Shanley shines, but Kingston’s newcomers lose to Epsom

Surrey League division 4 match played at the Haywain Brewers Fayre, Epsom on 29 November 2021

At time of writing, I am celebrating: my daughter is turning 2,000 days old! Milestones in days are tragically under-appreciated. It felt almost as long ago that we had our last Centenary Trophy match, but a mere 634 days – not even a million minutes – covers the period between our match in this league against Richmond on 5 March 2020 and this game at Epsom.

Just one player from that Richmond trip can claim to have played in both these matches. Jon Eckert was the experienced top board for this fixture, with five players new to the club this season below him: John Shanley, Yae-Chan Yang, Max Mikardo-Greaves, Harry Straszewski and Jake Grubb.  Epsom had a similar mix of experience and newcomers – it’s great to see so many new players coming to over-the-board league chess.

Surrey League debutants Max Mikardo-Greaves, Harry Straszewski and Jake Grubb do battle

After an hour and a quarter’s play, all the queens were still on all the boards and the fights were raging.  Soon after, Grubb finished first, on board 6, some key chances being missed in an unfortunate defeat to the hard-working Epsom captain David Flewellen. Next up was Straszewski on board 5, getting his queen trapped on f4 and losing a rook in the rescue. He fought valiantly but the result was inevitable.

Jon Eckert won on board 1, building a nice attack and keeping his cool as his veteran opponent Michael Wickham, who has slain me in our last two matches against Epsom, found numerous difficult tactics for him to see past:  2-1 to the hosts. Yae-Chan Yang on board 3 was living precariously, and, after dodging the mines for a while, one was triggered and his position collapsed. 3-1.  Could we get a draw?

Mikardo-Greaves had played an excellent game on board 4 against an opponent who on paper was far stronger. His position was close to winning, but a knight tactic proved his undoing. Very unfortunate, but a good topic of discussion for the drive home. John Shanley, though, finished on a high for Kingston. His opponent sacrificed a piece for a dangerous attack early on, but, despite the Black king being forced to trek ignominiously across the board, Shanley kept the attack at bay. As it finally fizzled out, he got to a winning endgame and finished it nicely.

Board 3 (nearside) former Kingstonian Chris Wright v Yae-Chan Yang (white)

So we lose 4-2.  But plenty to take away and learn from this – all the newcomers insisted they enjoyed their exposure to the rigours of league chess and the traditional journey to the away venue in polar conditions (more exposure, of an icy kind). We will, as they say, take the positives and use the experience to strengthen us for our next match.  There’s less than 1,000 hours between the end of this match and the start of the next one, so the intense mental preparation starts now!

Adam Nakar, Kingston Centenary Trophy (Surrey League division 4) captain