There was a record 26 Benildus players all told, with a nice spread across the bottom three sections…although the top section still eludes us! That said, it’s worth noting Alex Byrne’s draw with Malcolm Pein IM in round 4 which put him on 2½/4 and a board 6 slot against Jonathan Speelman GM on the Sunday morning. Sunday did bring two defeats against titled players, but still, he’ll be back above 2000.
We had 7 in the Challengers, which naturally brought with it a couple of derbies; Ciarán beat Mihailo in round 2, who in turn beat Dylan in round 3. There was also a number of near misses, with Ciarán playing on the board beside a Benildus player in every round except for round 2, when he played Mihailo. Myself, Mariusz and Constantin set the early pace with 2/3, but while Mariusz and I faded in the last three rounds, Constantin completed a Swiss submarine of sorts – a draw in round 1 – to end up on 5/6 and a share of second place. This was capped in the final round by a nice win over Jacob Miller in a 2N+2 v R, B+1 ending; he won the bishop on a promoted pawn, but was able to promote the second before Jacob had a chance to sac the rook on it and see if Constantin knew the torturous 2N+P mate!
I blew my chance of finally breaking through the 2½/6 barrier when missing a one-move win against Stephen Short in round 4, and while a record Friday Bunratty night of 4am didn’t do my play much harm on the Saturday – I won my other two games, including beating the eighth seed – another late night on the Saturday saw it all come home to roost with avengeance, and I lost both games effectively straight from the opening. This means that in 16 tournaments since starting to play up, my Bunratty/Kilkenny record is –
It’s consistent at least! Meanwhile, a table of when’s best to play me is rather revealing –
|Round||Av rat perf|
Perhaps unsurprisingly, I picked up 3/6, including an 1800 last-round draw, in Cork 2015, a 1600+ tournament where I didn’t have two late nights! The question is whether that’s enough to sacrifice the fun of playing head-hand chess with random GMs while humming along to the trad session in the corner. (I blame the couch for Kilkenny!)
Elsewhere, Mihailo and Dylan ended on quite different 3s, even though they played each other; Mihailo didn’t play anyone rated above 1800, or beat anyone above 1700, while Dylan lost in round 1 and still ended up playing a 1900 in round 2; he didn’t play anyone below 1750, and in the final standings, Mihailo’s rating performance was 120 points lower than Dylan’s, even with Dylan making one of his trademark draw offers from a far better position.
Ciarán R did finish on 2½, losing to Keegan O’Mahoney in round 3, who was one of several players over the weekend to play multiple Benildus opposition; he also beat Brendan and lost to Constantin. (One player in the minors played four Benildus players; she could have been excused for declaring the draw unbelievable and weird and playing 1. g4 and 2. f3 as a protest, but instead just got on with it and scored 3/4). Other Ciarán also scored 2½, though it came with a frustratingly-timed bye on the Saturday evening, when there was an ICU exec meeting scheduled for after the round was over. Brendan scored 2/6, with his only win coming against Oliver Weiss in the fifth round; Oliver had played Dylan in the previous round, but Dylan couldn’t help Brendan in prep as they had different colours. Brendan then drew with Frank Noonan; Frank had played Dylan in the previous round, but Dylan couldn’t help Brendan in prep as they had different colours. It was that kind of weekend at times!
In the Major, we had 8 players all told, and again, we fell just short of a title when Utkarsh drew on the top board against the eventual winner to end up second on 5/6; he reckoned he was a bit worse early on, and was happy to take the secure runners-up spot. The top board had been occupied by Odhrán for half the tournament; as second seed, he made his bow there in round 2 after the top seed surprisingly lost in the opening round, and he stayed there for two wins before a round 4 draw saw him bumped back down to board 2. In face, he spent the entire tournament on the top two boards, when he lost to Sanjay Menon to finish way down in 11th.
We had two derbies in the Majors; Seán beat Finn in what was Finn’s first defeat of the tournament after four draws; he won the last to end up 50%, while Seán got pawns to e7 and d6 and a queen to b7 in the middlegame against Mervyn Honner, who just had an unmoveed king and rooks on the back rank, which were both now hanging. Given he was also a piece down by this stage, that game didn’t last long, and Seán – who had won in round 2 despite hanging a piece, overcame a mid-tournament blip to end on 4/6.
William had an off-tournament, scoring just 3/6 against an average of 1250, while Liam recovered to break-even with a final round win over Cal; both scored 2 points over the board, though Liam also had a walkover on Saturday morning. Felix also scored 2/6; having finally plucked up the courage to play the King’s Gambit for the first time in round 5, he was rewarded with a very quick win, and only lost on time in the final round in an unusual position where he had two rooks for three pieces, along with assorted pawns each.
The Minor saw the biggest contingent, with 11 all told, and it was one of our more successful Minor tournaments of recent years. Robert Pluck started off on the live boards against the top seed, and reached a drawn king and pawn ending but unfortunately went wrong to lose; still, he recovered to end on a highly respectable 4/6, losing to the fourth seed and beating the third seed. Thomas Cooney was on board 2 at the same time and hammered the second seed, also ending up on 4/6 and an excellent 1103 rating performance, while Lorcan accounted for the seventh seed, although wasn’t as successful after that and only ended up on 2/6. Thomas’ round 4 win was in an interesting line of the Scotch; the game, with Thomas as black, started 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. d4 Bg4!? We’ll let you work that out for yourself… The rest of the game was quite interesting, and with Thomas having to submit an analysed game for Irish international training next weekend, it would have been a contender had it, shall we say, not contained a move an Irish international should be showing off!
That wasn’t the only illegal move of the section. Cathal McDonnell, making good on a deal with Frank Kelly two years ago, was making his tournament debut, and having picked up a first ever win in round 2, he then had victory in sight in round 3 as well, and so could have been forgiven for a slight faux pas in pushing his pawn to the eighth and pushing his clock before looking for a queen. The watching controller interjected, insisting that the pawn was a pawn, not a queen – and so black wasn’t in check – but the game became even more curious when the pawn was deemed to remain a pawn, sitting on the eighth, on his next move as well! Eventually, the new queen was allowed back in to the game, and Cathal won with no further misadventures. He won the next round as well, drew in 5 when stalemating his opponent from a queen up, before losing to the second seed in the last round – who was finishing off her run of Benildus wins, having lost to Thomas at the start – to end up on 3½/6. This was enough to earn him the €100 U-650 grading prize – curiously, he only had a rating (588) in the first place after he jumped in to two Bodley games about five years ago; had he been unrated still, he wouldn’t have won anything!
Frank, for his part, fared half a point worse than last year, but at least his points came earlier than last year, so his performance was actually better. Joe Hand notched two wins, including one against Henry Li, in his first tournament. Eóin also dropped half a point to stalemate, having gone badly wrong in a won king and pawn ending to end up with just the dreaded rook’s pawn, but a final round win lifted him to 2½/6, a decent improvement on 1/5 (plus a walkover) in Kilkenny. The opponent he stalemated was another who played four Benildus players, losing to Cathal, Lorcan and Danny, who had an up-and-down 3/6. Bhudhav also scored 3/6, having started with 2/3 and should gain another nice chunk of points, while Tim kept up his decent form from Kilkenny with 4/6, losing to Rian Wood from a queen up in another of the weekend’s derbies. And it was Rian who had arguably the performance of the tournament, losing his first round match but winning all the rest, including a final-round match as black against the fourth seed, to take a share of third place. As it turned out, the grading prize was worth more, so he won that, which was bad news for the club as Thomas Cooney had finished second in the grading band, and so was the player to miss out.
So no crystal trophies, but €500 or so in prize money after a very solid weekend’s work. We were a little bit shorter on supervisors this year as, of course, Frank and Cathal were taking the plunge in the playing hall, but thanks to Chantelle Johnson and, of course, Frank Scott. Bunratty 2018 is set for 23-25 Feb, and is the 25th anniversary tournament, so the organisers have promised a particularly special tournament!
We’ll have a couple of games from the weekend on here in the coming days.