The four Benildus players fell narrowly short of recording four 4/7 scores in the Bray rapid at the weekend, though we had our fair share of the upsets.
We were all seeded relatively close together – from 19th to 33rd – so we were all seeded in the first round, and unseeded in the second. Myself and Mihailo were on the bottom two boards; I dropped a pawn inside the first few moves, but then my opponent missed an obvious mate threat, and I managed to be the first in the entire tournament to get off the mark. Zdravko saw off Darragh Moran, conqueror of Tom O’Gorman at the Irish Junior Championships in April, while John sat down to the board within 24 hours of a 17-hour journey half-way across the world, and settled any concerns of jetlag, rust or confusion caused by starting to learn Chinese Chess by calmly picking off his opponent with a nice combination, even when facing a pawn on d7. Mihailo finally came through against the bottom seed in one of the last games to finish, winning from a position where he had an exchange for a pawn; his opponent finished off the day with two wins over 1370s, so maybe he wasn’t quite that unrated…
In round 2, I was the only one to get to 2/2, though we had chances in every game. Mihailo was unlucky to lose to Darko on time, but Zdravko was arguably even unluckier to lose on time against Mark Quinn IM, having earlier missed a mate in two. John reached what his opponent, Colm Daly FM, reckoned was just a drawn ending but then played one loosening move which cost him everything. I had held off some pressure against Karol Marzec and then he gave me the chance to swap off all bar one set of minor pieces each, and allow me pick up a pawn. I was better, but not by much, in the resulting N+6 v B+5 ending, but then my opponent walked into check, and I took advantage of the illegal move rule which had been announced at the start to claim victory.
Round 3 saw a rare case of us being on the wrong side of an upset, with John losing to Robbie Kildea. Zdravko and Mihailo got back on track, while I sacced an exchange for a pawn in the middle of the board against Killian Delaney, but Killian reckoned he couldn’t accept, and so I was just a pawn up. He did take it later, by which stage I had two pawns for the exchange, one of which was a passed pawn on a5, with bishops on e2 and e3 ready to guide it home. Annoyingly, in time trouble, Killian played a move which I’d expected, and so I quickly played my planned reply – and then realised it just hung one of my bishops. Annoyed, I pushed my pawn, being my only chance left, but that just hung the pawn, and so it was time to throw in the towel and head for lunch.
When we resumed, I beat Darko on time, though with an interesting, if probably even enough, position on the board, and then had a 2100 point out where he reckoned I was just one move away from a crushing attack… Dayna surprised Zdravko, but John had his back and crushed her in return, while Zdravko took his revenge out on me. Mihailo picked up our only draw of the day when holding Anthony Fox, and in the final round, I finished as I started with a quick-fire win over a player who had been looking for an easy match to help him win the U-1200 grading prize – he walked straight into a Greek Gift, though did at least still win the grading prize. I wasn’t actually first finished this time – I was second, behind John, who had lost to Stephen Moran. Zdravko also lost as the three of us ended up on 4/7, while Mihailo won his last round to end on 50%.