Address: Willoughby Arms, 47 Willoughby Road, Kingston upon Thames, KT2 6LN
Meet: Mondays, from 7.30pm
Leagues: Surrey (div 2, div 4, Alexander Cup, Lauder Trophy), Thames Valley (div 2)
Social events: Friendlies, blitz, rapidplay, lectures, coaching, simuls
Who we are
Kingston is a thriving chess club which plays in the heart of the town, meeting every Monday in the Willoughby Arms, a friendly pub situated at 47 Willoughby Road, Kingston upon Thames KT2 6LN, close to both Kingston and Norbiton railway stations and Kingston’s main bus depot (all a 10-minute walk away).
The pub is in a warren of similar-looking Victorian suburban streets and you might get lost when you first look for it. But persevere: it will be worth it. The landlord, Rick Robinson, is great fun and a keen supporter of the club; his son Jack also plays from time to time, when he’s not playing pool against Peter Lalic (one of our strongest players – at both chess and pool). A folk band meet downstairs on Mondays and, from the chess-playing room upstairs, you can occasionally catch a traditional tune drifting on the evening air. If strong but temperamental players turn up on opposing teams and are doing well, we naturally ask the band to play as loud as possible.
We play competitive chess in both the Surrey and Thames Valley leagues (see below for details), but we also strive to offer social chess and a variety of activities – simultaneous displays by titled players, talks, demonstrations, study groups, mentoring by strong players – that encourage newcomers, allow them to explore chess and help make them better, more complete players. We don’t believe that sitting around playing endless blitz is either fun or instructive. It has its place, but we want to offer something more structured and more progressive. We also don’t believe in a club that is run for strong players who just want to play match chess. At Kingston, everyone who comes along and makes a contribution is equal, whether you’re a master-strength player or someone who became fascinated by chess because you saw The Queen’s Gambit on Netflix. We want our strong players to be fulfilled and our new players to be fascinated – and over time to become highly competitive and creative players.
So please come along to the Willoughby, where you will receive a warm welcome. Matches against other clubs, if we have one that evening, usually start at 7.30pm, as do talks, mini-tournaments and other events, but even when a match is in progress there will be an opportunity to play social chess – quietly in the playing room (because formal matches do need tranquillity) or more raucously in the other parts of the pub. If you arrive a little before 7.30pm you may find social secretary Greg Heath or one of the other club officials already in residence, ready to welcome members and preparing the playing room for whatever activity is planned that evening.
We don’t have all the answers to creating a buoyant, inclusive chess club – in an era when clubs generally have been in decline as internet chess has taken over and work patterns have changed – but we are looking for them and would love you to join our quest. Veteran chess-watcher Leonard Barden recently said in his Financial Times column that the Kingston club was “booming”. This may be a slight overstatement, but we intend to prove him right over the next few years as we head towards our 150th anniversary in 2025.
You can follow and contact the club via its Twitter account. But better still, come down to the Willoughby one Monday and start playing.
We play teams from around the county at home or away. We run Kingston teams in the Beaumont Cup (ie second division) and the Centenary Trophy (ie fourth division) as well as in two knockout competitions – the Alexander Cup and the Lauder Trophy (which we won in 2018-19 and in which we were runners-up in 2019-20). Matches take place from late September through to early May, leaving the summer free for social chess and special events.
Thames Valley League
We run a Kingston team in the second division of this league. Matches take place in the Thames Valley area from late September to early May. It is unusual for Kingston only to be running one team in the Thames Valley League, but Covid has caused a general thinning out of the leagues – the 2020-21 season was lost completely and no one is quite sure whether this one will also be interrupted. The club intends to reconsider how many teams it should run at the next annual general meeting, due in June 2022, and try to strike the appropriate balance between competitive match chess and social chess. It accepts that match chess is at the heart of the life of a chess club, but insists that social players must not feel excluded and in principle supports the idea of joining league feeder divisions intended to give new players match-playing experience, with its requirements to score and observe certain playing conventions. Match chess should not be a closed circle, and where new players want to become tournament players – which means joining the English Chess Federation, learning how to keep a score of their game and transitioning from the mentality of five-minute blitz to a couple of hours of deep thought – we promise to help them.
Membership fees for 2022-23
Annual subscription is £30
New members should belong to or join the English Chess Federation in order to be eligible for selection for a team. Membership of ECF bronze Level costs £18 per year. Those players who play competitively for Kingston against other teams will receive a rating from the English Chess Federation. The ups and downs of your rating – the ECF now updates it on a monthly basis – is a handy barometer of your chess progress (or, of course, regress). In chess, you have to learn to treat triumph and disaster, impostors both, with equanimity. This is perhaps the hardest thing to learn and to do in chess. Lose with grace, and, even more importantly, win with grace.
President: John Foley
Chair: Alan Scrimgour
Secretary: Greg Heath
Treasurer: Adam Nakar
Head of training: Julian Way
Website coordinator: Ljubica Lazarevic
Equipment officer: Josh Lea
First team (Surrey and Thames Valley): David Rowson
Second team (Surrey): Julian Way
Second team (Thames Valley): Gregor Smith
Third team (Surrey and Thames Valley): Stephen Daines
Alexander Cup: Ljubica Lazarevic
Lauder Trophy: Ljubica Lazarevic
Thames Valley Knockout: Alan Scrimgour
Honorary life vice-presidents
John Nunn, grandmaster
John Nunn won the British under-14, London under-18 and European junior titles, becoming a grandmaster in 1978 and British champion in 1980. At one point he was rated ninth in the world and represented England on numerous occasions. He won the world chess problem-solving championship three times. He was third in the world senior championships and second in the European senior championships.
Ken Inwood won the London under-14 and under-18 titles before becoming the British boys’ champion at Hastings in 1953. He played top board for England Juniors. Ken has been a member of Kingston chess club for over 70 years, during most of which he played top board.
Honorary life members
Vice-president, died January 2015
Honorary vice-president and president of the Surrey County Chess Association (1990-2000), died January 2015
The annotated games on this website are a rich source of chess ideas.