We had a huge turnout across the three sections, including the top section, where we’ve been under-represented in other weekenders. Zdravko started off the weekend with a match against Alexander Baburin GM on the live boards on stage; he lost that in the end, for which his reward was the first of a few club derbies, when he played Constantin, a match which ended all square. Indeed, all our Masters players were quite evenly matched, and all were on 1½/3 after the Saturday. But by the end of Sunday, Mel had broken away to be the top club player on 3/5, including a final-round derby win over Mihailo, who ended on 2, alongside Zdravko. Constantin‘s picked up 2½/5, while John‘s draw against Renzo Ramondino FM in round 3 was the highlight of a tournament which saw him lose both Sunday games, including against former Benildian Alex Byrne.
There were more derbies in the Championship, starting right at the start when Ciarán Mahon was paired against Felix. This was slightly confusing as Ciarán had actually withdrawn in advance; it turned out the organisers had instead withdrawn Ciarán Ruane, who was placed right next to Ciarán Mahon in the seedings list. So Ciarán R sat down to play Felix instead, and won the key d-pawn in a French within ten moves, after which Felix was always in trouble.
There were big ratings gaps in the first round, but while Ciarán, Dylan and myself came through unscathed, Brendan and Anastasija were surprised by 1100s Mervyn Honner and John Halpenny respectively, while Luke – runner-up in the bottom section last year – went from completely won to completely lost in one move against a 1500. There were only a handful of draws in the first round, one of which went to Desmond, who held Paul Higgins.
There was another derby of sorts in round 2 as Ciarán beat Utkarsh (who would later draw with Brendan). Dylan and myself both joined Ciarán on 2/2, though only I made it to 3/3, while Brendan and Anastasija bounced back with 5½/6 between them on Saturday and Luke and Felix both got off the mark.
By round 4, I was leading the tournament once again, as all the top eight seeds had dropped points. And having fought back from a slightly worse position all game, and then somehow missed a free pawn in the ending, I reached the following position, which Fritz gives as dead level…until I played 47. … Bf7?? What’s wrong with that move?
I had been intending to put the bishop on b3, but I never got the chance – after 48. Rf3+ Kg6 (Ke6 49. Rd6#) 49. Rg4+ Kh5 50. Rg5+ I’m just getting mated. So 47. … Bf7?? was a nice exercise in finding a self-mate move in a wide-open board.
I did at least bounce back with two wins on Sunday to finish joint third and take home €35 – down on the previous two years, but still a solid result. Dylan picked up 4½/6, only losing to the top seed, while Ciarán‘s only defeat en route to 4/6 was against the eventual joint winner (alongside Terry Creighton)
Further down, Brendan and Anastasija‘s Saturday resurgence didn’t last into Sunday, with Brendan drawing both games and Anastasija losing both to end on 3½ and 3 respectively. Felix picked up a couple of late wins to end on 2½, while Luke also finished strongly, with a draw against Dayna Ferguson probably his best result as he also ended on 2½.
In the Challengers, we had six players, and no real idea what to expect from anyone. We started off with a win for Ben against the fourth seed, though he couldn’t keep up that form over the weekend; he did win all three games as white – including a derby against Thomas – but lost all three as black to end on 3/6, alongside Zhengjin, whose 3/6 included a win over his cousin. Bhudhav gained a whole 1 rating point after scoring 2½, while Thomas started with 2/3 but ended on 2/6. Danny also got to 2/3 before falling back to 3½/6, but Lorcan was the best of the lot with 4/6, which included an annihilation of the top seed – Lorcan got four pawns to the second rank during the game, although he still only used around 15 minutes! – and an interesting endgame win of RvB in the last round.
And on the subject of interesting endgames, a 2NvP was spotted in the final round of the Championship. Two knights against a king is a draw, but give the defender a pawn, he actually loses! This is one of the more interesting endgame mates; well worth watching through here – just in case!
So to finish off, we do like seeing our untitled players pick up results against titled players – here’s one, and here’s another.
John Healy (1856) v Renzo Ramondino FM (2181); Gonzaga Masters; 29/01/17
Notes by John Healy
In round 3 of Gonzaga, I was paired with an Italian FIDE Master. He had just that morning lost an exciting game to the top seed, GM Normunds Miezis.
1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nd2 Nf6 4. e5 Nfd7 5. Bd3 c5 6. c3 Nc6 7. Ne2 a5
So far, we have followed a main line French Tarrasch. With …a5, Black chooses an unusual plan. He’s relying on the fact that the central pawns are fairly stable to allow a pretty indulgent queenside pawn storm. In the absence of specific threats, I continue development. The normal continuation is 7… cxd4 8. cxd4 f6 9. exf6 Nxf6 10. Nf3
8. O-O a4 9. Nf3
Also tried here have been 9. f4 and 9. a3
9… a3 10. c4!?
I am pretty pleased with this move. While I have been developing, Black has been pushing his a-pawn. c4 is a principled attempt to punish Black’s lack of development by opening the centre. Without any particular success, White has generally preferred either 10. b3 cxd4 11. cxd4 Nb4 12. Bb1 or 10. bxa3 c4 11. Bc2 Bxa3
The complications after 10… cxd4 don’t favour Black – e.g. 11. cxd5 exd5 12. Nexd4 Ndxe5 13. Nxe5 Nxe5 14. Re1 Bd6 15. f4 Qb6 16. Bb5+ +-
The only game I can find that reaches this position is between two masters in the Italian championships. Black is worse throughout, so I think my opponent improved on this game. 10… Nb6 11. cxd5 axb2 12. Bxb2 Nxd5 13. a4 Bd7 14. Ng3 cxd4 15. Nxd4 Nxd4 16. Bxd4 Nb4 17. Be4 Bc6 18. Bxc6+ Nxc6 19. Bc3 Qxd1 20. Rfxd1 Nb4 21. a5 Nd5 22. Be1 Be7 23. Rab1 O-O 24. Rxb7 Bd8 25. Ra1 Bc7 26. f4 Bb6+ 27. Kf1 Be3 28. Ne2 Nxf4 29. Nxf4 Bxf4 30. Bc3 Ra6 31. g3 Be3 32. Ke2 Ba7 33. Ra4 Rc8 34. Kd3 Rac6 35. Rxa7 Rxc3+ 36. Kd4 h5 37. Rb7 h4 38. Rb8 Rxb8 39. Kxc3 hxg3 40. hxg3 Kh7 41. Kd4 Kg6 42. Kc5 Kf5 43. Kd6 Rd8+ 44. Kc7 Re8 45. a6 Kxe5 46. a7 f5 47. a8=Q Rxa8 48. Rxa8 g5 49. Rg8 1-0, De Filomeno – Bove, ITA-ch
sf 73rd, Civitanova Marche, 2013.
11. Bxc4 cxd4 12. Nexd4 Ndxe5
Grabbing the pawn is risky, but the e-pawn is cramping Black sufficiently that it’s difficult to seriously consider the alternative. 12… axb2 13. Bxb2 Be7 14. Qe2 +-
13. Nxe5 Nxe5?
13… Qxd4! 14. Nxc6 Qxd1 (14… Qxc4?? 15. Qd8#) 15. Rxd1 bxc6 =
14. Bb5+ Bd7 (D)
Sadly, I missed 15. Nxe6! fxe6 16. Qh5+ g6 (16… Ng6? 17. Rd1! +-) 17. Qxe5+-
I doubted this move at the board, but if there’s a line that leads to any real advantage from here, I haven’t found it. 15… axb2?! 16. Bxb2 Bd6 17. Bxd7+ (17. Nf5? exf5 18. Rad1 Bxb5 19. Qxb5+ Qd7 20. Qxd7+ Kxd7 21. Bxe5 Ra6) 17… Nxd7 18. Nf5 Bf8 19. Rfd1+-, or 15… Bd6 16. Bf4 axb2 17. Rab1 f6 18. Rfd1 O-O 19. Rxb2 +=
It is also possible to delay capturing the bishop. 16. bxa3 Bd6 17. Bb2 Qe7 18. Rfd1 O-O 19. Bxd7 Nxd7 20. Nb5 Bc5 21. Rd3= (or 21. Rxd7!? Qxd7 22. Qe5 Bxf2+ 23. Kxf2 f6 24. Qe2=)
16… Nxd7 17. Nb5 Rc8 18. Rd1 Bc5 19. Nd6+
A critical line is 19. b4!? Qxa1 20. bxc5 O-O (else Nd6+ is unpleasant) 21. Be3 Qe5 (21… Qf6? 22. Rxd7+-) 22. f4 (22. Rxd7? Rxc5 23. Nd4 Rfc8 24. g3 Qe4-+ 22… Qb2 23. Rd2 Qc1+ 24. Rd1 Qb2 25. Rd2= Neither side has anything better than repeating moves.
The best move is 19. Rb1 Qg6 20. Be3 O-O 21. bxa3 Rfd8=
19… Bxd6 20. Rxd6 Qe7
20…Rc7! and now the weakness at b2 tells, and White hasn’t enough for his pawn.
21. Qd1 Nf6 22. Qa4+ Kf8 23. Qxa3 Nd5 24. Bd2 Kg8 25. Bb4 Nxb4 26. Qxb4 h6 27. Qd2 Rc7
To keep me from seizing the 7th rank.
28. Qd3 g6 29. Rd8+
It seems strange to swap such a powerful rook for one in the corner, but if left to his own devices, Black is about to complete his development, e.g. 29.
Rd1 Kg7 30. g3 Ra8=
29… Kg7 30. Rxh8 Kxh8 31. Rd1 Kh7 32. h3
32. Qd8?? Qxd8 33. Rxd8 Rc1+ 34. Rd1 Rxd1#
32… e5 33. Qd6 Qxd6=
At this point, I declined the offer of a draw. White’s advantage is such that it’s hard to imagine losing the position. It’s often tempting in such situations to take the draw with the higher rated opponent, but there’s more to be learned from playing it out.
34. Rxd6 Kg7 35. Rb6
The idea was to advance the queenside pawns, force Black to defend over there, and then trade my a- and b-pawns for something like his b-, f- and maybe g-pawns. Of course, I’d like to promote one of my queenside pawns, but that’s unlikely!
35… Kf8 36. a4 h5 37. b4 Ke7 38. Kf1
Why not keep pushing the pawns? I could see lines like this: 38. a5 Kd7 39. b5 Rc1+ 40. Kh2 Kc7 41. Rf6 Ra1 (41… Rc5?? 42. Rxf7+ Kb8 43. b6! +!) 42. Rxf7+ Kc8 43. Re7 Rxa5 44. Rxe5 Kc7 45. Kg3 Kb6 46. Rg5 Rxb5 47. Rxg6+ Kc7 I was worried that Black’s passed b-pawn would be awkward to deal with.
38… Kd7 39. a5 Kc8 40. Ke2 Rc4 41. Rb5 Re4+ 42. Kf3 Rf4+
42… f5= looks drawish with both kings so constrained.
43. Ke3 Kc7
43… Rd4 is better, because Re7 is no longer check. Compare the following line with the note to White’s next move. 44. Rxe5 Rxb4 45. Re7 Ra4 46. Rxf7 Rxa5=
44. Rxe5 Rxb4 45. Re7+ Kd6 46. Rxf7 Ke6 47. Rc7+=
44… Rc4 45. Kd3 Rd4+ 46. Ke3 Rc4 47. Kd3
47. Rxe5 is very similar to the note to my 44th move.
By repeating moves, Black is implicitly offering a draw. I was not ready to agree to that just yet.
48. Kc3 Re4 (D)
The best chance at a win appears to have been 49. Rb6! f5 (49… h4?! 50. Rf6 hxg3 51. Rxf7+ Kc8 52. fxg3 Re3+ 53. Kc4 Rxg3 54. b5! +- In some lines, White’s king penetrates at b6. In others, b5-b6 is played. Either way, Black can’t hold the b-pawn) 50. Rxg6 Re2 51. Rh6 Rxf2 52. Rxh5 Kc6 53. g4 +-)
49… Kd6 50. Rc4 Re2 51. b5 Rxf2
I have given up a pawn in the hope of pushing the queenside pawns home. Black’s king is cut off from them.
52. a6 bxa6 53. b6 Rf3+ 54. Kb2 Rf2+ 55. Ka3 Rf3+ 56. Kb2 is also only a draw by repetition. (56. Ka4?? Rf1-+)
52… Ra2 53. Kb4?
53. Rc7 Rxa5 54. Rxb7 Kc6 55. Rxf7 Kxb6 56. Rf6+ Kc5 57. Rxg6=
53… Rb2+ 54. Ka3 Rb5 55. Ka4 Rc5 56. Rb4 Rc1 57. Kb5 Rc5+
Black has been defending all game, so it’s perfectly understandable that he didn’t notice that the balance had swung his way. 57… Ra1-+
58. Ka4 Rc1 59. Kb5 Rc5+ 60. Ka4 Rc1 ½-½
A draw by repetition.