immediately agreed a draw. A win for me would have lifted me up to fifth and the grading prize; instead, it was my opponent who took that honour. That said, it’s not every tournament where I finish ahead of a titled player, coming half a point ahead of Conor O’Donnell FM in this case. Dylan and Mihailo, meanwhile, ended up exactly matching their seedings in the final standings.
The 3 minutes plus 2-second increments in use in the Blitz is a very, very tight control, and made for some interesting moves! Hanging my queen against Gerry McacElligott wasn’t particularly unusual at all – there were queens dropped with regularity across the Sunday. But spending a couple of moves against Pat Reynolds worrying about a back-rank mate threat only to suddenly see that it was my rook that was on a1, not my king, was rather special! My king had made its way to a4 disturbingly early on in the game, which really didn’t help my calculations – though despite all that, I did come somehow through to win.
Mihailo and Dylan on 6/11 both outscored me by a point, though my performance was at least 100 points better. Other notable results saw Mihailo drew with Tom O’Gorman after ending up with a lone knight against a pawn while I took a draw off David Murray after another fun Poisoned Pawn Winawer game and for the second time in 24 hours took double-runner-up Stephen Moran to an ending before finally losing – same coloured-bishop plus five pawns each this time, with my pawns all on the wrong colour.
In the final standings, this time it was myself and Dylan who exactly matched our seedings, while Mihailo beat it by seven places.
Meanwhile, out in the ALSAA, round 2 of the Leinster Grand Prix season saw Thomas and Lorcan Cooney jump in for the U-10s. In the end, Thomas pipped his brother by half a point, scoring 4/6 compared to Lorcan’s 3½/6. So presumably Lorcan will be out to make amends next time out!