Cox centenary: Challenge match with O’Hanlon

In our earlier Thomas Cox centenary article Play-off for the Dublin CC Championship 1936, I chronicled how J.J. O’Hanlon had suffered a surprise defeat to Cox. O’Hanlon was the reigning Irish champion and he perhaps felt the need to restore his position as Ireland’s best player because shortly after the end of play-off match he issued what the Irish Independent described as “a friendly challenge for a return match (best of seven games)”.

Only 10 days after the play-off match ended,  the challenge match commenced in the Dublin CC clubrooms at 20 Lincoln Place. The Irish Press for Friday 5th June 1936 reported that Game 1 had been played the previous evening and had resulted in a O’Hanlon win after 48 moves. The moves of this game do not appear to have been reported in the contemporary press, but the moves of the other 6 games of the match all appeared in the Irish Independent. Those game-scores are not to be found in the ICU database or indeed any of the major databases, so we present them all here.

Game 2 final position

Thomas Cox – John J. O’Hanlon
Challenge Match, Dublin

Game 2, Monday 8th June 1936

1.d4 e6 2.c4 d5 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.Nc3 Nbd7 5.Bg5 c6 6.e3 Qa5 7.Nd2 Bb4 8.Qc2 0–0 9.Be2 Re8 10.0–0
Improving on 10.Nb3, played in Galvin-O’Hanlon/IRL-ch (prelim), Dublin 1935, 0–1. 10…e5 11.dxe5 Rxe5 12.Bf4 Re8 13.Nb3 Qd8 14.cxd5 cxd5 15.Nb5 Ne5 16.Qc7 Nc6 17.Qxd8 Rxd8 18.a3 Bf8 19.Rfd1 Be6 20.Nc7 Rac8 21.Nxe6 fxe6 22.Rac1 Kf7 23.Rc2 Nd7 24.Rdc1 Nb6 25.Bb5 Bd6 26.Bxc6 Bxf4 27.Bxb7 Rxc2 28.Rxc2
The game was adjourned here and the Irish Independent reported on the 9th June that “Mr. O’Hanlon is a Pawn down, but may, by his usual excellent play, succeed in drawing.” In fact, Cox very efficiently secured the win when play resumed on the 11th June.
(sealed move). 29.Ba6 Rd7 30.Nd4 Rc7 31.Rxc7+ Bxc7 32.Nc6 Na4 33.b4 Bb6 34.Kf1 Kf6 35.Bd3 h6 36.Bc2 Nb2 37.a4 Nc4 38.a5 Bxe3 39.Bd3 Bd2 40.Bxc4 dxc4 41.Ke2 Bc3 42.b5 (diagram) 1–0 [Click to play through the game]
Score after 2 games: Cox 1, O’Hanlon 1.

Game 3 after Black's 25th move

John J. O’Hanlon – Thomas Cox
Challenge Match, Dublin

Game 3, Monday 15th June 1936

1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Bg5 Be7 5.e5 Nfd7 6.Bxe7 Qxe7 7.f4 a6 8.Qd2 c5 9.Nf3 Nc6 10.g3 b5 11.Bg2 Bb7 12.0–0 0–0 13.Rad1 Nb6 14.b3 c4 15.f5 b4 16.f6 gxf6 17.exf6 Qxf6 18.Ne2 c3 19.Qe3 Qd8?
“Bad. 19…Qe7 is correct.”(Irish Independent, 16th June)
20.Qh6 f6 21.Bh3 Bc8 22.Nf4 Qe7 23.Rde1 Nd8 24.Nh5 Ra7 25.Nh4 Nd7 (diagram)
O’Hanlon now uncorks an eye-catching finish.
26.Rxe6! Nxe6 27.Bxe6+ Rf7 28.Qg7# 1–0 [Click to play through the game]
Score after 3 games: Cox 1 – O’Hanlon 2.

Game 4 final position

Thomas Cox – John J. O’Hanlon
Challenge Match, Dublin
Game 4, Thursday 18th June 1936

1.d4 e6 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.c4 d5 4.Nc3 Nbd7 5.Bg5 Be7 6.e3 0–0 7.Rc1 c6 8.Qc2 h6 9.Bf4 a6 10.a3 dxc4 11.Bxc4 b5 12.Be2 Bb7 13.0–0 c5 14.dxc5 Nxc5 15.Rfd1 Qb6 16.b4 Ncd7 17.Rd4 Rac8 18.Qd1 Rfd8 19.Ne5
Leading to a large scale liquidation.
19…Nxe5 20.Bxe5 Rxd4 21.Bxd4 Qd6 22.Bxf6 Qxd1+ 23.Nxd1 Rxc1 24.Bxe7 Bd5 25.Kf1 Ra1 26.Bc5 Rxa3 27.f3 e5 28.e4 Be6 29.Ne3 Ra1+ 30.Kf2 Ra2 31.Nd5 f6 32.Ke3 Kf7 33.g4 g5 34.h3 Ra1 35.Kf2 Ra2 36.Ke3 Rb2
White here sealed his move. The following morning the Irish Independent reported that the adjourned position was very drawish and the players obviously agreed because the game was agreed drawn that evening without further play. ½–½ [Click to play through the game]
Score after 4 games: Cox 1½ – O’Hanlon 2½.

With no further play in game 4 after the adjournment, the players then embarked on game 5.

Game 5 position at adjournment

John J. O’Hanlon – Thomas Cox
Challenge Match, Dublin

Game 5, Friday 19th June 1936

1.e4 e5 2.Bc4 Nf6 3.d3 Bc5 4.Nc3 Nc6 5.f4 d6 6.Nf3 Be6 7.Nd5 0–0 8.fxe5 dxe5 9.Bg5 Bxd5 10.Bxd5 h6 11.Bxf6 Qxf6 12.Rf1 Ne7 13.Bb3 Ng6 14.Qd2 Qb6 15.g3 a5 16.a4 Rad8 17.Qe2 Bb4+ 18.Nd2 Rd6 19.0–0–0 Bxd2+ 20.Qxd2 Ne7 (diagram)
21.Qc3 Sealed move. There was now a little break in proceedings before the game resumed on 29th June. The players very quickly agreed a draw.
Nc6 22.Rde1 Rd7 ½–½ [Click to play through the game]
Score after 5 games: Cox 2 – O’Hanlon 3.

Game 6 after White's 41st move

Thomas Cox – John J. O’Hanlon 
Challenge Match, Dublin

Game 6, Monday 29th June 1936

1.d4 d5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.c4 c6 4.Nc3 dxc4 5.a4 Bf5 6.e3 e6 7.Bxc4 Bb4 8.0–0 0–0 9.Qb3 Qb6 10.Nh4 Bg4 11.h3 Bh5 12.g4 Bg6 13.Nxg6 hxg6 14.Qc2 Nbd7 15.Bd2 Rac8 16.a5 Qc7 17.a6 b6 18.Qb3 Be7 19.Rac1 Nb8 20.Be2 Qd7 21.g5 Nd5 22.Nxd5 exd5 23.Bg4 Qd8 24.Bxc8 Qxc8 25.f4 Qxh3 26.Rf2 Re8 27.Qd1 c5 28.Rh2 Qe6 29.Kf2
The game was adjourned here and play resumed on 2nd July. The Irish Independent had reported that at adjournment Black was in a difficult position and then in a subsequent report awarded the sealed move a question mark.
29. ..Nc6? 30.Qh1 f5 31.gxf6 Bxf6 32.Rh8+ Kf7 33.Rxe8 Kxe8 34.dxc5 bxc5 35.Rxc5
Cox looks to have victory in his grasp, but his next few moves are not the most precise and he allows O’Hanlon a chance to draw the game.
35…Ne7 36.Bc3 Qxa6 37.Bxf6 Qxf6 38.Rb5 Qc6 39.Rb8+ Kf7 40.Qh8 Qc2+ 41.Kg3
(diagram) 41…Nf5+
Obvious but Black needed to hold back this move because the Knight is needed to defend his own King. Instead he needed to attack the White e3-pawn with his Queen (e.g. 41…Qe2) which would also threaten mate starting, only now, with Nf5+. If White prevents the Knight check with e.g. Rb7, Black  seems to have a perpetual check with his Queen here.
42.Kh3 Qf2 43.Qe8+ Kf6 44.Qe5+ Kf7 45.Qxd5+ Kf6 46.Rf8+ Ke7 47.Rf7+ Ke8 48.Qd7# 1–0 [Click to play through the game]
Score after 6 games: Cox 3 – O’Hanlon 3.

Game 7 after White's 21st move

John J. O’Hanlon – Thomas Cox
Challenge Match, Dublin

Game 7, Thursday 9th July 1936

1.e4 Nf6 2.e5 Nd5 3.c4 Nb6 4.d4 d6 5.exd6 exd6 6.Nf3 Be7 7.Be2 0–0 8.0–0 Re8 9.Nc3 N8d7 10.Bf4 Nf8 11.Qc2 Bg4 12.Rac1 Bf6 13.Rfd1 c6 14.c5 Nc8 15.Ne4 d5 16.Nxf6+ Qxf6 17.Be5 Qe7 18.h3 Bh5 19.Re1 f6 20.Bg3 Qd7?? 21.Ne5!(diagram)
The double question marks and the exclamation point are from the Irish Independent. O’Hanlon wins a pawn and with the position not providing any obvious counterplay, Cox will have to sit and suffer, hoping his opponent’s technique will let him down.
21…Bg6 22.Nxd7 Bxc2 23.Nxf6+ gxf6 24.Rxc2 Ne7 25.Bh5 Nfg6 26.Rce2 Kf7 27.Bh4 Ng8 28.g4 Rxe2 29.Rxe2 Re8 30.Rxe8 Kxe8 31.f4 Kf8 32.Bg3 Kg7 33.Kf2 N8e7 34.f5 Nf8 35.Be8 h6 36.Ke3 Nh7 37.h4 Kf8 38.Bd7 Kf7 39.Bb8?
Here is an inaccuracy from O’Hanlon.
39…Nf8 40.Be6+ Nxe6
The game was adjourned here and resumed on 13th July.
41.fxe6+(Sealed move)41…Kxe6 42.Bxa7 f5 43.g5 hxg5
So soon after the adjournment, Cox must surely have looked in home analysis at the alternative 43…h5 with the idea of capturing White’s h-pawn. If White tries to save it with 44.Bb8 Ng6 45.Bg3, then 45…f4+ 46.Bxf4 Nxh4 and it will be not be easy for White to make progress.
44.hxg5 f4+ 45.Kxf4 Nf5 46.Bb8 Nxd4 47.g6 Ne2+ 48.Kg5 Nd4 49.Kh6 Nf5+ 50.Kh7 d4 51.Bf4 Kd5 52.g7 Nxg7 53.Kxg7 Kxc5 54.Kf6 Kc4 55.Ke5 Kd3 56.a3 c5 57.Kd5 Kc2 58.Kxc5 Kxb2 59.a4 Kb3 60.a5 Kc3 61.Kb6 1–0 [Click through the game]
Final result: Cox 3 – O’Hanlon 4.

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