Monthly Archives: July 2022

The good, the ugly, the bad

Our hero, captaining the Welsh women’s team at the Olympiad, is completely exhausted – and his team have only played three rounds

Michael Healey

Three rounds in and I haven’t been this emotionally drained since that Polymorph attack. How we’re meant to survive another eight I have no idea.

A routine has developed. After breakfast we have a general coaching session on the restaurant floor, followed by half-hour slots. This is partly because lifts will only go to the floor you are keycarded for, with stairs – if they exist – barred to guests. We are also supposed to call lifts using toothpicks. Eventually the Olympiad officials round us from lunch and try to shove us on buses for the venue, 30-odd minutes away, along a road white- and black-washed to form a terrifying constant chessboard. Murals, posters and mascots form a permanent passing background, the overall surreal effect akin to the film Yellow Submarine. The local governor’s photo is placed above a crappy wooden chessboard I would never let kids play on as pieces just fall over. It is in any case set up wrong. The cows and goats don’t seem to notice. There are neon signs, road bumps, waterfowl and roving gangs of dogs.

The venue itself is fairly overwhelming, a mass of people which makes the introvert feel quite uncomfortable. Also, for a game based on spatial awareness, people don’t seem to have any concept of moving slowly, stepping aside to pass, or stopping before blind corners. Doors are both ways, and as someone who pretends outwardly to be a polite Englishman you can often spend a whole minute trying to get through.

In round one, my Welsh team were up against India 2: titled 2300s all the way down. The darlings of India (well, second string of darlings). We are in Hall One, chamber of champions, the special place of super-GMs and their amateur fodder (England women are in scum Hall Two). Cameras and filmcrews, space to wander about, fans up and down the walkway pointing and staring at four suited-up national heroes, facing my four red-jacketed Welshies. In my captain’s speech, I say there’s way more pressure on them than there is on us; two of them are over 30, so more dead brain cells than alive; and 2300s are rubbish anyway. Accuracy of captain’s speech: precog.

The match starts strangely when Khushi, the Welsh board four, plays an inaccurate opening, but her opponent decides to go after a pawn. Then the 17-year-old Indian prodigy huffs. Then she puts her head down. She looks fed up, as my 13-year-old continues to play sensible moves. The 2300 is eating up time and entering what can only be described as “a strop”.  

Olivia Smith on board one has the line she wanted, and her opponent is making strange moves. She must be better?! Kim on two is a bit worse, but not much against the IM. Hiya on three has exactly the position she wanted on the board, which we knew the computer said was +1. Hiya the 1600 is definitely better against the 2300 WGM! I am torn between grinning my head off and bewilderment. I can’t help but fist-pump moves, stalking up and down behind the team like a prowling tiger, hoping that aggressive energy will feed into my girls, or that my scowling will intimidate the titled women. Probably it has more the look of a hunched Winnie the Pooh, but hey – that might distract India 2 as well.

Khushi and Kim continue to survive. Liv’s (short for Olivia, geddit) position looks great. Hiya gets too much fury radiation, and flamethrowers insanity all over the board. Even I, the resident lunatic of London chess, am raising my eyebrows. This is savagery like I’ve never seen except in the pages of game collections. On the Indian commentary there is apoplexy at what is going on. Are India 2 going down??

Sadly the incredible rush can’t last. Khushi’s knight get trapped. Kim’s time gets low. Hiya’s flames gets dowsed. Liv remains, struggling away in an endgame, apparently drawn but beyond my feeble understanding. Instead she loses, so we gain zilch for our efforts. Harsh.

Busts of the Buddha in Mahabalipuram, home of the Olympiad. Photograph: Kishore Ragav Ganesh Kumar

Meanwhile, Wales Open team (the boys) were drawn against fourth seeds Spain. And wow did they give them a tussle. Just seeing Shirov in person was amazing, but he seemed to have taken offence at my red bandana, focusing all the rage of his position on to my forehead. The boys did incredibly well, threatening an incredible upset, but eventually went down to the 2700s. Have a quick chat with chess writer and all-round luminary Malcolm Pein, who kindly suggests that if it hadn’t been for the Welshos’ heroics, his article would have been on the Welshettes. Great pride from today’s performances; definitely the best lost match I’ve ever been part of.

A new day. I receive an email from tournament chief arbiter, England’s own Alex Holowczak. Accreditation is to be done by today at 2pm, or there will be a fee. I reply to ask what is this accreditation? He doesn’t know, it’s just something they’ve told him to message us. Liv is desperate to get us Indian sim cards, so we can all Whatsapp each other. I use one of the lift-toothpicks to try and open the port of a smartphone I’ve brought (Hiya had to point this out to me). This does not work, so I go in search of a paperclip from reception. I do hope this isn’t actually the camera hole I’m poking.

Round two: Palau. Pretty flag. Their openings on the databases make little sense, but they can clearly play if given the chance. Suspicious board order. Location: Hall Two, near to the doors for refreshments/toilets, and close to the spectators. Captain’s speech: calm today after yesterday’s insanity. Hiya, in particular, should picture Yoshi, a Japanese gardener of Bonsai trees. Calmly and quietly, she must snip at the position. No chainsaws and flamethrowers today. “But I’m playing the Sicilian.” “He’s a Sicilian Japanese gardener,” I say. “He looks after the Mafia’s Bonsai trees.” Kim’s task is to stay ahead on time, unless she gets a position which requires time investment.
Accuracy of captain’s speech: well Hiya’s board is a default, so pretty calm I guess?!

It does rankle that Hiya has to come all the way to the venue then go straight back (or not so straight, the shuttle bus system being less “every 10 minutes” and more “sitting for an hour fed up and powerless in the face of constant prevarication”). This default system seems particularly idiotic. Oh well, one to the good, even if I’d have liked to see Hiya play. The Palau team are lovely, and teach us the word Alii! (Hello!). Apparently they have no word for goodbye; Maybe they never say goodbye.

Liv wins a nice, simple game, although with one slight inefficiency distracted by the possibility of an early shuttle home. Possibly we need to move her out of sight of the clock. Khushi wins an early exchange, then proceeds to block the position up. The game seems to have been cursed: the aircon tries to blow their scoresheets and pieces off; the Palauan player forgets to press her clock, causing Khushi worry. Then Khushi employs en passant on the c5 pawn, dxc6 – only c7-c6 was the unorthodox move two. The arbiter notices, the game rewinds five moves to the illegal move, time is added but the clock refuses to restart. Opponent offers a draw; Khushi offers a draw; there is much debate; our neighbouring arbiter looking on giggling with me; our arbiter hoping to be rid of this troublesome pair. After more discussion, draw! Never mind, both are off the mark, and we’ve got the points to win the match, hurrah.

Kim gets the position we all dream of, pushing knights back and gaining a true olympian centre. But, as some wise coach once said, “With a great centre comes great responsibility”. A motorway pile-up in extreme slow motion, Kim’s position goes from optically perfect to an explosion with limbs everywhere. No one deserves this, but it is a great experience to learn from. I wince as she recovers once, twice, three times, but the final blunder is too much. Black wins. Kim is devastated, and we all feel the same. A win for the team, but in the ugliest manner possible. Drinks in the hotel rooftop bar (for those of us of age) very much needed. It boasts a view of our locale, heaving with lights and heat and noise and everything you would expect from urban India. Kim is kept away from the side.

Sunset over Mahabalipuram after another rollercoaster day. Photograph: Prasanna Venkatesh Krishnamoorthy

Round 3: Belgium. We’re outrated by a cumulative 1800+ points. The Belgians play something different each and every game. Fantastic. Location: Away from the doors, but by the arbiter’s station. Spectators, children and noisy infants. Captain’s speech: Keep calm, remember your prep, if they play something odd just roll with it. Sensible chess. Accuracy: Maybe I am still speaking Palauan. 

A little Vietnamese woman barges me out of the way, a new system of sticky red dots having been introduced. Everyone must have a red dot. I ask if tomorrow we will getting a different coloured dot? She looks at me as if I’m mad. Dot the dot lady whizzes around the hall, the first wave of stressful distractions today will offer.

Barely have we started and I storm off into the tournament hall, absolutely furious with myself. In prepping Khushi, I have overwhelmed her with lines and ideas, but failed to cement the basics of her opening. Within half a dozen moves Bxf7+ has won a pawn. The fury of round one is back, but now turned inwards. 

Hiya seems confused by her opponent’s offbeat try, getting herself in tangles and repeatedly moving her queen. Kim has gone for a Benko, backing herself despite never having played it before, convinced her opponent will repeat some innocuous line we briefly practised rather than take the pawn. I presume Liv’s secret prep is working; her opponent seems a bit thrown. But now she is eating time. Is there really a d6 pawn on?

It takes me a long time to calm down from my utter failure this round, stalking around Scum Hall grinding my teeth – more good news for the dentist after my constant intake of Indian sweet things. Thankfully, matters improve. Khushi’s opponent is trying to finish the operation, but using not a scalpel but some kind of washcloth. Kim is again eating time, but at least she’s in the game. Liv is playing wonderfully, her experienced opponent playing some inexplicable moves. Hiya has stabilised the position, and her opponent is looking very worried. I resume my round one hulking presence between occasional mini-naps. During one snooze there is a tap on my shoulder. A member of the spectators is leaning over the barrier – can he have that bottle of water?

During one of my waking-walking moments, I look up to a gasp worthy of an Edgar Allan Poe. One of the male players, 50 metres away, reaches out across the board in agony, his hands clenched in frozen agony. He collapses over the board and spills on to the floor. A crowd forms. There are no shouts for a medic; no clocks stop. The tournament continues more or less as normal, and I can see the man’s legs shaking. I offer up a prayer, hope, and try to extend a spiritual forcefield around my girls. Hiya’s lust for victory in a position I suspect was dynamically level has led to her being checkmated. I take her off to watch Liv, away from rescue operations. 

It is hard to know what to think. I’m well aware that this has happened before at Olympiads, but playing on like this seems callous. My players barely seem to notice, which is good I suppose. Out of the corner of my eye I see a spectator grinning, up on tiptoes trying to see what is happening. In fact they’re all standing up now, trying to get a look. I feel quite ill, sip my Coke and close my eyes. Eventually the man seems to be taken out by wheelchair. Thousands of volunteers and police officers, but where had the paramedics been? 

For the second time, a Belgian male player turns up on our side of the table. I walk up to him, flick his badge, angrily bark “Belgian” like a Teutonic officer of old, and motion for him to go around to the other side. He looks confused. I point again and explain, forcefully – he is Belgian, this is our side, he should be behind his team not facing them. This registers and he apologises. I have a new batch of angry energy to feed my girls. Adam Hunt, the Welsh Open captain, is amused by this encounter. It’s not often you get to tell a 2400 off.

Khushi finally folds, her longest game ever by a wide margin, holding off her opponent rated over 500 points higher for nearly four hours. Kim also concedes, having battled to a rook endgame but playing much better than yesterday. Liv is left, and I wander off to try not to distract her. The position seems winning, her opponent short of time, but there are many paths to examine.

I wander over to the Welshos. At one point they had looked extremely good again, against Paraguay’s GMs. They go down 4-0, a terrible score from the positions they had. Well Liv will win, then we’ll have outscored the men at least … Idly wandering back Liv is clutching her king. And I can see why. Somehow Black has fluked a tactic, and, when the king moves, a bishop sac will see a pawn through. She later tells me she was not only in shock, but continued to hold her king because she couldn’t recall which square it was on. Her rictus grip seems to last forever, and I swear into the emptied myriad rows of boards. 

Thankfully all is not quite lost. Liv recovers, and makes a draw against her higher-rated opponent. Apparently for tiebreaks just one draw is better than a whitewash, so we go out happier, ready for our nightly arguments with the hotel shuttle service. Next stop Namibia, whose players include “Jolly” and “Patience”. This might just be the match we need right now.

An unlikely passage to India

A Kingston star is captaining the Welsh women’s team in the Olympiad which has just got under way in (or, rather, near) Chennai. Here is the first of his regular(ish) reports from the pinnacle of team chess

Michael Healey

A “failed-to-deliver” message has just appeared in my inbox, from the Indian visa agency, presumably bumping around for days in cyberspace screaming for my attention. Thankfully I am already here in Chennai, visa-d up at the last minute. Serves it right to get ignored, after seven hours of internal screaming and a desperate last-ditch, hopeful rush on my part to get to, of all places, Hounslow. 

At Heathrow I bumped into Nick Faulks, south-west London chess stalwart and Bermudean, and met Kim Chong, one of my Welsh team, in person for the first time. Despite my offering her several chess books, she sensibly decided to invest in sleep. I opted for whisky and coffee, doing some “chess work” (vandalising books with coloured biros) and completing the entertaining The Philosophy of Andy Warhol.

The young ladies next to me on the plane, Yasmin Forbes and Daisy Carpenter, are part of the first ever Jersey women’s Olympiad team, powered by the sheer force of their board one, streamer “Lula” Roberts. Among their tens of thousands of mobile photos were their team outfits – sponsored by chess.com, Chessable and a fintech. “Puma pulled out though”, they tell me. Quel dommage! I looked down at my BA-supplied Shirgar Welsh butter and wondered what could have been …

Michael Healey: The swashbuckling captain of the Welsh women’s team at the Olympiad in Chennai

From Yasmin’s dad, Garry Forbes, I learned much about the Jersey chess scene and the attitude of “small nations” (who have their own 10-nation league – apparently Wales want to get in, but are “too big” – maybe lose Anglesey?). The Channel islands, for their size, have always seemed to have properly solid teams, but the likes of Andorra and the Faroe islands are as orcas in a garden pond. Small nations also get representation in the Candidates’ cycle – will we one day see the world title contested by someone who is willing to cross the North Sea for four hours by boat just to play one game? It must certainly breed determination to avoid draws among those Faroe islanders – and a hardiness to weather conditions.

Teenage girls being what they are, the flight wasn’t the quietest, but I was very impressed to see them hack into the airplane’s console and play games against each other while the rest of the plane slept. After a slightly rough landing (you never want to see a member of the cabin crew looking panicked, especially with only her big eyes showing behind a mask), we disdainfully charged past a sea of queueing, plebeian non-chesso travellers, ran the early-morning gauntlet of helpful volunteers and intimidating soldiers, and flopped exhausted on to a coach with Team Eritrea. Cue much bowing and namaste-ing and demanding selfies by airport volunteers.

The sheer levels of manpower and resources being thrown at the 44th Chess Olympiad are astonishing, especially given the rushed bidding process. Yet more astonishing is the number of people wanting selfies with chessplayers, but apparently here we’re all celebrities. The volume of suitcases I’ve brought is worryingly diva-like, but they really are mostly full of chess books.

We left Team Eritrea at a hotel near the airport, and reached our own, halfway to the tournament venue – the Four Points by Sheraton in Mahabalipuram, which is about 30 miles down the coast from Chennai. Supposedly, the strongest teams are closer to – or even at – the venue, England (and, ahem, Jersey) among them. We have been told not to leave our hotel except under armed escort. As I suspected, most of “real India” will have to be seen from the shuttlebus window. Alex Bullen, one of the Welsh team in the Open section, escaped and brought back news of roving packs of dogs on the beach. It’s a real-life Plato’s Cave situation. With us are Uganda, South Korea, Bolivia, Chile, Zimbabwe, Timor Leste and Nick Faulks’ Bermuda. Yes – Bermuda of the famous “Bermuda party”. Oh dear.

Healey in action at the recent Kingston Invitational, just days before his departure for India

Hotels, each filled with special Olympiad staff, are booked out with free accommodation, internet and meals so tasty I will certainly be even larger on my return to the UK. There have been small issues: one of the Welsh team’s luggage has gone walkabout in transit; various rooms have been switched; and I remain technologically incapable. But overall things have been going unexpectedly smoothly (so far!). 

Yesterday, the Chennai branch of the Welsh chess lending library opened, and I did some coaching sessions with Kim and Hiya Ray – a gloriously underrated 1600. It resembles the feeling of being dealt a “shiny” in a football card pack. She is going to take some stopping this one.

Past midnight I was still blitzing practice openings with Kim, before demanding she watch a GingerGM video about one of my games (coaches are very powerful). Morning brought a phone call which I nearly died trying to get to from the shower – “Yes I am aware there is breakfast, I went yesterday!” – and another quick coaching session with Hiya.

The Welsh men’s coach, IM Adam Hunt (wow, did they luck out there!) led the willing to the opening ceremony; the unwilling – me and the wasters of the men’s team – were having a rest. The coffee here is pretty strong, and I’ve been living off it for several days. Khushi Bagga, the Welsh women’s No 4, has arrived, and I’m promised my board one, Olivia Smith, from Mumbai soon. Tomorrow the event proper starts and Wales are up against, gulp, India 2, a team playing on home soil and full of titled players. Time for another coffee, I reckon.

Peter Lalić wins inaugural Kingston Invitational

Feast of fighting chess makes the Fide-rated all-play-all tournament a success, and the hope is that this will be the first of many such tournaments hosted by the Kingston club

The tournament participants: Top: Mike Healey, Will Taylor, Tim Seymour, Peter Finn. Front: Akshaya Kalaiyalahan, Peter Large, Peter Lalić, David Maycock, Zoe Varney. Absent: Steven Jones. Photograph: Leila Raivio
Peter Lalić showed impressive control in sharp positions to score 7/9. Photograph by Brendan O’Gorman

Fittingly, a Kingston player lifted the trophy in the 1st Kingston Invitational, played at Kingston University between 20 and 24 July. Peter Lalić, who has had a phenomenal season for the club, scored 7/9 to win the tournament, half a point ahead of IM Peter Large and another Kingstonian, the fast-rising 18-year-old star David Maycock.

Lalić recorded a tournament performance rating of 2355 and gained a hatful of Fide rating points – enough (subject to official confirmation) to take him through the Fide 2200 barrier which allows him to claim a candidate master title. Maycock also gained a dozen or so Fide points in his quest for a Fide master title.

David Maycock played an impressive tournament to tie for second place. Photograph by Brendan O’Gorman

The chess really was as hot as the weather, with only 13 draws in the 45 games and wins for Black outnumbering wins for White by 17 to 15. All the players should be applauded for their fighting spirit. Everyone seemed capable of beating everyone else on their day, and no one came through the tournament unscathed. IM Peter Large lost two games – to Michael Healey in the opening round and Maycock in round seven, but he recovered strongly and defeated the highly rated Steven Jones in the final round to tie for second place.

Peter Large lost his opening game but recovered to share second place. Photograph by Brendan O’Gorman

Peter Finn played some wonderfully dynamic chess, and was unlucky to lose on time against Healey in round three. Healey, his mind perhaps wandering to thoughts of India (he is due to captain the Welsh women’s team in the Olympiad in Chennai), had a disappointing performance overall, but his swashbuckling brand of chess was as captivating as ever – even if a little too gung-ho for his own good at times – and his tournament was bookended by superb victories over Peter Large and Akshaya Kalaiyalahan. His first-round win against Large was awarded the best game prize by judge Vladimir Li.

Akshaya Kalaiyalahan enjoyed a superb victory over David Maycock. Photograph by Brendan O’Gorman

Kalaiyalahan was coming back after a long layoff and using the event to prepare for the Olympiad, where she will play for England. She lost to Lalić in the opening round and was beaten by Tim Seymour in round four, but had solid draws with Will Taylor, Finn and Large before winning an excellent game against Maycock – his only loss of the tournament. Her team-mate, Zoe Varney, also enjoyed a fine win over Healey, describing it as one of the best games she had ever played.

Peter Lalić receiving the winner’s trophy from Kingston Chess Club president John Foley. Photograph: Leila Raivio

Generally, the tournament ran smoothly and Kingston University were excellent hosts, the only blip coming on Saturday evening when players and arbiters almost got locked into the venue. The Kingston club intends to repeat – and perhaps even expand – the tournament next year. The novelty of an all-play-all and the relative scarcity of Fide games in London makes an event such as this an attractive proposition for players, and the club believes it will be able to attract a high calibre of entrants to the planned 2nd Kingston Invitational in July 2023.

Stephen Moss

Heat forces change of venue for Kingston Invitational

Worries that the windowless Willoughby was going to be too warm for five days of tough classical chess necessitates a switch to Kingston University

The current heatwave, which looks like it will continue into next week, has caused the organisers to change the venue for the 1st Kingston Invitational from Kingston Chess Club’s usual venue, the Willoughby Arms in north Kingston, to Kingston University. The upside of the club’s playing room at the Willoughby is that its thick padded walls – rock bands use to practise there – and lack of windows make it soundproof, so ideal for chess. The downside is that it is incredibly stuffy in this weather. Hence the move, a week ahead of the scheduled start of the five-day 10-player all-play-all, which runs from Wednesday 20 July to Sunday 24 July, to the rather airier Room 1119 in the Main Building of the university’s Penrhyn Road campus.

The field for the Fide-rated event remains unchanged:

IM Peter Large [Fide 2299, ECF 2353]
Steven Jones [Fide 2251, ECF 2339]
CM David Henry Maycock Bates [Fide 2240, ECF 2295]
FM Akshaya Kalaiyalahan [Fide 2158, ECF 2212]
NM Peter Lalić [Fide 2151, ECF 2269]
Michael Healey [Fide 2147, ECF 2281]
Timothy Seymour [Fide 2076, ECF 2145]
WCM Zoe Varney [Fide 2045, ECF 2094]
Peter Finn [Fide 2038, ECF 2176]
William Taylor [Fide 1959, ECF 2095]

The tournament controller will be Adam Raoof, working alongside arbiters Mark Hogarth and Angus James. There will be nine games, spread over five days: two games a day on the first four days, with the final game on Sunday. The pairings have already been made available to the participants. Start times of the games from Wednesday to Saturday will be 11am and 4pm. The game on Sunday will also start at 11am. The time control is 90 minutes with a 30-second increment. The prize fund is £250 to the winner, £100 for second, £50 for third. There will be a £50 best game prize, to be judged by Vladimir Li, one of the strongest players at the Kingston club.

Stephen Moss

Buckley wins blitz as new members impress

IM Graeme Buckley comes top in a very competitive field in the first of a planned series of Kingston blitz tournaments

The first Kingston Blitz tournament of the summer, held on Monday 4 July, attracted a strong field. We welcomed several players new to the club – IM Graeme Buckley, his daughter Emma, Silverio Abasolo and Byron Eslava (a fitting surname for a chessplayer). The tournament was smoothly run by Julian Way, whose paper-based pairings worked out perfectly. Greg Heath, our new secretary, as ever provided essential support.

In the first round the higher-rated players had few problems, with the exception of myself, as my king was perilously placed for a time against Emma Buckley. Emma did not find a way to exploit this, but overall she performed very well and finished with 3/6. Silverio and Byron arrived late, so received first-round byes. It only became evident later that the second-round match-up of these new arrivals, won by Byron, was a key moment with regard to the final tournament placings.

Buckley v Rowson, the board one match-up in round two, was another defining clash. At one point I nursed illusions that my perceived positional pluses would be compensation enough for the pawn I had accidentally sacrificed, but Graeme’s strength in the crucial last phase of the game told.

Peter Lalić had a fine tournament, but was pipped for first place by his stepfather, IM Graeme Buckley

Round four featured a repeat of the Buckley-Lalić family duel from the Kingston-Epsom match, which had ended in a hard-fought draw. This time it again went to the wire, with Graeme having queen and bishop against Peter’s queen. Peter was hoping for a draw under the 50-move rule, with Greg counting, but Graeme got in a pawn move and eventually finished up the winner. 

Meanwhile, Silverio Abasolo had recovered from his round two loss and was the next to face Buckley. He showed his skills in achieving a two-pawn advantage, but Buckley forced a repetition of position. In the final round Buckley defeated Gregor Smith, who also enjoyed an excellent tournament, to become the outright winner of the blitz, while Peter beat me and Silverio won on time against David Maycock. Thus the final leading scores were:

Graeme Buckley: 5.5/6
Peter Lalić: 5
Silverio Abasolo and David Rowson: 4
Byron Eslava: 3.5
David Maycock, Emma Buckley and Gregor Smith: 3

Special mention must also be made of young Jaden Mistry, who again showed great promise in scoring 2 points, and David Shalom, who scored 2.5.

The overall impression was of a very successful start to a planned series of blitz tournaments. As one player commented, the structure added a competitive edge which is lacking when people just play random skittles games. I, for one, am looking forward to the next blitz.

David Rowson

Kingston unveil new Fide-rated summer tournament

A 10-player all-play-all will be held at the Willoughby Arms in Kingston from 20-24 July, with the aim of giving strong players much-needed Fide-rated games

Kingston Chess Club is pleased to announce that the inaugural Kingston Invitational will be held at the Willoughby Arms, 47 Willoughby Rd, Kingston upon Thames KT2 6LN from Wednesday 20 July to Sunday 24 July. The event will be a 10-player all-play-all. The games will be Fide-rated. Adam Raoof has kindly agreed to be chief arbiter. Recently qualified arbiters Mark Hogarth and Angus James, both distinguished members of neighbouring Surbiton Chess Club, will work alongside Adam.

This is the field for the 1st Kingston Invitational, and we thank all the players for agreeing to participate:

IM Peter Large [Fide 2299, ECF 2353]
Steven Jones [Fide 2251, ECF 2339]
CM David Henry Maycock Bates [Fide 2240, ECF 2295]
FM Akshaya Kalaiyalahan [Fide 2158, ECF 2212]
NM Peter Lalić [Fide 2151, ECF 2269]
Michael Healey [Fide 2147, ECF 2281]
Timothy Seymour [Fide 2076, ECF 2145]
WCM Zoe Varney [Fide 2045, ECF 2094]
Peter Finn  [Fide 2038, ECF 2176]
William Taylor [Fide 1959, ECF 2095]

There will be nine games, spread over five days: two games a day on the first four days, with the final game on Sunday. The pairings have already been made available to the participants. Start times of the games from Wednesday to Saturday will be 11am and 4pm. The game on Sunday will also start at 11am. The time control is 90 minutes with a 30-second increment. There is no entry fee, and entries are by invitation. The prize fund is: £250 to the winner, £100 for second, £50 for third. There will be a £50 best game prize, to be judged by Vladimir Li, one of the strongest players at the Kingston club.

The tournament’s top-rated player, Peter Large (left), receiving the John Hawson Trophy from Kevin Thurlow

The tournament has been founded with the aim of giving Kingston’s leading players some much-needed Fide-rated games and competition with strong players from other clubs. We hope to make the tournament an annual summer event and, if we can, to offer title norms at future tournaments.

This is very much a test event, and we will use what we learn this time to hone future editions. Already, there is a suggestion that we could introduce more groups of 10 of different strengths – borrowing from Wijk aan Zee’s tried-and-trusted model – and we might also look at running a tournament with just one game a day to be played at a longer time control.

But that is all for the future. For the moment, we hope this will be a successful tournament that produces some excellent fighting chess. Akshaya Kalaiyalahan and Zoe Varney will be playing as part of their preparation for the Olympiad in India that begins a few days after our slightly more modest tournament ends. We wish them well in the Olympiad, and hope these games do indeed ready them for the battles to come.

Spectators are welcome to come along to the Willoughby at any time during the tournament, though, in the unlikely event that we are inundated by chess aficionados, the arbiters will use their discretion on the number that can be admitted to the playing room at any one time. The Friday-morning clash between Kingston team-mates Peter Lalić and David Maycock is particularly keenly anticipated, so expect traffic jams in south-west London on that day.

Chess sets will be provided for visitors who would like to play some social chess in the bar or pub garden, which has some very pleasant beach huts in which you can shelter and play chess in the event of rain. Let’s make this a convivial festival of chess.

Stephen Moss

Life’s a beach for players at the Willoughby Arms, home of Kingston Chess and (Virtual) Swimming Club