Buoyant Kingston B trounce Hounslow B

Thames Valley League division 2 match played at the Willoughby Arms, Kingston on 11 December 2023

Kingston B struggled at times last season in Thames Valley division 2, but so far this year all is going swimmingly, and there is even talk of promotion (though would we really want two teams in division 1? – opinions within the club are divided). Hounslow B held us to a draw in the first Kingston B match of the season, but here we had a slightly strengthened team and ran out emphatic 5-1 winners.

David Rowson led the way on board 1 against JJ Padam. “I thought I had an advantage from the opening,” says David, “but Stockfish doesn’t really agree, which is maybe why I didn’t know how to capitalise on the supposed advantage until we got to the position below and I realised I could play 24…Nd3, exchanging off his strong d4 bishop and getting a pawn on d3.”

After 25. Bxd3 Bxd4 26. exd4 (Qxd4 loses to Nb6) exd3 27. Nf3 Nf4. 28. Qd2 Qe4 White had a very difficult position, but he made David’s task easy by playing 29. Ng5, overlooking the mate on g2.

On board 2 Peter Andrews played the same opponent he had faced in the reverse fixture at Hounslow, Frank Zurstiege, and Peter once again had White. He was very happy with the position after the opening, but felt he was over-hasty in the position below.

“Here I played Nb6 straight away rather than cranking up the pressure with Ne5. Ne5 would have put Black under real pressure, reinforcing the threat of Nb6 winning the exchange.” What Peter played nevertheless retained a plus for White, and after 23 moves this position was reached. Can you spot the best move?

Peter played 24. Nxg6. Perfectly OK and retains an edge. But better is Nc6, which can’t be taken by the b-pawn because White could counter with b7. “I missed the trick 24. Nc6 Bd6 (obviously not bxc6 25. b7 winning, and playing Rxc6 25. Rxc6 is the same) 25. Bxd6 Kxd6 26. Na7!, after which Black cannot oppose rooks on the c-file and White will get a rook to c7, which will win.”

It may, in fact, not be quite that simple, but it is fair to say that White would have excellent winning chances, whereas in reality Peter’s advantage evaporated and the players traded down to a king and pawn endgame. Such endgames can of course be knife edge, and Peter made a slip which could have cost him the game – one of those innocuous pawn moves which allow the opposing king to penetrate and mop up. Frank, though, perhaps having mentally settled for the draw and pleased to have weathered the storm, missed the key move, the chance passed and a draw was agreed.

John Foley, with Black, had a pleasing win on board 3, beating Eugene Gregorio – as with Peter, the same opponent he had played at Hounslow. John identifies this as the key position:

Here White plays 22. N2f3, which John describes as “a positional and strategic mistake”. He says White should instead be looking to activate his queenside pawn majority. “The move allowed my knight to occupy the commanding e4 square,” explains John. “My opponent decided to give up the exchange (22… Ne4 23. Rxe4) to get rid of the knight, but he could have played the defensive 23. Ne2 and held on.” Sometimes you just have to grovel. The exchange up, John was able to trade down to a winning rook v knight endgame.

Alan Scrimgour played the very promising Hounslow junior Vibhush Pusapadi on board 4. “My opponent played a very ambitious line in the French, which cost me a lot of time in the opening.” says Alan. “It was roughly level when we belatedly castled on opposite sides on move 17. My b4 pawn sac [see position below after 18. b4] wasn’t sound, but caused him to fall behind on time.”

The game proceeded 18…Qxb4 19. Nxc6 bxc6 20. Rab1 Qc5 21. Nd4 Nb6 22. Kh1 Nc4 23. Qb3 Na5 24. Qd3 Nc4 25. Qb3 Na5 26. Qd3 Nc4, leading to this position:

Here Alan finds the move which gives him a decisive edge – 27. f5. “When I broke through with f5 he failed to find the correct defence,” he says. “I missed an easier win, but he lost a piece shortly afterwards and ran out of time in a lost position.”

Nick Grey won a nice attacking game on board 6. In the position below, Nick plays the classic Bxf7 sac. Black doesn’t have a good move in response: capturing with the king is met by 17. Ne5+ and the loss of the bishop on g4 to the white queen. But Kd8 as played also gives White a decisive advantage.

Nick’s opponent, Steve Hall, tried to create complications, in turn sac-ing a bishop on h2 in a desperate effort to launch a counter-attack. But in the position below the attack down the h-file is more visual than real, and Black has given up too much material to have serious chances.

Nick plays safe here and opts for 24. Qe5, realising that after White checks on h2 he will be able to force an exchange of queens which will leave him in an overwhelming position.

As for captain Gregor Smith on board 5, he had what he described as a “lucky” draw, dropping a piece for two pawns when he fell for a tactic experimenting with a line in the Accelerated Dragon variation of the Sicilian Defence, and expecting a long and difficult game as a consequence. But his opponent must have looked at the rating gap between the two players, thought Gregor’s extra pawns were more potent than was really the case, and decided to bail out with a draw offer.

It was a narrow escape which gave Gregor time to enjoy his team’s successes later in the evening and to contemplate whether Div 1 would be a congenial place for a second team. Not that we are assuming such an outcome of course: Hounslow A and Richmond B, neither of whom we have yet played, will be stiffer tests.

Stephen Moss