Category Archives: News

Kingston overwhelm Epsom in Alexander Cup

Alexander Cup match (10 boards) played at the Haywain Brewers Fayre, Epsom on 22 November 2021

Wimbledon provocateur Paul Barasi has been complaining that Kingston’s season seems to comprise of nothing but beating up Epsom, and he has a point. After defeating them in the Lauder Trophy earlier this month, Kingston have now given their ambitious rival (revived in the past few years by Marcus Gosling and already on course to become one of Surrey’s strongest clubs) a fearful drubbing in the county’s most prestigious cup competition.
 
Barasi complained when, on Twitter, Kingston described the Lauder win as “epic”, doubting that Epsom deserved the epithet. But Kingston have struggled in the past decade or so, whereas reborn Epsom have been soaring, and the Lauder victory felt like a watershed. This much-anticipated Alexander Cup match was an even more significant moment, with Gosling & Co out for revenge, Epsom enjoying home advantage and Kingston captain John Foley reminding his troops that Kingston had not won the Alexander Cup since 1976.

Kingston from left: Scrimgour, Gibbons, Foley, Healey, Taylor, Maycock, Rowson, Bussmann, Lalic, Eckert

Kingston had an average rating advantage of around 30 points a board (in the new four-digit classification), but a close match was nonetheless anticipated. Epsom, in their impressive pub venue with a quiet playing room and tables in an adjoining room for social chess, had installed a large scoreboard and bought pricey new wooden boards for what they clearly saw as a defining match. But as the night wore on and the scoreboard recorded their tale of woe, they must have wished they had kept it all a little more low key.

Alan Scrimgour, playing his trusty Sicilian on board seven, led the way for Kingston with a 22-move victory over Natasha Regan, whose ambitious piece sacrifice backfired. Epsom’s Daniel Young on board four tried a speculative knight manoeuvre that came unstuck against Kingston’s wily David Rowson. It was 2-0, and Epsom may already have been wishing they hadn’t invested in the new scoreboard.

Kingston were soon sprinting ahead, with a smooth win on board three for David Maycock over Kevin Thurlow, and a very fine victory by John Bussmann over former Kingston regular Matthew Baker. Bussmann is noted as a sharp tactician, but here he played with great positional precision in a game which chess luminary John Saunders later described as the “game of the day”. Veterans Jon Eckert and Malcolm Groom agreed a draw on board 10, giving Epsom their first half point, but the writing was already on the wall. Literally, thanks to that wretched giant scoreboard.
 
Paul Gibbons, playing his first match of the season for Kingston, secured a draw on board eight that took the running points total to five, and soon after Peter Lalic, on board two, produced a spectacular double-piece sacrifice to force checkmate and take Kingston over the finishing line and into the semi-finals. The Lalic game was a truly extraordinary one, with Peter playing a characteristically imaginative and challenging opening which completely bamboozled his opponent, Michael Dams. Saunders points out that there is no precedent among ChessBase’s new Mega DataBase 2022’s 9.2 million games for the first two moves played in this encounter: 1. Nc3 e6 2. d3 Bb4. And it got crazier from there.

Epsom from left: Anvarinaeini, Dams, Thurlow, Baker, Gosling, Regan, Young, Hamilton, Groom.
IM Peter Large was exercising the time-honoured prerogative of the team’s board one to arrive late for the match

The match had been won, the champagne corks were already popping back at the Willoughby Arms – metaphorically speaking that is: in reality Greg Heath was having another beer and the ascetic twentysomethings following the match via WhatsApp were sipping their glasses of Diet Coke – and all that remained was the mopping up. At Epsom, not the Willoughby.
 
John Foley won a queenless middlegame with a precisely calculated pawn advance against Robert Hamilton on board six; Will Taylor (having nobly made the trek down from Walthamstow) drew with Epsom president Marcus Gosling on board five; and, in the last game to finish, IM Peter Large won a roller-coaster struggle with Mike Healey to record Epsom’s sole win of the evening, drawing Healey’s king into a mating net with Large’s own king and two bishops. Healey thought he had drawing chances if he had traded his rook for one of those killer bishops, but went for glory and paid the price.
 
By then, though, the match was long over and Kingston were celebrating, with a final result of 7.5-2.5. Gosling promised there would be a painful post-mortem – he threw an imaginary punch as he said it – and next year Epsom will be back even stronger. Their ambition knows no bounds, and good for them. But for the moment, Kingston had the spoils and Foley’s dream of winning the Alexander Cup for the first time in almost 50 years was still alive.

Stephen Moss

Kingston on verge of victory over Surbiton

Thames Valley League division 2 match played at the United Reformed Church, Surbiton on 2 November 2021

Local rivalry renewed and once again Kingston are in charge against the auld enemy, though it was admittedly the Kingston first team up against Surbiton B in Division 2 of the Thames Valley League. Both teams were missing key personnel, and Kingston suffered a late withdrawal, which meant that the captain himself had to play – never a happy situation. For a long time, it looked as if Surbiton would prevail, but at the end, as the cold in their wintry new church venue told, there were some strange twists that changed the picture entirely.

The facts. Peter Lalic, whose arrival at Kingston alongside David Maycock has helped to transform the club’s fortunes, played the Budapest Gambit and won a pleasing game against Liam Bayly on top board. Jon Eckert overcame a ratings deficit of 140 points and a poor lifetime score against his opponent to beat Paul Dupré in an excellent game on board two. On board three, Surbiton’s Nick Faulks returned the favour by overturning another large ratings deficit to defeat Kingston’s David Rowson.

From Eckert v Dupré, White to play and checkmate in 15 moves ignoring desperadoes (answer)

I was very lucky to squeeze a draw out of my game on board five against the solid and thoughtful David Cole. I sacrificed (or perhaps just lost) a pawn for what turned out to be nothing early on, and was always up against it. David had what was almost certainly a winning rook endgame but happily no time to prosecute it, so rather than trying to win on the increment took my rather desperate draw offer. On board six, Adam Nakar dropped a piece early and looked certain to lose, but fought valiantly and secured a miracle draw two pawns down in an endgame where opposite-coloured bishops were the only pieces left on the board. He has written a blog about the joys of such endings – the point being that with opposite-coloured bishops you should never give up even the least promising-looking of positions.

That made it 3-2 to Kingston, so it all hinged on board four. Cue anti-climax: the two players – Kingston’s extremely promising newcomer John Shanley (the medical hero of the Maidenhead match the previous week) and Surbiton’s Andrew Boughen – adjourned. Shanley has the edge and I am foolishly already calling the match as a win for Kingston, but we won’t have a definitive result for a couple of weeks.

This raises all sorts of questions. Should we really still be playing adjournments in the age of engines and digital clocks that allow for increments so avoid flagging? Why on earth does the Thames Valley League permit a variety of different time controls to be played in the same match? Quickplay on some boards; slowplay on other boards; even different forms of quickplay, with some players allowed to opt for increments and others for fixed times. We were using three different time controls across six boards, which is madness, yet permissible under Thames Valley rules.

It’s a shambles, a nightmare for captains, confusing for players and needs to be rationalised. Some clubs opt for two-and-a-half-hour playing sessions and others for three-hour sessions, each of which comes with a variety of different time controls, adding to the confusion. I count at least six different time controls in use in the league. Sorry, but this needs to be looked at as soon as possible. Why not 75 minutes and a 10-second increment for all evening chess? That’s fair, easy to understand and provides sufficient time for a perfectly good game.

 A blog by club chairman John Foley covers these issues in more detail 

But enough ranting. Thanks to Surbiton for an excellent match that was in the balance to the end – indeed could, I suppose, still be said to be in the balance, though the doctor’s diagnosis is that his opponent is unlikely to recover. It’s nice for the club to be off the mark in the Thames Valley. We would love to be back in Division 1. And, speaking for myself, I was extremely pleased to squeak a draw as a last-minute substitute after the Maidenhead disaster last week. My season is up and running … or at least stumbling.

Stephen Moss, Kingston Thames Valley captain

P.S. John Shanley drew his adjourned game when it was resumed after a two-week delay. He was a little disappointed not to convert his advantage, but, as his opponent said, a computer’s evaluation that you have a 2.7 plus is not so easy to convert in practical play in a rook v bishop and knight endgame. In the end, a draw was agreed, so Kingston did win the match, getting us off the mark in Thames Valley League division two, which we are very hopeful of winning this season (famous last words).

Kingston back on Lauder trail with epic win

Lauder Trophy match played at the Willoughby Arms, Kingston on 1 November 2021

Epsom, the brash new boys on the Surrey club chess scene, arrived at the Willoughby Arms full of hope and self-belief for the opening round of the 2021/22 Lauder Trophy. Happily, Kingston were able to snuff out the potent threat they posed and secure a 4-2 win that put them back in the hunt for the cup they won in 2018/19 but lost to South Norwood in the recent final of the 2019/20 competition (the 2020/21 event was lost completely to the pandemic).

There was a wonderful match-up on board one between Kingston’s bright new teenage star David Maycock, who recently came third alongside GMs Keith Arkell and Mark Hebden in the Hull Weekender, and Epsom’s veteran international master Peter Large. Their game was complex (too complex for me to grasp at least), but Large – with white – gradually took control, built up a time advantage, kept squeezing, and Maycock was eventually forced to resign. A victory for experience over youth.

On board two, the last game to finish, Vladimir Bovtramovics came out on top in a tense struggle with Epsom captain Marcus Gosling, whose piece sacrifice proved to be unsound; wily tactician John Bussmann forced a quick win on board three when Malcolm Groom played the London System but omitted to castle; Jon Eckert, who has made an excellent start to the season, won efficiently on board four; Yae-Chan Yang, returning to chess after five years and making his league debut for the club, overwhelmed his opponent on board five, sidestepping the Hillbilly attack against his Caro Kann and coolly building his own attack while playing on the increment (though he said later that the coolness was an illusion and tribute to his acting skills because inside he was shaking throughout); Jake Grubb, another Kingston league debutant, fought bravely but eventually succumbed to a tide of black pawns sweeping up the board.

Vladimir Bovtramovics v Marcus Gosling (Photo: John Foley)

A terrific match, played in an excellent spirit in front of almost 20 Kingstonians who had come along to support. Thanks to the Willoughby, as ever, for hosting, with supporters spilling out of the playing room and into the bars and garden. “Bring us back some silverware!,” bellowed Rick the landlord when he learned of Kingston’s progress to the Lauder semi-final, where we will face Ashtead or Dorking. We’ll do our best Rick.

Stephen Moss, Kingston Lauder Trophy captain

Misery in Maidenhead

Thames Valley League division 2 match played at St Luke’s Community Hall, Maidenhead on 25 October 2021

We lost 4-2 in our first away match of the season. The teams were evenly matched on paper but traversing the M25/M4 corridor in a dark evening is tiring and guarantees a home energy advantage. On top board, Maidenhead’s John Wager (w) beat Julian Way. Team captain Stephen Moss lost to a stronger player on the bottom board and muttered about dropping himself from the squad, a feeling which overtakes us all from time to time. The remaining games were drawn. John Shanley played his first competitive game in many years having returned to chess only recently. The final game to finish was John Foley v Tony Milnes. The opposite bishops endgame was about to be adjourned (yes we still have adjournments in the Thames Valley League) but having sealed the envelope, the players analysed the position and concluded that a draw was inevitable and so another trip to St Luke’s parish hall was avoided.

There was more interest off the board. A junior managed to get locked into the disabled toilet and set off the alarm. The home team ingeniously eventually picked open the lock. Later on, the caretaker, an elderly gentleman collapsed in the kitchen and was immediately attended to by John Shanley who in real life is a doctor at Kingston Hospital. Two home players stayed on at the end of the match waiting for an ambulance. In the end, the patient decided he wanted to go home – so they made sure he got home alright and he was going to see the doctor the following day. John calmly returned to the board to secure a draw. The Maidenhead captain Nigel Smith sent his club’s thanks for providing medical assistance.

John Foley

David Maycock comes third in Hull Open

David Maycock Photo: John Foley

David Maycock came third in the strong 4NCL Hull Open held over the weekend 22-24 October 2021. Sharing first place were GM Peter Wells and Steven A Jones on 4.5/5. David shared 3rd place with GMs Mark Hebden and Keith Arkell and Marco Gallana from Italy who all scored 4/5. David, who moved to Kingston from Mexico a few months ago, has been working to improve his over the board chess after a period of enforced abstinence during Covid. His performance rating for the event was Elo 2402.

David rode his luck especially in the final game against the strong amateur John G Cooper. David was unfortunately paired with fellow Kingstonian Peter Lalic in the fourth round. This was the only game which Peter lost, ending on 50% overall.

Final Results

Kingston runners-up in Lauder Trophy

Lauder Trophy final against South Norwood played at the neutral venue of Ashtead Peace Memorial Hall on 19 October 2021

Which of course is another way of saying we lost 4-2 in the final to South Norwood (well done to them and their canny captain David Howes). The fault was largely mine as captain, not least as I failed to explain the time control properly to Murugan Kanagasapay (playing on board five for Kingston). He didn’t realise he was going to get an extra 20 minutes after the first hour and hurried through his moves as the initial control approached, blundering and eventually losing the game.

The spacious playing room at Ashtead

But there were no excuses really. Adam Nakar was furious with himself for failing to convert a wonderful attacking position on board four; John Bussmann was outfoxed by Paul Dupre on board two; Jon Eckert drew a sharp game on board three; Greg Heath won nicely for Kingston on board six; and honours were shared in the game on top board between Kingston’s David Maycock and South Norwood’s flagbearer Tariq Oozerally.

Tariq Oozerally v David Maycock

A good match, but Kingston’s luck ran out after our somewhat fortuitous victory in the semi-final over Guildford. No time to mope, though. This was the conclusion of the Covid-paused 2019/20 Lauder Trophy; the 2020/21 tournament was lost completely; but in a week we begin our 2021/22 campaign. There hasn’t even been time to sack the captain, despite protests among Kingston’s loyal fan base and moves to engineer an injection of funds from a foreign oligarch to boost the team. I have vowed to stay on and turn things round – at least until I can secure a multimillion-pound payoff.

Stephen Moss, Kingston Lauder Trophy captain

Kingston earn bragging rights over Surbiton in historic ‘megamatch’

Sixteen-board ‘friendly’ between Kingston and Surbiton played at the Willoughby Arms, Kingston, on 30 September 2021

The pandemic has had many downsides for chess, but this 16-board match – or Megamatch as the organisers billed it, pretending it was a heavyweight title fight – was one of the upsides. Paul Durrant, who has spent most of his life building up the Surbiton club from small beginnings (just seven members at one point) into a powerhouse of chess in south-west London, realised that the Surrey and Thames Valley leagues were going to be skinnier in this tentative recovery year, and wanted to give his members a bit of extra ECF-graded chess. Hence he offered a defi to smaller local rivals Kingston. Who would win bragging rights for the coming year?

Normally Surbiton would stroll it, but they have lost a few of their top players over the past year as the pandemic altered work-life priorities – a few players have moved away, started PhDs, become monks (OK the last bit is a flight of fancy, but we have all been changed by lockdown). Several other factors also played in Kingston’s favour: they have been joined by David Maycock, a 2250-rated British-Mexican who promises to be a flagbearer for the ambitious (yes we are ambitious!) club over the next few years. David is already making waves on the London chess scene and, still just a teenager, could well make IM – or more. We intend to be with him all the way and give him whatever support we can. We also fielded Peter Lalic, a friend of the club who has returned to chess and made an immediate impact (see his performance in the recent 4NCL congress in Leamington Spa where he drew with GM Peter Wells) and, on top board, the hugely talented Mike Healey. Kingston had home advantage – useful as the match was played during the fuel crisis – and the organisers’ intention was to balance the grades on each board as far as possible to ensure competitive match-ups.

The top eight boards were strong and played at a time control of 75 minutes with a 10-second increment. The bottom eight boards, played with a control of 60 minutes plus a 10-second increment, were made up of stalwart club members and players who were new to over-the-board chess. Kingston fielded half a dozen players who had never played for the club before – people who had come along during lockdown and had stayed for the return to league chess. Managing this transition will be crucial to the future of the club – indeed all clubs in the UK. Chess clubs have an ageing demographic; Kingston (unlike Surbiton) does not have a vibrant junior section; so we need these twentysomethings who come to us via our website or Facebook to stick around, graduate to competitive chess, and be the captains and administrators of the future. That’s the dream anyway.

I am unable to give a blow-by-blow account of the match because, with Surbiton’s board 10 failing to show, I stood in for him. This was legitimate as I am a member of Surbiton as well as Kingston, though it felt a little odd as I had organised the Kingston team. I was intent on a draw, but my opponent – John Shanley, one of the Kingston debutants – had other ideas and kept pushing for a win, though in the end the spoils were shared. (I was rather pleased with this as the cider I had drunk beforehand, thinking that I didn’t have to push any wood and celebrating the fact that all 16 of my players had shown up, was definitely inhibiting my already limited powers of calculation.)

Kingston’s three young lions won their games on boards 1 to 3 (you will find their brilliantly annotated games by clicking the scores on the scoresheet below); the club’s traditional engine room – David Rowson, John Foley and Alan Scrimgour – secured draws against strong Surbitonians; and Jon Eckert (in a splendidly violent game) and John Bussmann (with typical tactical imagination) won their games on boards 7 and 8, giving Kingston a remarkable 6.5 to 1.5 advantage on the top boards.

Surbiton clawed back some of that deficit on the lower boards, but it was not enough and Kingston ran out winners by a comfortable 9.5 to 6.5. David Shalom, playing his first match for Kingston for several years, beat Douglas Robson in a topsy-turvy, nerve-shredding struggle, and Gregor Smith, one of the Kingston debutants, got off to a winning start.

A wonderful night enjoyed by all. Thanks to the Willoughby Arms for letting us use the playing room on a Thursday, which is not our usual club night, and to John Saunders for acting as arbiter and taking a marvellously evocative set of photographs of the occasion. The match was played in honour of Ken Inwood, a Kingston player since the 1950s (yes, 70 years!), who has been in hospital recently and was unable to attend the match. There are hopes that the Megamatch will become an annual fixture as the curtain-raiser to the season, though next year it will be Surbiton’s turn to host and you can bet that even now the wily and determined Durrant will be plotting his revenge, calling back his 2200-strength players from their rural retreats and monastic hideouts. This was a significant battle to win, but the war – a friendly war of course – goes on.

Stephen Moss

KingstonRatingScoreRatingSurbiton
1Mike Healey22601-02163Chris Briscoe
2Peter Lalic22531-02133Jasper Tambini
3David Maycock21331-02080Altaf Chaudhry
4David Rowson20650.5-0.52058David Scott
5John Foley20200.5-0.52050Liam Bayly
6Alan Scrimgour19600.5-0.52013Angus James
7John Bussmann18931-01833Andrew Boughen
8Jon Eckert18181-01803Graham Alcock
9Adam Nakar 16600-11476Joshua Pirgon
10John Shanley 18000.5-0.51728Stephen Moss
11Muragun Kanagasapay16000-11668David Cole
12David Shalom15001-0Douglas Robson
13Jake Grubb12000-11592David Razzell 
14Gregor Smith12001-0Roberto Franco
15Harry Straszewski 12000.5-0.51398Paul McCauley
16Jack Robinson10000-1Alice Metcalf 
Kingston 9.5 – 6.5 Surbiton
The final game to end on top board

Historical Footnote

There has been a Kingston-Surbiton match for over 50 years according to Paul Durrant who recalled playing in one when he first joined Surbiton at the start of his chess career. The two clubs share the same locality. Kingston upon Thames is the town in which the Saxon kings were consecrated, and the area is distinguished by being named as the Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames. Surbiton and Norbiton emerged on to the map as locations for the railway to Kingston.

Chronological Footnote

This match was the Kingston club’s season opener in terms of being the first fixture of the 2021/22 season. However, it was not the first chronological match of the season because we had already played Guildford in the Lauder Cup (match report). That match was held over from the 2019-20 season, the intervening 2020/21 season having been cancelled due to Covid.

Kingston edge out Guildford in dramatic Lauder semi-final

Lauder Trophy semi-final (resumption of the Covid-suspended 2019-20 competition) played at the Guildford Institute on 20 September 2021

Well, that was pretty amazing. Two-thirds of the way through this semi-final match, Kingston were losing 2.5 to 0.5, and looked almost certain to be beaten and to have their hands prised from the Lauder Trophy, which we had won in 2018-19. But there was to be the strangest of conclusions to this extraordinary match …

Oliver Luen playing it cool as Black (Mike Gunn standing)

First, some context. Kingston are the holders of the Lauder Trophy, having won it in 2018-19 for the first time in almost two decades. This semi-final was part of the 2019-20 competition. The match had been due to be played in March 2020, but we all know what happened in that dire month. The Surrey Chess Association decided to play the 2019-20 tournament to a conclusion, pretend that 2020/21 never happened (which of course it didn’t chess-wise) and start the 2021/22 tournament in November. Pity the poor Lauder Trophy captain who has to juggle all this.

The other key point about the Lauder is that there is a collective grade limit. We had been waiting so long to play this match that the English Chess Federation has changed the grading system from three digits to four in the interim, so what used to be an overall limit for the competition of 841 has become one of 10,505 (why not 10,500 for simplicity?). Captains can slice their team any way they like, but if you use up 2800 points by having Magnus Carlsen on board one, you are likely to be quite weak on the bottom boards. That is the beauty of the competition: in theory you get very well-balanced matches (as we saw at Guildford). One does, however, always have to keep an eye on unscrupulous captains putting in players on dodgy estimated grades (Carlsen has no official Surrey rating, so if he did wander into the Willoughby Arms for a game I’d probably seek to play him in the Lauder at an estimated grade of around 1600).

The semi-final was played at Guildford at their terrific venue and in an excellent atmosphere. There were two titans on board one – John Foley for Kingston and Julien Shepley (complete with generous lockdown beard) for Guildford, and these old rivals fairly rapidly agreed a draw. Greg Heath went wrong in a good position on board six and lost; Jon Eckert played what he said later was a very sharp opening as black on board three and also came unstuck. 2.5 to 0.5 to Guildford, with the other three games looking evenly balanced and an hour still to play. Things looked ominous, and I was resigned to handing the battered trophy, which I had brought along, over to Guildford’s Lauder captain, Mike Gunn.

But miracles do happen. Ljubica Lazarevic won well against a higher-rated player on board four – she said she’d swindled him but we are convinced she was in control throughout. John Bussmann drew on board two – a game he felt he should have won (but Jon always feels that). 3-2 to Guildford. Since they had won on board three, I feared that was the match gone. Surely board count would consign Kingston to defeat.

John Bussmann (left) and Ljubica Lazarevic (right) with Jon Eckert watching

There was, though, to be one final twist: Oliver Luen won brilliantly on board five to equalise the score at 3-3. Board count, with top board scoring 6 and bottom board 1, was also equal, with the decisive games scoring 5-5. And a quick consultation of the Surrey association rules by Julian Way, who had generously come along to support Kingston, showed that, in the event of a tie on board count, the bottom board score was eliminated first, leaving Kingston the winners.

Gunn took the news with remarkable equanimity, as Kingston had been under the cosh all night and now squeezed through on a technicality. We now face South Norwood in the final at the neutral venue of Ashtead on Tuesday 19 October. I’m not sure my nerves can take it.

Stephen Moss, Kingston Lauder Trophy captain

Welcome to the new website

After over a decade we have decided to switch the site to WordPress which we hope be easier for some of our members to use. We have decided not to transfer our historical articles at this stage. Perhaps we will publish some of the more interesting ones from time to time in the future. The Club actually won the Club Website of the Year a few years back on the strength of these articles which were written in the early days of chess club websites. We are grateful to Michael K Bennett for having hosted us with TextPattern since the beginning.

The plan is to start afresh with members’ games and match reports. It seems we are at the start of a new era and we are wiping the slate clean. The pandemic has changed the way we do chess. We have met together online. We play in “beach huts” in the pub garden. There are several new members and some older, more vulnerable, members have been staying away.

It is extraordinary to think that the Club was founded in 1875 and is still going after many transformations. We look forward to reaching our sesquicentennial year and have begun to make plans. Our ideas include writing a brief history of Kingston Chess Club and running a Chess Festival in the Market Square in Kingston. One can never start planning too early.

The club has thrived and survived due to the diligence of a large number of people over the years. We have not taken advantage of social media as much as we could have. Traditionally chess players moving to Kingston would seek out their local club – but those simple days have passed. Nowadays a chess club must be active on Twitter and Facebook – even if many of the members reject such platforms for themselves.

People join the club to play chess over the board. Playing online does not have the social element. Come along to the club and you will meet other people with a shared interest. Some members are very serious about improving their chess, others prefer to engage in conversations starting with chess but never limited to chess. If you want to drop by on a Monday evening you are always welcome.