Wins for the Armstrong, Heidenfeld, O’Hanlon B and – in one pre-played game – the O’Hanlon A saw the club victorious each time, and Gerry and Constantin have secured our first board prizes of the season.
On Monday, the Armstrong travelled to Phibsboro and came away with a 6-2 win that all but relegates the champions from 2001/02, 2002/03, 2003/04, 2004/05, 2007/08 and 2008/09. The most notable result was a win for Gerry which lifts him to 8½/10 and a first board prize in 20 years. The Armstrong finish off with a match against Balbriggan, although a top-four finish is looking fairly unlikely, with a 3-point gap to make up on Elm Mount, who play Dún Laoghaire.
Gerry now stands level with Constantin in the race for the club’s top scorer trophy after the latter gave up half a point when the Heidenfeld also played bottom-of-the-table Phibsboro on Wednesday, though that was also enough to lift him to 8½/10 for the season and confirm a board prize. But it was a night of struggle as Ross had an attack which looked promising but wasn’t, and his opponent’s counter quickly proved decisive. That meant we were 1-0 down not long after the final game had started, with my opponent getting lost en route and ending up being 45 minutes late. When he hung a rook rather than lose an exchange 20 moves in, the game was as good as over, and though I did have to promote and then bring it to mate in one, the result was never in doubt – a rare comfortable win for me in what’s been an interesting season on the bottom boards!
By this stage, Michael had also drawn; he’s still unbeaten for the season, though with just two wins in 8 games, and while Dylan had a strong attack, we weren’t going so well elsewhere, with Mariusz a piece down and Constantin two – admittedly gammy – pawns in arrears. Dylan did convert, and Tim also won on 1 for his second win against Phibsboro in three days, to bring us to 3½-1½ up, but only Dave Willow looking even slightly better.
The last three games then all ended within minutes of each other – and each ended in a draw. Mariusz won back two pawns, and had R+5 v R, B+3, and a nice passed pawn at that, but it was only enough to hold off his opponent’s bishop. Constantin also won back two pawns, and held a minor piece ending, while Dave’s pressure ultimately didn’t amount to anything and he settled for a draw to be just one draw short of Michael’s record, on 2 wins and 5 draws for the season.
Curragh’s round 9 match was postponed because of the Galway Congress, and Elm Mount v Malahide is still a late result, so we’re not mathematically promoted yet, but we’re effectively there. Curragh and Elm Mount are 16 and 21 points behind respectively with three games remaining, but if Elm Mount won 4½-3½ in their round 9 tie, for example, then we are mathematically confirmed for the top flight next year. We finish the season with a match against Ballinasloe, where Tim will take a board prize if he wins.
In the next room, the O’Hanlon B were up against Malahide, while the As were playing the first board of Saturday’s crunch title match against Gorey. Brendan drew first blood for the As when building up pressure in one of the most dull French Exchange positions you’re likely to see. This means the As will go into Saturday’s main event 3½ points clear of Gorey in second, and a share of the spoils on Saturday would surely be quite satisfactory.
The Bs were given a boost when Malahide turned up with a weakened team; Shay Scott – a cousin by marriage of Frank Scott, as Frank pointed out when he turned up! – has been putting all to the sword on the lower boards, but was on 3 for this match, while Luke made short work of his 870-rated opponent on 6 to give us the perfect start. Finn, playing his first league match of the season, picked up a draw on 5 – not an entirely unexpected result given he drew 4 of 6 in Bunratty! – while Aodhán walked himself into a nasty pin, but his opponent didn’t take advantage, and ultimately lost. Desmond, sandbagging himself for the second match in a row, went down against an opponett 300+ points higher rated, but we were still 2½-1½ up with our two most in-form players remaining. William picked up a win, while Liam was winning but blundered, and had to settle for a seventh (!) draw of a so-far unbeaten season. So 4-2 was the final score, a win which all but mathematically ends any thoughts of relegation; an impressive feat for a team which looked doomed after three rounds. The Bs’ last match is against Elm Mount A, while the As – after playing Gorey on Saturday – play Malahide.