Mocks meant we were short a couple of players, including reigning champion Dylan, but with your worst score being discounted this year, missing one round isn’t as much of an issue as last year. But despite the absentees, the first round draw was quite similar to December’s blitz, with Cal playing the top seed – Gerry this time – and me struggling to a win over Danny, this time having turned a drawn B+3 v N+3 ending into a won 2P each ending by the time Danny’s flag fell.
The first upset came in round 2, when Ciarán beat Gerry. Meanwhile, I’d reached B+P v K against Liam, but with seconds left each, I panicked and ended up making silly moves until my flag fell with Liam’s clock showing 0:00 – so less than half a second left. I could at least claim a draw as Liam had no mating material, but it left us with just four players on 2/2 for round 3.
Round 3 saw an unusual derby, as Brendan – who’d lost to Mihailo – playing son Thomas, who’d beaten Cal; Brendan pulled out a big win under pressure. But at the top, Constantin was pulling clear, and was the only player to be on 100% after four rounds. He sealed victory with another win in round 5 which left him 1½ points clear, before I managed to halt his run in the final round; added to my win over Mihailo in round 5, it meant I finished with wins over two of the top three seeds, but that was only enough for third place, behind John on the narrowest of tie-break margins.
Luke was the surprise package of the tournament, finishing ahead of Gerry for 19 points, having failed to even make the top 20 in December. Zhengjin chipped in with one of the biggest shocks when beating Brendan despite a rating gap of 967 points, while in one of the more open tournaments we’ve had, Danny and Thomas had a chance to make serious inroads in the standings when meeting in round 4 on 2/4, but they shared the spoils and then both went down in round 6 – still, both recorded their best finishes yet. It was, as usual, one of few draws – Dave Willow was somehow involved in three!
Anyways, the final Feb standings were as follows –
That means that the current standings, allowing for discounting each player’s worst score to date, are as follows –
The next round is on 15th March, after which we’ll split the entrants to date into quartiles based on ratings for that tournament and call those the three grading bands. So on that basis, the current grading band leaders are Seán, Luke and Zhengjin.
But before all that, of course, is our annual charity blitz on 8th March.