In December 2013, the Heidenfeld were hammered 7-1 away to Rathmines A in a result which left the team with one foot in the Ennis. Almost exactly three years later, and another hammering in Rathmines sees them with one foot out of the division, this time in the opposite direction.
After initial escapades – myself and Dylan being late because it turns out it takes 50 minutes just to do a lap of Carrickmines Shopping Centre’s car park this time of year – we finally got a full team at the boards sometime approaching 8:00. It wasn’t too much longer afterwards that things finally started to swing our way, with John picking up a queen for a rook and a piece on 3. That one, however, was a game which still had more than its fair share of twists left!
But by 9pm or so, it became clear that we were in for a very good day at the office. I had a strong position on 8 against Kilkenny runner-up Nick Scallan, which I had time to improve before breaking through; Dylan’s opponent had sacced a piece for two pawns, and though he had a rolling pawn centre, Dylan looked to have it about under control; Tim’s opponent had fallen for a Greek Gift and lost a pawn, Dave had also won the h-pawn, while Constantin had won the a-pawn. Michael was also starting a bit of an attack, and only Mariusz looked like he wasn’t winning, though he was maybe a shade better.
A few points then started to roll in – Constantin picked up a couple more pawns and then the full point, Tim’s major pieces had his opponent completely restricted, and he soon picked more more material and swapped off to a winning endgame, while I also had my opponent tied up, and my opponent resigned as I was about to pick up a full rook as the only way out of a smothered mate.
Dave Willow then drew; although he was still a pawn up, his attack had been foiled somewhat, and the endgame reached was effectively a fortress, with Dave’s extra pawn a blocked doubled one. But Dylan converted shortly after to bring us up to 4½-½, before John’s game started its twists and turns. He’d reached this position –
John, as white, was of course well up on the clock at this stage, and though black’s attack looks a little bit daunting, white can and should ignore it and just take the pawn on h5. Instead, John tried 1. Qb1+ Ke2 2. Qb5+?? Rd3+, leaving which with no other move than to swap queen for rook. Black then went after the a-pawn, so John went after the h-pawn, and his opponent was so confident of victory at this stage that he didn’t even bother to save the knight, and just pushed the b-pawn. This backfired slightly, and John got some counterplay with his three kingside pawns – in particular, the often tricky bishop’s pawn. The game later reached this position –
Bishop’s pawns aren’t really dangerous until they reach the seventh rank, because the main defence is a stalemate defence involving the king on h8, meaning the pawn on f7 is immune from capture by the queen. So for starters, John’s king is the wrong side of the pawn to cause problems (to a tablebase anyway!) In fact, in the diagramme above, if white’s king were on g8, this is a draw after 1. f7, when black can make no progress. 1. … Qg6+ 2. Kh8 QxP demonstrates the stalemate defence, and otherwise, white queens and it’s a draw. But again in the diagramme above, white loses with his king on e8, even after 1. f7. Black can simply play 1. … Qh7, when 2. f8=Q is met by 2. … Qd7# – a common pattern in these endings. So white either promotes to a knight – but this is still an easy win – or has to step in front of his own pawn, giving black a nice win after 1. f7 Qh7 2. Kf8 Kd6 3. Kf8 Qg5 and white must walk into mate.
With the pawn on the sixth, the side with the queen always wins (providing it’s their move of course). The plan is to force the king on to f7 – usually by playing something like Qg5+, where the king is on g7 – then moving the king in one square, forcing the opposition king back to f7, moving the king in one square, and so on until the attacking king too can attack the pawn.
In the position above, black can actually demonstrate quite a neat win after 1. Ke8 Kd6 2. f7 Qh5! and now 3. Kf8 Qh8# or 3. Kd8 Qh8+ 4. f8=Q QxQ#. Fritz gives the most resilient defence as 1. Ke6, but this is trivial for black after 1. …Qf8, just occupying the queening square and winning at ease.
There were still two more games ongoing; Michael played through a nice win while with only a couple of minutes left on his clock – only his third Heidenfeld win in 34 matches over the past 13 seasons! Though he has got 18 draws, many against higher-rated players – while Mariusz ended up with a dead position, having been a pawn up in a rook and pawn ending where it seemed both sides spurned wins. Though given the game finished shortly before midnight, it wouldn’t be too hard to blame either player if that were the case, and the kibitzing mayn’t even have been all that accurate either!
Still, we wound up with an unbeaten 6½-1½ win, and can expect to be around 10 points clear of third when the last of the round 5 results are in. Tim has taken the overall lead in the Top Scorer Trophy race with 4½, while I’m on 4/4 and John and Constantin have each just dropped a single point. Next up is a home game against Bray, before what already looks like a title decider away to Curragh in round 7.