Jallal began defending his half-point lead with d4. Craig fianchettoed Q-side, Jallal K-side. As they jockeyed, Black had slightly more space. White refused to block the centre, and a tempting e4 pocket appeared for Black’s Q Bishop. Craig ignored this until finally “forced” to adopt the outpost after Jallal advanced a5-a6. White’s Q move to a5 with B to a4 met a c5 response that left them biting on fresh air and granite, respectively. White was clearly behind. Regrouping was required, but Jallal planned protecting a central pawn with Knight rather than returning Queen, also exchanging the white-squared Bishops. Unfortunately a glitch between Jallal and his computer resulted in Nh4 (rather than Nd2). Its exchange resulted in an a shattered pawn structure, and loss of material to an invading Queen. Jallal tried to drum up complications, but careful simplification by Craig left him many pawns up in a duly won Rook ending. The organisers were made aware of the situation, and of a noble offer from Craig. But in view of the National and Competition rules on such things, there was nothing to be done about Jallal’s misfortune. 0-1
The chasing pack could now leapfrog Jallal. Scott played a closed Q pawn game with Bf4 and no c4. Lewis fiancettoed (of course), and met the immediate h4 assault with h5. White arranged an exchange of Queens, and castled long. Both players brought rooks to bear on opponent’s King. Lewis’ monarch looked the more vulnerable, but White’s continuation was unclear. A misjudged a3 allowed possible counterplay. But Black was hasty bringing his knight towards the new theatre, and allowed the rupture of his King’s pawn defences. Scott went for a speculative exchange sacrifice, when rook-doubling on the open file may have sufficed. This looked successful when Lewis’ King (again?) went the wrong way and Scott’s marauding Bishops chased it across the board, skewering Black’s bishop in the process. Two Rooks came off and Scott’s Bishops looked dominant vs Rook, particularly after he established connected passed pawns. He seemed uncertain how to proceed, however, and allowed a repetition of moves as he wondered how best to escape Rook checks. .5-.5
Austin continued to hunt the leaders against Dairena who opted to accept his Queen’s Gambit. An unusual …Bd6 left her with a quandary when White took her c5 pawn. Lose pawn or allow Queen exchange banning castling? She went for the former, but could not disentangle her undeveloped back rank. Austin launched forward, a rook fell, and with a back rank mate looming, Dairena resigned. 1-0
In-form Alex faced Robert’s QP double-fianchetto opening with and soon found his opponent had all the space and the two Bishops against his awkward King position. But White had no obvious continuation. His Q-side advance allowed Black to break up his pawn structure and things seemed even. Robert pushed for a win with a central break, but this allowed Black Rook penetration to the 7th rank, attacking White’s Queen. White’s pawn break was a tempo behind, and Black was soon crawling all over his King position. A clear Rook down, White resigned.
Brian’s (W) delayed game against Eric began e4…d6 d4…f5?! Hunting for a more precise description than “King Pawn Opening”, Stockfish decided it was Queen Pawn, with the Balogh Defence to The Dutch. Eric fuelled my recent paranoia that everyone reserves their best for me, by following up our “Grandmaster draw” (I made No mistakes, honest!) with six more question marks in the next eccentric eleven moves. He might even have fallen for a sneaky one-move mate threat (go-see) that White eschewed, but settled for a disrupted uncastled Kingside with no compensation. It got complicated, with various pins, pieces en prises and bilateral threatened Queens, before Eric settled for swapping his Queen for Rook and knight. Brian returned the exchange for a pawn; his Q-B seemed superior to the RR-N and started clipping pawns. White’s decision to swap the minor pieces seemed to give Eric a chance with RR vs Queen and even pawns, but he opted to exchange the Rooks for Queen and pawn, leaving his King too far away from the action, and Brian converted. 1-0
Alastair chose a Semi-Slav against my Queen’s Gambit, with a dxc4 and advance of his Queenside pawns. I was late as usual with the bookish a4 (never feels comfortable) and he gained an edge. It dissipated as he over-prepared his central exchanges, and my pieces were forced to rearrange very nicely. I in turn then overprepared a pawn advance which would immediately work (overlooked veiled threat on his Bishop), but got a second chance and took it. Suddenly very complicated down the central files, I missed the clearest win and went for a “won” endgame, a piece to the good for two, including isolated doubled, pawns. But, with 3 minutes and no plan, I went for a cheapo mate if Alastair played the obvious move. He sensibly ignored this and started chopping pawns, while I fell to bits. Soon he had 4 “passed” (since I had none) pawns for the knight and I was scraping for a draw. Fortunately, I stopped panicking, held up his advanced outside pawn, got in amongst the others with knight and king, and happily agreed a draw with 49 seconds on clock. Engine 0-0. .5-.5
Michael played a Dragon Scicilian against Danny’s KP opening. Things seemed even, other than White’s slightly misplaced B, chased from g5. But when Danny exchanged his advanced knight for Black’s on c6, this opened the b file, and after …Rb8, Rb1 …Qa5, things got sticky on White’s Q side. The full chase (g5 followed by Nh5 of White’s Bishop opened up the long diagonal and a cutesy Rxb2 “sacrifice” nailed a pawn for Black. He also swapped N for g3 Bishop, and the retake with f pawn left White with limited counterplay. Suddenly, he was a pawn down with three isolated, and two doubled…easy pickings for Black’s pieces. By the time he forced an exchange of Queens,Black was three pawns up in a won (no inverted commas) endgame. 0-1
Andy played White against Richard. I hope this is the game (they play often!). An English with K-side fianchettos. Black lost a couple of tempi with an immediately chased knight "outpost" but Andy did not follow up with the central break. He got a further chance, swapped f-pawns and Blacks K-Bishop leaving the latters K-side a bit threadbare. Stockfish told me of a tasty exchange sacrifice that would have nailed White's advantage, but more normal pressure increased seemed to work. he forced a piece win and started swapping stuff off. But got tangled up in tactical possibilities rather than bringing King into fray, and Richard's back and forth defence produced a 3-move repetition of position that may have surprised both (and may not have been a draw OTB!).
j Shahin 0-1 C Fay
S Blackwell .5-.5 L Brookens
A Connor 1-0 D Gaffney
R Gibb 0-1 A Marshall
B Fitzpatrick 1-0 E Martin
J Larkin .5-.5 A McIntyre
D Breslin 0-1 M Matar
A Heron .5-.5 R Hall