A rare Monday evening fixture away to Royal Lopez saw a full team, fair weather and moderate traffic (and the choice of Wagner over Rachmaninov for the M50) for the smooth trip to Ryan’s of Ratoath.
It was a match-up of two halves, with our top three boards out-rated by an average of over 200 and our bottom three stronger by around 260 – expected score 3.09.
Board 6 produced the first point in under an hour where Desmond was gifted a P and B early in the opening. All the other games however were closely contested and it was another 2 hours before Nicky secured a solid draw on 4. At this stage William looked to be holding in a heavy pieces +5P game on 1, Liam an a-file passer up in an otherwise 6P closed position with Q+R+N each on 2, Aodhan a P up in a 2R+N on 3 and, on 5, Luke, a P up with 2 connected outside passers in a R+N+B was well up on time and looking good. As short time later, Luke secured his point for 2.5 from the bottom 3 boards.
It proved tougher at the top. William’s position became seriously compromised with the loss of his e-pawn in a R exchange and consequent Q invasion. Liam’s opponent opened the h-file in an attempt to counterplay the passer on the a-file. With its promotion imminent, a clever rook sac on h8 forced a perpetual for a draw. Meanwhile back on 1, William fought back hard to threaten his own perpetual but it was not enough and the point was finally yielded.
Last to finish was Aodhan. Having lost his P to return to material parity, he manoeuvred well to exchange his promoting protected passer for his opponent’s Knight. But with no time to convert the R+N+3 vs R+4 ending, a draw was finally agreed.
So a first win for the O’Hanlon Bs (and Wagner side 2 requested for the drive home).
Two matches later this week will determine if the B are out of the bottom 2 for Christmas.