Brave Kingston 2 fall just short against Ashtead 1

Surrey League division 2 match played at the Willoughby Arms, Kingston on 9 October 2023

So near and yet so far, and I fear it is all my fault. Kingston 2 lost 4-3 to Ashtead 1 in a surprisingly tight Surrey division 2 match, and if I had managed to hang on for a draw on board 2 against Dan Rosen we would have got out of the evening with a draw and a half-point. That would have been quite an achievement given that we were substantially outrated on the top five boards.

Still, accentuate the positive: it was a night of some singular personal achievements. On board 1 Jon Eckert made light of a 350-point rating deficit against Phil Brooks and, reverting to his trusty Dutch after a dalliance with the French last season, made a comfortable draw. David Shalom also drew on board 5 against Bertie Barlow – another terrific result on a night when the outgunned Kingstonians fought hard all the way.

Even better, on board 4 Gregor Smith overcame a 200-point rating gap to win against the Ian McLeod. Ian shed a knight in a tactical melee in the middlegame and thereafter Gregor gave him zero chance of counterplay. An accomplished performance and an excellent scalp. We suspected Gregor was underrated and here was proof.

Charlie Cooke and Adam Nakar had solid draws on the bottom boards and Kingston were well in the hunt, but it was on boards 2 and 3 that the problems lie. Dan Rosen and Jon Hinton are extremely good players, and on the night they proved too good for me and Nick Grey.

Nick went wrong early against Hinton’s Wing Gambit, lost the exchange and endured a pretty miserable evening. He battled on, but in truth there could be only one winner. I played unbelievably boringly with White against Dan Rosen, traded everything I could and got to a same-coloured bishops and six pawns endgame which I thought might just be drawing (see diagram below).

With correct play maybe it was, but I was short of time and Dan is a far better endgame player than me and was able to shuffle his bishop and king around in risk-free way until I was pinned on the back rank and pawns were about to start falling. An irritating way to lose and even worse was that at some point in a long-drawn-out endgame, where Black feints with the king to infiltrate on the queenside before switching back to the centre, I resigned myself to defeat. Toughen up!

Defeat was in any case exactly what I deserved for such a negative approach. Against a player who is technically superior to you, you have to mix it and go down with all guns blazing. Here I went out with a whimper rather than a bang. The last time I will ever play so insipidly. I hope anyway.

Well done to Ashtead on a successful start to their campaign – they will surely be favourites for promotion from this division as several of their strongest players were missing for this match. And thanks, as ever, to their captain Bertie Barlow, the nicest and politest man in Surrey chess.

Stephen Moss, Kingston captain in Surrey division 2