Author Archives: Stephen Moss

About Stephen Moss

Stephen is an author of books on cricket and chess and a journalist with the Guardian.

Kingston A snatch thrilling draw at Richmond

Thames Valley division 1 match played at the Adelaide, Teddington on 23 January 2024

At about 10.15pm we had given this match up as lost. We were 3-1 down to a highly motivated Richmond team and the two games still in progress were far from clear. But there was a glorious sting in the tale, with Kingston managing to win both those games to secure a draw that felt like a win. A truly great escape.

The first game to finish was the board 6 clash between Alan Scrimgour, with Black, and Jon Eckert, one of two Richmond players in the match who also turn out for Kingston in the Surrey League. Jon played the Grand Prix Attack against Alan’s Sicilian, and a draw was agreed when queens were traded on move 23. Will Taylor and Chris Baker also sued for peace on board 4 – another very satisfactory result for Kingston with Black. So far, so good.

Richmond and Kingston play out a dramatic draw in the elegant surroundings of the Adelaide pub in Teddington

But then disaster. John Foley, a late call-up to the team because of illness to another player, unexpectedly lost with White to Bertie Barlow on board 5, dropping the exchange and never really recovering. Bertie is a dangerous player if you give him the initiative, as he proved here, playing quickly and aggressively. 2-1 to Richmond and we were in trouble; in a six-board match there is very little scope for recovery.

The trouble deepened when IM Gavin Wall, Richmond’s time-honoured board 1, beat FM Vladimir Li in the battle of the titled players. Gavin as usual played the Dutch Defence, to which Vladimir responded with great vigour, building up a decent advantage. But he made one slip in the early middlegame on which the pair’s post-mortem suggested the entire game hinged. After that, Gavin was able to trade queens, break up Vladimir’s pawn structure and enter an endgame in which he cleverly engineered a zugzwang which doomed the Kingston man to defeat. A high-class game and an extremely impressive performance from Gavin.

That left Peter Lalić playing with Black against Mike Healey on board 2 and Kingston captain David Rowson with White up against John Burke on board 3. Both had to win just to draw the match. The experts reckoned David had a small plus, but that Peter might be slightly worse (a judgement not borne out by later engine analysis) in a complicated position. Perhaps we can still draw the match, a friend texted optimistically. “Unlikely”, I replied, resigned to defeat.

Happily Peter and David did not have the same sense of resignation. In the Healey-Lalić match-up, the queens were traded early (as is Peter’s wont) and there then followed much minor-piece jockeying for position. This was the situation after 23…Nf7:

The win for Peter made it 3-2. Now it was all down to Captain Rowson against John Burke. “I played the opening horribly,” says David, “wasting time and allowing him to gain a significant positional advantage, but it wasn’t so easy for him to exploit it. The pluses I had were my rook on the b-file and my light-squared bishop on the h1-a8 diagonal.”

“After my 19. Rd5, which was actually a bad mistake, I think my opponent panicked a bit and just wanted to exchange some pieces to clarify the situation,” David reflected later, “but this resulted in my winning the pawn on b7. I think it was fairly easy for me to win after that. I just tried to be careful not to allow him any counterplay. My pieces were much more active then. I hadn’t realised that Peter had won and thought we’d lost the match already, so it was a nice surprise to find that my win had drawn the match.” Disappointing for Richmond, who are currently bottom of the division 1 table, but very satisfying for Kingston when earlier all had seemed lost.

Stephen Moss

Kingston B match at Hounslow ends in farce

Thames Valley division 2 match played at the Royal British Legion, Hounslow on 22 January 2024

This Thames Valley division 2 meeting between Kingston B and Hounslow A ended in farce because Hounslow insisted on using clocks without incremental time controls. That meant players in winning positions could be flagged – as happened to two Kingston players – and one of our other players was so anxious about his time running out that he also let slip a good position.

We managed to escape with a creditable 3-3 draw with Hounslow’s A team thanks to a very quick win by Julian Way against the 2000-rated Seshagiri Vaddadi’s Sicilian. Julian went the exchange up early on, consolidated his advantage and Seshagiri resigned, realising that against a player of Julian’s class he faced a painful evening.

Alan Scrimgour on board 2 drew with the veteran Leon Fincher; I drew with Thames Valley chair David White on 3; Kingston captain Gregor Smith overcame a rating disadvantage to drew with Frank Zurstiege on board 4; new recruit Jameel Jameel had an excellent draw with Eugene Gregorio on 6; and Dieter McDougall lost to JJ Padam on 5. An unsatisfactory and testy evening, but at least we managed not to lose the match, and as a result remain well placed in the division.

Stephen Moss

Kingston 3 hammered by strong Guildford outfit

Surrey League division 4 match played at Guildford on 15 January 2024

This was a match perhaps best hastily passed over. The average rating difference between these two third teams was around 200 points. It is rare for such a disparity to be overcome, and that certainly never looked likely to be the case here. Kingston fought hard, but Guildford were too good, and only Mark Sheridan’s heroics against the immensely experienced Trevor Jones saved us from a whitewash.

Congrats to Mark on a fine draw and thanks to the team for trekking down to Guildford to play so strong a team. The Centenary Trophy, to give Surrey League division 4 its formal title, is a highly competitive division, as we are discovering this season, where our score so far is 0.5/5. Tough going, but we are – as they say – on a journey. A journey down the A3 actually.

Stephen Moss

CSC/Kingston 1 surge into promotion contention at 4NCL

CSC/Kingston 1 enjoy a tremendous second weekend in division 2 of the 4NCL and CSC/Kingston 2 get off the mark as they seek to consolidate in division 3

CSC/Kingston 1, marshalled as ever by Kate and Charlie Cooke, put out a powerful team at the second weekend in 4NCL’s five-weekend cycle, and it did not disappoint, winning both matches on Saturday and Sunday to grab second spot in the highly competitive division 2. CSC/Kingston 3, meanwhile, went down to its third successive defeat on Saturday, but rallied to win impressively on Sunday to fuel hopes that it can hang on to its place on division 3.

These were rounds 3 and 4 of the 11-round competition, so still early days, but the signs were very promising for both teams. All the matches were played at the Delta Hotel, Warwick, and happily all the CSC/Kingston players were able to get to the venue in good time despite major disruption on the trains from London because of a landslip.

FM Martin Jogstad had flown in from Germany to play board 1 for CSC/Kingston 1, and he scored 2/2 across the weekend. But he had a major scare on Saturday in the 7-0 thrashing of Cambridge University 1 (Cambridge defaulted a board and were penalised a game point – hence the odd result in an eight-board match). Martin was Black against Daniel Gallagher and had a theoretically lost queen and pawn v queen endgame. But Martin kept fighting and his opponent blundered horribly to allow mate. Mr Gallagher please avert your eyes now. This was the final position:

On board 2 David Maycock played with great aggression against Andrew McClement’s Sicilian, and this tactically rich position resulted after White had played 18. f4.

Vladimir Li won in 24 moves against Alistair Hill, winning a piece with some neat tactics. Peter Lalić won a 137-move game with Black against Robert Starley after much patented Lalićian time-building. Ewan Wilson played cannily to beat Nigel Alldritt. Zain Patel had a hard-fought draw with the prodigious Bodhana Sivanandan in the battle of the juniors, and Helen Frostick had a short draw with a repetition on move 19 against the experienced Nevil Chan. A very professional job by CSC/Kingston 1.

Sunday was tougher against Warwickshire Select 1. Helen was unlucky to lose a theoretically drawn queen v queen and pawn endgame (such endgames were very much the theme of the weekend) with Black against highly rated junior Elis Denele Dicen. The position below is drawn, and Black should just keep checking, but Helen played Kg7 and then Kg6, allowing a trade of queens a few moves later. After six hours’ play, exhaustion sets in.

Peter Finn lost to IM Chris Baker in a complicated line of the English, and there were draws for Peter Lalić, Ewan Wilson and Zain Patel (against a player with a rating close to 2200). But victory in the match was secured thanks to wins by Martin Jogstad, David Maycock and Valdimir Li on the top three boards. Martin got the better of highly rated junior Jude Shearsby; David got his second win of the weekend when John Pitcher fell into a nasty trap that lost a rook; and Vladimir Li eventually got on top in a complicated struggle against Finlay Bowcott-Terry’s Dutch.

CSC/Kingston 2 lost 4.5-1.5 against a strong Crowthorne A side on Saturday, but bounced back on Sunday to beat Poole Patzers 5-1, thus chalking up a much-needed first win of the 4NCL campaign. Just staying in this division would be perfectly satisfactory for CSC/Kingston 2, preserving the spread of the three CSC/Kingston teams across the divisions and allowing us to offer long-form 4NCL chess at all levels. In that emphatic Sunday victory, there were wins for Chris Fegan (who survived a knife-edge tactical battle), Giampiero Amato, Maurice Lawson and Harry Evans, who found this nice tactical sequence to finish off his game as Black against Martin Clancy.

Stephen Moss

Round 3

Round 4

Kingston secure crucial win against strong Coulsdon 1

Surrey League division 1 match played at Coulsdon on 15 January 2024

Coulsdon (left) up against Kingston, with Supratit Banerjee and David Maycock on board 1 in the foreground

After two losses in our first three matches in Surrey division 1, Kingston 1 needed a win at Coulsdon, and as soon as we arrived we knew it would not be easy. They fielded a stronger team than they had in the equivalent fixture last year and we were missing some key players, so it was always going to be tight. In the end, Kingston came out on top 5-3, but there were alarms along the way.

No alarms on board 8, though, where Alan Scrimgour with Black played out a short draw with Martin Faulkner. Alan more than equalised against an English – all the Coulsdon players essayed the English with White – but never had enough to press for a decisive result. Peter Andrews also took a draw with Black on board 6 – another English easily stifled, with Black if anything having slightly the better of it.

Julian Way and Ian Calvert also had a draw on board 7, but a much more eventful one in which Julian played skilfully to counter Ian’s Scandinavian. The opening had given Ian an apparent space advantage, but it proved illusory and an endgame resulted with bishops of the same colour pitted against each other. It looked very drawish, but Kingston president John Foley – who was spectating at the match – immediately spotted an opportunity in the position below:

If instead Black plays 34…cxb4 35. Kxd4 – the engine’s second choice but possibly better in practical play – the doubled pawns make life difficult, with White able to start to advance his d-pawn. But it remains problematic for White to win, and perhaps the result would have been a draw in 80 moves rather than in 42 moves, which is what eventuated after Julian played 34. Bd2.

How were we faring elsewhere? David Maycock was doing well against the prodigious nine-year-old Supratit Banerjee on board 1. Supratit had been rapidly promoted from board 7 in the corresponding fixture last year, but was outmanoeuvred by David in a beautifully played endgame (annotated in the Games section), with the Kingston player homing in remorselessly on Black’s isolated e-pawn. The first key position is shown below. Black errs by playing 30…Ke5 here when 30…g5 is essential:

Kingston captain Peter Andrews, analysing this instructive position later, said this: “30…Ke5 looked the most natural move to me, preventing king penetration by White.  The saving move g5 creates an extra weakness for Black (the h5 pawn), but it also allows Black to get his h-pawn on to a black square. Further, it creates a weakness for White as well, and if all the kingside pawns are swapped off, a minor piece ending with pawns on one side is hard to win even if one side is a pawn ahead because of the possibility that the weaker side can give up the piece for the last pawn, not a possibility in a rook ending.” Black had a further opportunity in the position below, but it would take considerable calculation to find what looks a very counter-intuitive move here:

We had been optimistic about David Maycock winning, but were less certain about matters elsewhere. Peter Lalić had a very constricted position against Ian Snape on board 2, Mike Healey was under pressure on board 3 against Rahul Babu, and Will Taylor and David Rowson’s games were far from clear. Where were our points going to come from? By exchanging queens unnecessarily. Peter Lalić got himself into this ugly-looking position against Ian Snape:

David Rowson, meanwhile, was engaged in a complex struggle with Shivam Agrawal, who had played a Caro-Kann. “The opening was played more or less OK by both of us,” David reports, “but after that there were many inaccuracies and missed opportunities. Credit to my opponent, who could have had a draw by repetition at two points, but played on to try to win despite his time shortage.”

“These games where kings castle on opposite sides often hang in the balance,” Peter Andrews remarked after the game. “A mistake often means the difference between win and loss, rather than win and draw.  As we now know, the win was critical to the match result. Blundering the knight is the kind of thing that easily happens in time trouble where the cooler head wins almost irrespective of the position on the board.” “I wasn’t feeling that cool,” David responded wryly, “but maybe cooler than my opponent because I think he was feeling a desperate need to win, though I don’t know if he was aware of the match situation. I was and thought a draw would be OK, though I didn’t offer him one.”

On board 4 Will Taylor was engaged in a tremendous (and to onlookers fairly opaque) struggle with Nasir Rizvi. Nasir played yet another English, to which Will responded with great verve, and by move 18 Black had a decent plus. At this point, White made a critical – and, as it turned out, losing – decision:

“I’ve rarely seen rooks treated with such contempt by both sides,” Peter Andrews said afterwards – the other pair had also fallen victim to marauding bishops at an early stage in the game. So a terrific win by Will with Black, and we were over the line and able to breathe at last.

The only disappointment on the night was Mike Healey’s loss to another star junior, Rahul Babu, on board 3 in the final game to finish. “I was lost, worked my way back into it, then blundered,” Mike said succinctly afterwards. When you have been under sustained pressure for a long period and think you have wriggled free, there is always a danger you will relax and make an error. It is also disturbing to be the last to finish at close to 10.30pm, with organisers starting to pack sets away in what is a very busy (and sometimes noisy) venue. But Mike is not one to make excuses. He is a wonderful player who demonstrated great ingenuity despite being on the back foot for a long period in this game, and is sure to bounce back.

That made it 5-3 to Kingston and we could head out into the cold of the Chipstead Valley Road congratulating ourselves on a job well done. We now have the beginnings of a buffer against relegation, though anything could happen in this intensely competitive division. Guildford and Epsom are in the box seat, but when they head south to Coulsdon they, too, will face a stiff test. At the halfway point in the season there are no certainties about how the battle will end.

Stephen Moss

Kingston C edged out in Ealing

Thames Valley division X match played at Actonians Sports Club, Ealing on 15 January 2024

No question who was the hero of this match for Kingston C – David Bickerstaff, making his debut for the club, playing his first ever rated classical over-the-board game and pulling off a fine win in a very solidly played French Defence. We knew David had promise and that faith was amply justified here.

On the other boards, captain Stephen Daines secured a draw on board 3; Colin Lyle lost on board 4, not helped by the fact that he accidentally touched a piece which he was then forced to move; and Ergo Nobel lost in a tense struggle on board 1, giving Ealing D the match by 2.5-1.5.

Stephen Moss

Kingston B earn bragging rights at Surbiton

Thames Valley League division 2 match played at Fircroft, Surbiton on 10 January 2024

It’s always nice to start the New Year with a victory, especially one that takes you top of the league. And it was a convincing one at that, not dropping a game in a 4-2 victory over neighbours Surbiton B.

We were favourites on the top three boards and underdogs on the bottom three, so it was set to be an interesting encounter. Nick Grey was first to finish, with a peaceful draw against Surrey county team-mate Graham Alcock. Nick faced Graham’s time-honoured Scandinavian, but after carefully assessing the other games around him he felt we had an advantage and opted to offer a draw.

Stephen Moss also secured another half-point against Andrew Boughen, in a game that Stephen described as “boring – nothing really happened”. But an important result with the black pieces against his higher-rated opponent. Another draw was then agreed on board 2, where fresh from his heroics of saving a completely lost game against Kingston in the Surrey League the week previously, promising junior Joshua Pirgon secured another half-point against John Foley. So far, all square at 1.5-1.5.

It was Kingston stalwart Alan Scrimgour who drew first blood, defeating another one of Surbiton’s young stars, Joseph Morrison. Joseph has been a frequent prize-winner at the Kingston Blitz Series, but time wasn’t on his side on this occasion, as Alan managed to transpose a Caro-Kann into a c3 Sicilian, an opening with which Alan is very familiar. This allowed him to build a massive time advantage and, after sustained pressure, he broke through to put the first full point on the board.

On board 6, I managed to successfully dodge the many traps set by yet another talented Surbiton junior, Conrad Bredenoord. Conrad pushed g4 in front of his castled king, offering up a pawn sac that looked to lead to a tactical mêlée. I tanked for about 25 minutes, trying to calculate whether it was poisoned or not. Normally, I would take the easy way out and just leave it hanging, but I thought I could get away with it, and to my relief I was right. The extra pawn was then followed by the win of an exchange, a dilution of pieces, and a simple endgame victory to clinch the match.

David Rowson was the last to finish on the top board, playing what feels like his weekly game against Liam Bayly. This encounter ended in a draw, making it 4-2 to Kingston and taking us to top spot in Thames Valley division 2. But how long will we stay at the summit, given that we have tricky away trips to Hounslow and Maidenhead to follow this month? 

Gregor Smith, Kingston B captain in Thames Valley division 2

Home loss to Ealing hits Kingston A title hopes

Thames Valley League division 1 match played at the Willoughby Arms, Kingston on 8 January 2024

Having beaten Ealing 4-2 away in October, Kingston approached this match with moderate confidence. Last season we benefited from some clubs not travelling well, most notably Ealing. Several of their players are Fulham FC supporters (like me) but in contrast to last year Fulham didn’t have a fixture on Monday, so our opponents arrived in good time and close to full strength, whereas we were lacking a couple of our top players. All the same, the similarity in the average ratings of the two teams foretold a close match, and that was borne out on the evening.

The first game to finish was that on the top board, where Martin Smith and Peter Lalić agreed to a very early draw. Queens had been exchanged on move 4 and the position was pretty level at move 15, with White perhaps having more reason to play on than Black. 

Ealing then went ahead when Jonathan White converted his extra pawn advantage in a rook ending against John Foley, but on board 6 Alan Scrimgour was on top against Simon Healeas. I’m not qualified to comment on how the opening (a Caro-Kann, Panov Attack) developed, but in the early middlegame White’s queenside pawn majority was up against Black’s two central pawns. The following position was reached:

Here, instead of defending the knight on c6 Black counter-attacked with 18….e4. The problem with this was that after 19. Qxc6 exf3 gxf3 White was a pawn up and Black’s pawn centre was half what it had been. The doubled pawns on the f-file are not so significant here. Play continued 30…Rc8 31. Qa4 d4 32. Rbd1 Nd5 33. Ne4 (Rxd4 loses a piece to Nc3).

A few moves later this was the position:

Now if 25…Bf6 White would exchange rooks and queens on e8 and his connected queenside pawns would be much stronger than Black’s single central one, which is in any case likely to fall imminently. However, after 25…d3 26. Qb5 White won the d-pawn and soon after the game.  This levelled the scores at 1.5-1.5.

On board 4 Will Taylor was defending a Queen’s Gambit Declined against the very experienced Alan Perkins.

Here White played 18. Nxe6! The idea is that after 18…fxe6 19. Rxe6 Black has to play 19…Kh8 to avoid the discovered check, and then 19. d5 pushes the c6 knight away from defending the bishop on e7. Will commented, “I didn’t react well to the shock of Nxe6, spending almost all my remaining time and leaving myself playing on increment in a position which might otherwise have been defensible.” After 20…Bxa3 21. dxc6 the c6 pawn, helped along by White’s bishops and rooks, became a winner, advancing to c7.

Now Ealing had a point lead, but the match continued to roller-coaster, which description fits my own game perfectly. Out of a Giuoco Piano I had what I thought was the advantage, as Tony Wells’ pieces were mostly stuck on the back rank, but I couldn’t work out how to exploit this, and after the queens were exchanged I played some casual moves and suddenly realised that I was much worse. Black was pressing hard on the kingside and my pieces seemed to be tripping over each other. With little time to think properly I decided to confuse things, and played 40. g3 here:

According to Stockfish this takes my position from -0.58 to – 1.86. After 40…g4! 41.fxg4 Bxg4 I played the strange-looking 42. Ng1. My idea was to move a rook to the g-file to line up against Black’s bishop and king.  It’s not really a particularly good move, but then nothing is here. Black doubled rooks – 42…Raf7 – and I played 43. Nh2, giving this position:

Now 43…Nxg3 44. Nxg4 Rf4 would have threatened the g4 knight and mate on e4, and after 45. Nf2 h3 46. Ngxh3 Rf3++, but this was very hard to see with only about a minute left on the clock. Instead, Black defended his bishop with 43…Nf6, losing the advantage. I continued 44. gxh4 and my opponent decided to use his king to recapture the h-pawn. We reached this position a few moves later:

Here I played 47. Nhf3+ (Ngf3+ was even better) and after 47…Kh5 I was able to win a pawn by 48. Nxe5. The game continued 48…Nxd3 49. Nxd3 Nxe4? (time trouble – Re8 was best) and finished 50. Kxe4 Bf3+ 51. Nxf3 Rxf3 52. Rh1+ when Tony resigned, as it’s mate next move. With a lot of luck I had managed to go from dead lost to dead won, and the match was all square again.

So the match result would hang on the last game to finish. From a very complex French David Maycock – playing White against Fide master Andrew Harley – gained the two bishops, but when the queens were exchanged he became tied down to defending an extra pawn on c5:

Play continued 24. Ra4 Nd8 25. Ra5 Nc6 26. Ra4 Nd8. Andrew Harley was offering to repeat the position, but David, with his usual admirable fighting spirit, turned this down. He didn’t know the match situation and decided he should try to win for the team, so varied by 27. Nc3. Unfortunately this meant he gave up his small advantage of the two bishops. The position was still absolutely level by move 50, with each player only having a rook and knight, but time pressure had now entered the equation. David kept finding ways to set Andrew problems, but Andrew resourcefully solved these, and with only seconds left David had to resign when facing two connected passed pawns.

So Kingston had narrowly lost the match. Ealing had proved very tough opponents. This was our first defeat this season in the Thames Valley League. It will now be very problematic for us to retain the title (see current table below, beneath the match score), but we’ll keep fighting – six matches remain.

David Rowson, Kingston A captain in Thames Valley League

Nobel grabs draw for Kingston C against Hounslow

Thames Valley League division X match played at the Willoughby Arms, Kingston on 8 January 2024

A 2-2 draw was an excellent result for Kingston C against Hounslow C, who had a rating advantage of almost 60 points a board. Ergo Nobel, still relatively new to Kingston, can feel particularly proud of himself, grinding out a high-pressure win on top board against a 1600-strength opponent who fought for his life.

The first result was on board 2 where Greg Heath, captaining in place of an indisposed Stephen Daines, resigned in a rook endgame against Steve Hall. Later analysis suggested the resignation was premature. Remember Greg, all rook endgames are drawn.

Jaden Mistry, with Black against Andrew Cleminson on board 3, led the fightback for Kingston, playing a very solid Caro-Kann, establishing an edge and then taking advantage of a cataclysmic blunder by his opponent to mate on the back rank when White, with correct play, had good drawing chances.

That made it 1-1, but on board 4 Ethan Bogerd was losing the battle of the juniors against Ashwath Kumar Kota, who was a knight up and pushing on with two dangerous connected pawns. Ethan tried to block, but Ashwath sac’d knight for pawn to clear the path for his own passed pawn and make it 2-1 to Hounslow.

That left it to Ergo to secure the draw for Kingston, which he did with aplomb, despite at one point playing an illegal move which gave his time-strapped opponent an extra two minutes. Ergo dealt with that hiccup without too much distress and turned a very drawish rook-and-pawn endgame into a win, helped by his opponent’s continuing time troubles. So in fact, given the human practicalities of chess, all rook endgames are not drawn.

Stephen Moss

Saturday night and Sunday mourning for CSC/Kingston 3

Decidedly mixed fortunes for CSC/Kingston 3 at the team’s second 4NCL weekend, held in Telford, with a 6-0 win followed by a 5.5-0.5 loss

This was the ultimate weekend of two halves. On Saturday CSC/Kingston 3 whitewashed a team of juniors from Barnet Knights – apologies to the youngsters, best treat it as a learning experience. But the following day – and we really weren’t celebrating too late into the night – we got a taste of our own medicine, suffering a 5.5-0.5 hammering at the hands of Ashfield 3.

The latter was a very disappointing result because on paper the teams looked fairly evenly matched. The drive back to south-west London from Telford, in Shropshire, is already extremely long, but on this occasion it seemed to last forever. Well done to Mike Cresswell for saving us from what in tennis is called being bagelled – that horrible 6-0 drubbing.

The one saving grace for me is that I found my Sunday loss to Robert Taylor very instructive. I have always struggled against the Colle System and loathe the position we reached here after White’s 10. Qf3.

Clearly, something has gone wrong, and my “bad” bishop on b7 is a nightmare. I played 10. Nxe5 here and then retreated the knight to d7, giving myself a horrible game. Capturing the knight on e5 is fine, but the black knight must then be placed on e4. After bishops are exchanged, White can’t win a pawn because of the check from the black queen on h4. With best play, White still has a small advantage, but nothing like the plus he had in the game where I was on the back foot throughout, consumed outrageous amounts of time and eventually collapsed in a heap. A horrible day at the office.

Let’s hope CSC/Kingston 1 and CSC2/Kingston 2 fare better this weekend at Warwick in the second phase of these rounds (3 and 4) of the 4NCL. The divisions and weekends are split because 4NCL has not been able to find a venue large enough to accommodate everyone at once. There may also be issues with recruiting enough officials. It is very unfortunate that the players are split up in this way because it gives the people overseeing the teams more logistical headaches and robs the weekend of the sense of occasion it would have if everyone was gathered in the same place on a single weekend. One day perhaps.

Stephen Moss