Author Archives: John Foley

About John Foley

President, Kingston Chess Club; Director, Kingston Chess Academy; Director, ChessPlus Limited.

All Saints Blitz V

Robin Haldane swoops to win All Saints V

Robin Haldane wins All Saints Blitz V on Wednesday 30 May 2024 

Photograph: One of the most beautiful places to play chess.

We had our strongest line-up yet for the fifth All Saints Blitz with 14 players. School half-term meant that, freed from teaching duties, Robin Haldane (Streatham) and Marcus Gosling (Epsom) joined us for the first time and proved formidable competitors alongside three-time winner Tony Hughes (Wimbledon) and the hardy perennials Peter Roche and David Rowson from Kingston. Other Kingston first-timers were Aziz Sannie and junior Jaden Mistry. Derek Bruce, who volunteers teaching chess at the Tudor Drive library, used to play for Kingston in the 1970s.

Round 2: Aziz Sannie snatched victory from the jaws of defeat against Marcus Gosling

Despite of the numbers being higher, the tournament controller John Foley kept to a leisurely five rounds with a break between rounds 2 and 3 for the players to patronise the café.

Round 3: Robin Haldane v Tony Hughes, with Nick Grey (right) v Aziz Sannie in the background

The two favourites, Robin Haldane and Tony Hughes, were jointly in the lead with 2/2 when they met in round 3 and obtained a draw when Robin went for a perpetual check. They both won in round 4, so it came down to the last round. Robin held his nerve against David Shalom whereas Peter Roche threw a spanner in Tony’s works. Peter found some strong moves in a complex tactical position, thereby kicking Tony’s hopes of a fourth victory into touch.

Robin Haldane receiving his box of chocolates prize from John Foley
(Photo: Marcus Osborne)

The final standings were:

1. Robin Haldane (4½/5)

2. Peter Roche (4/5)

3. Tony Hughes (3½/5)

Reginald Pryce Michell – A Master of British Chess

Book review by John Foley: Originally published in British Chess News, 27 May 2024

I have a parochial interest in any book on Reginald Pryce Michell because he ended his playing career as a member of Kingston Chess Club of which I have the privilege to be president. His main career was in the first third of the 20th century.  Other notable contemporary club members from the 1930s include the legendary Pakistani player Mir Sultan Khan, the chess author Edward Guthlac Sergeant and Joseph Henry Blake against whom we show some Michell games below.

Following this book review, we obtained the curated game collection of R. P. Michell from John Saunders of Britbase.

Updated and expanded edition

This new book from Carsten Hansen is a welcome addition to the coverage of an important player who represented England. It is an update and expansion of the book originally published in 1947 by Pitman, London and compiled by Julius du Mont, the former editor of British Chess Magazine.

Julius du Mont, Editor of British Chess Magazine from 1940 to 1949
Julius du Mont, Editor of British Chess Magazine from 1940 to 1949

The original book has long been out of print, so the new book allows players to familiarise themselves with an almost forgotten former luminary of English chess.

R.P. Michell: A Master of British Chess by J. du Mont, Pitman, 1947
R.P. Michell: A Master of British Chess by J. du Mont, Pitman, 1947

Reginald Pryce Michell

I share some background on R. P. Michell from my article on the history of Kingston Chess Club.

Reginald Pryce Michell, British Chess Magazine, Volume XLV1, April, 1926, photographer: Theo J. Gidden, Southport
Reginald Pryce Michell, British Chess Magazine, Volume XLV1, April, 1926,
photographer: Theo J. Gidden, Southport

Michell (1873-1938) was the British amateur chess champion in 1902 and played for Great Britain in the inaugural 1927 Olympiad in London and the 1933 Olympiad in Folkestone. He played in eight England v USA cable matches between 1901 and 1911. He participated in the Hastings Premier over 20 years, defeating both Sultan Khan and Vera Menchik in 1932/33. He finished second, third and fourth in the British championship (officially constituted in 1904), beating the multiple champion H.E. Atkins on several occasions. Modern estimates have placed him at the level of a strong international master.

Michell’s track record is all the more remarkable because he worked in a senior position at the Admiralty throughout his career which left him little time to study chess theory or enter competitions. He had a “wide knowledge of English and French literature, and a book of essays in either language was his standby for any unoccupied moment.” He died aged 65 which was the official retirement age at that time.

Michell excelled in the middle game and could hold his own in the endgame as attested by his draws against endgame maestros Capablanca and Rubinstein. In the only article he ever wrote about chess, he singled out books on the endgame as the most useful for practical purposes.

Portrait of R.P. Michell
Portrait of R.P. Michell

E.G. Sergeant wrote of him: “Michell’s courtesy as a chess opponent was proverbial, and on the rare occasions when he lost he always took as much interest in playing the game over afterwards as when he had won, and never made excuses for losing. Of all my opponents, surely he was the most imperturbable. Onlookers might chatter, whisper, fall off chairs, make a noise of any kind, and it seemed not to disturb him; even when short of time, he just sat with his hands between his knees, thinking, thinking.”

Michell’s wife Edith (maiden name Edith Mary Ann Tapsell) was British women’s champion in 1931 (jointly), 1932 and 1935, and played alongside him for Kingston & Thames Valley chess club.

Edith Mary Ann Michell (née Tapsell)
Edith Mary Ann Michell (née Tapsell)

A Master of British Chess – what’s new?

The original book covered 36 games; the new book has been expanded considerably to 67 games. Moreover, the additional games are against some of the most notable players of the era, including several world champions. Chess historians should be grateful for the revival of the original game selection, which du Mont described as “characteristic games”, by the addition of another 31 “notable games”.

Self-published books are a labour of love because the subject lacks the mileage to justify the attention of a conventional publisher. The author lacks the quality assurance tasks typically carried out by a publisher such as proofreading and fact-checking. This is apparent in the first part of the book which reproduces the text from the original, presumably using a scanner which hiccoughed over some obscure passages. The spelling has been converted to American, which grates for a book on a quintessentially English player.

A frustrating omission in the new book is a list of games to navigate the collection; the original book contained a list showing game numbers, players, event locations and dates. In mitigation, the new book does have a useful index of openings and ECO codes as well as an index of opponents.  Hansen claims that the first book had 37 games whereas it had 36. Perhaps we can take comfort that later Amazon printings will correct these infelicities.

The new book has some significant improvements over the original. As one might expect, the moves are now in algebraic rather than the descriptive format with which most players under 50 are now unfamiliar. In the text, whilst d-pawn is the modern equivalent of the queen’s pawn, I still hanker after naming the pawn according to the name of the file; it would be a comforting continuity with descriptive notation. The openings are given their modern names with ECO classifications. Casual readers will appreciate the increased number of diagrams accompanying each game. For example, for the game Blake v Michell, Caterham 1926, the original book only had one diagram compared to a generous five for the new book. Many of the original games did not appear in any commercial database. No doubt this situation will be remedied in short order.

The most frequent opponents listed in the revised book include his strong English contemporaries: Sir George Thomas, William Winter and Fred Yates with four games apiece. Hansen added notable opponents who should have been included in the first book on account of their elevated status in the chess world, including five world champions: Alekhine, Botvinnik, Capablanca (two games), Euwe, Menchik (woman world champion) as well as Maroczy, Marshall, Rubinstein and Sultan Khan who were posthumously recognised as grandmasters.

The edited first part

The first part of the book carries the concise game summaries of the original, which were proofread by the precocious Leonard Barden whilst still at Whitgift School who lived a short cycle ride from du Mont in Thornton Heath. The book came out a year later in 1947 when Barden started his National Service.

The editor of Chess Magazine, Baruch Wood, was scathing in his book review: “Britain is far from the top of the chess tree and there must be a hundred British players with better justification for the publication of a book of their games than Michell. Mr du Mont’s graceful pen has made the most of his subject. The price of the book (10/6 for 108pp, 36 games) is so extraordinarily high that one feels some appeal is being made to sentiment.”

No doubt the fact that du Mont was the editor of a rival magazine may have diluted Wood’s objectivity. England did not have a surfeit of players and Michell would have been in the first rank.

Hansen has added his comments as italicised notes in the text in the contemporary, rather dry style redolent of engine and database analysis. Inevitably, he has identified some improvements and errors which were not noticed in the original. These include not only outright blunders but also the missed opportunities. The logic of this approach is harsh and sits somewhat uncomfortably with the convention that the chess public is more forgiving of a failure to play the best move than of making a blunder. Treating both these types of inaccuracy symmetrically makes the world feel less tolerant.

Misattribution

The most significant discovery by Hansen is that one of the games (game 27) had been misattributed regarding who played White. Du Mont had Michell defeating Max Euwe (world champion 1935-37) at Hastings 1931, whereas Michell had lost.

Hansen surmises that the game intended for the collection was the game they played in the following year’s Hastings tournament when Michell had Euwe on the ropes but the game ended in a draw. We don’t know exactly how this error occurred, but confusion sometimes arises when quoting games at Hastings. This famous long-running annual tournament traditionally takes place in the period between Christmas and the New Year and is described according to the year it starts and the year it ends. Michell lost the game played in 1930/31, but drew the game they played in 1931/32.

Biography untouched

Carsten Hansen is a chess analyst rather than a professional biographer so it is perhaps wise that he has not attempted to update the biographical sketch provided by Du Mont. When the chess analyst Daniel King wrote a book on Sultan Khan, he got into hot water regarding his contested account of the life of the grandmaster.

Modern analysis compared

We may compare annotations between the original and the revised version of the book regarding the above-mentioned game. Here we have (courtesy of CH) an excerpt of the new book on the game Blake v Michell, Caterham, 1926. Blake, although half a generation older than Michell, was described by Du Mont as “one of the brilliant band of British amateurs of which R. P. Michell was one.”

Excerpt of Game 22
 Excerpt of Game 22

and

Excerpt of Game 22
 Excerpt of Game 22

and

Excerpt of Game 22
 Excerpt of Game 22

and finally

Excerpt of Game 22
 Excerpt of Game 22

We may briefly examine the new analysis. The original text by Du Mont/Barden criticises Blake’s choice of opening: “This method of development in the Queen’s Pawn game has its disadvantages in that the dark squares on White’s queenside become temporarily weak, and White will have to spend some time on remedying this defect (e.g., 6.a3). That is why the Colle system has come into favour, the basic idea of which is the quiet development of all the white forces with pawns at c3, d4, and e3, starting an attack at the proper time with the move characteristic of the system: e3-e4.”

Hansen gives short shrift to this perspective:

“There is nothing wrong with the text move; in fact, it is a popular set-up for White, played by countless strong grandmasters.”  

This blunt contradiction is based upon a century of games played thereafter. However, the original comment may have seemed plausible in the era in which Colle popularised the system and it had yet to be fully proven.

After Black’s 18th move (diagram above), the original annotation prefers an alternative to the move played 19. Bxc4: “Undoubtedly, White should play 19. bxc4. His game will now deteriorate due to this weak centre and the backward d-pawn.”

Hansen is again blunt:

“Indeed, the text move is a blunder, whereas after 19. bxc4, White would have had the upper hand.”

According to Deep Hiarcs (running for one minute), the difference in evaluation between 19. bxc4 and 19. Bxc4 is the difference between +0.2 and -0.3. So at worst, this “blunder” puts Blake a third of a pawn behind instead of being a fifth of a pawn ahead.  Whilst masters thrive on small measures, it seems an exaggeration to describe capture by the bishop as a blunder. The original narrative merely says that the pawn capture would have been preferable without overstating the difference. Perhaps there is a tendency when aided by an engine to lose sight of the natural uncertainties felt by chess players when ruminating on which piece to recapture with.

Drama at Hastings 1934-35

The foreword to the original book noted that the most dramatic moment of Michell’s career occurred at the annual Hastings Premier 1934-35. He was pitted in the last round against Sir George Thomas, who was then half a point ahead of Dr Euwe, having beaten Capablanca and Botvinnik. Some observers felt that the decent and patriotic course of action was to give Sir George an easy game.

As one later commentator remarked, “In almost any other country, at any other time, the result would have been foreordained: a friendly draw and Thomas finishes no worse than a tie for first. Indeed, many players had to be rooting for the universally beloved Thomas to win and come in sole first.”

There had not been a home winner since Henry Ernest Atkins in 1921, the first year the annual tournament was held. Thomas and Michell were England team-mates. However, Thomas slipped up and Michell pressed home his advantage. Thomas lost the game but tied for first place with Euwe and Flohr. Curiously, the original book did not include this crucial game. Hansen includes the game and praises Michell for his principled stance: “But there was a happy ending; Max Euwe, in a better position against tail-ender Norman, made a sporting gesture of his own by offering a draw unnecessarily and settling for a first-place tie with Thomas and Flohr.”

The second part

Hansen annotates the games in the new second part of the book in a readable style and does not let Stockfish intrude too much. He even offers his thoughts on some moves rather than taking the engine recommendations. The prose is functional: the game introductions lack the charm of the original game summaries. Whilst sometimes providing background information on the opponent, there is little attempt in the header to identify the key points from each game.

Hansen is consistent with the narrative style in the first part by avoiding long algebraic variations. Even if his move criticisms are sometimes anachronistic, he has been considerate in generally referring to older games when citing continuations. It must have been tempting to refer to games played in the database era.

The original book held to the hagiographic compiler’s conceit of not showing any losses save for the aforementioned misattribution. The reader would perhaps have gained more of an understanding of the subject’s character if presented with some games in which he struggled or indeed blundered. For example, Michell was crushed in 21 moves by Atkins at Blackpool in 1937 when he was still in his prime, even if he died a year later.

Hansen does not resist presenting Michell’s loss to Capablanca at Hastings in the Victory Congress of 1919. It was clear even then that Capablanca would be one of the next holders of the world championship. The game’s introductory text is misleading: “You don’t often get chances to play the best players in the world, let alone take points from them, even if it is ‘just’ a draw.” The implication is that this game (No. 41) is drawn whereas it is a win for Capablanca.  In total the book contains two losses, 14 draws and 51 wins for Michell.

In the majority of the games in the second part, Hansen focuses on blunders by Michell or his opponent. There is no doubt that the top players from a century ago were not as strong as the top players of today, but it seems churlish to show so many games with blunders. Comparatively few moves have been awarded an exclamation mark. Perhaps the book should have been shorter, with higher-quality games. However, on closer inspection, the “blunders” are treated in the modern sense as discussed above. They are not the traditional blunders, bad moves losing the game, that would have been described by a contemporary annotator. Rather, they are blunders in which the game evaluation has switched by a certain margin.

Michell, a follower of Nimzovich, focused on positional advantages; tactical skirmishes and sacrifices were few and far between. A slight exception to this style was found in the game Blake v Michell, Hastings, 29 December 1923:

Conclusion

R. P. Michell should be an inspiration to amateur players with a full-time career. He made a mark in the chess world using solid play, eschewing theoretical or sharp lines. He held his own against the strongest players in the world. Carsten Hansen has brought welcome attention to this forgotten English master. The new book nearly doubles the number of games covered and introduces modern engine analysis. The reader will find many examples of successful middle-game strategies. Above all, we learn that chess is a struggle: one should keep trying to improve the position and make things difficult for the opponent. I recommend this book, especially to club players looking for new chess ideas.

John Foley with the Alexander Cup
 John Foley with the Alexander Cup won by Kingston in 2021/22, 2022/23 and 2023/24

Kingston won the Alexander Cup, the Surrey team knockout tournament, in 1931/32 with Michell.

Book details :

  • Hardcover : 318 pages
  • Publisher:  CarstenChess (16 Mar. 2024)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10:8793812884
  • ISBN-13:978-8793812888
  • Product Dimensions: 15.24 x 1.83 x 22.86 cm

Tony Hughes hat-trick at All Saints Blitz

Tony Hughes wins All Saints Blitz IV on Wednesday 24 April 2024

Photograph: Tony Hughes (left) sweeping aside Stephen Moss while Ian Swann and Nick Grey watch in admiration

Tony Hughes glided to his third victory out of three appearances at the regular “Last Wednesday of the Month” blitz held at All Saints Church in central Kingston. The top seed never looked in any danger as he scored 4½/5, half a point ahead of fellow Wimbledon club member Stephen Carpenter and David Shalom from Kingston. Thirteen players participated in the event with another five playing casual chess in the atrium. This is a remarkable upsurge in chess activity at the church which only introduced chess at the turn of this year.

The play was brisk without any coffee breaks which meant that the event finished by noon having started at 10.15. David Rowson played the “Swiss Gambit” by losing to lower-rated David Shalom in the first round and hoped that the draw would be favourable thereafter but with only five rounds there was not enough time to catch up. David Shalom has been playing very well since he started taking chess seriously again this season and his only setback was a loss against Stephen Carpenter.

The suggestion of a sixth round may be taken up in the future if the number of participants continues to increase. Fortunately five rounds were sufficient to generate a single winner. Tony collected his customary box of chocolatey comestibles from Olivia Smithies, who came along as assistant controller.

Olivia had learned of this regular event while assisting at the annual King’s Head “Beer and Blitz” tournament at the weekend which commemorates members of the chess community who have died during the year. Kingston member Ameet Ghasi was runner- up to GM Eldar Gasanov at this year’s King’s Head event. Olivia was eager to observe the efficient manner in which a blitz tournament could be managed using an iPad. She may just have worked herself into a new role.

Tony Hughes receives first prize from Olivia Smithies

One of the attractions for Olivia is that this was a Chess and Crèche event. Immediately behind the chess section is the toddlers’ play area. Olivia was able to monitor the results whilst at the same time supervising her daughter, who is nearly three years old.

Chess and Crèche: all generations are catered for at All Saints

Thus chess activity at All Saints Church spans three generations – grandparents, parents and children. The next All Saints Blitz – the fifth in the series – will be held on Wednesday 29 May, starting at 10.15am and running until around 12.30pm.

David Rowson wins third All Saints Blitz in play-off

All Saints Blitz III held at All Saints Church, Kingston on 27 March 2024 over five rounds with a 3+7 time control.

David Rowson (right) receiving his prize from former Kingston Chess Club chair Peter Roche

David Rowson from Kingston Chess Club won the third edition of the All Saints Blitz in a play-off against Stephen Carpenter from Wimbledon Chess Club. The winner of the first two blitzes, Tony Hughes, was unavailable to participate citing “errands”. David and Stephen were running neck and neck throughout the tournament and drew their fourth-round encounter to end up on 4½/5 each. The prize was a large chocolate Easter egg, which David happily declared would be a present for his grand-daughter.

Stephen Carpenter (left) v David Rowson (round 4)

As part of the pastoral activities of the club, we invited Olga Champ, a urology nurse from Kingston Hospital, to talk on prostate cancer. Her talk took place after round one. Most of those playing on a Wednesday morning fall into the demographic where we must pay attention to men’s health. The talk explained what the prostate does, how it enlarges with age and how to test for malignancy with a PSA test and/or a biopsy. Olga stayed awhile to discuss the issue one-on-one. She was accompanied by Archana Sood, the Macmillan information and support manager at Kingston Hospital. The talk was well received and could be model for talks to other gatherings of chess players. The tournament concluded on schedule, despite including a talk. The play sped up; as Peter Roche put it with dark humour, “We know we don’t have much time left.”

Olga Champ giving some information on men’s health

Third place was shared by Kingstonians Ben Hambridge, Peter Roche and Nick Grey. Ben’s score of 3/5 was creditable given that he is a new player to the club with an estimated rating of 1600. Thirteen-year-old Joe Inch also did well, coming in with 50% in what we believe was his first over-the-board tournament.

This was the first time that we had an odd number of participants at 11. However, this turned out to be a bonus because the spare player was able to speak to the health visitor or was deployed to act as a chess instructor for one of the learners. The regular Wednesday-morning chess slot continues at the church, enlivened once a month by the Blitz.

Two learners with the Checkmate! book

The next Blitz tournament is scheduled for 24 April, running from 10.15am until 12.30pm

John Foley

John Foley (Surrey) v Colin Mackenzie (Middlesex)

Played at Cheam Parochial Hall on 2 March 2024 on board 2 in the SCCU under-2050 county match between Surrey and Middlesex

Surrey are doing well in the higher echelons of county chess. Its Open team qualified top of the Southern Counties league stage and its under-2050 team also qualified for the national finals by beating Middlesex in this crucial decider. Surrey needed to beat Middlesex to be sure of going through alongside Essex. Graham Alcock, the team manager, brought out his strongest team of the season so far, fortified by six juniors who performed admirably.

Middlesex’s Steven Coles (right) v Surrey’s Sebastian Galer on board 1

For each of the last three years I have played Colin McKenzie in this match. Our last game was rather short. This game was to be rather longer.

Tony Hughes grabs his second All Saints Blitz title

All Saints Blitz II played at All Saints Church, Kingston upon Thames, 28 February 2024

Above image: Third-place Peter Roche (left) v second-place John Bussmann

Tony Hughes repeated his victory in the first All Saints Blitz by coming ahead of a field of 10 with 4½/5 in the second All Saints Blitz, dropping only half a point to Nick Grey. The Wimbledon Chess Club player was awarded a box of Lindor chocolate truffles for his achievement. In second place with 4/5 was John Bussmann from Kingston Chess Club, who defeated four other Kingston players.

Tony Hughes (left) receiving his prize from Kingston president and tournament controller John Foley

Three players had not played over the board for many years. We welcomed back former Kingston Chess Club chair Peter Roche, who had not played since 2019. Marcus Baker had taken a 30-year break before some recent games for Wimbledon. Ian Swann had not played since his school days in Gillingham.

Foreground: Stephen Carpenter (L) v Peter Roche
Background: Stephen Moss (L) v Marcus Baker
Foreground: Robin Kerremans (left) v David Shalom

We were joined by a handful of spectators, some who had been former club players and some who liked to watch the chess spectacle in the splendid surroundings of the church. John Saunders, the chess journalist, came along and took the photographs shown here.

Final placings

4½ Tony Hughes
4 John Bussmann
3 Peter Roche, Marcus Baker
2½ Nick Grey

Tournament controller: John Foley

The All Saints Blitz takes place on the last Wednesday of each month in the morning. It is free to enter and open to all. If you would like to enter please complete the entry form. Places are limited.

Gordon Rennie (Wimbledon) v John Foley (Kingston)

Wimbledon 1 v Kingston 1, Surrey League division 1 match played at St Winifride’s Church Hall, Wimbledon on 15 February 2024

This was an important and convincing win by John Foley on board 4 of the crucial match between Wimbledon 1 and Kingston 1 in division 1 of the Surrey League. Kingston’s narrow victory in the match ended any fears of being drawn into a relegation dogfight and even gave us faint hopes of getting back into title contention in the unlikely event of leaders Epsom slipping up.

Roger de Coverly (Wessex A) v John Foley (CSC/Kingston 2)

Played in round 6 of the third division in the 4NCL at Warwick on 11 February 2024

Foreground: Roger de Coverly (left) and John Foley about to start (photo: Kate Cooke)

I was delighted to play against the man and the legend that is Roger de Coverly. Roger is the most prolific of the contributors to the English Chess Forum, a loosely moderated and often negative bulletin board which nonetheless serves to entertain and, very occasionally, inform those interested in the politics and happenings on the chess scene with no shortage of trivia and arcana. I dip into it infrequently as piranhas swim in those waters.

Roger is a model contributor who is generally well informed and polite even to his detractors, if indeed there are any. Roger has posted more than 21,000 comments and replies on the forum, usually supported by evidence and with a plausible argument. With an average of 3.68 posts per day, it is a wonder that Roger has any time left to play chess.

The game was played in the match between Wessex A and CSC/Kingston 2. The teams were evenly matched and we expected tough games. This game had several critical points. At one point I had a clear advantage and told myself not to relax – the bane of the Player with the Advantage. Alas, I failed to take my own advice and played a weak move which threw away my advantage. Roger then became the Player who Suddenly Gained the Advantage. He then fell into the trap of not adjusting his assessment, so that he played a defensive move when he could have taken full control of the game. This allowed the Player who Previously had the Advantage, Lost it and then Gained it Back to gratefully drive the game to a conclusion.

CSC/Kingston 1 goes top of 4NCL Division 2

Our first team continued their impressive run in the second division of the 4NCL with two victories this weekend whilst our second team are feeling the heat

The Four Nations Chess League (4NCL) third weekend took place on 10/11 February 2024 over two locations. Our first team, CSC/Kingston 1, played at the Mercure in Telford, whereas the second and third teams played at the Delta Marriott Hotel in Warwick. Our top team won both their matches and now sit atop the second division. There are only two weekends to go and bookies have stopped taking bets on whether we will get promoted to the first division. Team manager Kate Cooke played down the prospect, wisely taking one weekend at a time, especially as we have yet to play our main competitors.

For those unfamiliar with 4NCL, it is for national chess teams conducted over four divisions. It is played to the highest international standards, with strict rules about mobile phones. Players are randomly scanned for electronic devices as they enter the playing hall. Players are not permitted to visit the bookstall nor their car, for which the penalty is a default. The time control is 40 moves in 100 minutes followed by 50 minutes for the rest of the game. For each move there is an increment of 30 seconds, which means that players must always write down their moves, even if there is less than 5 minutes left.

Saturday 10 February

The first team line-up was strengthened by the addition of IM Graeme Buckley on board 1. In Saturday’s key game against rivals The Sharks 2, Graeme had a convincing victory over IM Peter Roberson. The match was won 5.5-2.5.


CSC/Kingston 1 riding high in the second division

Although CSC/Kingston 1 are riding high, a print of which should be framed, it should be noted that we have yet to play the teams in second, third and fourth places. Hence, the rigorous training sessions for the team conducted at our secret base in Surrey will be even more intensive.

Meanwhile, on Saturday over at Warwick, another recent recruit to the team, 15-year-old Luca Buanne, was top board for CSC/Kingston 2. The opponents were the hardy Hull and East Riding team, strengthened by some Ukrainian players. Luca made short work of his opponent in a sharp Pirc. The match was drawn 3-3.



Our third team played She Plays to Win, a training team for girls run by IM Lorin d’Costa. Although the girls were heavily outrated, they fought hard and drew the match. Nick Grey rued that he had lost to a 13-year-old, a common lament from the older generation.

Sunday 11 February

Our first team continued their winning ways beating the dangerous Anglian Avengers in the sixth round. The match was in the balance until going home time when Tom Farrand obtained a draw to secure victory. Plaudits to two first-team players who led the way with two wins each for the weekend: Peter Lalić and Clive Frostick. David Maycock launched a powerful attack against the Classical Caro-Kann.

Over at Warwick, our second team were facing the Wessex A team. The teams were evenly matched and the match score was level until the last game in which Wessex’s Allan Pleasants beat Julian Way with a tactical flourish.

The second team at the start of the match.
Left foreground: Roger de Coverly facing John Foley, Julian Way to John’s right


CSC/Kingston 2 are now struggling not to be relegated from Division 3. We have lost three matches by the smallest of margins 3.5-2.5. There are still five rounds to go conducted over a weekend in March and a long weekend in May. Unfortunately in March both the first team and the second team are playing in Telford and we have found it difficult to get our best teams together for the cross-country trip. We face the dissonant prospect of having one team in the first division and two teams in the fourth division next season.


Meanwhile, our third team battled The Full Ponty, which included in-form Tony Hughes on board 5, winner of the recent All Saints Blitz. We were outrated by an average of 200 elo points per player. However the team played out of their socks with wins for Petr Vachtfeidl on board 1, the newcomer Fabio Buanne (father of Luca) on board 6 and, at well past going home time, Nick Grey on board 4. Nick’s position did not look convincing, but he played the endgame well and pulled a victory out of the hat against a player he first faced in 1979. The drawn match means that CSC/Kingston 3 remains mid-table with little prospect of promotion unless we do exceptionally well in the next two weekends.

New recruit Fabio Buanne on the left scored 75% on his first 4NCL weekend

Tal’s rook lift

John Nunn becomes fellow of Oriel College, Oxford

John Nunn (left) with the Provost Lord Mendoza

Grandmaster John Nunn has been made an honorary fellow of Oriel College, Oxford, the highest award that a college can make. It symbolises recognition of the enormous contributions John has made to chess as well as his academic achievements. John can place this honour alongside that of honorary life vice-president of Kingston Chess Club. The college interviewed John Nunn last October, and he explained that the difference between playing chess as a young man and now is that once it was about improving and learning whereas now it is managed decline.

John played for Kingston Chess Club as a junior, winning the club championship in 1969 and 1970. He went up to Oxford in 1970 to read mathematics at the age of 15, the youngest undergraduate since 1520. He became a grandmaster and was awarded his doctorate in the same year, 1978, when he was aged 23.

John kindly returned to play for Kingston in the 2018 Alexander Cup final. He won his game in a narrow defeat to Surbiton. The previous time John had played for us was in 1974, a golden period for the club when it won both the Surrey Trophy and the Alexander Cup. The gap of 44 years in games played for the club must be a record. Kingston finally captured the coveted cup again in 2022.

John Foley

John Nunn early 1970s

Chris Briscoe v John Nunn, Alexander Cup Final, 2018

A grandmaster class in defence. Chris Briscoe goes all out in a kingside attack, but John Nunn has it covered.

John Nunn v Matthew Sadler, Lloyds Bank, 1993

John Nunn at his peak at brushing aside the 19-year-old Matthew Sadler, who went on to be one of England’s strongest grandmasters.

See also: Why I gave up chess because of John Nunn