Monthly Archives: February 2023

Kingston victory at Hammersmith reinforces bid for Surrey/TVL double

Thames Valley League division 1 match played at the Mindsports Centre, Dalling Road, London W6 on 21 February 2023

This was a famous victory that potentially sets up Kingston for a historic double this season – winning division 1 of the Surrey League and the Thames Valley league in the same year. Kingston have certainly never achieved this, and as far as we can see only Wimbledon (twice – in 2016/17 and 2017/18) have managed it.

Last season Hammersmith won division 1 of the Thames Valley League, winning nine and drawing one of their matches. Clearly, this would be Kingston’s biggest challenge yet in our bid to win both this league and the Surrey League. Hammersmith had the edge on rating, but a close match was anticipated and so it proved. I had the dual role of chauffeur and reporter on the night – keeping the club updated on WhatsApp. There was a delayed start while the Leap digital clocks were reset, but eventually all the games were played at 65 minutes for all moves with a 10-second increment.

On board 1, David Maycock defended against a Catalan, while on board 2 Peter Lalić found himself playing Ali Hill, whom he had faced in a recent tournament. Silverio Abasalo played a French on board 4, while David Rowson was facing an early charge by Bajrush Kelmendi’s g- and h-pawns.

The match was finely balanced after 90 minutes’ play, with Peter Lalić a pawn down and David Maycock a pawn up but with tripled pawns. The match continued tensely over the next hour, with Kingston club members from far and wide (the website editor was on holiday in Florida feeling very deprived of chess news) hanging on the next WhatsApp update.  

By 10pm David Maycock was playing on the increment, while Peter and his opponent were down to three minutes each. The breakthrough came with a win for Vladimir Li on board 3, followed a minute later by one for Silverio on board 4. David Rowson’s draw on board 5 left Kingston close to success.

On board 2 a flurry of tactics transformed Peter’s pawn deficit into a winning rook and pawn ending, which he duly converted to win the match. On board 6, John Foley’s bishop was trying to stop two knights from escorting the remaining pawn to promotion, but Christof Brixel played the endgame flawlessly. David Maycock was last to finish, successfully holding a tricky rook and pawn ending. 4-2 to Kingston.

The final game to finish was on board 1, where Davis Maycock (left) held a tricky endgame against Marco Gallana

The turning point of the match was Peter Lalić’s game. Peter was in an inferior position for most of the game and was reduced to moving a rook up and down on the same squares. However, his patience paid off when he spotted spectacular rook sacrifice. 41. Rxf7+ wins in all variations. The rook cannot be captured because 42. Bxe6+ wins the queen.

A tremendous move to win a memorable match.

Alan Scrimgour

Kingston B get off the mark with win over Hounslow

Thames Valley League division 2 match played at the Royal British Legion, Hounslow on 13 February 2023

John Foley (right) and JJ Padam do battle at Hounslow. Youngsters, that is an old-style analogue clock on the table

After three successive defeats in division 2 of the Thames Valley League, Kingston B finally scored a point with a 4-2 win away to Hounslow B. The result gives us hope of survival in this division, though much will hinge on next Monday’s fixture against the same opponents and on our forthcoming matches against Ealing B. Credit to Kingston captain Gregor Smith, who had to juggle his resources after Nick Grey’s late withdrawal. Nick promises chocolate and other goodies as recompense next week.

The first thing to say about the match was that analogue clocks were used. Clearly this is far from desirable: fine if you are playing 35 moves in 75 minutes – the traditional Thames Valley League time control – but hopeless if you are playing to a finish, since without the increment allowed by digital clocks you can get flagged in a winning position. Which is precisely what happened to Gregor when he was two pawns up in the endgame on board 3. The perfect end to a trying day.

Happily, the captain’s unlucky defeat did not cost us the match. Playing Black, Alan Scrimgour won smoothly on board 2. In a closed Sicilian, his opponent attempted to close the position by playing f5 and c4. Both players kept their kings in the centre, with Alan using the break with g6. His opponent’s pawn sac on the queenside left Alan with a passed a-pawn and a likely endgame win. White responded with an unsound piece sac on the kingside which left him completely lost.

On board 4 I played my usual (wholly disreputable) Nf6 Scandinavian. My opponent’s passivity allowed me to get a slight edge early on, and I had the temerity to turn down not one but two draw offers (most unusual for me – I usually hit the bar as soon as possible). The middlegame position was fairly even, but my opponent blundered away the exchange and as we both reached our final five minutes on the clock (no increments remember, so a loss on time is still possible if the player who is down on material can keep the game going) we reached the position below.

I had expected Rd1 at this point, to swap rooks and exchange down to an endgame where he could at least try to flag me – my intention was to keep the pieces on and go for the jugular, which is indeed what happened. He failed to activate his rook and got mated a few moves later when I got both rooks on the second rank. But later I realised that Rd1 would have lost on the spot. Do you see why?

Black can simply play Qxb3! If the pawn takes the queen, Rxd1+ and Rd2 wins the queen back, leaving Black a rook up. A simple tactic, yet easy to overlook for someone of my strength. A stronger player would probably spot it instantly, even in a time scramble.

I exploited my opponent’s black-square weaknesses to win – my opponent unwisely gave up his black-squared bishop for knight early in the game – while on board 4 Charlie Cooke did something similar on the light squares, queen and bishop working in perfect harmony against a horribly compromised Black king. Those three wins were enough to see Kingston home.

On board 1 John Foley, ever the chess purist, fretted about the absence of digital clocks and could only draw with White against an opponent rated well below him, though of course we must give credit to JJ Padam for getting the draw in a 60-move game in which John carried on pressing for a win throughout. Another puzzle for you. What should Black play here to get a handy edge?

Black actually played Qd5, which frankly is a bit caveman. The best move is Bxg2!, which wins a pawn for nothing. The White king can’t recapture or Nf4+ forks king and queen. Always be on the lookout for opportunist tactics.

On board 6, Hayden Holden secured a draw with Black against a higher-rated opponent. White played a Spanish, Hayden deliberately diverted from theory early on and won a pawn, but White had the initiative, won the pawn back, and with material equal and a symmetrical pawn structure a draw was agreed. Hayden had been due to play in the third-team match at the Willoughby that evening and had to hotfoot it to Hounslow to turn out for the seconds. So he will definitely be getting an early Easter egg from the indisposed Nick Grey next week.

Stephen Moss

Kingston C top Div X after home win against Surbiton

Thames Valley League division X match played at the Willoughby Arms, Kingston on 13 February 2023

Revenge was sweet with this win against Surbiton D, who beat us earlier in the season. The 2.5-1.5 victory was an unexpected one as we were outrated, and it took Kingston C top of division X of the Thames Valley League, though the chasing teams have games in hand. Optimistically, I have started to enquire whether there is a trophy for the team finishing first. (Spoiler: it appears that the prize is a clock.)

Colin Lyle succumbed on board 1 against Surbiton’s Colin Li – the battle of the Colins! – after a vibrant to-ing and fro-ing game. This is by no means discouraging for the Kingston Colin as the Surbiton Colin is far stronger than his rating of 1608 suggests. Greg Heath overturned a positional disadvantage on board 2 and accepted a draw from his opponent. Josh Lea, in his long-awaited debut for the club, beat his opponent with an aggressive game to level the score at 1.5 apiece. A terrific start to competitive chess for Josh.

So it was now all down to me. I had left Kingston A&E at 6.30pm following the diagnosis of a fractured shoulder. An hour later, I was lining up on board 3 against a player rated 1462. I had the black pieces. No pressure. White played a passive queen pawn opening, so I seized the initiative with a kingside attack which proved to be potent. White’s king fled but two pawns were lost in the process, creating two potential passed pawns for me on the kingside. My opponent resigned as my h-pawn headed for the queening square. For a brief moment, I even managed to forget the pain from my shoulder. The healing power of chess.

Stephen Daines, Kingston third-team captain

The London Chess Conference 2023

When the London Chess Conference was first held in 2013, it was supposed to be a one-off, but it is still going strong 10 years later. What is the secret of its success, and what can we expect at next month’s event?

John Foley

The London Chess Conference, which will place from 17-19 March, is a gathering of some of the leading lights in chess and education from around the world. The venue is the sparkling, newly-built Elm Grove Conference Centre at the University of Roehampton in south-west London. This year the theme of the conference is Chess and STEM. We examine how chess teaching can be adapted to help children to learn about Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. There are places available for those wishing to attend the conference. For more details and to register, visit the conference website.

STEM subjects are seen as fundamental to careers in the 21st century, and any methods that assist children to learn are to be welcomed. If STEM are the vital academic academic subjects, then the vital skills that are needed in order to succeed in the future are the 4C’s: critical thinking, communication, collaboration and creativity. We expect to see examples of how chess helps children to acquire these skills.

The range of sponsors indicates the importance of the event. The partner sponsors, whose backing ensured the event took place, are the International Chess Federation (FIDE), the European Chess Union (ECU) and Chess in Schools and Communities (CSC). In addition, we have received sponsorship from the English Chess Federation, ChessKid, Chessable, Chess Manager and ChessForEdu. Chess and Bridge has also committed material support. As a result, we are able to secure the attendance of noted international experts to present at the conference.

Elm Grove Conference Centre, University of Roehampton

The conference started in 2013 alongside the London Chess Classic. The two events were co-located at Olympia until 2017. Due to the growth of the events, the conference was held separately at the Irish Cultural Centre in Hammersmith in 2018 and 2019. The Covid pandemic forced the conference to be run online in 2020. Finally, we are able to meet in person again at Roehampton. The conference themes reflect the wide range of intersections between chess and the spheres of culture and education.

  • 2013 Chess and Education
  • 2014. Chess and Mathematics
  • 2015 Chess and Society
  • 2016 The Didactics of Chess
  • 2017 Scholastic Chess
  • 2018 The Future of Chess in Education
  • 2019 Chess and Female Empowerment
  • 2020 ChessTech
  • 2023 Chess and STEM

The number of attendees has grown each year, and 140 people registered for the last in-person conference in 2019. These included some of the movers and shakers of the chess education world, including officials from FIDE, ECU and other international representative bodies, officials from national chess federations, politicians and policy makers, managers of chess education projects including Erasmus Plus, organisers of school chess teaching, chess tutors, chess trainers, teachers, chess authors and journalists.

John Foley opening the 2019 conference, with Malcolm Pein sitting behind. Photograph: John Saunders

This year, the format of the conference continues to evolve. We have moved to a hybrid format so that some talks will be presented digitally – either from a remote presenter or in some cases pre-recorded. Pre-recording guarantees that the playout does not suffer from poor internet problems. It is also more useful when the language is not English and subtitles or a voiceover is required.

The opening event of the conference, on the afternoon of Friday 17 March, consists of a seminar on pre-school chess. The first part will comprise digital presentations and the second part will comprise in-person presentations. This seminar has been organised by FIDE and is probably the most expert gathering on early-years chess that has ever taken place.

The conference proper kicks off on the morning of Saturday 18 March with opening speeches by Dana Reizniece-Ozola, the chief executive of FIDE (and former finance minister of Latvia), and Malcom Pein, the chief executive of CSC as well as a board member of the European Chess Union.

FIDE started sponsoring the conference in 2019 and now treats the conference as the world’s premier chess and education conference. It has expanded the scope of the conference with the early-years seminar and has enabled several important chess officials from outside Europe to attend the event. The conference sequence would not have been possible without the continuing support of CSC, which has sponsored the event from the beginning. ECU has been supporting the event since 2016 and we are grateful to Jesper Bergmark Hall, chair of the ECU Education Commission, and Theodoros Tsorbatzoglou. ECU’s general secretary, for their unwavering commitment.

Dana and Malcolm are followed by Jerry Nash, chairman of the FIDE Education Commission, who will focus on how chess develops critical thinking, which is the foundation of the scientific method. Thereafter the day is structured around each of the STEM disciplines, with experts exploring the different ways in which chess engages a specific discipline.

For science, we have Mark Lawrenson from STEM UK, the network of teachers who teach STEM subjects. A physics teacher, he provides insights into how to inculcate children with structured ways of thinking. We will also hear about the Chessable research awards from Alexey Root – the application of chess-related ideas to real-world problems.

Audience at the 2019 conference. Photograph: John Saunders

For technology, Boris Bruhn from Hamburg and a member of the FIDE Education Commission will give an overview of classroom technology used for chess. This includes how to make use of the large interactive screens as well as digital devices held by the pupils. Taking into account all of the software available, this is a large undertaking. Mike Klein (aka FunMasterMike), along with Carey Fan, will give an extensive overview of ChessKid, the leading software platform for learning chess.

For engineering, Rolf Niemann from the science centre at Lund University will show us how to control a robot using coding. A chessboard is a convenient space on which to drive a robot given its built-in co-ordinate system. Chess offers a ready-made domain for the practice of controlled movement rather than having to fabricate an artificial environment. Paolo Sartorelli will describe the new project Chess and Artificial Intelligence which is being funded by Erasmus Plus. Paweł Kacprzak will show us some AI in action – the ability to scan a document or indeed a chessboard and convert that into a digital format where it can link to a chess engine or a video about that very position. It has to be said that chess naturally lends itself to artificial intelligence. This was recognised by Alan Turing, who developed the world’s first chess evaluation algorithm.

For mathematics, Tiago Hirth from Ludus, the maths and games centre, at Lisbon University and Monika Musilek from Haus der Mathematik, the mathematics teacher training institute in Vienna, will talk about their work together investigating how children learn mathematics through play. They will show some strategy games which the participants will have a chance to try.

On Sunday 19 March, the conference looks at broader topics. The first session in the morning will look at how chess and games can help children who are struggling with academic subjects. We will hear from Marion Schöttelndreier, who is an assistant school principal with particular responsibility for science and technology at a secondary school in Lund, Sweden, who will outline some of the notable social benefits of chess. Mikkel Nørgaard from Skoleskak in Denmark will show how chess can in some cases improve mental health. Anastasia Sorokina will talk about the Infinite Chess Project, which finds ways to relate to children with some forms of autism. Brigitta Peszleg from ChessPlus will show some strategy games, such as Halma, which bring joy to all ages and makes learning effortless.

The second session looks at chess teacher training. Currently, there seems to be a lack of interest by schools in the professional accreditation of chess teachers, but the trend is that some formal training will be required, especially as the qualifications endorsed by official chess bodies gain credibility. The speakers include teacher trainers who have taught the basic European course (known as ECU101) and FIDE’s introductory course for teachers known as the Preparation of Teachers course. Other approaches to teacher training will also be covered.

Teaching chess to Year 4s

After lunch, there is an opportunity to hear about innovative chess projects from around the world. The session will be headed by the former education minister of Georgia, Mikheil Chkhenkeli, where chess has been incorporated into the curriculum. In a round-table discussion, we will hear from speakers from Armenia, Germany, England, Romania, North Macedonia, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Botswana.

Overall, it is an ambitious conference which, like a good chess move, tries to achieve several objectives at the same time. It brings together people who are genuinely committed to having games available to STEM teachers. People will come away having had their preconceptions blown away by the infectious enthusiasm of chess proponents from around the world.

It has been 10 years since the first London Chess Conference. It was originally the brainchild of Stefan Löffler and Malcolm Pein, and was only supposed to be a one-off. Its longevity is due to the fact that people liked it and want to come back again. It is the unique mix of people that gives the event its magic. The programmes are devised to capture the current state of play in the worlds of chess and education. Yet attendees value more the opportunity to meet others with whom they share a common interest – a community of practitioners.

Networking is done during breaks, in the evening, at side rooms, and even coming and going to the airport. New projects are hatched and collaborations begun. We can point to several major projects and methods which would not have occurred had it not been for the London Chess Conference. Ultimately the success of the conference is due to the perception and belief that we need to keep trying for the benefit of children everywhere so that they will become thinkers of the future.

It takes a lot of work to construct a professional event. I am proud that it is still running after 10 years and has achieved a measure of international recognition. Many people are involved in making it happen. This year, recognition for their contributions is due to Brigitta Peszleg, Leila Raivio, Rita Atkins, Kate Cooke, Etienne Mensch, Karel van Delft, John Upham and Stefan Löffler.

The keen-eyed reader will notice that the London Chess Conference is organised by ChessPlus Limited. This is the name of the chess consultancy which provides training for chess teachers. The pedagogical approach condenses many years of experience from chess teachers across Europe to integrate chess into the educational framework. ChessPlus runs a programme of courses comprising The Smart Method to Teach Chess, Chess and Mathematics, Chess and Logic, Chess and Critical Thinking and so on.

John Foley is director of the London Chess Conference

Surbiton B gain shock draw with Kingston A

Thames Valley League division 1 and division 2 matches played at the Willoughby Arms, Kingston on 6 February 2023

It was a bad day – or rather night – at the office. Kingston’s first team, up against Surbiton B, had high hopes of consolidating its place at the top of division 1 of the Thames Valley League, but the Surbitonians had other ideas and went home with a deserved 3-3 draw. Indeed, they might have had more, with Kingston players getting draws in two games which at one stage they looked very likely to lose.

Kingston were without two key players – Peter Lalić and Vladimir Li – but that is no excuse. We still outrated Surbiton by an average of 200 points a board, and there was no escaping the fact that this was a considerable upset. Not terminal – we are still narrowly ahead of the chasing pack – but a decided wake-up call. The loss of a half-point in a match where we were hot favourites to win now makes the club’s trip to Hammersmith on 21 February even more critical.

The evening started serenely enough. Peter Andrews played powerfully to win with Black on board 5, winning a piece with a neat tactical sequence and giving his opponent little or no counterplay thereafter. Surbiton’s Graham Alcock held John Foley to a draw on board 4 and Kingston captain David Rowson survived being a pawn down against Nick Faulks on board 3 to eventually equalise and secure a draw from a position in which it looked very difficult to find decent moves. A good save – and 2-1 to Kingston.

Peter Andrews (foreground, right) played powerfully to beat Andrew Boughen in Kingston’s sole win of the evening

Meanwhile, things were not going well for Kingston chair Alan Scrimgour on board 6 against David Cole, always a redoubtable opponent. Cole had what looked like a winning advantage, but blundered in time trouble (which he admits he is prone to, especially at Thames Valley’s overly fast time controls) and Scrimgour confidently played an endgame in which his rook nullified Cole’s bishop and two pawns. Another crucial save.

That left the two top boards. We hoped David Maycock would be our banker on board 1, but for once it was not to be. Liam Bayly played with great finesse, blunted David’s attacking instincts, and got the upper hand in the endgame to secure a memorable win. That made it 2.5-2.5, and winning the match was now all down to Will Taylor with White on board 2 against Paul Dupré.

Will played extremely well and had a winning position after 41 moves, but once again those pesky time controls took their toll. Playing on the 10-second increment and with just 15 seconds left on his clock, he chose a defensive move against what he thought was the threat of a perpetual check when he had a forced mate. The opportunity went begging and Dupré could breathe again. The game, though not without further incident over the next 20 moves, ended in a draw after Paul traded down to an ending where his bishop could stop Will’s connected pawns. The match was drawn and the post-mortems went on in the bar long into the night.

In the second match, Wimbledon A trounced Kingston B 5.5-0.5. Here it was Kingston’s turn to be heavily outrated, and we proved less successful than Surbiton in overcoming the odds. On board 1, Max Selemir had a characteristically exciting game against the experienced Dan Rosen, as usual throwing the kitchen sink at his opponent, but in the end his piece advantage was no match for Rosen’s phalanx of advancing pawns.

On board 2, captain Gregor Smith was outmanoeuvred by another veteran, Ian Heppell; Kingston stalwart Nick Grey lost against Tony Hughes in a close game in which a pawn advantage proved enough for the Wimbledon man; I surrendered tamely to Stephen Carpenter; Byron Eslava went down fighting on board six against Alex Boitier; and it was left to Charlie Cooke to save us from being bagelled with an excellent draw against the dangerous Sean Ingle on board 5. Some serious wound-licking was in order.

Stephen Moss

CSC/Kingston 1 power on with dual victories at 4NCL

Two wins by Peter Hasson ensure a successful weekend for CSC/Kingston 1 to keep their promotion hopes alive, but the second team struggle as life in division 4 gets tougher

CSC/Kingston 1 didn’t expect to be playing in division 3 of the 4NCL this season – their promotion was a fortuitous one after another team dropped out – but so far they are making a wonderful fist of it, and by winning both matches at this third 4NCL weekend they kept their outside hopes of a further promotion alive.

The Saturday match against Brown Jack was tough. CSC/Kingston had a healthy rating advantage, but Brown Jack (named after the pub in Wroughton, near Swindon, where it meets, which presumably is itself named after the famous racehorse of the 1930s) fought hard, and five of the six games were drawn. Only Hasson managed a win, but that was enough to give CSC/Kingston a vital victory by 3.5-2.5.

Sunday’s match was more straightforward – a 4.5-1.5 victory over Shropshire & Friends, with wins for Peter Finn, Clive Frostick and Hasson again. The weekend left CSC/Kingston joint second in the table with three other teams – a remarkable performance given that the team did not take part in the first weekend and were given two half-point byes. Both the byes were awarded against teams in the lower half of the table who we would have hoped to beat, and that may come back to haunt us at the end of the season. But for the moment the mood is upbeat and hopes of a second successive promotion high.

CSC/Kingston 2, who were not as strong as on the two previous weekends, found the going harder, though to lose on Saturday by only 3.5-2.5 against the higher-rated Full Ponty team was a very creditable performance. On paper, CSC/Kingston had a much easier task against Barnet Knights C on Sunday. But ratings mean little where juniors are concerned, and Barnet’s youth-orientated team gave a very good account of themselves, drawing the match 3-3. Nick Grey had a good win and, having drawn with Black with a higher-rated player on Saturday, enjoyed a good weekend.

CSC/Kingston 2 are now joint tenth in the table and have little realistic hope of promotion. But we always saw this season as a tentative return after the pandemic and, if the club can revert to running three teams next year, the hope will be to field a stronger second team that will target promotion and a third team that can both play with less pressure and give game time at 4NCL’s pleasingly long time control to newer players.

Stephen Moss

Table-topping Kingston do double over Guildford

Surrey League division 1 match played at the Willoughby Arms, Kingston on 30 January 2023

David Maycock conjured a crucial win from a drawish position against Clive Frostick. Photograph: John Saunders

We had built ourselves up so much for this match that when it came there was a slight sense of anti-climax. We had assembled a very powerful team, whereas Guildford were not quite as strong as we anticipated. Which is not to say they did not have a very good side; with their resources they are able to put out three highly competitive teams. The match was well contested and victory by 5.5-2.5 perhaps flattered Kingston to some degree. But in the end strength on the upper boards told, with wins for David Maycock, Peter Lalić and Mike Healey on boards 1, 3 and 4, and Kingston president John Foley also winning on board 8.

Vladimir Li could make little progress against James Toon, and their game was drawn. Photograph: John Saunders

The first game to finish was Vladimir Li against James Toon on board 5. Li ventured a Sicilian and quickly equalised, but Toon played very solidly, the game never really got out of second gear, and the players drew by repetition on move 26. Analysing the game later, Li thought he might at one point have been able to trade down to a rook endgame in which he was slightly better, but the chance was missed.

It has been a brilliant month for Peter Lalić, winning 12 and drawing two of his 14 classical games and often in relatively short order. He did it again here, despatching Guildford captain Nigel White in just 21 moves. Peter played his trademark Nimzowitsch Defence, and set up a web of tactical possibilities. White tried to counter-attack with his rook, but relieving it of defensive duties led to instant nemesis.

Peter Lalić continued his blistering recent run of form, winning in just 21 moves. Photograph: John Saunders

There was another unusual opening in the game between Kingston captain David Rowson and Guildford veteran Phil Stimpson. Stimpson played the Queen’s Pawn, Chigorin Variation (1. d4 d5 2. Nc3). On move three, after David’s 2… Nf6, Stimpson played Bf4 – a line popularised by the Georgian grandmaster Baadur Jobava, so now known as the Jobava London System.

An intriguing positional struggle ensued (with much shuffling of knights). Stimpson, without bothering to castle, made a kingside pawn push which could have proved dangerous, but Rowson blocked it and forced an exchange of queens. After that the heat went out of the position and peace was declared. 2-1 to Kingston, but with a couple of home players under pressure the match was far from in the bag.

The next result, however, calmed the nerves. On board 1, the game between David Maycock and Clive Frostick had looked very even, with some knowledgeable spectators predicting a draw. But the remarkable Maycock found a way to win, first squeezing a small edge out of a position which was indeed level at move 24, then striking decisively to win a piece when Frostick lost coordination of his rook, knight and bishop. 3-1 to Kingston and now we could start to breathe more easily.

IM Graeme Buckley made his debut for Kingston, drawing with Craig Young. Photograph: John Saunders

IM Graeme Buckley, making his debut for the club against the 2100-rated Craig Young, who played the Petrov Defence. Buckley, a notably aggressive player, castled queenside and launched a kingside pawn push, while Young tried a pawn storm on the opposite flank. But both in the end ran out of steam and a draw was agreed to make the match score 3.5-1.5 to Kingston. The finishing line was drawing near.

The player who had the honour of taking us over it was Mike Healey, playing White against Sebastian Galer. Mike played his beloved Sokolsky (1. b4), but Seb maintained a small plus in the opening. Mike, though, understands the positions that arise from this opening and, by expanding on the queenside, turned the tables, built an edge of his own and eventually won rook for bishop when Seb overlooked a neat tactic.

Mike Healey took Kingston to victory in the match with a win over Sebastian Galer. Photograph: John Saunders

With slightly optimistic hopes of getting his untrammelled c-pawn home, Seb played on and this position was reached, with White to play on move 41.

Would you perhaps be a little concerned about your rook on d2 and the imminent promotion thereafter of the black pawn? I think I would. But not Mike. He had designs on Black’s hemmed-in king. The game proceeded: 41. f5+ Kg5 42. Kg3 h5 43. Rh7 hxg4 44. hxg4 cxd2 45. f4# A very Mike mate.

One of the other Kingston players noticed how sportsmanlike Seb was in defeat, and he and Mike were still happily analysing the game in the bar at closing time. Seb also gave me his scoresheet to allow me to reconstruct the game, so he officially wins the Nicest Chess Player of the Night award.

Will Taylor and Alex Warren look perplexed as they embark on a post-mortem. Photograph: John Saunders

Mike’s win made it a match-winning 4.5-1.5, with Will Taylor on board 6 and John Foley on board 6, up against a very promising junior, still playing. Will, with White against another Sicilian, had a perfectly playable position, but allowed his opponent, Alex Warren, to get a pawn to h3. Once the queens came off and with Will behind on the clock, his position went rapidly downhill. Black established a rook on the seventh and put his knight on g4 bearing down on h2. After that it was, in every sense, only a matter of time as Warren made no mistake.

The last game to finish was the president, who is on a rather majestic winning streak. John’s recent run of success has been founded on his endgame skill, and so it was here. Both players had a knight and five pawns, but John had a two-to-one majority on the queenside, boiled that down to a lone pawn, and then used that pawn to get the Black king offside while mopping up his opponent’s kingside pawns with his knight. An object lesson in why the endgame is still the bit which matters the most.

John Foley looks serene as he gives his young opponent an endgame masterclass. Photograph: John Saunders

The final score was a satisfying 5.5-2.5, Kingston had done the double over the formidable Guildford club, last season’s Surrey division 1 champions, and one or two people from other clubs tweeted immediately after the match that this year’s championship was now done and dusted. It isn’t – we still face difficult trips to Coulsdon and Wimbledon – but we have at least given ourselves a very good chance of winning the Surrey Trophy for the first time since 1975.

Stephen Moss