Muldoons Triumph

In a rearranged fixture, Muldoons invited NICS to an "away" match at their home venue; that is the venue was at NICS but Muldoons played the home team - for board colours. Maybe it was the opening colours, but NICS definitely did not have any home advantage.

After last weeks trouncing victory for NICS, they may have reckoned they were in with a good chance against Muldoons. But ratings said otherwise with all but board 1 favouring the visiting "home" team. On the night NICS struggled to keep up.

First to fall was board 2 with Alan Burns defending to Steve Eachus. As ever Alan was playing fast & loose and this time got severely punished when B2. Steve Eachus vs Alan BurnsSteve caught the Black Queen in a dreadful pin on the King in the middle of the board. Apart from the loss of material, Alan was in a terrible position - the centre open with his King unprotected and Steve marshalling his heavy pieces for a frontal assault. It didn't take long for Steve to force the win.

Another disaster for Drew Ferguson on board 3 opening against Pat McKillen. Drew miscalculated a positional trade missing a pawn recapture to lose an exchange then compounded this with a dreadful blunder trading a Rook for a Bishop. Although Pat was rather behind in his development and couldn't yet benefit from his material advantage, it wouldn't be long before he would dominate the game. Drew tried an emergency sacrifice of a Bishop on the Black King's defending g6 pawn followed by Queen and Rook charging down the g- and h-files. But removal of the pawns gave Pat the room he needed to get his pieces active and counter White's last ditch attack just about squirming out of a perpetual check. White had nowhere left to go.

NICS' problems got worse when Geoff Hindley got into difficulties defending against Andy Hughes. White's Queen went on a foray pinging Black's b7 pawn; this caused quite a distraction for Geoff as he manoeuvred to defend his pieces giving Andy time to bring up some support. Geoff did manage to recover and was able to get his own Rook to the 2nd rank not only winning a B5: Rodney Orr vs Adrian Donford-Smithpawn but with a promise of at least one minor piece. Or at least that was his plan. Andy had other ideas. While Geoff thought he had recovered from the White Queen's advances, Andy slapped down a marvellous tactic with Queen and Knight threatening mate or the loss of the Black Queen and maybe more. A somewhat stunned Geoff resigned.

It was not going to be a good evening for NICS. Pete Storey offered a glimmer of hope agreeing a draw on board 6 against Paddy Maguire but the other boards were not in very good shape. Adrian Donford-Smith was under pressure from Rodney Orr on board 5. Rodney had managed to contain Adrian's Queen in a K-side pocket thinking he now had control of the game. Sadly not. Adrian co-ordinated his remaining pieces well forcing Rodney to concede material then position and eventually the game. Phew, a glorious full point for NICS.

B1 Mark Newman vs Peter McGuckinAs ever it was a final board 1 that would determine how badly NICS would suffer. It looked encouraging. With Mark Newman as White to Peter McGuckin, the game had reduced to even material with Mark perhaps having an edge with Queen & both Bishops facing Queen & a pair of Knights with plenty of room in the centre. However, Peter had spotted a canny tactic to claim a pawn advantage and open up White's defences. Mark chose to trade Queens in an effort to minimise the damage but this resulted in a pair of doubled e-pawns. With his Bishops over-loaded with defensive duties, the pawns looked vulnerable. Another tactic for Peter could have traded a Knight for a Bishop and earned another pawn but he decided to try and consolidate instead. This gave Mark time to regroup and regain some momentum and ever so slowly White was edging back into the game. As both Kings began to inch forward in readiness for a pawn race, Mark allowed Peter to exchange pieces leaving Black with a pawn advantage into a Bishop-Knight end-game. But the game had stalled and with the clock running out for both players, they agreed a draw.

NICS lose 2-4 or 1.5-3.5 for the league match. Something of a recovery after the disaster of the first 3 boards. Perhaps the team have run out of steam after the long season. Next week's final match at Ballynafeigh will reveal all.

As for Muldoons, tonight's result should be enough to lift them clear of the bottom of the Division and their final fixture against Fruithill will determine if they can keep some distance from one or both of the Ballynafeigh teams. A pretty good achievement in their first year, entering the Division 20 points or so adrift. Next year is looking very bright for the club.

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