Well, after 9 rounds, it came down to the wire. Three players on 7/9 - Austin, Lewis and Larry – all playing Black against resurgent Craig Fay, tricky Danny and pull-the-chestnuts-out-of-the-fire expert Alexander, respectively.
One half-point behind, Jalal could still win the Championship. A victory vs Craig Anderson would give him at least a tie if the others all failed to win. A careful opening from both players (no, I didn’t say “stodgy”) arguably gave Craig a slight edge, but his first central foray dropped an outside pawn. A brief obscure tactical opportunity to turn things around for White was missed by both, and Jalal simplified to a Pawn endgame, two to the good.
Meantime, Danny and Lewis were in a ding-dong battle. As the middle game possibilities dwindled, Lewis’ pieces seemed the more cramped, but a relieving Queen check and invasion of Danny’s King position won him a pawn, and what looked like a win. His own King came under fire, however, and seemed to take the wrong turning under Danny’s Queen checks, letting slip the simpler win, now requiring Lewis not to play the obvious Queen check and instead set up a mating net. He played the check, Queens came off, and an odd-looking race of a bunch of asymmetric pawns with same-coloured Bishops led eventually to a draw. Lewis thus on 7.5 points with Jalal.
Alexander played an English against Larry, the central pawn exchanges not helping his position and Larry planked his Queen on d3 rather than avoid a doubling of pawns after an exchange on c6. Whilst the engines were not keen, this really cramped White’s position. Swapping Queens only resulted in Larry’s Rook doing the same job, and desperate attempts to break out led to an apparently harmless pin of a knight…that was actually fatal. Larry’s material advantage increased rapidly, and as Mate loomed, I am sure Lewis would also allow himself a wry smile as the Stalemate King either chucked or immobilised his various pieces and pawns… but Larry carefully produced the Mate.
Larry now ahead on 8/10, and we all had to wait for the postponed match between Austin and Craig. A few of us turned up on Tuesday to watch the fireworks… but were arguably disappointed (at this point the football pundits are forced to say “for the neutral”). I know little of the Sicilian so Craig’s Queenside Knight manoeuvre with White may be mainstream, but it seemed to catch both of them off guard. An engine plus for White appeared and disappeared before a couple of exchanges left him with a QR combination on the open a file, with Austin having a completely undeveloped Kingside. White had a definite edge. As pressure mounted, Austin played the “best move” of 18…Rb7, according to Engines keeping White’s advantage below 1.0. Other options were available, increasing White’s lead to around 2.0 … but avoiding Craig’s next option which was a repeat sequence involving a back rank check. To escape this, Austin would have to allow a major deficit of around 4.0… and he opted to accept the draw.
Thus, the game ended on Move 20, and Larry Kirk, stalwart of countless successful Richardson Cup Campaigns, Captain of many, achiever of the only half-point the Poly has obtained in The European Club Knock Out (think old-style “European Cup” where the single UK Champion gets to play against Moscow Dynamo’s eight grandmasters – though they did leave Karpov at home), current Club Captain……. also became the winner of the inaugural Online Polytechnic Club Championship… termed the “Poly2020” to commemorate the year where everything changed.
Elsewhere, Michael finished a strong performance on his own behind the leading foursome, Alex made an amazing recovery from a slow start to end with a positive score, whilst newcomers Alistair and Ben performed creditably, despite the latter’s disappointing draw with the eventual winner in the first round!
A huge tournament. Thanks to Andy for setting it up, and to everyone for playing, turning up pretty much as required, and competing in the best of spirits. The results of the Final Round, and the final standings, are outlined below (I got 50%….yay!)
Poly2020 Round 10
Thursday 7pm Mar 18th 2021
1 D Breslin (5) .5 v .5 L Brookens (7)
2 C Fay (5) .5 v .5 A Connor (7)
3 A Goss-Pastor (4.5) 0 v 1 L Kirk (7)
4 C Anderson (4.5) 0 v 1 J Shaheen (6.5)
5 M Matar (5.5) 1 v 0 C Takahashi (5)
6 R Gibb (4.5) 0 v 1 A Marshall (4.5)
7 S Blackwell (4) 0 v 1 A McIntyre (3.5)
9 J Larkin (4) 1 v 0 R Hall (1.5)
10 B Snow (3.5) 1 v 0 D Gaffney (3.5)
11 E Martin (3) 1 v 0 A Heron (3.5)
B Fitzpatrick. Default Win.
J Vadalia Half-point Bye
8 L Kirk
7.5 L Brookens A Connor J Shaheen
6.5 M Matar
5.5 D Breslin C Fay A Marshall
5 J Larkin C Takahashi
4.5 R Gibb C Anderson J Vadalia A Goss-Pastor A McIntyre
4 S Blackwell B Fitzpatrick B Snow E Martin
3.5 A Heron D Gaffney
1.5 R Hall