The Heidenfeld kicked off the new year with a sixth straight win, picking up six wins for a 6-2 win, the sixth time the team have scored between 5½ and 6½ this season – though this time, they were aided by Aodhán winning twice on the same night.
The O’Hanlon B were also in action, but with Elm Mount B scratching the bottom two boards, and Ross needing to drop out of the Heidenfeld at short notice, Desmond decided he’d help himself to one of the O’Hanlon B byes, and either Aodhán or Nicky could take the other bye and sub up. In the event, Aodhán slotted in on 5 on the O’Hanlons and 8 on the Heidenfeld.
Nicky lost a close game, but the O’Hanlon B still took a 4½-1½ win, which for the moment – because Enniscorthy’s match against Elm Mount A was postponed due to Enniscorthy playing in the 4NCL – lifts the Bs up into the top half. Next up is a match against bottom side Ballinasloe; they’re underperforming and dangerous, but still, any sort of win there and the Bs will be looking good for safety already.
The Heidenfeld, meanwhile, were up against fourth-placed Bray, who had beaten all their opponents except for Curragh. But we got the best possible start when John won an exchange after 8 moves and was finished within half an hour.
Dave Willow picked up a couple of pawns and added his first win of the season a while later, but Bray, who were stronger than in recent matches, were putting up a good fight on the other boards. Tim had given up an exchange for three pawns, two of which were connected and advanced, while Michael had a piece in on e3, but other than that, there wasn’t really much of an advantage anywhere. Mariusz was in trouble after an attack went wrong, I was getting nowhere against a 1280 (who was at least over 1500 four or five years ago) and Aodhán was a piece down on 8 and hoping that his protected passed pawn would be worth something.
In the end, the ratings advantages again started to grind out the points, but it was a close-run thing. Mariusz lost on time – though by now in a completely lost position – while Michael won to bring us to 3-1. Aodhán pushed his passed pawn, and it caused enough confusion to allow him win his piece back, and then it kept going and queened, which brought about resignation. I finally found a chink in my opponent’s position, with a dual threat of mate and winning a pawn, which got my rook in on the second, eventually bringing about a winning endgame.
That left us 5-1 up, and just the top two boards remaining, neither of which were looking particularly healthy. Constantin was an exchange down and had nothing for it at all – until his opponent’s flag fell, and we had stolen another point. But Tim, who had been three pawns up (for an exchange), somehow got to an endgame with four pawns each, which became Q+3 v Q – meaning Tim had effectively lost six pawns in a row. Bray’s player described it as a swindle of their own to make up for board 2, but still, 6-2 keeps our consistent season going, and sets us up nicely for the crunch match in Kildare in a fortnight’s time.