The Armstrong B and the O’Hanlon both suffered heavy defeats against relegation rivals as the leagues got back underway after the Christmas break with 21 games for the club.
5 of those games were away in Bray, where the BEA picked up their third draw of the season. Ben and Danny led the way with 1100+ wins on the top two boards, while sub Kavin added a 1100 draw; all three results make the High Fives for the season. There’s some tough games still to come, starting on Wednesday week with the rearranged tie against title favourites UCD, but the BEA should be safe by the end of the season – which would be a good performance seeing as the team is basically last year’s O’Sullivan.
Up the club, meanwhile, the Armstrong A had the first two of their games from the weekend’s trip to Trinity, with Mel and Mihailo taking draws. While Trinity aren’t challenging for second as they had done in previous years, they are still a strong team, but a win will have to be the target if we’re to keep up our own hopes of a best league finish since 1998.
Downstairs, the Armstrong B were up against tenth-placed Rathmines, while the O’Hanlon were facing a Bray side whose mid-table position was boosted by a 5-1 hammering of bottom side Inchicore. Rathmines were an average of about 200 points higher rated on each board, giving an expected score of 6-2 in their favour – this would of course by of no use to us given they were already 5 points clear of us. Dave and Michael lost after getting squeezed out and after miscalculating a sac respectively, before John got his first point of the season with a nice win against Peter Cafolla on board 1. The win broke his duck for the season – and indeed was his first ever Armstrong board 1 win, given the highest he’d played before this season was one appearance on board 3.
None of the other boards was looking particularly promising, although we did manage to hold a few draws in the end. Myself and Mariusz lost – I from an improved showing in the Poisoned Pawn Winawer where I was a good 7 or 8 moves out of theory before the position came crashing down rather than my usual 3/4 moves, and Mariusz from a position Fritz gave as +3 at one stage.
In between though, sub William took a draw off Tony Bermingham, who had sacced a piece as black in the Dutch to get a queen and rook in at William’s exposed king, only to find that William had enough pieces defending that the best black had was to take a perpetual. I had actually written the result down as a win for black when I saw it had finished, and it wasn’t until my own game finished 45 minutes later that I realised it had been a draw!
Ciarán held a draw from a pawn down in a rook ending when his opponent got his rook stuck in front of, rather than behind, his passed pawn and could ultimately make no progress once the pawn got to the second. Ross, meanwhile, had reached a knight and pawn ending, which then became a K+2 each ending. As we analysed the position in the main room, the conclusion was it was lost. Zdravko, however, calmly demonstrated a stalemate trick Ross had to gain a vital tempo and so queen in time to reach a drawn Q+K ending. Ross presumably saw the same trick, as he came out of the main room shortly after with a draw secured.
But overall, we ended with just 2½ points. That may be enough to narrow the gap to safety – we’re now 3 points adrift of Bray in tenth, who play Gonzaga today – but realistically a sixth defeat of the season is relegation form. Our next two matches are our best chances at a match win – Balbriggan next week, and then Curragh, whom we finished 5½ points ahead of in last season’s Heidenfeld.
Next door, the O’Hanlon were facing one of the weaker teams in the division, having already secured some good results since the opening day whitewash in Drogheda. However, things didn’t go their way at all; sub Joe lost a piece early on and never got back into the game, while Cal, Desmond and Nicky all lost as well. Finn and Aodhán picked up a pair of draws between them for a 5-1 defeat which leaves the side in big trouble at the bottom of the table –
They have a big challenge in their next game against a Dublin side whose board 4 would comfortably slot onto our Ennis team.