On 29th September 2018, in Round 1 of the Ennis Shield, St. Benildus lost 5-1 to Drogheda. No wonder; most of us met before the match for the first time, plus most of us never played a league this strong – and the first opponents were the strongest team in Ennis.
After a few rounds, we figured out who should play where and what and got accustomed to it – and started winning. From Round 4 in November, we won 8 matches straight matches in a row, securing the promotion to Heidenfeld easily. A huge success for the youngest team in the league by far: Excluding me, the average age of team members was 16!
We missed the title by half a point – or did we? The leagues controller suggested that under the Article 5.5, we could challenge Drogheda to a playoff match, deciding the title holder. According to the rules, we needed any win to take the title.
So the playoff match was scheduled immediately for 11th June in Drogheda, the only available date, although not ideal – we knew Lara would be coming back to Ireland only that morning before from Russia, not sleeping the whole night at all!
Leon was to face Martynas Gudauskas. Leon’s current score vs Martynas was 0/2, including at last weekend’s Drogheda Congress, where Martynas managed to beat both our Board 1 & 2, Leon and Kavin.
Kavin (who played more than 6 hours of sports today) vs. Pat Coleman, Odhrán vs the league’s top scorer Dónal O’Boyle, Slavko vs Martin Dimitrov (lost to him in Round 1), William vs Seán Cummins (3/3 in Ennis this year) and Lara vs. Dayna Ferguson (Lara current score vs Dayna was 0.5/2) – both Ennis board prize winners this year, and Dayna the current U16 boys & girls champion. Did not look great up front for sure.
Yet we felt very confident after our LCU Cup game with Gonzaga A on Sunday, where we lost only 2-4 to the best team in Ireland, and were even close to an epic 3-3! Also, we had fantastic statistics behind us: All 9 matches in the Ennis Shield where we played with all 6 declared players – we won. So 10/10 looked far from impossible.
And so it started, and turned out to be the most tense match I have ever seen for sure.
I have found an opponent who plays faster than me – yet somewhat better than me. In half an hour I lost a piece, but 15 minutes later my opponent blundered and I was a piece up. Only an hour after the match started, my opponent resigned and we were in the lead: 2.5 points more needed for the title.
The other games went on and on… Kavin won a central pawn and looked better. Lara was defending an A pawn for 2 hours, Dayna attacking it with all available pieces.
After 2.5 hours, in a 2B+5 vs B, N+5, Martynas won a pawn vs. Leon, and looked like he might be winning. Yet Leon found a way to exchange his knight for one of the bishops, staying on board with 2 vs 3 pawns & opposite color bishops – which he easily held. Martynas tried for another half an hour – but then gave up and the draw was agreed. 1.5-0.5
Odhran & William kept their positions equal, exchanging most of the pieces – and eventually both agreed a draw after more than 3.5 hours of play. 2.5-1.5
Kavin was facing an attack to his king, and ended up losing a bishop – but seeing he would lose the bishop, he found a way to get most of his opponent’s pawns. The endgame was R+4 vs R, B+1. Interesting and very unclear.
After a solid 3 hours of defending on queenside, Lara finally managed to open the kingside. Many pieces on the board, completely unclear situation.
After some 4 hours of play – past 11:30! – both games looked drawish, and it seemed that one early win might decide the winner. We needed one more point to get the title.
Kavin got to an equal material position after both him and his opponent queened: Queen & Rook on each side, no other pieces left! The opponent was clear at this stage he needed to play for the win, as board 6 looked drawish.
After successfully defending the passed a pawn for most of the game, Lara was controlling the kingside play, even threatening several times checkmate with rook, bishop & pawn involved. After getting Dayna’s king in the corner, Lara won a piece, forced the exchange of rooks, and Dayna resigned as she couldn’t prevent the a-pawn queening. 3.5-1.5, title secured!
Kavin outplayed his opponent also, getting him to face inevitable checkmate.
Final score Drogheda 1.5-4.5 St. Benildus! 3 wins and 3 draws were more than enough for the title.