Author Archives: stephenmoss

Lalić takes crown on night when juniors shine

An impressive performance against a strong field gives Peter Lalić victory in the third Kingston Summer Blitz tournament

The final blitz tournament of the Kingston Summer Blitz Series was won by Peter Lalić. He scored 5.5/6 to hold off a strong field which included two titled players, some very talented juniors and a few new faces. Peter defeated Staines’ Ye Kyaw in the final round to clinch first place. Kyaw (4/6), who had a very impressive tournament, took the U2000 grading prize. 

There was a titanic battle in round 4, with FM Vladimir Li taking on IM Graeme Buckley. A minor piece and pawns endgame went on for well over 100 moves, with both managing to promote. A tense finish, with Buckley playing on the increment, eventually ended in a draw, with the engrossed crowd (and tournament organisers fearing a very late night) breathing a sigh of relief.

FM Vladimir Li (left) and IM Graeme Buckley had a titanic battle in round 4 which eventually ended in a draw

However, stealing the show as ever was the seven-strong junior contingent, playing with confidence and poise. Youngsters William Lin (2.5/6) and Ethan Bogerd (3/6) picked up some impressive results and look like promising prospects, while Jaden Mistry again mopped up the giantkiller prize with another two victories against 2000-rated opponents. Jaden continues to go from strength to strength. 

Special mention to Ben Hambridge, who popped his head into the club before heading back to university and picked up the U1600 grading prize with a solid 4/6. And thanks to Julian Way for acting as tournament organiser, allowing me to play this time. We will be back in the winter with the next edition. 

Prize winners

1st – Peter Lalić (5.5/6)
2nd – IM Graeme Buckley (5/6)
3rd – FM Vladimir Li (4.5/6)
U2000 grading prize – Ye Kyaw (4/6)
U1600 grading prize – Ben Hambridge (4/6)
Giantkiller prize – Jaden Mistry

Top 10

Report by Gregor Smith, Kingston Summer Blitz organiser

Abasolo triumphs in Kingston’s latest summer blitz

Silverio Abasolo scores 5.5/6 against a powerful field to win the second blitz tournament of the summer at the Willoughby Arms

The Kingston Blitz series continued with 21 players from Kingston, Surbiton and Richmond chess clubs congregating on Monday 17 July for six rounds of 7+3 blitz. A strong field was assembled, with seven players rated above 2000, plus a few dangerous juniors lurking for scalps.

It was one of those juniors – Kingston’s fast-improving Jaden Mistry – who set the early pace, with impressive victories over 2000+ rated players Will Taylor and Julian Way. An impressive feat, all but wrapping up the giantkiller prize with four rounds to spare.

MIke Healey (foreground, left) faces Graham Alcock on top board, with the giantkilling Jaden Mistry beyond him

Round 3 saw the first clash of the titans, as Peter Lalić and Silverio Abasolo faced off in fierce fashion. With both down to their final three seconds, Silverio played at lightning pace, building his time back up to 30 seconds before managing to force his pawns to promotion to clinch the game. 

Meanwhile, Mike Healey and David Maycock had successfully navigated the first three rounds with perfect scores and met on top board in round 4. Mike opened up his kingside, putting pressure on David’s defences with rooks on a1 and b1 threatening from range, and eventually smashed through to pick up the exchange. Mike then began to force home his material advantage, grabbing pawns, but David, who never gives up, battled on and managed to fork Mike’s rook and king, turning the tables and securing victory. “You always manage a swindle, David,” chirped Peter Lalić.

Silverio Abasolo (left) gets the better of David Maycock in their crucial fifth-round game

David (4/4) would now face Silverio (3.5/4) in what looked to be a fifth-round title decider, and it was Silverio, playing with the black pieces, who prevailed. In the final round, Silverio was up against Joseph Morrison, a talented Surbiton junior who put up another excellent Kingston Blitz performance, gaining his third consecutive U2000 grading prize. Something tells me he won’t be eligible for this category for much longer. However, it was the impressive Abasolo who came out on top, winning the tournament with an unbeaten 5.5/6.

Prize winners

1st – Silverio Abasolo (5.5/6) (prize = £50)
2nd – David Maycock (5/6)
U2000 prize – Joseph Morrison (4/6)
U1600 prize – Jaden Mistry/Shaurya Handu (3/6)
Giantkiller prize – Jaden Mistry

Top 13

Report by Gregor Smith, Kingston Summer Blitz organiser

Hayden Holden v Ben Widdicombe

Wernick Cup game played at the Sultan pub, Wimbledon, on 26 June 2023

Newcomer Hayden Holden is enjoying a fine run in the Wernick Cup – a Surrey Association individual trophy for players of about 1600 ECF and below – visibly growing in self-belief, as this fine attacking game shows.

Li wins opening Kingston summer blitz tournament

Vladimir Li scores 5.5/6 to see off a strong field in the first of a series of blitzes at the Willoughby Arms planned for the summer

After a successful pilot in April, competitive blitz returned to the Willoughby Arms on Monday 19 June as Kingston Chess Club hosted the first of a series of summer blitz tournaments. It was a six-round Swiss with the “long” (for blitz!) time control of seven minutes plus a three-second increment per move. Twenty-two Kingstonians welcomed four players from neighbouring Surbiton Chess Club – we are keen to open these events to other local clubs whenever possible – in a 26-player field. 

Round one went to form, with the more experienced players successfully fending off the recent influx of Kingston juniors, who enthusiastically battled away all evening. The highlight of the second round was a delightful (except for his opponent) smothered mate by Josh Lea, whose forced queen sac on g1 was followed by Nf2++, leaving Jimmy Kerr’s king helplessly stranded in the corner. “Just like you do in the puzzles!”, Josh remarked wittily. Philidor, after whom this mating pattern is named, would no doubt share Josh’s pleasure. Henceforth, we will call this Lea’s Legacy.

The playing room at the Willoughby is packed as 26 hopefuls do battle in the first Kingston Summer Blitz

The first upset came in round 3 as club president John Foley got the better of reigning Kingston blitz champion Peter Lalić. John has annotated this interesting game. A less interesting game played out on board 3, where Alan Scrimgour’s queen and king fork on move five saw an early resignation and wry smile from Surbiton’s Graham Alcock. A distinctly unneighbourly gesture from the Kingston chair.

In round 4, Foley claimed another scalp, this time of Kingston star David Maycock, who flagged in time trouble. That put Foley, who claims to be only a moderate blitz player, on the perfect score of 4/4, sharing the lead with Vladimir Li, whose victory against Alan Scrimgour also took him to 4/4.

At the same time, the action was hotting up on the lower boards – in every sense, as it was a very warm evening – with the usual blitz madness of spectacular blunders, swindles and flagging in winning positions. Nick Grey was unfortunate to lose on time against Stephen Moss as he was about to deliver the coup de grâce, in a game Nick had completely dominated. What a cruel form of chess blitz is.

Foley and Li faced off in round 5, in what looked to be the tournament decider. And it was Li who prevailed, putting the Kingston president in an unbreakable bind to go a full point ahead of the chasing pack. Li went on to draw with Peter Lalić in an entertaining and richly tactical final-round game to claim outright first prize with an unbeaten 5.5/6. All in all, another successful running of the Kingston Blitz, which was played in great spirit. We will be back on Monday 17 July for the next edition.

Vladimir Li (left) receives his prize from Gregor Smith for winning the first Kingston Summer Blitz

Prize winners

1st Vladimir Li (5.5/6) (prize = £50)
2nd= John Foley (4.5/6)
2nd= Alan Scrimgour (4.5/6)
2nd= David Maycock (4.5/6)
U2000 prize – Jojo Morrison (4/6)
U1600 prize – Jaden Mistry/Josh Lea (3/6)
Giantkiller prize – John Foley

Top 10

Report by Gregor Smith, Kingston Summer Blitz organiser

Kingston 2 avoid the drop in Surrey Div 2 (with a little help)

Surrey League division 2 match played at the Willoughby Arms, Kingston on 29 May 2023

Well that, frankly, was bizarre. This was a crunch relegation match between Kingston 2 and South Norwood 1. Lose it and we would go down to division 3. If South Norwood 1, who on their day can field a strong side, were to lose by more than 5-2, they would be relegated. We expected them to come with a strong team. As it was, only four South Norwood players showed up.

The three defaults gave us an instant 3-0 lead. We were almost safe without having to push a pawn – thank you South Norwood! Alan Scrimgour then agreed an early-ish draw with Paul Dupré on board 2 to ensure a drawn match – enough for us to leapfrog Surbiton 1 and survive in the division. Soon after, Nick Grey agreed a draw with South Norwood captain Simon Lea on board 5 to win the match and ensure we finished the division clear of the relegation zone. That left two extremely hard-fought games: Peter Andrews against the 2220-rated Marcus Osborne on board 1 and David Shalom against Ibrahim Abouchakra on board 6.

Peter played excellently, pressing throughout and having the better of the game, but Marcus is nothing if not resourceful. He kept posing counter-threats and setting traps, and in time trouble Peter blundered and allowed a mate. Peter was, naturally, not best pleased, but the consolation is that he has had a tremendous season and contributed hugely both to the first team’s triumphs and to keeping both B teams in the second divisions of the Surrey and Thames Valley leagues.

David Shalom was also on top in his game, winning the exchange, but Ibrahim used his bishop well against David’s rook to control a pawn advance, eventually queening and forcing mate. Again, disappointment for David, but his return to competitive chess this season has been a great success, and he played a key role in the vital second-team victory away to Surbiton 1 which helped make survival in this tough division possible.

The four players from South Norwood had done well, limiting Kingston’s victory to 4-3, which means they, too, will survive in division 2, sending Surbiton 1 down. Truly, a bizarre conclusion to a very strange evening. The moral of this tale may be “Don’t play league chess matches on bank holidays.”

Stephen Moss, Kingston 2 acting captain in Surrey League

Kingston win Thames Valley Knockout to seal historic ‘Quadruple’

Thames Valley Knockout final v Harrow played at the Willoughby Arms, Kingston on 22 May 2023

Kingston had a considerable rating edge over Harrow in the Thames Valley Knockout final, but we knew they had some strong players, including the fast-improving Bodhana Sivanandan, who last year represented England at the Fide World Cadet Championships in the under-eight girls age group, coming second.

I welcomed Harrow in my capacity as chair of Kingston and, with Harrow’s permission, spoke of my personal game history with Harrow’s sadly deceased and much-missed IM Colin Crouch. I lost to him four times: three times in Scotland, where Colin was a regular visitor, and finally in a league match in which Colin showed his legendary attacking prowess by forcing mate with a rook sacrifice followed by a queen sacrifice.

Thames Valley Knockout captain Alan Scrimgour (standing) observing the match. Photograph: John Foley

On board 1 David Maycock unusually found himself well ahead on the clock as his opponent arrived late. The critical moment in the game came when David accepted an unsound bishop sacrifice for a bunch of pawns. He carefully defended, exchanged material and was clearly winning when his opponent lost on time.

David Maycock accepted a bishop sac which proved to be unsound and won on time. Photograph: John Foley

Peter Lalić started with his trademark Nc3 and h4 opening. He developed quickly and broke through on f7 when his opponent failed to stop him adding a knight on e5 to the other one already on g5 (see position below).

With Black’s king on the run, an attempt to find counterplay backfired when Peter added the b-file to his attacking lines. After an exchange sac on c7 he had unstoppable threats of mating in either two or four moves. A tremendous game by Peter, making it 2-0 to the Deadly Duo.

Peter Lalić played a characteristically brilliant attacking game to win on board 2. Photograph: John Saunders

Next to finish was board 3, where a draw resulted after Vladimir Li repelled Steven Coles’ kingside pressure to leave a broadly equal position. It was now down to the bottom three boards, where Silverio Abasolo seemed to be building a dangerous kingside attack, Will Taylor – down on the clock – had given up a pawn for counterplay, and David Rowson was pressing in the middlegame, with his hanging pawns producing this dynamic and double-edged position:

Against Will on board 5, Bodhana was playing calmly to incrementally increase her advantage, though Will did have a golden chance to equalise on move 36:

Here 36…Qxc4 leads to a probable draw. Will chose the plausible 36. Ra2 instead. Bodhana blocked with Rd2 and, instead of exchanging rooks, Will then played 37…Ra3, freeing up White’s c-pawn to create mayhem as it advanced. This was the final position:

Rising star Bhodana Sivanandan annotates her board 5 game against Will Taylor. Photograph: John Foley

This was Will’s third game against Bodhana and his first loss, as he described ruefully (but with great good humour and humility) afterwards. “I’ve had the privilege of playing this remarkable young lady three times now,” he said. “In our first game, nine months ago, she weighed in at a mere 1290 Fide rating points (though grossly underrated, of course). But she is now up to 2000 ECF and close to 1800 Fide, and still improving rapidly. After our last game, I told her ‘You’ll get me next time!’, which unfortunately for me turned out to be correct. This time it’s my turn to proclaim: ‘I’ll be back!’ I look forward to our next game, albeit with some trepidation, and to following Bodhana’s chess career as it develops.” Has the Willoughby Arms hosted a potential women’s world champion?

Bodhana’s win made it Kingston 2.5-Harrow 1.5, and it was all to play for. Silverio’s game had turned in Harrow captain Nevil Chan’s favour. He had castled queenside and broken through there with queen and rook. Things were looking decidedly dicey, and Kingston’s chances seemed to lie with David on board 6. He had exchanged his hanging pawns for a passed pawn, and was pressing on the a4-e8 diagonal.

There were inaccuracies on both sides as the time grew short, but David eventually transposed to a winning queen ending courtesy of his advanced c-pawn.

David Rowson took Kingston over the line with a hard-fought win on board 6. Photograph: John Saunders

David’s win meant the title was Kingston’s, but by what margin? Back on board 4, Silverio had barely survived the counterattack from Black and was now a piece down, with queen against queen and knight. However, Nevil’s exposed king gave the Kingston player some chances, and in the end Silverio found a perpetual check to draw.

Silverio’s valiant escape made the final score 4-2 to Kingston, in a close match where Harrow did well given the rating disparity. Kingston thus added the Thames Valley Knockout crown to the Surrey League’s Alexander Cup and our two first division wins in the Surrey and Thames Valley leagues. We believe this “Quadruple” has never been achieved before. Congratulations to all the captains, players and supporters who made this historic achievement for the club possible.

Alan Scrimgour, Kingston chair and captain of the Thames Valley Knockout team

Hayden Holden v Kamaljit Sood

Wernick Cup game played at the Sultan pub, Wimbledon, on 22 May 2023

Hayden is a relatively new member at Kingston – one of the group of young players who joined after lockdown – and has already made a huge contribution to all aspects of the club. As this game in section four of the Surrey Individual (designed for players of about 1500 ECF and below) shows, he is making rapid progress and promises to be a real force in future years.

My encounter with a GM

When you play a grandmaster, it’s win-win – unless you get completely blown off the board of course. But that wasn’t about to happen … Was it?

Gregor Smith

Following a last-minute whim, last Sunday I found myself sitting on the District Line travelling to the Kensington Rapidplay. After polishing off my Greggs sausage roll (pre-tournament fuel of the highest order) I decided to take a look at the tournament player list and size up the field. I noticed I was seeded exactly halfway – 30th out of 60 entrants. I gathered, depending on byes and no shows, that I was either going to be playing against the unrated junior at the bottom of the list (who is probably actually rated about 2000) or, against a GM. Thankfully, it was the latter.

GM Eldar Gasanov from Ukraine, a regular on the London rapid and blitz scene, currently rapidplay rated 2388, peaking at 2560 in 2019 when he participated in the World Rapid and Blitz Championship. Gasanov boasts some impressive recent scalps in chess.com’s flagship “Titled Tuesday” event, taking down Benjamin Bok, Ray Robson, David Paravyan and Shak Mamedyarov. He also managed a draw with Nigel Short back in 2008.

I had zero nerves, a refreshing change from every other time I sit down at a chess board. I was really excited and just hoped I wasn’t going to be first finished out of the 65 boards in the playing hall.

“Start White’s clock!” intoned the arbiter. My opponent, who did indeed have the white pieces (in case he needed that extra boost) wasn’t at the table. The arbiters said that after five minutes, you would be re-paired. For a minute I thought I wasn’t going to get my dream game, but thankfully 30 seconds later he arrived. Since my return to chess, I’ve noticed that all the good players are always late. Why is this!? Indolence, poor timekeeping, or some deep psychological strategy to unsettle their opponents by saying “Look, I know I can win even with a time disadvantage.”

Although his clock was ticking (20+5 time control), Gasanov wasn’t in a hurry, taking his time to get settled, de-layer, position his coffee and adjust his pieces – coolness personified. He accepted my slightly greasy (Greggs-inflected) handshake, and we were off…

Be warned, what follows is not a detailed and educational annotation of the game. I’m not sure I can offer that. But I hope to take you through what was going through my mind while trying to beat – well, at least survive against – a GM.


Kingston B pull off shock win at Hounslow

Thames Valley League division 2 match played at the Royal British Legion, Hounslow on 22 May 2023

Well, this was a turn-up for the books. Having successfully retained our place in division 2 of the Thames Valley League, there was zero pressure on us for this trip to play Hounslow A, who outrated the Kingston B side by more than 70 points a board. Perhaps that was the secret to our surprise victory – we could play with freedom and without fear.

Julian Way and Mateusz Dydak were well matched on board 1 and, with neither making obvious progress, agreed a shortish draw. Boards 5 and 6 were also evenly matched in rating terms, and though Charlie Cooke went the exchange up in his game, his opponent forced a perpetual. So far, as expected. However, what happened on boards 2, 3 and 4, where Hounslow held a substantial ratings advantage, was much less predictable.

On board 2 I played my usual unduly passive Scandinavian, but managed to hold my own in the opening without undue difficulty. We reached this position on move 29, with White to play:

Here White should just exchange queens and offer a draw, which, given the 300-point rating disparity, I would have taken, but my opponent was keen to maintain pressure along the g-file and played Qg3. This is, if not immediately losing, extremely bad for White: 29… Rd1 30. Kf1 Qd2 and the loss of at least a pawn is inevitable. I managed to get to a king and pawn endgame that was completely winning, but then made valiant attempts not to win. My opponent may even have had a theoretical draw, but happily for me (and despite my wretched endgame play) eventually lost on time.

Kingston captain Gregor Smith put up a tenacious fight against the canny Leon Fincham on board 3, but eventually succumbed in time trouble. That left Nick Grey up against Hounslow captain David White on board 4, and, in a closed Sicilian, Nick played superbly to win the game with Black and secure a memorable victory for the Bs by 3.5-2.5. A tremendous end to the season after all the travails earlier in the year.

Stephen Moss

Refreshed Kingston B enjoy comfortable win over Ealing B

Thames Valley League division 2 match played at the Willoughby Arms, Kingston on 15 May 2023

A packed playing room with two matches underway: KIngston B’s Byron Eslava and Hayden Holden in foreground

Finally safe from relegation after last week’s draw at Maidenhead, it was pressure off as we welcomed Ealing B to the Willoughby Arms for the final Thames Valley division 2 home match of the season. We rang the changes and gave opportunities to two rising stars from the third team, Hayden Holden and Jaden Mistry, and they did not disappoint. 

Hayden gained his first full point for the second team with an impressive victory on board 4. He launched a scary-looking kingside attack and the pressure told as his opponent poorly assessed a recapture. That gave Hayden the initiative and he expertly converted. 

Jaden and Gabriele Palmer jostled for a positional edge in a closed middlegame after an advanced Caro-Kann on board 5. Jaden, playing with the black pieces, was the first to break through, winning the exchange. However, White had counterplay, pushing pawns on the queenside, and Jaden settled for a draw. A mature, calculated performance – and great to see Jaden opening his account for the second team. 

On top board, Julian Way won impressively against Ealing captain Leslie Pringle. Julian managed to trap his opponent’s bishop to go a piece up early on, and Pringle duly resigned when he was about to lose the exchange for good measure. 

There were draws on boards 2 and 3 from Nick Grey and Byron Eslava, the latter gaining his first points for Kingston after joining the club earlier in the year and playing only a handful of league matches. We hope to see a lot more of Byron next season. With Ealing defaulting board 6, that left the final score at 4.5-1.5 to Kingston. Our final game awaits at Hounslow next week. It will be a tough match against their first team, but it’s nice to go there with our relegation worries well and truly behind us.

Gregor Smith, Kingston B captain in the Thames Valley League