Bold bid by outrated Kingston 4 at Ashtead

Surrey League division 5 match played at the Peace Memorial Hall, Ashtead on 6 February 2024

Sometimes a defeat can feel almost as good as a victory, and this was one of those occasions. When Kingston captain Stephen Daines posted the opposing team on the club WhatsApp group, we feared the worst. Kingston’s fourth team were up against Ashtead 2 in the Minor Trophy (Surrey division 5) and we were outrated by an average of around 180 points a board. Most of our players have only been playing competitively since the end of the pandemic. Adrian Waldock, Ashtead’s experienced board 2, has been playing since around the end of the Paleozoic. One feared a whitewash.

In the end, though, it was a wonderfully close match, with Ashtead winning by just 3.5-2.5 – testament to how quickly our players are improving and the great spirit with which they compete. Captain Daines played what he called a “disastrous opening” with Black and quickly succumbed as his opponent Nick Thynne capitalised on his errors. But at least that gave him more time to enjoy his players’ performances.

Promising junior Jaden Mistry drew with Jack Buckley, rated 1580, on board 5, and at one point – with a passed pawn charging up the board – had winning chances. But they evaporated when Jaden decided to mop up his opponent’s pawns rather than support his own, and a draw was agreed with the position level.

Mark Sheridan lost against Daniel Richmond on board 3, making it 2.5-0.5 to Ashtead, but the remaining three boards were all very good news stories. Dieter McDougall outmanoeuvred Robert Jurjevic in a knight and pawn endgame, making his extra pawn tell to win a game that had looked more likely to end in a draw. Dieter has made a fine start to his Kingston career.

Just as impressive were the draws achieved by Sean Tay and Jimmy Kerr against Patrick O’Mara and Adrian Waldock on boards 1 and 2. Sean pressed but couldn’t quite convert what looked to be a small advantage, while Jimmy was under the cosh the entire game but managed to hold out and with time trouble looming a draw was agreed. The Waldock-Kerr game threw up one splendid position which must be shown:

Adrian chose to cash in here by playing 15. Nxh8 to win the exchange. That should indeed have been enough to win the game, but he misses a delightful win on the spot. Do you see it? 15. Nb5+! Black is forced to play 15…Kxd5 and 16. Nf4! is mate. Mated by two knights, with a bit of help from the queen, pinning the pawn on e5. Adrian missed it and chased the Black king all round the board for another 30 moves. He still had an advantage in the endgame – two rooks and six pawns to rook, bishop and five, but exhaustion may have been setting in and time was becoming a factor, so Adrian (always a pacific fellow) took a gentlemanly draw.

Full marks to Jimmy for fighting on in what at times seemed a hopeless position. As I said to him later, if he can survive that he can survive anything. It was a result of which he should be proud, as indeed should the entire team.

Stephen Moss