Three heavy defeats since our last update, but still some good news to report in there!
The Armstrong B travelled to Elm Mount looking to grab any points going to keep our heads above relegation – though needing three subs wasn’t a great start! Our opponents had an IM, FM and CM, and an average rating of 2110, so this was very similar to a latter-half ECC game for us. And we got underway with Kev McHugh – our joint-record ECC appearance holder – picking up a draw in the firsr game to finish, against Shane Melaugh CM. Shane had sacced an exchange to open Kevin’s king, though it looked like it didn’t quite work, so he threw a piece onto the fire to drag Kevin’s king up to d4. At this stage material was Q, 2R, B + 5 against Q, R + 5, but there was still plenty of ways to go wrong. Analysis afterwards reckoned Kevin had one winning hiding square – on a3 – but it wasn’t trivial to spot that, and Kevin instead settled for a draw by repetition.
Elsewhere Alan got his queen trapped on g2 – it had more than a few squares available to it, but surprisingly all were covered and the game was lost from there. Ben got squeezed out by a new FM Elm Mount had just for us, but then as Gerry MacElligott (Elm Mount’s captain, who had left himself out for the FM) was commenting on how well we were battling across the other boards, Dylan fell for a sac on g7 which opened up his king, and a minute later Ronan’s opponent finally got in down the open c-file and second rank.
So ½-4½, but Ross, playing his first league game for us in more than five years, picked up a great win against Gavin Melaugh, who had made a hames of the opening to lose two pawns and give Ross three connected queenside pawns, albeit that he had a kingside attack as some compensation. It was an interesting game, but it became fairly spectacular when Ross sacced his queen, immediately promoted to a queen which was also taken, and then pushed one of his two remaining passed pawns, at which his opponent’s flag fell, but the position was lost anyway. Not a bad way to make your comeback!
I was last to finish after a game where my opponent had also messed up the opening, albeit just wasting two tempi when mixing up lines, but enough to see me more than equalise. My opponent missed a winning line and instead I (the other joint-record ECC appearance holder) went in for a line where I had an exchange for a pawn, but it was quite double-edged. So in this position for example, what happens if I take on b2, threatening mate? And, having spotted that, how does black continue instead?
I instead played 1…Qf5??, which costs me the game; after the reply 2.dxc, I can’t stop the c-pawn.
The top board was rearranged due to David Fitzsimons’ participation in the European Championships, and though Kavin battled to a heavy piece ending, he wasn’t able to hold the draw and we went down to a 6½-1½ defeat.
The rest of the round 9 results went quite badly though, leaving us a lot closer to the drop than we’d have liked. Dún Laoghaire shocked Dublin 5-3, helped by a walkover on 8 and a 750 on 7, while Ballinasloe – who started the season with a 1290 on board 6 at home – lost 4½-3½ to Gonzaga A, ending any doubts that they might get dragged into things. Gonzaga B, meanwhile, are 3-1 up against our own As – Gerry delivering the win, while subs Dave, Slavko and Yubo all lost – and they could actually go third if they win enough of the balance of games on Wednesday. Malahide hosted Kilkenny yesterday and we can only hope for a big away win in that one…
The table now is –
We finish with games against Gonzaga B and Knights of Éanna/Rathmines. Dún Laoghaire play Elm Mount and Gonzaga B – so effectively we need to match their Gonzaga B score and then get 1½ more against Knights of Éanna than Dún Laoghaire do on the final day against Elm Mount. Malahide, meanwhile, travel to Bray next before playing Ballinasloe on the last day, so if they avoided defeat against Kilkenny, they could have a bit of a gap over us going into the final day, which didn’t seem likely after we beat them 6-2 in January! Knights of Éanna have probably done enough to stay up at this stage, and finish with games against our As and Bs. This one is going down to the wire…
The BEA had home games against the runaway league leaders on successive weeks recently, and a point in each was a very good return. Against Knights of Éanna, draws Peter and Yanbo took the point; Peter was up against a 688 on 1 if you go by start-of-season ratings, but his opponent has since jumped to 1416, so it’s undoubtedly a good result – and it could have been better had he not missed a mating attack right at the end; the line he chose had a defensive resource he’d missed, but, having sacced material, there was still enough there to force a draw at least. Yanbo got to an opposite-colour bishop ending which was a draw, while Paddy lost after leaving his queen hanging to a check and discovered attack, Theo had a topsy-turvy game where both players battled to hang pieces and the last mistake lost, while Alan – playing a player who had beaten him in Galway last year, but who has since gained more than 300 points – had a strong attack, sacced a rook for a mating attack, and then realised he’d missed a defensive resource.
The following week UCD were the visitors, and they duly ended Graham’s great start to his Benildus career (4/4). But games where you’ve heavily outrated just give someone a chance at a great win, and we got that on 2 when Max beat his second 1400 in two games.
With one game left, it looks unlikely that Knights of Éanna B will be able to catch us, though they do have a game against Curragh next month which gives scope for points. But we play Bray/Greystones on the final round and will be hopeful of a couple of points there to keep us safe.
Finally, in my game, 1…Rxb2 loses immediately to 2.Qe6+ Kh8 3.Nf7+ Kg8 (RxN 4.Qe8+ and mate next move) 4.Nh6+ Kh8 5.Qg8+ RxQ 6.Nf7#. 1…cxd5 2.Bxd5+ will end up the same way. But I still have enough in the position to take a draw – 1…Kh8! and now I am threatening Rxb2 and mate. White can take a draw immediately with 2.Nf7+ Kg8 3.Nd5 Kh8 or 2.dxc6 Rxb2 3.Nf7+ etc. Alternatively if 2.b3 cxd5 (now white’s big threat is gone) 3.Bxd5 Rbd8 4.Nf7+ RxN 5.QxR Qxa2 – material is back level, and a draw could almost be agreed on the spot.