The first Week in Review of the season sees a bit of a hammering for the Armstrong, a couple of 100% records continuing in the O’Hanlon, and sibling rivalry in the O’Sullivan B.
The Armstrong has been relatively static as a division the past couple of years; in the past four seasons, only Phibsboro, champions in 2012/13, have broken the Benildus-Gonzaga-Elm Mount-Trinity monopoly on the top four places. Benildus have finished fourth in each of the last four seasons, while the top four even finished in the same order in the past two seasons – Gonzaga, Trinity, Elm Mount and Benildus.
So having already drawn with Trinity, this week’s game against Elm Mount was another huge match as we aim to finish higher than fourth for the first time since 1997/98. However, we were shorn of three 2000+ calibre players in Stephen, Kevin and Pawel, and though Gerry has plenty of good subs to call on this year (no Armstrong B of course!), Vjekoslav, Mariusz and John all lost. John simply hung an exchange in a position which was level enough and heading towards a dull endgame. Mariusz, not surprisingly, had launched a mad attack but was low on time. He got to this position, where he, as white, actually has a win on the board, but with 90 seconds remaining, missed it. Solution at the end!
In the end, Gerry held a draw on 2, while Zdravko and Mihailo added a draw and a win respectively to give us 2 points, but that was all we could get, and so three rounds in, we’re already a huge 7 points off the lead, and 4½ off surprise package Dublin in second place.
The same evening, the O’Hanlon A were in action out in Bray, looking to avenge Bray’s 4-2 win over our Bs and, as a minor secondary issue, keep their title challenge going. Bray had a new 1600-rated player on the top board, which made the task that bit harder, but we raced into a 3-0 lead on the bottom boards, where it was generally 1500s v 1200s. Seán’s win on 6 extended his overall O’Hanlon record to 5/5, eclipsing Harry Higgins’ 4/4 for the Ennis as the club’s longest 100% winning record in a division since 2003/04. Ciarán M added a draw on 1 to ensure the team’s 100% winning start to the season continued, and after Brendan picked up a queen and a point on 3, Ciarán R gave up his bishop in a same-coloured bishop ending, thinking his opponent would be too slow to stop promotion – but he wasn’t, and Ciarán had to scramble to save a draw after both players queened at the same time. This kept up Ciarán’s own 100% start to the season – four draws from four, including a sub appearance for the Heidenfeld!
Still, a 5-1 win means we will go into next month’s big tie against Enniscorthy as joint league leaders at worst. Most of the rest of round 3 will be on 5th November, including our B team’s trip to Enniscorthy.
On Friday night, our O’Sullivan B had the short straw of a trip to Malahide on Friday night for their second round match. Blessed with an extensive panel due to the club’s success in attracting junior players, despite several absentees, we travelled with a full team, giving Lorcan Cooney (Thomas’ younger brother) a first rated chess game in the process.
Danny was first to finish as his opponent dared to play the “banned” opening and after Danny played the fork trick and took back on d5 with his queen, his opponent castled, hanging the knight on e4. Another exchange fell and Danny mopped up comfortably for his first win for the club.
Next up was Lorcan who, having won a pawn in the centre by pushing h3 and g4, drove his e-pawn up to e7 while his opponent opened up her – and his – king position by throwing her h-pawn forward. Rooks invaded on the second and seventh ranks, but Lorcan’s advantage in development told and he was able to pick off his opponent’s pieces and shortly give mate.
Brian won a couple of pawns in the opening and middlegame and when he survived his opponent’s counter attack, he picked up a piece with a nice fork. With all the other pieces traded off, he queened a pawn while his opponent’s king sought refuge on the queenside. Brian followed over with his king and queen and now a quick test for you. Visualise Brian’s opponent’s next three moves: c6+, c5+ and c4+ – actually try imagine the position and the moves – and then check at the end of the post. Once he had skirted several stalemate possibilities, Brian converted to leave us 3-0 up.
Bhudav’s game was characterised by careful manoeuvring and maintaining the balance to the extent that by move 30 each side still had 7 pawns and there were no open files. Material equality reigned and no-one had a clear advantage so a draw was agreed.
Thomas was last to finish, having sacrificed a pawn to get a supported knight into d6 and a positional bind, he cashed in a little early, taking a pawn on f5 and his opponent’s pieces sprang to life, shortly getting into f2 and winning decisive material from there.
All in all, at 3½-1½, an excellent victory and great experience for the younger members of the squad.
So that leaves the early league table looking like this –
Finally, returning to the two puzzles posed. In Mariusz’ position at the start – 1. RxB finishes black off. The rook is immune from capture after 1. … NxR 2. Qg6+ Kh8 (or Ng7) 3. Rd7 and white will win huge material just to stop mate. And otherwise, white just wins a free piece, is now a pawn up and still has a very strong attack. Alas, in time trouble, that’s not what Mariusz played, and was the difference between 2-6 and 3-5…
Meanwhile, Brian’s game in which his opponent played three moves in a row : c6+, c5+ and c4+. If you imagined that Brian was black, you were correct. White’s tripled c-pawns on c5, c4 and c2 all pushed to give check, supported by the king on b5.
(Thanks to Brendan Cooney for the O’Sullivan B report!)