Monthly Archives: December 2022

Inside the wonderful world of David Navara

The Czech super-grandmaster’s games collection doubles as a memoir and is full of humour, passion, wisdom, raw honesty and an unquenchable love for chess

Michael Healey

David Navara has always been one of my favourite players amongst the elite, but I’ve never really understood why. Are his games really that interesting? Is he actually a thoughtful character? A super-nice guy? A calculation machine? A true chess artist? Turns out – yep!

My Chess World really is a most charming book, as the Roman poets would say – except that at 616 pages it’s not exactly brief. In fact due to its weight this became a bedside book, where I would read a chapter or two a night (a couple of games) stretching through 64 (of course!) games. Before nearly every game is an article about his experiences as a professional chess player.

David Navara (source: Wikipedia)

The dominant theme is Navara’s unstoppable love for chess, through ups and downs (even finishing up with a “Chess Poem”). Every page resounds with passion and strain, humour and wisdom. Despite this chess addiction, he finds time to read books (“I normally take three times as many books to a tournament as I manage to read”), partake in philosophy and art criticism, spend six years at university, follow Christianity and even have a girlfriend (on page 568 – by which time the reader has sadly already fallen in love). He also likes to take note of everything around him and find amusement everywhere.

The book is filled with stories and gossip, opinions and jokes, and one particularly surreal photo of himself with a large fish. He even has the occasional hilarious adventure, walking about between games. It may help that we seem to share a sense of deadpan humour, which of course can be a big hit-or-miss with chess books (and people.)

Navara is immensely courteous, making excuses for opponents, complimenting them, pointing out other instances when he was on the receiving end or how they proceeded to outscore him in the tournament. Before a game from his match against Nakamura, he writes about “UNPLEASANT OPPONENTS”. Is Navara about to unleash? No, he explains that certain players’ styles he finds hard to play against. The rudest he gets is a slight argument with someone who steals his seat on a plane, and remarking he has possibly heard one of Nigel Short’s stories before.

Harsh criticism is saved for himself. Games are filled with comments on things he missed, or ways he was lucky, or how computer ideas are beyond the mind of a mere 2700(!). One senses the mischievous wit of Tal, proclaiming himself the youngest ex-world champion, when Navara notes he has probably lost more chess matches than any other player (local sponsorship often invited strong players for mini-matches, which tend to go badly for him). However, he seems justifiably proud of certain stellar individual results, and team results are a source of great joy. There are moments which seem incredibly raw, and one particularly sorry comment that he used to have more supporters in the past. Everything is so honest it is impossible not to join in the emotional journey.

The self-deprecating bulk of the book comes under the title “Blog past its sell-by date”. This may be the secret of what makes this book so impressive. Navara clearly took his blog very seriously, investing time immediately after games to analyse and give his thoughts, sometimes to the detriment of the following day’s games. Through the various editions and translations, despite myriad lines I found very few errata. He gives move times, tournament placings (pre-game, post-game and final), team scores and podium scores. All this provides far more context (and interest) than your normal game collection.

Nevertheless all this would be fairly pointless if the games weren’t up to much. The 64 games chosen are obviously overwhelmingly interesting, although as Navara explains:

  1. Substantial games are interesting
  2. Substantial games require extensive annotations
  3. Extensive annotations are boring

The Navara calling card is this king march, a superb concept coming from computer preparation and practical skill.

Here Carlsen is put on the back foot with White, coming up with a clever rejoinder.

Invited for a match in China against whizz-kid Wei Yi, Navara uses a Queen sacrifice to unbalance the position.

The powerful usage (and discarding) of a queen recurs in several games, both for himself and his opponent. Sometimes Navara neglects development and defers castling. He seeks out unbalanced positions, but often with not kings at stake but better coordination of pieces. Chaos – but more treading water amidst a tsunami than running to escape a volcanic eruption. It’s never that obvious what the end goal is or what we’re avoiding, just that it’s all completely bewildering hard work. A number of games finish in unusual rook endgames, which can become remarkably engaging, even for philistines like me.

Here are two games which felt particularly joyful. The first, against Indian GM Krishnan Sasikiran, appealed to me instantly because Navara randomly picks up an opening I play and finds ideas I’d never considered – and of course there are the tripled pawns! Drama explodes from a “level” position, but is tamed by piece coordination, accurate choices and a very cute finish.

Here the future world championship challenger, Ian Nepomniachtchi, contributes to a wonderfully unorthodox game, where Navara has to keep an eye out for perpetuals, fortresses and … blunders!

I would thoroughly recommend this book to chess lovers. If you end up falling in love with Navara as well, that’s just the cost.

Chess resolutions for 2023

Kingston members outline what they plan to do differently next year

David Rowson: I don’t make New Year’s resolutions. Why spoil the fun of New Year’s Eve by thinking of all the tasks before you? Instead, I make lists of things I need to do at random times throughout the year. The chess ones begin with “Learn how to play some openings properly”. So my resolution list for 2023 is:

  1. Learn a decent defence to 1. d4, instead of, when faced by this at the board, spending a couple of minutes regretting I still haven’t done this, thinking I no longer believe in the Old Indian Defence, and then playing it anyway.
  2. Learn how to defend against the Ruy Lopez Exchange Variation and the Scotch etc, etc, instead of improvising half the time.
  3. Study the endgame (rather vague, and an old chestnut, but I’m sure it’s true).
  4. Greatly reduce the number of five-minute Lichess games I play and find something online that improves my play instead.
  5. As captain of Kingston’s first team, help our excellent squad to fulfil their potential by winning everything we can (ie the Surrey League and Thames Valley division 1 – it’s going to be tough, but we have the players to do it).
First-team captain David Rowson: Plans to work on his openings, study the endgame and play less online blitz

Peter Lalić: I will quit 1. h3. I will play faster. I will continue to study zero endgames. I will win more games in the opening. I will become a Fide master.

David Maycock: Play faster and improve in calculation.

Peter Andrews: Bit late in my career to make many changes, but after seeing some scary tracking exploits I plan to use different openings when playing online – to put those wishing to prepare for games with me off the scent.

Stephen Moss: Naturally I will stop playing the hopelessly passive Nf6 Scandinavian. I started playing it about a decade ago and got hooked because some of my opponents tried to hold on to the d-pawn with c5. I found gambiting a pawn on c6 then gave Black a very nice attacking game and chalked up some easy wins. Unfortunately, very few players do try to defend the d-pawn. Most sensibly choose to build up a space advantage and enjoy a very pleasant game while I grovel. Peter Lalić tells me I play it wrong and should never put the knight, when chased from d5, on b6, where it can get marooned. He recommends the Portuguese Gambit, and I might give that a go, but I’m tempted to junk the Scandinavian and learn the Sicilian. Nigel Short once put me off trying to digest all the theory in the Sicilian, calling it “an ocean” and implying I would drown. But, given how tedious and grovelly my Scandinavian games are, I feel it’s either that or give up chess completely.

Julian Way: My resolution is to build an all-purpose repertoire against the Sicilian Defence. I’m even thinking of writing a little book about it.

Julian Way: Aiming to develop an all-purpose repertoire against the Sicilian and pass on the secrets in a book

John Foley: I don’t have New Year resolutions. Alone amongst chess players I am not interested in improving my rating. I am content to put up a decent struggle against strong players and occasionally win a nice game. My chess ambitions are focused on chess education.

Gregor Smith: As a seasoned member of the Failed by Third Week in January Club, I am no stranger to setting unrealistic goals, and here are my usual three annual intentions, which are no doubt destined for failure again:

  1. Lose weight: I need to trim the fat. Not only from around the waistline, but I need to trim the fat from my opening repertoire. Calorific delights such as the Danish and Scotch gambits need to be banished, and replaced by lean efficiencies of the Italian and Spanish variety. I think I’ll still allow myself to indulge in some Smith-Morra on a cheat day however. 
  2. Read more books: Far from a bookworm, this is always a challenging one, and I must admit I’m still stuck on chapter 6 of Stephen Moss’s The Rookie having started last January – not a slight on the author, but a reader incapable of swapping his phone for a paperback. Next year, I think I’ll try a Chessable course.
  3. Get more sleep: This involves not playing endless hours of 3+2 into the early hours. I want to channel that time before sleep into something that isn’t sending my mind into overdrive. I’ll maybe try 10+2 instead. 

Mike Healey: As brain cells swiftly disappear, to find some openings which try to mask the decline.

Mike Healey: Ever self-deprecating, Mike says he will look for openings that allow for his disappearing brain cells

Nick Grey: Play more Fide-rated games. Move quickly in known-to-me theory. Slow down when necessary and rely on tactics. Learn two new Black openings. Learn one new White opening. Volunteer to be reserve for Kingston teams. Allow plenty of time and arrive early. When not playing chess, talk more.

Jaden Mistry (aged 11): My chess resolution in 2023 is to improve my focus in the longer format of the game. My father, who taught me chess, always reminds me that I play as if I might miss my bus. That also means he gets little time to enjoy his Guinness at the Willoughby Arms. I therefore aim to develop my patience and focus more on the classical format, instead of the rapid and blitz that I started off with as a newbie. Since the league matches often end late in the evening, I also intend to work on my mental stamina to remain alert, and to improve my endgames. I am eager to get my first win for the club in January 2023, and subsequently perform consistently in order to improve our club’s record in third-team fixtures.

Stephen Daines: I’d like to get to 1700 by the end of 2023. I’ve come back to competitive chess after a 44-year break, and feel I’m getting back to my old form.

Mark Sheridan: I intend to study some endgames and learn more about them, because I currently know zilch. My plan is to read the highly recommended books by Averbakh and Silman.

Will Taylor: My main resolution for 2023 is to get into time trouble less, though I do make the same resolution every year. I’m also going to pretend I’m rated 200 points higher than I really am to make my approach more ambitious against players who are higher rated than I actually am.

Will Taylor: Vows to get into time trouble less in 2023, but admits he makes the same resolution every year

Max Mikardo-Greaves: I’m hoping to boost my rating by a hundred points – it’s about 1300 at the moment – by analysing games, learning Queen’s Gambit as White and the French Defence as Black.

Ian Mason: I need to do my chess homework more regularly for the Killer Chess Academy. The aim is always to improve, even though getting up to 2000 is now well above my expectations.

Sean Tay: Find time to study more chess openings and try to improve my middle- and endgames. Play more league games and achieve a rating of 1600. 

Vladimir Li: I will return to Fide-rated tournaments and hope to get the FM title.

Josh Lea: My resolution in 2023 is to take part in an actual, official chess game and get a rating. Once I’ve played 10 games I should have some idea of how strong I actually am.

Ohhun Kwon: I’ve returned to chess in my late twenties after a decade away, and I want to rediscover the passion for the game I had as a teenager. I’m wary of setting quantifiable goals because I know I just want to enjoy the game, but I would also like to start playing competitive games and climb up the ratings. I played at school and did well, but when I started university I lost touch with chess. Now I intend to start taking it seriously again and play some matches for the club.

Christmas Chess Quiz

Test your knowledge of chess with our festive quiz. We had a quiz night at the club on 19 December and the winning team got 12/20. See if you can do better. Answers at the bottom. No cheating!

  1. Forty-two years ago, Garry Kasparov won the world junior chess championship ahead of several players with bright futures ahead of them. Which of the following players finished in second place?

(a) Silvio Danailov, future manager of Veselin Topalov
(b) Nigel Short, future world championship challenger
(c) Yasser Seirawan, future US chess champion
(d) Ken Rogoff, future Harvard economist

  1. During his brief career, Paul Morphy defeated all of the following chess greats one after the other EXCEPT:

(a) Adolf Andersson
(b) Louis Paulsen
(c) Jules Arnous de Rivière
(d) Howard Staunton

  1. Which of these is the REAL title of a published book?

(a) Disney’s Chess Guide by Anatoly Karpov
(b) Fail at Chess with Putin by Garry Kasparov
(c) Vegetarian Chess by Viswanathan Anand
(d) Howling at the Moon by Vassily Ivanchuk

  1. Which of the following grandmasters is the only one to have NOT won both the World junior chess championship and the world chess championship?

(a) Boris Spassky
(b) Viktor Korchnoi
(c) Garry Kasparov
(d) Viswanathan Anand

  1. The Elo rating system was featured in the plot of which of the following Oscar-nominated films?

(a) Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
(b) The King’s Speech
(c) The Social Network
(d) Parasite

  1. The Fide logo is:

(a) A red-and-black chessboard surrounded by Olympic rings
(b) A black-and-white chequered hexagon
(c) A white knight on an oval black or blue globe
(d) A black king in front of a blue or white shield

  1. This chess-related item sold for $150,000 in a September 2009 auction:

(a) The chess set used in the film The Seventh Seal
(b) A scoresheet signed by Kasparov and Karpov from an exhibition match in Spain.
(c) The original manuscript for Aron Nimzowitsch’s My System
(d) A copy of Wilhelm Steinitz’s will

  1. In which of these chess variants would you try to lose all your pieces?

(a) Crazyhouse
(b) Atomic chess
(c) Antichess
(d) Bughouse

  1. In April 2011, Viswanathan Anand achieved something that has happened to only five world champions. He:

(a) Won a Chess Oscar
(b) Lost a classical game in under 20 moves
(c) Achieved a positive head-to-head record against all his previous match opponents
(d) Became a father

  1. True or false: It is a Fide rule that the king must be taller than every other piece.

(a) True
(b) False

  1. Which of these was NOT an official rule for the 2008 Anand-Kramnik world championship match?

(a) The arbiter declares a time forfeiture
(b) A player will be forfeited if he makes multiple illegal moves in a game
(c) The players must recite the FIDE pledge at the opening ceremony
(d) The players do not have to write down moves

  1. Complete this quote from Capablanca in his book A Primer of Chess: A time limit of “between 20 and 30 moves per hour is …”

(a) “Suitable only for beginners”
(b) “A fairly slow speed”
(c) “Much too fast for proper study”
(d) “The correct pace for correct chess”

  1. In a 1992 tournament, GM Lev Psakhis accomplished something that has never been equalled:

(a) He defeated all four semi-finalists of the Candidates tournament
(b) He defeated both Garry Kasparov and Anatoly Karpov
(c) He defeated all three Polgár sisters
(d) He played 1052 moves over nine rounds

  1. In 2015, this player was caught using a smartphone hidden in the player-only bathrooms to cheat against Armenian grandmaster Tigran Petrosian at the Dubai Open:

(a) Stephen Moss
(b) Gaioz Nigalidze
(c) Borislav Ivanov
(d) Sébastien Feller

  1. In July 2015 the Norwegian newspaper VG reported that Magnus Carlsen had:

(a) Signed for Real Madrid
(b) earned $6.6 million in the first half of the decade
(c) received 493 marriage proposals
(d) met all three Kardashian sisters

  1. When was the first official Fide ratings system introduced?

(a) 1966
(b) 1974
(c) 1971
(d) 1972

  1. What is greatest in number?

(a) All atoms in the universe
(b) Possible games of chess
(c) Stars in the Milky Way
(d) People on the planet

  1. Which former Soviet player once got into a drunken fight over a woman at a bar in Havana, and missed the first five rounds of the 1966 Chess Olympiad because of his injuries. He was:

(a) Mikhail Tal
(b) Vasily Smyslov
(c) Viktor Korchnoi
(d) Boris Spassky

  1. What was Magnus Carlsen’s FIDE rating at 11 years old?

(a) 1645
(b) 2536
(c) 900
(d) 2127

  1. During this well-known world championship match, a blueberry yoghurt delivered to one of the players became a controversial point of contention.

(a) Karpov v Kasparov, 1984
(b) Kasparov v Short, 1993
(c) Topalov v Kramnik, 1995
(d) Karpov v Korchnoi, 1978


  1. (b) Nigel Short
  2. (d) Howard Staunton. In 1858 Morphy travelled to the UK to play Staunton, but Staunton kept delaying the match and it never took place
  3. (a) Disney’s Chess Guide by Anatoly Karpov
  4. (b) Viktor Korchnoi
  5. (c) The Social Network. In one scene in the film, Eduardo Saverin shows Mark Zuckerberg “the algorithm used to rank chess players”
  6. (c) A white knight on an oval black or blue globe
  7. (a) The chess set used in the film The Seventh Seal
  8. (c) Antichess, also known as “losing chess” and “suicide chess”
  9. (d) Became a father. On 9 April 2011, Anand and his wife Aruna’s first child was born, a son named Akhil
  10. (b) False. The Fide Handbook says only that the king should be about 3.75 inches tall, and the other pieces “should be proportionate in their height and form”
  11. (c) The players must recite the Fide pledge at the opening ceremony. At the time there was no such thing as a Fide opening pledge, and, even when there was, no one has ever been forced to recite it
  12. (b) “A fairly slow speed”
  13. (c) He defeated all three Polgar sisters. During a 1992 tournament in Aruba, Psakhis beat Judit Polgár with White in round five, Susan Polgár with Black in round eight, and Sofia Polgár with White in round nine
  14. (b) Gaioz Nigalidze, who received a three-year ban and had to forfeit his grandmaster title following an investigation
  15. (b) Earned $6.6 million in the first half of the decade, more than any other chess player over that period
  16. (c) 1971
  17. (b) Possible games of chess
  18. (a) Mikhail Tal, who was notorious for his affinity with alcohol. Tal and Korchnoi were reportedly in a bar when the former was hit over the head with a bottle by the jealous boyfriend of a woman Tal was dancing with
  19. (d) 2127
  20. (d) Karpov v Korchnoi, 1978. After the yoghurt was delivered to Karpov, Korchnoi’s camp alleged that the flavour of the yoghurt (blueberry) was a secret signal from Karpov’s seconds

Cold spell brings first half of season to a premature end

Coulsdon cancel key Surrey League division 1 match because of snow

Both the matches due to be played at the Willoughby Arms on Monday 12 December were cancelled. Overnight snow led CCF (Coulsdon) to pull out of the crunch Surrey League division 1 match against Kingston’s first team. We were very disappointed by the abandonment as this is likely to give us yet another fixture to cram into the very crowded second half of the season. Richmond also pulled out of their scheduled Thames Valley div X match with Kingston’s third team and took a default – a great shame as these matches are valuable training games for new players. A disappointing end to the playing year, but 2022 has been very kind to Kingston and we fervently hope for more of the same in 2023. Happy Christmas and a fruitful New Year to all our members, friends and friendly rivals.

Stephen Moss

David Clear (Kent) v Peter Andrews (Surrey)

Kent Under-2050 v Surrey Under-2050, 15 October 2022

Encouraged by John Foley to turn out for Surrey’s under-2050 team, this was Kingston stalwart Peter Andrews’ first county match for about 40 years. He was playing on board 1 against Kent’s David Clear, and the game hinged on Peter’s disaster with an extremely hot cup of coffee. Always beware the Coffee Gambit!

Peter Lalić (Kingston) v Gavin Wall (Richmond)

Thames Valley Knockout Cup quarter-final, Willoughby Arms, Kingston, 6 December 2022

Peter Lalić (centre, right) takes on IM Gavin Wall in a key game in the Kingston v Richmond TVL Knockout match

This game, between Kingston star Peter Lalić and IM Gavin Wall, was board 2 in the Thames Valley Knockout quarter-final between Kingston and Richmond, which Kingston won 5.5-0.5. Peter’s victory was a crucial one in laying the foundation for the team’s success. John Saunders, associate editor of Chess Magazine and founder of the BritBase games archive, kindly agreed to annotate the game. He said this about it: “Quite an educational game. Gavin’s moves tallied closely with engine suggestions, because he’s a good player, but there was an element of risk there which was exemplified when he overlooked Peter’s clever and unusual tactic.”

Peter Andrews (Kingston) v Andrii Boiechko (Richmond)

Thames Valley Knockout Cup quarter-final, Willoughby Arms, Kingston, 6 December 2022

This game was board 6 in the Thames Valley Knockout quarter-final between Kingston and Richmond, which a powerful Kingston team won by the perhaps slightly flattering scoreline of 5.5-0.5. The veteran Peter Andrews and the up-and-coming junior Andrii Boiechko played a very sharp game in which Andrews eventually blunted Boiechko’s admirable attacking instincts. The latter has quickly learned the lesson that capture the king and nothing else matters, though Andrews – cleverly combining defence with an assault of his own – had too much nous on this occasion.

Maycock lands knockout blow as Kingston progress in Cup

Thames Valley Knockout Cup quarter-final played at the Willoughby Arms, Kingston on 6 December 2022

This quarter-final of the Thames Valley Knockout Cup – a tournament Kingston has re-entered this year – was due to be played at Richmond, but unfortunately for them their venue was unavailable and the match had to be switched to Kingston. Nor was that Kingston’s only advantage. We outrated our opponents on boards 3 to 6, while on the top two boards the tag teams of Maycock & Lalić and Healey & Wall met again, but in different pairings from their meeting just a month ago, when David Maycock beat IM Gavin Wall and Mike Healey defeated Peter Lalić.

With a three-hour session, the games developed slowly – except for board 2 where Peter Lalić offered a pawn on move three which was finally accepted on move 10. On board 1 David Maycock played a Caro-Kann, with Mike Healey replying steadily with an Exchange Variation. On board 3 Kingston’s Vladimir Li, who had a big rating plus over Maks Gajowniczek, was playing a solid Nimzo-Indian, with his Nimzo bishop redeploying to c7.

Powerful line-up on the top boards: Healey (left) v Maycock, Wall v Lalić, Gajowniczek v Li. Photograph: John Foley

On board 4, Will Taylor met the French – Jon Eckert’s new weapon this season – with a Tarrasch, and on 5 David Rowson looked comfortable as Black in an Italian Game against Bertie Barlow, both sticking to theory up to move nine. On board 6, Peter Andrews used the c4-d3-e4 structure in his favourite English Opening, while his opponent – the very promising junior Andrii Boiechko – countered with a Closed Sicilian set-up.

In the early stages the only game with a material imbalance was Lalić v Wall, where Peter was looking for compensation for his sacrificed pawn, though the first to finish proved to be Vladimir’s. Gajowniczek’s position had looked vulnerable to counter-attack in the centre and queenside, but that became irrelevant when a blunder dropped a piece.

David Rowson turned down a draw offer once, but agreed shortly afterwards in a roughly equal position. That made it 1.5-0.5, but no chickens were being counted yet. Jon Eckert had two bishops against Will Taylor’s two knights and looked to have more activity, and Andrews v Boiechko on board 6 was turning into one of those “kill or be killed” games which are fun to watch but a nightmare to play.

Still all to play for: Eckert (left) v Taylor, Barlow v Rowson, Boiechko v Andrews. Photograph: John Foley

On board 2, Peter Lalić continued to play actively – David Rowson later described him as a “magician” – and, with kings castled on opposite sides, seemed to have chances. One inaccurate move by his opponent allowed him to sacrifice a knight on h7, giving him access to the black king, followed by an exchange sacrifice on d7, which if accepted led to mate in three. Gavin naturally declined, but his denuded king left him in a lost position, and Peter concluded with bishop and queen combining to mate on f7. 2.5-0.5 to Kingston and now the door was open (metaphorically speaking, as it was far from warm in the Willoughby’s upstairs playing room and every entrance had to be firmly sealed).

The winning point came from David Maycock, who won a piece and broke through, leaving Mike Healey completely lost. Peter Andrews had by now also broken through on the queenside, creating a dangerous passed pawn, but he still had to be careful in fighting off his opponent’s kingside attack. Once that was accomplished it was all over.

Richmond’s second “Kingston player” Jon Eckert – Mike Healey also plays for us in the Surrey League – seemed to have compensation for a pawn deficit with active pieces and the two bishops, but Will Taylor managed to eliminate the bishops and turn his material advantage into a winning rook and pawn ending. Jon sportingly resigned in a lost ending but with Will having little time on his clock.

The final score of 5.5-0.5 arguably flattered Kingston. Bertie Barlow, who got a draw in a recent league game between Kingston A and Richmond B, had again been responsible for avoiding the whitewash. We now look forward to Maidenhead making the long journey to Kingston in the semi-final.

Alan Scrimgour, Kingston chair and Thames Valley Knockout Cup captain

Kingston 2 secure solid draw with Surbiton 1

Surrey League division 2 match played at the Willoughby Arms, KIngston on 5 December 2022

“Why the long faces?” said Peter Lalić, who was spectating, after the match. And of course he was right: a draw for the Kingston second team against Surbiton’s first team was a perfectly honourable result. But there was a feeling that, with a touch more luck, we could have nicked it. A half-point to get off the mark in division 2 of the Surrey League is nice, but it still leaves Kingston 2 at the foot of the table and threatened by relegation in a division where all our rivals are first teams (see current table below).

There was a problem with the heating at the Willoughby at the start of the match – one reason why I offered an early draw against Surbiton captain Graham Alcock on 6. Graham, who felt he had slightly misplayed the opening against my dubious Nf6 Scandinavian and was recovering from flu, accepted the offer after a long think. On board 3, Alan Scrimgour and Angus James – two immensely solid and seasoned players who know each other’s games inside out – also sued for peace at an early stage. 1-1.

Julian Way on board 2 and Jon Eckert on four both played the Dutch. Way’s game against David Scott was hard fought and ended in a forced draw after some complex tactics. Eckert sac’d unsoundly and was a piece down against Nick Faulks, but the ever resourceful and resilient Eckert created complications and constructed a mating net around Faulks’ king. A classic swindle. 2.5 to 1.5 to Kingston.

Jon Eckert turned his game against Nick Faulks around and constructed a mating net in a classic swindle

On board 7, Surbiton’s Andrew Boughen had a smooth success over Gregor Smith – match all square – but on board 5 Maxim Selemir, who has had a terrific start to his Kingston career, claimed an excellent scalp in the shape of the experienced Mark Hogarth. Selemir played aggressively and gave up a couple of pawns for an attack. Hogarth fell behind on the clock and, menaced by Selemir’s queen and rook, had to give up a knight to avert mate. A piece to the good, it was only a matter of time before Selemir prevailed: 3.5-2.5 to Kingston and at least we couldn’t lose the match.

That left board 1 – a heavyweight clash between Kingston’s John Foley and Surbiton’s Mark Josse. Josse had offered a draw earlier in the evening, but Foley – unconvinced by Kingston’s chances on other boards (and perhaps influenced by the unfavourable position in the Faulks-Eckert game) – had turned it down. Playing for the win was admirable, but in the end unwise. Josse is not just a very strong player, but a master strategist when the chips are down and time is running short. If you want someone to play for you in a time scramble, call for Josse.

In a rook and knight endgame, with both sides looking to get a pawn through, it was Josse’s two connected pawns that eventually won the day. At one stage, Foley had 20 minutes to Josse’s three or four, but such pressure doesn’t seem to bother him and his technique was rock-solid. A fine game that took three hours to complete, with Foley eventually going down on time in a position that was in any case completely lost.

Stephen Moss

Kingston 3 suffer unlucky defeat to Epsom 3

Surrey League division 4 match played at the Willoughby Arms, Kingston on 28 November 2022

Kingston’s newly inaugurated third team have not so far managed to chalk up a match victory, but this could – indeed perhaps should – have been it. And how sweet that would have been against Epsom, who love to beat us and were quickly on Twitter proclaiming their 3.5-2.5 win here as their third success in a row against Kingston.

Stephen Daines, Kingston’s third-team captain, likes to leaven his sides with experienced players, players relatively new to over-the-board chess, and juniors. In this match one of those juniors, Shaurya Handu, enjoyed a quickfire victory – his first for the club. Shaurya has huge confidence, enthusiasm and talent, and is a great prospect.

Fellow junior Jaden Mistry went down to defeat on board 6, but his attitude and spirit are tremendous and, at just 11, he is another terrific prospect for a club that has struggled to bring on juniors in the past. We continue to actively consider how we can establish a junior club to organise our efforts in this area.

The ever reliable David Shalom won on board 2 to raise hopes of a victory in the match, and Adam Nakar secured a draw on board 1 despite being outrated by more than 100 points. The problems for Kingston came in the middle order. On board 4, Mark Sheridan – on his debut for Kingston against his former club – allowed his advantage to slip against David Flewellen. And crucially, on board 3, the strong Kingston player who was due to turn out was indisposed. Newcomer Colin Lyle valiantly stepped in as a late substitute, but he was outgunned by the highly rated Venkatesh Subramoniam.

So near and yet so far, but the team is shaping up well and getting stronger. Thanks to Greg Heath for standing in as captain in the absence of Stephen Daines, who was on a chess fact-finding tour of Tenerife.

Stephen Moss