A fourth top two finish in a row was for Eric was the main highlight of a solid weekend’s work in Kilkenny this year, where we had 17 players playing all told.
In the Major, we had three players playing. I started off the weekend quite well, with a draw against the fifth seed and 2013 winner, a Dutch 1950 who said the game marked his 19th game in Kilkenny, and his 19th game without defeat. The game ended up in a draw by repetition in a position where I was threatening to take on f7 with check, but I actually thought it did surprisingly little, and my opponent could gain very dangerous counterplay by allowing this check and pushing a pawn to b3 instead, attacking my rook and allowing his queen to invade and support the pawn. After playing a few lines out afterwards, it appears this was at worst an interesting line which my opponent had completely missed, so at least I can claim to have seen more than my opponent, even if I didn’t beat him!
Two titled wins followed, against Gearóidín Uí Laighleis WCM and Hannah Lowry-O’Reilly WFM, the latter a 15-move win after a big blunder in the opening –
Kevin Burke (1688) v Hannah Lowry-O’Reilly WFM (1720); Kilkenny Major 2018; round 5
1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. Bg5 Be7 5. e5 Nfd7 6. h4 0-0 7. Bd3 f6? 8. Qh5 (D)
I spent 9 minutes on this move, because it commits to the sac on g6 if that’s what black replies. I was happy my move forced the reply 8. … f5, which I thought took away one chance for black to hit out at my pawn centre. Fritz says I’ve already got a nice advantage here (+2) after 8. … f5 9. g4. Instead, the reply was
8. … g6??
Fritz now scores this as +12! I spent a couple of minutes re-checking things here, but the sac is the only option really. I have perpetual if things don’t work out, and I may as well look at what else is there a couple of moves down the line, when my light-squared bishop is off the board and I’m not running the risk of calculating lines involving that bishop and then realising that the line starts with my saccing it.
How to continue now? I spent another ten minutes working out the various lines before I was happy I’d found forced mate, and so I played –
11. Rh3 Qe8
The obviously daft 11. … Rf7 is actually the only way to avoid forced mate here.
12. Qh6+ Kg8 13. BxP BxB 14. Rg3+ Kf7
I’d seen all this – but now I realised that my plan of 15 Qg6# wasn’t mate at all because the king suddenly has an escape square on e7! But it only took a couple of – rather panicked! – seconds before I saw the mate in two, starting with…
15. Qh7+ 1-0
The whole game took less than an hour – or 8 minutes for all my moves with the exception of 8. Qh5 and 11. Rh3.
So by round 5, I’d beaten half the Irish team from the recent Olympiad in Baku! This also brought me back to a plus score against (current and future) titled players, and indeed to a level score against actual titled players –
|Year||Player||Result||Title then||Title now|
|2009||Sarah Jane Hearne||Lost||WCM|
|2011||Gearóidín Uí Laighleis||Won||WCM||WCM|
|2018||Gearóidín Uí Laighleis||Won||WCM||WCM|
Board 2 in the Armstrong and board 5 in Europe has made this easily the toughest year I’ve ever had in terms of titled opponents!
Anyways, in round 6, I was drawn against Vjeko. Arriving at the board a couple of minutes late, Vjeko noted that Croatia v England kicked off in about 15 minutes. Does it?, I said, and played 1. … Nc6 to his 1. f4, hoping he would transpose into a King’s Gambit like chesstempo said he would (he didn’t). About 14 minutes in, I figured I’d offer a draw – and then saw that the move I was about to casually throw in actually hung a piece! So I played a different move and offered the draw. “We could watch first half on my time and second half on your time and still play the game”, Vjeko noted. “I’m not English and I’m not Croatian”, was my reply, and we had a draw and went down to Kyteler’s, where I’d been watching the build-up not 20 minutes earlier. At that stage, I’d actually been ahead of Vjeko on tie-break – we were both on 2½/5, though Vjeko had started off with a travelling bye and then two wins – but when the final standings came out, we were of course still level (3/6), but he was suddenly six places ahead of me on tie-break! This has prompted Vjeko to suggest he’ll spend more tournaments entirely in the pub to see what happens.
We were both beaten by Leon though, who also took a travelling bye, then started with two losses, but turned things around to finish with three straight wins – also beating WCM Gearóidín – to end on 3½/6, though he was ineligible for a grading prize as he had entered on his FIDE rating of 1779 (and would have missed out on a prize on tie-break in any event).
In the James Mason, we had a couple of players playing their first 1200-1600 section. Ben started with two 1200 draws – not much good now that he’s 1400! – but soon found form and ended with 3/4, losing only to the eventual runner-up, and the same player he’d lost the blitz play-off in Bunratty to back in February. Still, he’s up another 20 points, so a decent tournament overall. He was eclipsed by Thomas though, who gained 70 points in getting 3½/6, and being narrowly pipped to a grading prize. He lost the only club derby in this section, to Lara in round 2; Lara and dad Slavko ended up on identical records – a travelling bye, a win with white, a defeat with black, a win with white, a defeat with black and a win with white, and even lost around the same number of rating points each.
In the Challengers, we had 10 players, plus Cormac Hand and Frank Scott minding the house, the latter resplendent in his Kilkenny Chess Club jumper he’d been awarded last year; I think it was being re-awarded during the tournament this year as he’d actually gone home before prizegiving last year, not knowing that he was getting an award himself! Felipe picked up his first non-junior win, and indeed ended with a best-ever score of 2/6 to jump 70 points. Brother Lorcan was also picking up points, starting with 2½/3 – including a draw with Yubo – before losing to Eric and ending up back on 3½, but still enough for 35 points.
From the house, Eóin Kenny and Cathal Sullivan lost their first two games but found their feet after that, both following up with 2/3 before losing their last round, and indeed getting identical provisional ratings of 509. Christopher Noblett started with a defeat against Robbie, but finished on 2½/6 for a 728 performance, while Robert Pluck, a relative veteran in his third Kilkenny, scored 4/6 to come second of the entire Benildus contingent in the section.
Robbie followed up a derby win against Christopher with a derby loss against Yubo, but by the end had a solid 4/6 and 70 extra rating points, Joe, meanwhile, started with a disastrous 0/2, which meant any chance of a decent tournament was completely gone, and although he recovered to 3½/6 – including a win against Felipe – it was against much lower-rated opposition, and he’s down 40 points.
Yubo had only lost to the second seed as he started the final round, but he lost that final round as well to drop back into the pack on 3½/6. So it was left to Eric to pick up our only cash of the weekend – after a sneaky draw in round 2 helped him keep off the top early on, he beat the top seed in round 5 and then took a final-round draw against the only player on 5/5 to ensure second place. So his last four tournaments now read City of Dublin (second), St Andrew’s (first), Limerick (second) and Kilkenny (second!) Despite that, he only gained 35 points – but that at present is enough for him to play the middle section in Gonzaga, at which his rating will surely shoot up.