Author Archives: stephenmoss

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.

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 Saunders

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:

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’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

Will Taylor (Kingston) v Paul Dupré (Surbiton)

Thames Valley League division 1 match played at the Willoughby Arms, Kingston on 15 May 2023

This game was played in Kingston first team’s final league match of the all-conquering 2022/23 season. Will has been a key figure in the first team’s success, travelling down from north London to play for us, and here he recorded the first win of the evening, defeating Paul Dupré on board 5 in a game in which both players sought to create complications from the start.

Kingston A beat Surbiton to preserve unbeaten record

Thames Valley League division 1 match played at the Willoughby Arms, Kingston on 15 May 2023

This was the first team’s last league match of the season – there is just the Thames Valley Knockout final to come on 22 May – and they signed off in emphatic style with a 5.5-0.5 win (later adjusted to 4.5-0.5 for reasons explained below) over Surbiton A. This was pretty well the strongest team of regulars we could muster, and David Maycock, Vladimir Li, Silverio Abasolo, Will Taylor and captain David Rowson all recorded victories on the night.

Surbiton’s David Scott held Peter Lalić to a draw on board 2 to prevent a whitewash, though Vladimir Li was unhappy about the circumstances of his win on board 3. Vladimir felt that his opponent had been distracted by a disturbance in the playing room – another player was complaining that his clock had not been working properly – in a horribly double-edged position in a time scramble, and he asked the league to consider declaring the game void.

Will Taylor’s game against Paul Dupré was the first to finish. Paul played Alekhine’s Defence and the game was super-sharp, with both players throwing caution to the wind – it is end of term after all. In this position, Will played 10. g4, which is not necessarily objectively the best move but certainly succeeded in setting up a slugging match.

In his post-match analysis, Will reckoned this was the key position:

Paul played 15…h5, which Will says weakens the kingside. “After that it was one-way traffic. 15…e6 was the way to go, with the idea 16. dxe6 Bc6 17.Nf3 Qe7. Black has activated his pieces and will pick up the pawn at his leisure. With the centre open he will always have counterplay. White will continue to attack with Kf1 and h5, but Stockfish gives a slight advantage to Black.”

Will Taylor recorded the night’s first win, thwarting Paul Dupré’s Alekhine’s Defence. Photograph: John Saunders

On board 1, David Maycock was up against Altaf Chaudhry, always a difficult opponent. Altaf played a Sicilian, and this was the position after 16 moves with White to play:

David plays a wonderful move here, which he had clearly been preparing for some time: 17. Rxf7! Grabbing the rook would lead to disaster: 17…Kxf7 18.Qxd7+ Kf8 19.Rf1+ Bf5 20.Qxe6 g6 21.Qf6+ Kg8 22.Bf3 h5 23.Bxa8. Altaf sensibly didn’t take it and defended well, but used so much time pondering his response to David’s bolt from the blue that he lost on time. Definitely a candidate for move of the season and brilliantly calculated by David.

On board 4, Silverio Abasolo continued his superb run of recent form, showing his characteristic directness and aggression to beat Surbiton captain Angus James with the black pieces, and on board 6 David Rowson also won with Black against Nick Faulks. “The story of the game was that Nick gave up a pawn to try to get a kingside attack,” David said afterwards, “but it turned out that he couldn’t make anything of this and in the end I rather fortuitously engineered a position where he either had to give up a rook or his queen.”

David Rowson, Kingston’s first-team captain, led his side to an astonishing 19 wins and one draw in 20 matches

Typical modesty from the Kingston captain, who has lead his team to an astonishing 19 wins in 20 matches across both the Surrey and Thames Valley leagues. The only match the Rowsonites did not win was the surprise home draw against Surbiton B back in early February. So a 95% win rate. Should we fret about half-point that got away? Didn’t the makers of Ming vases put in the odd flaw because they believed only God could achieve perfection? This will be our get-out too (though secretly that off-night still rankles).

The draw on board 2 between David Scott and Peter Lalić was a largely technical struggle. So technical, in fact, that Peter wondered afterwards if he was losing his appetite for what might be called bread-and-butter chess. “I did not enjoy this game,” he complained. “I miss sacrificial attacks!” One cannot be Tal every night, Peter. Sometimes you have to play like Petrosian.

Vladimir Li’s vigorously contested game against Liam Bayly ended with Liam making a game-ending blunder. But Vladimir, who is a great chess purist and thought Liam generally had the better of the game, believed his opponent’s concentration had been affected by the noises off and asked that it either be declared a draw or voided completely. After a week’s deliberation, the Thames Valley League acceded to this request and the result of the Li-Bayly game was annulled, making the official match score 4.5-0.5. One of the stranger episodes in Thames Valley chess history.

Stephen Moss

Charles Bullock (Maidenhead) v Peter Andrews (Kingston)

Thames Valley League division 2 match played at St Luke’s Community Hall, Maidenhead on 8 May 2023

Peter Andrews’ victory in this game – the last to finish on the night – earned a 3-3 draw for Kingston B away to league leaders Maidenhead A, and ensured that the team would not be relegated from division 2 of the Thames Valley League – a threat which has been hanging over us for most of the season. Both players went for the jugular in this game, and the mate which Peter conjures up – while in severe time trouble – is a most satisfying and elegant one. A memorable game to end a hard-fought match.

Kingston B ensure survival with plucky draw at Maidenhead

Thames Valley League division 2 match played at St Luke’s Community Hall, Maidenhead on 8 May 2023

Peter Andrews (left) about to deliver checkmate against Charles Bullock in the crucial game which drew the match

The worries are over. Kingston B ensured their survival in Thames Valley division 2 with a fine away draw against league leaders Maidenhead A. That means we are mathematically certain to stay up, with two games still to play – against Ealing B and Hounslow A. Congratulations to captain Gregor Smith and his team. At one point earlier in the year, survival looked very dicey, but the second part of the season has shown much-improved performances.

The match started badly for Kingston, with an early reverse for Charlie Cooke on board 6. His opponent’s Danish Gambit worked beautifully in terms of opening lines of attack, and Charlie quickly had to give up a piece. He fought on for a while, but White kept the upper hand and allowed no real counterplay.

There was better news elsewhere. Julian Way played an excellent positional game to beat the talented Ukrainian junior Bohdan Terler; Alan Scrimgour drew with another highly rated junior, Soham Kumar (credit to Maidenhead for putting their young players on the high boards); and I was happy to get a draw with Black against a player rated 200 points above me.

Gregor Smith was outmanoeuvred in time trouble on board 5, leaving Peter Andrews having to win with Black on board 2 for us to get anything out of the match. This he did in spectacular fashion after a dramatic game in which both players went for the jugular. How can two such mild-mannered characters engage in such brutality over the board? This was the unusual position in which Peter, who had been playing on the increment for quite some time, delivered checkmate:

48… Nd5++ is the very satisfying coup de grâce, though as Peter points out Stockfish thinks Nd1++ is aesthetically more pleasing, perhaps because the black king is joining in the collective action, singlehandedly denying his rival monarch an escape square on f4. Either way, a lovely finish to a very satisfying game, and a great result for the team to get the draw that guaranteed division 2 safety.

Stephen Moss

Fearless CSC/Kingston 1 win promotion to 4NCL division 2

Victories on the final Mayday bank holiday weekend against the three other strongest teams in division 3 West ensured CSC/Kingston 1 would be playing in the big league next year

CSC/Kingston’s Swedish star Martin Jogstad (left) prepares to play IM Chris Baker in Monday’s title decider

What an extraordinary weekend this was for CSC/Kingston, ably led by Kate and Charlie Cooke, who have built up a formidable (and just as important friendly and mutually supportive) stable of players. The first team, with Swedish star Martin Jogstad flying in from Germany to land 3/3 on top board, swept aside the three other top sides in division 3 West to win the title and ensure division 2 status next season. And the second team performed admirably to gain a highly creditable eighth place in the 35-team division 4 – important because the proposed slimming down of the 4NCL next season may mean a cull of some lower-placed teams.

CSC/Kingston 1 were only in division 3 West because another team had dropped out, allowing them to move up from division 4. They joined the party after missing the first weekend, where they would have met two of the lowest-rated teams in the division, and were allocated draws for those missed matches, in effect giving the other strong teams in the division a head start of two match points and up to half a dozen game points. But they proceeded to win their next nine matches – spread over four weekends – on the bounce to claim the title. A “commanding performance“, as one observer noted.

On this final weekend, Chessable White Rose 3 were mercilessly swept aside 6-0 on Saturday. In fact, this was a rare occurrence of a team not even managing zero, as they were deducted a point for a default. West is Best 2 were then beaten 4-2 in a close match on Sunday – the key moment being a brilliancy by Tom Farrand on board 3 which turned a potential game loss into a victory as he marched a pawn home. And on Monday, though outrating CSC/Kingston on every board except 1, long-time league leaders and title favourites Warwickshire Select 1 were also beaten 4-2, with fine wins by Martin Jogstad on board 1 (despite the anxiety of having to catch an evening plane from Gatwick back to Germany) and by the immensely talented Ewan Wilson on board 6. An epic victory in the match to cap an epic season.

Mayday, Mayday! The players gather for the final round of the 4NCL season in Warwick on bank holiday Monday

The second team also fought hard, going down 5-1 to a strong Poole Patzers side on Saturday, but bouncing back on Sunday to beat the very competitive and superbly coached She Plays To Win Lionesses team, and then being edged out 4-2 by the Masceteers on Monday. Special mention to Kingston president John Foley, who played for six and a half hours on the final day in an effort to squeeze out the win that would have drawn the match. As is often the way, overpressing in pursuit of a win meant he ended up losing the game, but it was a heroic and honourable effort – putting the needs of the team before his own interests. His game against the Masceteers’ Patrick Duncan was the very last one to finish at the Warwick venue.

Much uncertainty surrounds next year’s competition as the organisers search for potential venues and reassess the structure of the divisions. But this has been a memorable debut season for the CSC/Kingston partnership, and appearing in the rarefied atmosphere of division 2 next year is an enticing prospect. Thanks to Kate and Charlie for all they have done this year – the amount of admin, with travel, hotels and the hunting down of top-notch Indian restaurants, should never be underestimated – and thanks to all the players, who trekked to distant hotels beside anonymous motorway junctions, boldly confronted large and potentially enervating fried breakfasts, and despite everything performed brilliantly at the board.

Stephen Moss

Final table for Division 3 West

Final table for Division 4