The top seeds once again failed to have things all their own way on the opening night of our club championships last night, and while their eventual score of 10½/12 was the best yet, Zdravko, Mihailo and the two Ciaráns all had their work cut out to record wins.
Perhaps ominously, two-time reigning champion Gerry had no problems disposing Seán on board 1, even though our strongest-ever tournament meant that Seán was the highest-rated opponent Gerry has faced in the first round. Proving once again how cruel a game chess can be, Seán’s game came crashing down in one move, when Gerry simulateously threatened mate on h7 and a piece on e7 – to make matters worse, when the piece on h7 was captured, it was with an attack on both rook and queen, meaning Seán had to give up a further exchange. Gerry’s not known for tripping up from a rook up, and ultimately both the game and the post-match analysis were over before any other results had come in.
A couple of other matches were heading for relatively early conclusions – Ross just beat me to the honour of second result when playing the unusual move of rook on d8 takes rook on a8 while still in the middlegame. Denis’ forced reply of rook on e8 takes rook on a8 just hung a piece on e7, and the 2014 runner-up had avoided his 2015 first-round upset which saw him on the wrong end of the David v Goliath prize. Aodhán, who had won that prize, lasted less than a minute longer this time after getting tangled up in his opening and ultimately, like Seán, losing a rook.
But there was no sign of any further quick wins elsewhere. In particular, those at the back of the class were holding quite nicely in the face of some of the biggest ratings gaps. Frank was comfortable against Anastasija, Des was level against Dave – who hadn’t long arrived in from the continent! – while Luke was heading for an opposite-coloured bishop ending against Ciarán Mahon and Mihailo was two pawns down against debutant Felix and while he had an attack, the position was far from clear.
We were into the last hour before the rest of the matches were decided. Pawel had, appropriately enough, played the Polish against Stephen and had won a pawn inside five moves, but Stephen later got a knight in to e6, stopping Pawel from castling. However, Pawel wrangled out of his bind, emerged just two pawns up, swapped off the last of the pieces and won a straightforward 6P v 4P ending to hand Stephen his first defeat in the three first-round appearances.
John was pushed into a sac against Finn – though strangely, picking the less effective one – but when Finn moved his king forward to e4, it suddenly transpired he had no squares to go to, and so had to have a rook tied down to covering a mate on d4. With another rook tied down to defending a backwards pawn, John was free to go picking up pawns elsewhere, ending up having four for the exchange, which was more than enough to decide the game.
Dave Willow was, by his own admission, a bit lucky to reach a level enough ending against Des and was happy to bale out into a draw despite the 700-point gap; Des keeps his unbeaten first-round record going after beating Brendan last year. Anastasija picked up an exchange against Frank and converted, while Mihailo took nice advantage of the dark-squared weaknesses in Felix’s position and won despite ultimately having sacced a whole piece. Meanwhile, Luke’s king wandered too far from the main battlefield to pick up an irrelevant pawn on h7 and even up material – at least until Ciarán M forced the exchange of piece for pawn to stop a pawn from queening; now at B+5 v 6P, the rest was straightforward.
That just left three games, all of which were too close to call. Zdravko had given up his queen for a rook, knight and a bit of a positional bind against William, Liam was a pawn up against Mariusz but facing pressure down the open g-file to his king, while Ciarán was three pawns up against Desmond, who had beaten him at this stage last year, but was running very short on time – and when he hung his central passed pawn, it looked like panic was setting in. But into his last two minutes, and still taking at least 30 seconds per move, he was able to stop Desmond’s passed central pawn and promote one of his two passed queenside pawns. And with just 25 seconds left, he was able to fork Desmond’s king and rook, giving a trivial win of Q, R, B + 4 v B+4, which Desmond didn’t even try to draw by pushing Ciaran off the clock.
That left just two games – and both of the underdogs had added a further pawn to their hauls. Liam was now two pawns up against Mariusz, and in time trouble had missed the win of a free queen which would have ended things immediately. However, Mariusz had only seconds left, and after losing another pawn, his flag fell in what was a completely lost position – it’s quite likely this match will win our David v Goliath prize, and it means the top 13 seeds are already out of the running for the prize.
Seconds later – and there wasn’t much longer left of the round anyway – Zdravko finally put William to the sword, having dropped back to R+N v Q+P before winning back his material and emerging into a R, B+3 v R, B+2 ending. Zdravko’s two passed kingside pawns were probably better than William’s two not-passed queenside pawns – and then Zdravko offered an exchange of rooks, which William missed completely, being down to less than ten seconds, and so the match came to a rather abrupt end.
The full results are below – a good sweep for the seeds, though the non-seeds can at least console themselves with some excellent performances. The final match will be played next week, and while there are I think no second round ties which will be confirmed regardless of that result, it’s clear the relative lack of upsets – with all the top five players, and nine of the top ten players, winning – means we’ll have some fairly juicy second-round ties. The draw will be made next Wednesday, with round 2 on 13th July.
|1||Gerry O’Connell||2015||1-0||14||Seán Devilly||1492|
|16||Stephen Cunningham||1365||0-1||2||Pawel Madynski||1931|
|3||Zdravko Manojlovic||1874||1-0||17||William Kenny||1329|
|18||Finn McDonnell||1315||0-1||4||John Healy||1852|
|5||Ross Beatty||1843||1-0||19||Denis Dempsey||1264|
|20||Liam Kelly||1254||1-0||6||Mariusz Lokasto||1758|
|7||Kevin Burke||1694||1-0||22||Aodhán Keane||1218|
|23||Desmond Beatty||1199||0-1||8||Ciarán Ruane||1674|
|9||Mihailo Manojlovic||1672||1-0||24||Felix Jordan||1157|
|25||Luke Hayden||1124||0-1||10||Ciarán Mahon||1667|
|11||Dave Willow||1657||½-½||26||Des Carroll||968|
|27||Frank Kelly||636||0-1||12||Anastasija Manojlovic||1585|
|13||Odhran McDonnell||1573||P-P||27||Paddy Power||778|