Gerry closes in on a board prize, the O’Hanlon B close in on safety and the O’Sullivan end their season with what must be an Irish record.
The O’Sullivan B were the only team playing away from home, but even then Bray was hardly much of a trek. Bray were an experienced team, with four players over 1000, and on board 5, they had 93-year-old VIncent Denard, who was held to a draw by 8-year-old Lorcan Cooney. The 85-year age gap breaks what may have been our own record from the start of the season, when Danny was beaten by a player 76 years his elder. Ben was the only other player to add a draw, however, as the team largely composed of Irish U-12 internationals went down 4-1 to a Bray team, each of whose players was more than half as old again as our team combined.
In HQ, the O’Hanlon B were facing a vital game against Drogheda. With a tough run-in, a win was vital to stay clear of the drop, but far from assured against a slightly stronger team. We were given a boost when Drogheda scratched board 6, and a further boost arrived when Desmond picked up three pawns relatively early on; although it took him a while to take home the full point, it was never really in doubt.
The rest of the games were looking a bit dodgy at various stages – Liam was a pawn down, Luke was in a lost pawn ending, Aodhán had two rooks and a pawn for a queen, but his king was a bit open and William was level at best. But things started to turn around on all the boards. First Luke’s opponent offered a draw in the won ending position, which Luke grabbed at, having done the same thing earlier in the season! Liam won his pawn back, and then won another pawn to come through and win. Aodhán held the draw; though his rook was tied down to g8 defending a mate threat, his opponent had no other pieces to back up the queen, and so the game ended in a strategic stalemate. William took a draw on board 1 as we came away with an excellent 4½-1½ win which all but confirms survival for what, at the start of the season, was the weakest team in the division.
The Bs have three top-half teams left to face, so they mayn’t hold on to their own current top-half status, but still, it’s been an excellent recovery given early results had left them adrift at the bottom after round 3.
Finally, the Armstrong were playing their rivals Gonzaga, already 1-0 down from the previous week. Things started well enough; Zdravko drew with Carl Jackson, while Gerry beat Killian Delaney having been close to lost earlier on. That win moves Gerry to 7½/9 for the season, and with two games left against struggling Balbriggan and Phibsboro, it looks odds-on that he’ll take a first board prize in around 20 years; a win in either game will do the trick.
That was as good as it got though. Mihailo got his queen trapped, and we weren’t looking great in the last four games either. Mel did manage to reach a drawn endgame, while Kevin came close but fell for a tactic at the last. 6-2 was the final result, which puts the team back to 50%, and we now need two big results in the last two matches to lift us back to fourth.