It’s been a while since we checked in our league teams – so here’s a round-up of how 2023 has been going thus far.
The Armstrong A started the year with a third defeat in a row, this time against relegation candidates Malahide. Patryk Brozynski took another Benildus scalp – Mihailo this time – while Andrey Ivanov accounted for Gerry as Malahide’s juniors put us under pressure. Brendan Lyons drew on 6 to make it four draws in five games in the leagues this season; hard to beat or struggling to grind out wins depending on your point of view! Tim and Stephen delivered the only wins on the main night as we ended 4-3 down, while Lara played her game a week later and ended up with a four-hour draw.
Up next were Ballinasloe, and after the first four games we’re 2½-1½ up. Gerry’s shaky league form continues with a draw against 1800 on board 6, while Brendan L played a typically wild opening – though was at least up on time! – before not defending a kingside attack properly and going down to his first league defeat of the season. But Slavko and Lara took wins to give us the advantage going into Wednesday’s remaining games, Slavko with a nice win where the position played itself, and Lara overcoming development problems two convert a position two pawns up. Stephen and Gerry are top scorers on 3½; Dublin are the next opponent next week.
The Armstrong B, meanwhile, continue to overachieve. A tough trip to Kilkenny with just three of our regular players saw us come out with a very respectable 2½-5½ defeat. I took a draw in a dull enough game where I missed a pawn late on, but in a major piece ending it probably wouldn’t have been enough for victory anyway. Zhengjun – in his first game of the season – and Mariusz lost, as did John in an unusual game on 1 against Karl McPhillips FM. After 10 moves, this bizarre position was reached –
This, needless to say, is good for white, but unfortunately black isn’t an FM for nothing and when John went wrong later on, he wound up in trouble and lost. FMs will do that!
At this stage we were looking at a big defeat, but we started putting some more results on the board. Karel got an excellent win – our only one of the afternoon – against Éamon Keogh NM. Paul marked his club debut with a dramatic draw on 5 where his opponent hung a rook in a tactic which he thought was opening up the king, but Paul was still under enough pressure that he had to bail into repetition. William lost a tight game against Colm Quigley from a pawn down, but Alan Lane held an excellent draw in a R+3 v R+2 ending; at 650 points out-rated, it’s our second-best draw of the season, and even if you allow that Alan isn’t really 1050-rated, it’s still an excellent result.
But honorable defeats weren’t going to be good enough in our next game against Malahide, a real relegation 16-pointer. In the event, we rode our luck a little bit but delivered in style with a 6-2 win which gives us great hopes of avoiding the drop. Ben and Kevin neutralised Patryk and Andrey – who had done so much damage to our As in the previous round – with two draws; Kevin then beat his opponent in Gonzaga the following week. And so it was over to our juniors to change the game, with Wenle – on his Armstrong debut – side-stepping a desperado piece sac and winning when his opponent’s attack ran out. Kavin held Jacob Flynn on top board, Ciarán took a draw on 6 in a quiet enough game, and John continued his great form with a crushing win on 4. The final game was mine, and I had hung a key pawn in an otherwise level enough position and was completely lost. We reached this position –
– where I was planning on meeting 1.NxP with the move 1…Resigns. Instead, he played 1.Ng2+ (“I nearly fell over when I saw him play this”, says John), and so I survived to this position –
Now 1.Nb2 is easily winning – white will sac on my pawn when it promotes, and I can’t do the same at the other end. Instead, white played 1.f6??, thinking he was promoting in time to stop me, but actually we get to this position –
Here, my move 1..Kc1?? is a blunder – Ke2 is the only way to hold the draw. Now white can play 2.Rf6, and after 2…d1=Q 3.Rf1 wins the queen and the game. And then one final blunder from white – after 2.Qh6 (now slightly better for black) Kb2 3.Qh2 Kxa3 4.Qe2?? d1=Q, he’s completely lost. An utterly ridiculous steal, and my opponent duly crumpled up his scoresheet and threw it aside.
So an excellent win; John is our top scorer on 3½; Ballinasloe are next up. We’re now 4½ points clear of Malahide, who have yet to play Gonzaga A, but also Bray/Greystones and Dún Laoghaire. The league table shows just how close things are in one of the tightest Armstrong campaigns in recent years –
The Bs have yet to play the sides in bold, while the As have to play the teams in italics. If the As can pick up a decent score on Wednesday – not guaranteed at all against a decent Ballinasloe side – then we could be on the fringes of the title race, but no more slip-ups are allowed. The Bs have three match wins but no easy games left.
The Heidenfeld‘s excellent season continues. A trip to Celbridge – kick-starting a manic weekend for the club where we had four teams playing in four different counties, as well as players in the 4NCL and the Cavan Congress – saw them come back with a 5½-2½ win; Brendan Cooney’s win, after his pair of bishops ran his opponent’s rook out of squares, saw him top 1700 live for the first time, while wins for Slavko and Yubo saw them keep up their 100% winning records this season. The next week – playing alongside the Armstrong Bs’ game against Malahide – we picked up six draws when out-rated on every board bar one against Dún Laoghaire, and though Slavko lost his 100% record, Yubo won on the only board with no increments, as too late we found out that we only have 15 of the DGT clocks… Then this afternoon, they travelled to Gonzaga, to find the old enemy significantly weakened on the lower boards. In fact, they had a 1320 on board 4 and no board 8, and we duly mopped up 4-1 on the lower boards. Karel’s great form continued with another win – he’s now on 3/5 against 1700s – and though we lost on the top two boards, a 5-3 win keeps us well in the hunt for an unprecedented Armstrong C team (and presumably a very quick relegation!) Yubo is top scorer on 4/4; we play Knights of Éanna/Rathmines next, before a season-defining double-header against UCD and Blanch.
The Ennis travelled to Gorey last month, the fourth team in a fourth county last month. In a topsy-turvy game against the league leaders, Danny had been winning but lost while Dimitri had been losing but won. Wenle, who started late having rushed from football, also delivered a win to take a respectable result back up the N11. And we went from top-of-the-table to bottom-of-the-table as Portmarnock visited the next week, and were whitewashed in the five games played in the club. Fearghal had a default win, Dimitri won early, and Seán, Danny and Wenle all finished within about 15 minutes of each other, and still the right side of 9:30pm. It was a welcome result to lift us solidly into mid-table and really end any lingering fears about the drop. Ronan’s board 1 tie was played on Thursday, although he did turn up in Naomh Barróg rather than Naomh Mearnóg for it! Fortunately the two clubs are only 15 minutes apart, so presumably he made it in time, though the result is outstanding. Fearghal is top scorer on 4/5; Lucan are up next.
Finally to the BEA South, who’ve been blowing hot and cold since Christmas. A home game against Inchicore started badly with a flat tyre meaning David had to default, and Inchicore mopped up on all the other boards to take a 5–1 win, almost tripling their score for the season to date. It meant we were really dragged into the relegation picture, but we fought back with 3-2 defeats in our next two games. Away to promotion hopefuls Armenian Chess Club, Paddy’s opponent tried the Halloween Gambit, which is objectively nonsense but the game isn’t that simple of course, and Paddy went down to defeat. Theo lost after opening up the centre too much before castling, while Max had another fairly wild game which ended in defeat. But on the top two boards – against 1500s+ – Peter and Graham chipped in with superb wins. Graham lost a piece against Vahe to end up in 5P v B+5, but as Vahe mopped up Graham’s pawns, Graham pushed his, and then stopped, looked at the board, and said “Am I just queening here?” Of course, he can’t ask that during a game, but it didn’t matter – the answer was “Yes”, and the win was confirmed. Then Peter followed up with a win over Gagik, and having been whitewashed by the bottom team in the league, we had nearly upset one of the top teams. In today’s action, Graham continued his excellent form with a win over Polly McCormick – a section winner in Sligo last weekend – while Yanbo took a nice win in an opposite-side-castling game, where his attack crashed through well in time. Lorcan lost a key pawn and his position faded away, Alex hung a piece on move 4, and being the BEA, it remained hanging for the next ten moves or so, but ultimately not having castled cost him, while Paddy missed a chance to take perpetual with check on g3 and went down to defeat.
With the current top two still to play, we’re still far from safe, but we’ve given ourselves a fighting chance of staying up, which would be a good result with a pretty new team. Graham is top scorer on 4/4; Dún Laoghaire are next up.