Category Archives: Events

Christmas Brain Camp is a success

John Foley

When schools break up for Christmas, parents can be forgiven for wanting to find some activity for their children, especially if it has some educational value. A new type of activity is a Brain Camp. The idea is to spend a few days of intensive game activities where the games have a special characteristic. All the games are strategy games. There are no dice or cards – there is no element of luck. The outcomes are down to the skill of the players, which increases gradually through practice and some theory.

The four-day Kingston Brain Camp was organised by John Foley through his chess teaching company ChessPlus, and ran from 18-21 December. It followed the same format as the Summer Camp in July. The children, aged 7-9, played under close supervision at the premises of a local school, Holy Cross Prep. The children were encouraged to learn and play several games. The camp was held in a friendly atmosphere where the emphasis was on learning and having fun. As well as chess and games equipment, we used software resources from LogiqBoard, ChessKid and Lichess. Alongside John were the highly experienced tutors Brigitta Peszleg and Dr John Upham.

Each game has its special characteristics and requires different strategies. The children feel as if they are all on the same level as they all have to learn to play games some of which may be unknown to them. The games included chess, the classic game which has been around for 1,600 years and which will never go out of fashion. A conventional chess camp focuses on chess only and revolves around lectures and competitions. This is appropriate when training talented children who want to get into competitive chess. However, when dealing with regular children it is important to provide a more varied diet than chess. 

Following years of research and practice, John has developed an approach to teaching games in which chess forms part of a continuum of games played on an 8×8 board. One of the drawbacks of focusing exclusively on chess is that children drop out too early. They are being introduced too rapidly to a game which takes a lot of effort to play well. Whilst children love competition, the joy of play can be lost if the stakes are too high. There is also a practical reason for playing other games: chess takes too long to play. Children do not like waiting for others to finish playing their games. We did not want to use game timers because these bring a different type of problem – children playing to the clock rather than focusing on the game strategy. If games are to be educational, children should not be under time pressure.

The games played included:

  • Loser’s Chess – the first player to lose all their pieces wins the game
  • Draughts – move diagonally on black squares, win by jump-capturing all your opponent’s pieces.
  • Halma – pieces jump over each other to reach the opposite corner of the board
  • Reversi – counters are reversed if they are caught between the opponent’s counters
  • Slimetrail – both players move the same piece and try to reach their corner, never visiting the same square twice

In addition to the games, there were several problem-solving challenges including:

  • 8 Safe Officers problem
  • 8 Queens problem
  • Knights Tour
  • Army power minimisation problem 

The children were fully engaged throughout and we never heard them say they were bored. The feedback from the children and parents has been very encouraging and we are planning to run another camp at Easter.

Maycock sleighs them at Christmas blitz

David Maycock scores 11.5/12 to take first prize in the inaugural Kingston Christmas Blitz, beating perennial rivals Peter Lalić and Vladimir Li to top spot

Donner and Blitzen, aka Ed Mospan (left) and tournament winner David Maycock, in action at the Christmas blitz

What to do to mark Christmas? Sing, be jolly, drink copiously. Well there was some of that, but chess players also like to play chess, so we celebrated the start of the festive season with a well-attended blitz, played at the Willoughby Arms on Thursday 21 December. Twenty-four players took part, including several of our friends from other local clubs, and these were the final standings:

The spirit in which the games were played was great, many mince pies were consumed, and we hope the Kingston Christmas Blitz is now an instant tradition. Thank you to everyone who supported the event: Gregor Smith and Ljubica Lazarevic for organising; Ljubica for arbiting; Greg Heath (and others) for setting up; David Bickerstaff for baking a cake; the members who brought biscuits and mince pies; Rick Robinson, the landlord of the Willoughby Arms, who generously provided a case of beer for the winner; all the players for taking part with such enthusiasm and good cheer; and the spectators who came along to enjoy the chess and camaraderie.

Congratulations to David on winning with a near-perfect score (though he admitted he was very fortunate to beat me twice, with one game lasting almost 20 moves). David, being a non-drinker, preferred to take home chocolate rather than beer as his prize, leaving second-placed Peter Lalić with the booze. Vladimir Li (sporting a magnificent Christmas-themed tie) was third; Stephen Lovell, showing that he has very much still got it despite playing very little over the past few years, was fourth; Richmond first-team captain Maks Gajowniczek came fifth; and Kingston’s Surrey League first-team captain Peter Andrews and club newcomer Ergo Nobel shared sixth place. Apologies to Ergo, whose “prize” for coming joint sixth (and in the process beating me 2-0) was a signed copy of my Rookie book.

Stephen Moss, secretary, Kingston Chess Club

Christmas Brain Camp

Chess and games camp for 7 to 11-year-olds from 18-21 December at Holy Cross Prep School, Kingston upon Thames KT2 7NU

John Foley

Following the successful summer chess camp which the children enjoyed, parents asked if I could run a camp to coincide with the Christmas holidays. Happy to oblige, the camp will run at a local Kingston School.

Update: the Camp will be running a week later than originally advertised because many schools would not yet have broken up if we had adhered to the original date.

The camp is for any child who enjoys playing board games. Prior knowledge of chess is not required. The event comprises lectures and demonstrations on various games such as draughts, halma and chess. We have a compendium of 36 instructional games. The children practise the games against other children and the instructors. There are some fun puzzles and maths-related activities.

The children who attend will obtain more confidence in playing games and will have spent an enjoyable few days in a friendly environment.

This is not a chess training event. It is an event to delight and inspire children who enjoy games and like having their brain stretched.

To register or find out more.

Chess Corner launched at Kingston Fairfield

A touch of New York chess hustler style comes to Kingston with the hugely popular unveiling of three concrete chess tables at Fairfield in the town centre

The official opening of the Chess Corner at Kingston Fairfield took place on Thursday 28 September. The event was a great success, bringing together a large number of players young and old, chess club members and council officials. The three chess tables were sporting impressive chess sets provided for the occasion by Kingston Chess Club.

The officials opening the Chess Corner: From left: local constabulary, John Sweeney, Kathryn Woodvine, John Foley, Alan Scrimgour, Stephen Moss

The opening formalities were led by John Sweeney, the local councillor for central Kingston, who had stepped in at the last moment to replace the chess project initiator Nicola Nardelli, another councillor from central Kingston, whose flight back to the UK was delayed. After a brief speech he handed over to John Foley, president of Kingston Chess Club, who thanked Kingston Council for funding this splendid project and hoped it would mark a resurgence of chess in the royal borough.

John Sweeney and John Foley cutting the ribbon

The ribbon was cut to the applause of the company present. The contingent of juniors who had waited patiently finally got their chance to play chess. The tables had been wiped down and the sets were ready for action. Soon everybody was playing chess, taking phone pics of the chess or just watching the action. Spectators were arriving continually throughout the afternoon into the evening. John Saunders, the noted chess journalist, who lives in Kingston, took some splendid photographs.

Youngsters eagerly playing chess, with their friends recording their moves for posterity
A young player showing the delight that chess can bring
… and another for whom delight has turned to disaster. We’ve all been there
Kingston club president John Foley (left) taking on an opponent in a blitz game
A skateboarder drops by. ‘I enjoy all board games’, he quipped

The photographs below were taken by Leila Raivio.

John Foley proudly shows off his new book, published on the same day: Checkmate!

Several people came along who would like to pursue chess competitively – they were duly signed up by Kingston Chess Club. We were also delighted to meet two teachers from nearby Kingston Grammar School, whose pupils are likely to use the facility. Two chess players who had known each other at university in Moscow (!) 15 years ago discovered that they both lived in Kingston. The children present came from a wide variety of schools in and around Kingston.

After the event, several of the participants repaired to the Albion pub, where we commandeered two tables on which blitz chess was played with clocks through the evening.

Convivial (but competitive) blitz in the Albion pub after the official launch of Chess Corner
The event brought together established members of Kingston chess club and new players eager to join

Anybody wishing to play on the tables in Chess Corner should bring their own sets. We are working on arrangements whereby sets can be borrowed from nearby Kingston Library or the Albion pub.

John Foley

Call for decision-making test participants

How well do chess players with different ratings solve different types of tactical chess positions? And how long does it take them to do so? The Chessable science team invites chess players to take part in an online test. This test is part of research on decision-making in chess. The test consists of 10 positions which should be solved in a maximum of five minutes each. Before the test begins, there are two sample puzzles. After solving the positions, participants may answer some questions via a link.

Chess players of all levels can participate. The only condition is to have a Fide Elo rating. To participate, click on to fill in a short questionnaire (Elo rating, name, etc.). After a few weeks, you will get a link to the online test. The questionnaire closes on October 15, 2023. The names of participants will be kept confidential. The research results will lead to a paper and a blog on the Chessable site.

Via the questionnaire, participants can opt for a one-month free Chessable PRO Account. To get the Chessable PRO account, list your existing Chessable account or create a Chessable account for free at After November 21 you will see the PRO status when you open your account.

Links and contact information

Chessable PRO Account:

Chessable science: and click on the green banner “View Our Active Scientific Research”

Chessable science blogs:

For questions or remarks, please get in touch with Karel van Delft, Chessable science project manager: [email protected]

Lalić takes crown on night when juniors shine

An impressive performance against a strong field gives Peter Lalić victory in the third Kingston Summer Blitz tournament

The final blitz tournament of the Kingston Summer Blitz Series was won by Peter Lalić. He scored 5.5/6 to hold off a strong field which included two titled players, some very talented juniors and a few new faces. Peter defeated Staines’ Ye Kyaw in the final round to clinch first place. Kyaw (4/6), who had a very impressive tournament, took the U2000 grading prize. 

There was a titanic battle in round 4, with FM Vladimir Li taking on IM Graeme Buckley. A minor piece and pawns endgame went on for well over 100 moves, with both managing to promote. A tense finish, with Buckley playing on the increment, eventually ended in a draw, with the engrossed crowd (and tournament organisers fearing a very late night) breathing a sigh of relief.

FM Vladimir Li (left) and IM Graeme Buckley had a titanic battle in round 4 which eventually ended in a draw

However, stealing the show as ever was the seven-strong junior contingent, playing with confidence and poise. Youngsters William Lin (2.5/6) and Ethan Bogerd (3/6) picked up some impressive results and look like promising prospects, while Jaden Mistry again mopped up the giantkiller prize with another two victories against 2000-rated opponents. Jaden continues to go from strength to strength. 

Special mention to Ben Hambridge, who popped his head into the club before heading back to university and picked up the U1600 grading prize with a solid 4/6. And thanks to Julian Way for acting as tournament organiser, allowing me to play this time. We will be back in the winter with the next edition. 

Prize winners

1st – Peter Lalić (5.5/6)
2nd – IM Graeme Buckley (5/6)
3rd – FM Vladimir Li (4.5/6)
U2000 grading prize – Ye Kyaw (4/6)
U1600 grading prize – Ben Hambridge (4/6)
Giantkiller prize – Jaden Mistry

Top 10

Report by Gregor Smith, Kingston Summer Blitz organiser

Student life in the 1970s

Three members of the club, Peter Andrews, Stephen Moss and John Foley along with another contemporary decided to visit their their old college one summer’s day to enjoy the atmosphere and to recapture some of their past. Another member of the club, David Maycock, filmed the day. The resulting video provides a diverse set of personal stories. These are not to be taken as representative of current college life. One of the themes is how different student life was half a century ago compared with now. Some viewers found the video insightful and even delightful.  

Other videos from the day are in the pipeline. We are also contemplating producing a video about chess players. 

Abasolo triumphs in Kingston’s latest summer blitz

Silverio Abasolo scores 5.5/6 against a powerful field to win the second blitz tournament of the summer at the Willoughby Arms

The Kingston Blitz series continued with 21 players from Kingston, Surbiton and Richmond chess clubs congregating on Monday 17 July for six rounds of 7+3 blitz. A strong field was assembled, with seven players rated above 2000, plus a few dangerous juniors lurking for scalps.

It was one of those juniors – Kingston’s fast-improving Jaden Mistry – who set the early pace, with impressive victories over 2000+ rated players Will Taylor and Julian Way. An impressive feat, all but wrapping up the giantkiller prize with four rounds to spare.

MIke Healey (foreground, left) faces Graham Alcock on top board, with the giantkilling Jaden Mistry beyond him

Round 3 saw the first clash of the titans, as Peter Lalić and Silverio Abasolo faced off in fierce fashion. With both down to their final three seconds, Silverio played at lightning pace, building his time back up to 30 seconds before managing to force his pawns to promotion to clinch the game. 

Meanwhile, Mike Healey and David Maycock had successfully navigated the first three rounds with perfect scores and met on top board in round 4. Mike opened up his kingside, putting pressure on David’s defences with rooks on a1 and b1 threatening from range, and eventually smashed through to pick up the exchange. Mike then began to force home his material advantage, grabbing pawns, but David, who never gives up, battled on and managed to fork Mike’s rook and king, turning the tables and securing victory. “You always manage a swindle, David,” chirped Peter Lalić.

Silverio Abasolo (left) gets the better of David Maycock in their crucial fifth-round game

David (4/4) would now face Silverio (3.5/4) in what looked to be a fifth-round title decider, and it was Silverio, playing with the black pieces, who prevailed. In the final round, Silverio was up against Joseph Morrison, a talented Surbiton junior who put up another excellent Kingston Blitz performance, gaining his third consecutive U2000 grading prize. Something tells me he won’t be eligible for this category for much longer. However, it was the impressive Abasolo who came out on top, winning the tournament with an unbeaten 5.5/6.

Prize winners

1st – Silverio Abasolo (5.5/6) (prize = £50)
2nd – David Maycock (5/6)
U2000 prize – Joseph Morrison (4/6)
U1600 prize – Jaden Mistry/Shaurya Handu (3/6)
Giantkiller prize – Jaden Mistry

Top 13

Report by Gregor Smith, Kingston Summer Blitz organiser

Rowson and Abasolo honoured at annual club dinner

The event was held at Monty’s Nepalese Restaurant in Kingston on 29 June 2023

One week after our AGM, 21 members gathered for the annual club dinner, this time at a Nepalese restaurant in a central location in Kingston, to celebrate the best season in our history. To facilitate conversation, there was a seating plan which placed members alongside others of a similar age and rating. This technique seems to have worked because a memorable evening was enjoyed by all.

The highlight of the proceedings was the prize-giving. This year we dispensed with our former categories, such as the player who achieved the best performance. Instead we focused on one captain and one player who made the crucial difference. David Rowson received the prize for Captain of the Year for having steered our first-team players to win both Surrey League Division 1 and Thames Valley League Division 1. The prize for Player of the Year went to Silverio Abasolo. His results during the season were admirable, but the crucial one was his game against IM Chris Baker which he managed to win from a rather dubious position to enable Kingston to retain the Alexander Cup – the premier knockout cup for the Surrey League.

Silverio Abasolo receiving the player of the year award from club president John Foley. Photograph: Jon Eckert

This season Kingston also won the knockout cup for the Thames Valley League, as well as Division X in the Thames Valley League under the stewardship of Stephen Daines. To add icing to the cake, our 4NCL team, having started the season in Division 4, won promotion to Division 2 (a third-division team having pulled out, allowing accelerated promotion).

The prizes were handed out by club president John Foley. Unfortunately the new secretary had forgotten to bring the glittering baubles, so a bar of chocolate was handed over as an exchangeable token instead. The president made an engaging and witty speech setting out the facts above. When he finally sat down after 15 minutes, there was relief amongst those assembled who had been warned by the secretary to expect a speech lasting at least an hour.

Li wins opening Kingston summer blitz tournament

Vladimir Li scores 5.5/6 to see off a strong field in the first of a series of blitzes at the Willoughby Arms planned for the summer

After a successful pilot in April, competitive blitz returned to the Willoughby Arms on Monday 19 June as Kingston Chess Club hosted the first of a series of summer blitz tournaments. It was a six-round Swiss with the “long” (for blitz!) time control of seven minutes plus a three-second increment per move. Twenty-two Kingstonians welcomed four players from neighbouring Surbiton Chess Club – we are keen to open these events to other local clubs whenever possible – in a 26-player field. 

Round one went to form, with the more experienced players successfully fending off the recent influx of Kingston juniors, who enthusiastically battled away all evening. The highlight of the second round was a delightful (except for his opponent) smothered mate by Josh Lea, whose forced queen sac on g1 was followed by Nf2++, leaving Jimmy Kerr’s king helplessly stranded in the corner. “Just like you do in the puzzles!”, Josh remarked wittily. Philidor, after whom this mating pattern is named, would no doubt share Josh’s pleasure. Henceforth, we will call this Lea’s Legacy.

The playing room at the Willoughby is packed as 26 hopefuls do battle in the first Kingston Summer Blitz

The first upset came in round 3 as club president John Foley got the better of reigning Kingston blitz champion Peter Lalić. John has annotated this interesting game. A less interesting game played out on board 3, where Alan Scrimgour’s queen and king fork on move five saw an early resignation and wry smile from Surbiton’s Graham Alcock. A distinctly unneighbourly gesture from the Kingston chair.

In round 4, Foley claimed another scalp, this time of Kingston star David Maycock, who flagged in time trouble. That put Foley, who claims to be only a moderate blitz player, on the perfect score of 4/4, sharing the lead with Vladimir Li, whose victory against Alan Scrimgour also took him to 4/4.

At the same time, the action was hotting up on the lower boards – in every sense, as it was a very warm evening – with the usual blitz madness of spectacular blunders, swindles and flagging in winning positions. Nick Grey was unfortunate to lose on time against Stephen Moss as he was about to deliver the coup de grâce, in a game Nick had completely dominated. What a cruel form of chess blitz is.

Foley and Li faced off in round 5, in what looked to be the tournament decider. And it was Li who prevailed, putting the Kingston president in an unbreakable bind to go a full point ahead of the chasing pack. Li went on to draw with Peter Lalić in an entertaining and richly tactical final-round game to claim outright first prize with an unbeaten 5.5/6. All in all, another successful running of the Kingston Blitz, which was played in great spirit. We will be back on Monday 17 July for the next edition.

Vladimir Li (left) receives his prize from Gregor Smith for winning the first Kingston Summer Blitz

Prize winners

1st Vladimir Li (5.5/6) (prize = £50)
2nd= John Foley (4.5/6)
2nd= Alan Scrimgour (4.5/6)
2nd= David Maycock (4.5/6)
U2000 prize – Jojo Morrison (4/6)
U1600 prize – Jaden Mistry/Josh Lea (3/6)
Giantkiller prize – John Foley

Top 10

Report by Gregor Smith, Kingston Summer Blitz organiser