The Stokes Cup : Day 1
Monday evening started with a pre match zoom meeting for all the teams. Desmond Beatty advised all the players especially the u12 Stokes Team to play for a win and not to accept draws. Despite the fact that we were out rated on every single board, the boys were focused and determined to take on the Belgian team . Rafael, Fearghal , Daniil, David, Wenle, Dexter, Andrey and Gavin make up the eight player panel and it was decided that the first six players would play the first two rounds.
Rafael completely outplayed his opponent throughout. A well positioned rook attacking two isolated pawns at once gave him an even bigger advantage and some careful well positioned pieces later gave him his win. Fearghal’s game was a good example of solid play by both players . After a miscalculation by his opponent, Fearghal had a slight advantage. It all came down to a rook (Fearghal`s) V bishop endgame with a few pawn on either side complicating matters. Fearghal fought hard for the win but finally had to accept one of his opponent’s many draw offers.
After Daniil’s opponent tried an unsuccessful minority attack, Danill was in a very favourable position. He forced black to retreat to a closed position. His opponent must have felt the pressure and resigned after an apparent mouse slip.
Once out of the opening, David managed to capture three pawns followed by two more. Even though his opponent was rated 360 points above David, our player was always ahead and created two passed pawns for a comfortable win. Wenle played a well thought out game but was outplayed by his much higher rated opponent in the end game when he couldn’t prevent his opponent’s passed pawns.
Dexter took a gamble by bringing his king up the board, but unfortunately ended up getting checkmated as he had lost his safety.
**Final Result was : Ireland 3.5 --------- 2.5 Belgium ***
Stokes Cup – Day 2 :
The U12 team were looking forward to taking on their Scottish counterparts on Day 2 of the tournament. We had successfully retrieved all of the Scottish players Lichess usernames the previous evening and we had the full day to investigate and prepare against our opponents. Shortly after 5 o clock, we were alerted to the fact that the pairings were up. None of them were as expected! There was a bit of a scramble to prepare against our “new” opponents, but by 6:30, we were ready!
Rafael was equal with his opponent right throughout until the endgame. After exchanging knights having just lost a pawn, Rafael enabled his very underrated opponent to create a passed pawn, which resulted in an unlucky loss for Ireland. Fearghal’s position still looked very promising despite having lost an isolated pawn just out of the opening. After an exchange of pieces, Fearghal`s opponent looked to be in a slightly better position, but as he was very low on time, he offered Fearghal a draw, ensuring half a point for the Irish Team.
Daniil captured two of his opponent’s pawns in consecutive moves, instantly giving him the edge. After weakening his opponent’s king and trading off the rooks, Daniil had an easy endgame win. After a long tough battle, it was only in the endgame that David was able to take advantage of his opponent’s weak pawns by sacrificing his bishop. Slowly but surely, David was able to get the upper hand and convert his advantage to a win.
After winning the d pawn in an advanced French variation, Wenle was in a winning position. Soon after, he forked his opponents queen and knight, securing his victory. Dexter blocked his opponent into an extremely closed position by pushing his pawns. He later won two pawns enabling him to enjoy a comfortable win.
**Final Score Ireland 4.5 -------------1.5 Scotland ***
The Stokes Cup : Day 3
Day 3 dawned with the realisation that the Irish Team would be very much up against the odds today. Statistically, a result on any board could not be expected against Team England. Studying their ratings, we had to remind ourselves that these were young boys like our own, rather than chess veterans with terrifying ratings! This was made all the more difficult as we were unable to see our opponents! Undeterred, and buoyed up by Venkat’s reminder that their ratings were just numbers, the boys focused on the task ahead. The English Team weren’t just renowned for their tactics over the board, they also employed some off the board tactics, regularly substituting their players in order to make preparation more difficult. With this in mind, it was decided that Gavin would replace Dexter on Board 6.
After a slight inaccuracy on Rafael’s part, he was down a pawn against his 2121 rated opponent. Though very similar in the endgame, and playing with opposite coloured bishops, Rafael fought hard to the end but was unfortunately unsuccessful in his bid to outplay his opponent.
Fearghal was up a pawn on move 22, and had the edge according to the engine. After a lovely sacrifice towards the endgame, Fearghal’s position looked slightly better. The resulting endgame, however, was clearly a draw. Our player did exceptionally well to win the half point for Ireland considering he is rated almost 300 points below his English counterpart.
Daniil was clearly winning as he reached his endgame but chose the wrong square for his king, which cost him the game. A very close game overall, Daniil was unlucky to come away with a loss.
David lost a pawn early on but managed to hold his nerve. The first part of the game looked more favourable for the English player, but later David managed to fork his opponent’s queen and rook, giving Ireland the advantage. He sacrificed his rook for a knight leading him to a winning endgame! His opponent resigned when it was obvious that it was a clear win for David over the English boy rated more than 600 points above our player! What an amazing result!
Wenle’s opponent played a very aggressive endgame capturing Wenle’s pawns and creating an open file, which sadly resulted in a loss for Wenle.
Gavin’s first game for the team was a huge challenge seeing as his opponent was rated a staggering 693 above him. Once out of the opening, Gavin captured his opponent’s bishop. Instead of recapturing, his opponent chose to capture Gavin’s pawn, while at the same time threatening Gavin’s queen. But down the other end of the board, Gavin was able to take a pawn resulting in a check, followed by another pawn – also a check! Once he moved his queen to safety, Gavin was able to comfortably orchestrate a checkmate! There was no way out for the English boy and resignation ensued. Well done Gavin on an unbelievable win!
**Final Result Ireland 2.5 -------------3.5 England **
The Stokes Cup – Day 4 On the penultimate day of the tournament , encouraged by our previous day’s performance against England, Ireland was quietly confident that we could gain some wins against the Netherlands, who had held England to a 3-3 draw on Day 2 of the tournament. Even though the boys were out rated by between 300 and 500 points on every board, each player was determined to play their best chess. Alas, it was a disappointing evening.
Rafael’s opponent got off to a good start after winning his b pawn. The close to 2000 rated player remained only a pawn up after an exchange of material. He managed to put Rafael into zugzwang in the endgame, which, combined with his advanced pawns gave the Dutch player the win.
Fearghal’s opponent traded his queen for two rooks securing his advantage and eventually winning him the game.
Daniil lost his e pawn quickly followed by his knight was soon after checkmated by his higher rated opponent.
David, like Daniil, also lost his e pawn early in the game and looked to be in a bit of trouble. Later, after a carefully calculated exchange of pieces on David’s part, the players were left with opposite coloured bishops in a drawn position and agreed a draw.
Dexter was very unlucky to suffer a mouse slip on move 24 where he failed to capture his opponent’s bishop as intended, resulting in an unfortunate loss for the Irish player. On board 6 this evening, making his debut for Ireland, was 9 year old Andrey Ivanov. Andrey had hit a very impressive 2023 Classical Rating on Lichess and was eager to show his playing strength. The game is best described as a game of two halves! Andrey, who outplayed the Dutch player, was clearing winning well into the game after his opponent blundered a piece. With seconds left on the clock, Andrey’s opponent suddenly starting playing blitz, with stockfish accuracy and speed! Was this the same child who put in a weak performance on Sunday evening’s pre tournament blitz?! Andrey had to wait until the following day to receive a point for his win, when sophisticated anti-cheating systems had picked up on the anomaly. Congratulations Andrey on a well deserved win against the Netherlands!
The final result : Ireland 1.5 -----------4.5 Netherlands
Day 5 : The Stokes Cup
Ireland were in joint 3 rd position with Belgium going into the final match of the tournament, although Belgium were paired against the very strong Dutch team we had encountered the previous day. The Irish team were determined to bounce back after our disappointing result against the Netherlands. Although we out rated Wales on every board but one, we could take nothing for granted.
Rafael found a lovely tactic winning him his opponent’s queen. From that point on, it was an easy win. This didn’t stop him finding another crushing tactic to seal his early victory.
Fearghal won his opponent’s f pawn very early into the game and soon had mate in 1. His opponent quickly resigned on realising his fate.
Daniil took his opponent’s pawn with his queen falling into the Welsh player’s trap. He eventually suffered a back rank checkmate.
David’s opponent played a good opening, but David forked his bishop and queen before finding a smothered mate soon after.
Wenle won his opponent’s knight on move 6, followed by his other knight to enjoy a very comfortable win.
Dexter pushed his pawns, later using en passant to capture his opponent’s pawn. The Welsh player was forced to trade his bishop for a pawn. Dexter pinned the Welsh player’s queen and quickly found a mate in 2 moves, giving Ireland yet another victory against this Welsh team.
**Final Score : Ireland 5 ----------1 Wales ***
Ireland’s games against Wales were concluded very early and we eagerly watched proceedings in the Netherlands V Belgium camp. As expected, the strong Dutch team won out against Belgium, and Ireland’s crushing performance against Wales ensured us the 3 rd place podium finish, 3 points ahead of Belgium.
Well done to all the players involved! They are quite a young team, with six out of the eight players still eligible for Stokes Team selection next year.
Thanks to team managers Andrei and Venkat, Dublin based Junior Squad Coaches Ioana Gelip and David Fitzsimons and Galway based Junior Squad Coach Brendan Buckley. We are also grateful to Scott Mulligan who voluntarily provided individual coaching sessions before the tournament.