In which Daniel Fox beat Henry Li, Tim Casey beat a Grandmaster…’s mum, and a Benildus player beat a Benildus player who beat a Benildus player who beat a GM.
Benildus had 17 players at the tournament all told, spread out between the bottom three sections (though as yet we can’t quite get into the top section!) Seven of those were in the Challengers, where Tim picked up Benildus’ biggest score of the weekend (4½/6), our only cheque of the weekend (€60 for a grading prize) and the biggest rating gain of any of the 216 players over the weekend. He started off with a defeat in round one despite being the seeded player – though by the end, his unrated opponent had scored 4/6 for an 1150 rating. In the next round, though, he beat Tanya Jones – mother of Gawain Jones GM – and recorded another three wins in the final four rounds, including two 1000+ scalps, to end up in joint 8th overall. In addition to the sixty quid, he also picked up 198 ratings points to bring him close to the 1000 barrier.
That was 50 points more than anyone else gained over the weekend – and we took that honour as well. Thomas started his first weekender with a travelling bye, and just about avoided his brother Lorcan in the second round; there had been no draws in the first round, but Thomas was down to play the only other player to have taken a travelling bye on Friday. The two came perilously close to meeting a number of times – both were on 1½/3 and 2½/5 – but it never came about, and in the final round, Thomas finished ahead of his brother by virtue of a false (but accepted) mate call against Maurice Coveney, when he had mate in one on the board anyway. The tournament saw him gain 148 points, jumping to 711 – a whole 8 points ahead of Lorcan’s new rating!
Elsewhere, Robert Pluck started with two defeats but still wound up on 3½, while Rian and Eoin scored 3 and 2 respectively. Daniel also had a slow start – 1/3 – but finished strongly to reach 3½. His final round opponent, Henry Li, offered a draw on the first move, which Daniel declined, and instead played and won. His opponent was later heard telling some of the large Gonzaga contingent that he’d tried the line “Hello, I’m Henry Li. Do you want a draw?” at the start of a couple of games, but seeing as he only picked up the one draw, people were presumably aware he wasn’t the Henry Li – partly because the real Henry Li was busy making waves in the top section, where he started with 1½/2 against Grandmasters.
In the James Mason, we had five players, who played four matches against blind players between them, scoring 3/4. Felix ended up playing both blind players, losing to Eamonn Casey but beating Seán Loftus. A draw against a 1490 in round 4 was his highlight, though a solid weekend was maybe spoiled somewhat by a very quick final round defeat. Cal scored 3/6, a half point more than Felix, while Liam scored a half point more than Cal and William and Seán scored a half point more than Liam. All five mate decent ratings gains – 163 points in total – though things might have been better had Seán not been ill on the final day. He did manage to hold the eventual winner to a draw in round 5 – the only half point his opponent would drop all weekend – but he lost round 6 against Nick Scallan when a win would have given him (as it did give Nick) outright second.
That left a further five players in the Major. All five were in the main room for the first round, but only one could win, and even that was in one of just two club derbies all weekend as Constantin beat Ciarán Mahon. But the other three games were all reasonably close; myself and Mariusz lost out in tight games to the two eventual winners, Mark Collins and Stanley Yin, Dylan had a draw against Gavin Melaugh but went wrong in major time trouble.
By the end of the tournament, Constantin had fallen just short of the title, losing his last two matches in time trouble to end on 3½/6, the same score as Mariusz, who beat Dylan in round 2 in the only other Benildus derby. Ciarán Mahon started with three defeats but finished with three wins, Dylan started with two defeats and ended with four draws while I, as ever, ended on 2½/6, despite missing a win in one game which ended up drawn and settling for a draw in a winning but complicated endgame (Q, 2B+5 v Q, R+4) because I was down to my last minute.
A late decision was made to allow some of the juniors stay for the blitz, which brought our contingent there up to 9 players, all of whom got to face a GM. Constantin was the only one to win, beating Mark Hebden GM, and he would have gone through to the knock-outs had he not left his king hanging while a pawn down against Seán. Seán – who also beat Gerry Graham – would have had a chance of qualification himself had he not lost to Cal, who lost to Hebden to complete the circle. Dylan, meanwhile, was unlucky to lose to Baburin, who afterwards said that Dylan had played the opening “like a master”, but Dylan later picked up the wrong rook, which cost material. Myself and Liam lost to Matthieu Cornette of France, the strongest player in the blitz; I beat Liam in the club derby. Ciarán Mahon and Tim both lost to Mark Quinn IM and Gawain Jones GM, with Gawain gaining a measure of revenge for Tim’s earlier win against his mum.
And that was it for Kilkenny 2016. The ratings have been updated, so it just remains to thank Frank Scott and Sinéad Foley for all the work behind the scenes – organising, booking, and arranging meals and lifts, without which the weekend wouldn’t have happened!