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Kingston 2 avoid the drop in Surrey Div 2 (with a little help)

Surrey League division 2 match played at the Willoughby Arms, Kingston on 29 May 2023

Well that, frankly, was bizarre. This was a crunch relegation match between Kingston 2 and South Norwood 1. Lose it and we would go down to division 3. If South Norwood 1, who on their day can field a strong side, were to lose by more than 5-2, they would be relegated. We expected them to come with a strong team. As it was, only four South Norwood players showed up.

The three defaults gave us an instant 3-0 lead. We were almost safe without having to push a pawn – thank you South Norwood! Alan Scrimgour then agreed an early-ish draw with Paul Dupré on board 2 to ensure a drawn match – enough for us to leapfrog Surbiton 1 and survive in the division. Soon after, Nick Grey agreed a draw with South Norwood captain Simon Lea on board 5 to win the match and ensure we finished the division clear of the relegation zone. That left two extremely hard-fought games: Peter Andrews against the 2220-rated Marcus Osborne on board 1 and David Shalom against Ibrahim Abouchakra on board 6.

Peter played excellently, pressing throughout and having the better of the game, but Marcus is nothing if not resourceful. He kept posing counter-threats and setting traps, and in time trouble Peter blundered and allowed a mate. Peter was, naturally, not best pleased, but the consolation is that he has had a tremendous season and contributed hugely both to the first team’s triumphs and to keeping both B teams in the second divisions of the Surrey and Thames Valley leagues.

David Shalom was also on top in his game, winning the exchange, but Ibrahim used his bishop well against David’s rook to control a pawn advance, eventually queening and forcing mate. Again, disappointment for David, but his return to competitive chess this season has been a great success, and he played a key role in the vital second-team victory away to Surbiton 1 which helped make survival in this tough division possible.

The four players from South Norwood had done well, limiting Kingston’s victory to 4-3, which means they, too, will survive in division 2, sending Surbiton 1 down. Truly, a bizarre conclusion to a very strange evening. The moral of this tale may be “Don’t play league chess matches on bank holidays.”

Stephen Moss, Kingston 2 acting captain in Surrey League

Kingston win Thames Valley Knockout to seal historic ‘Quadruple’

Thames Valley Knockout final v Harrow played at the Willoughby Arms, Kingston on 22 May 2023

Kingston had a considerable rating edge over Harrow in the Thames Valley Knockout final, but we knew they had some strong players, including the fast-improving Bodhana Sivanandan, who last year represented England at the Fide World Cadet Championships in the under-eight girls age group, coming second.

I welcomed Harrow in my capacity as chair of Kingston and, with Harrow’s permission, spoke of my personal game history with Harrow’s sadly deceased and much-missed IM Colin Crouch. I lost to him four times: three times in Scotland, where Colin was a regular visitor, and finally in a league match in which Colin showed his legendary attacking prowess by forcing mate with a rook sacrifice followed by a queen sacrifice.

Thames Valley Knockout captain Alan Scrimgour (standing) observing the match. Photograph: John Foley

On board 1 David Maycock unusually found himself well ahead on the clock as his opponent arrived late. The critical moment in the game came when David accepted an unsound bishop sacrifice for a bunch of pawns. He carefully defended, exchanged material and was clearly winning when his opponent lost on time.

David Maycock accepted a bishop sac which proved to be unsound and won on time. Photograph: John Foley

Peter Lalić started with his trademark Nc3 and h4 opening. He developed quickly and broke through on f7 when his opponent failed to stop him adding a knight on e5 to the other one already on g5 (see position below).

With Black’s king on the run, an attempt to find counterplay backfired when Peter added the b-file to his attacking lines. After an exchange sac on c7 he had unstoppable threats of mating in either two or four moves. A tremendous game by Peter, making it 2-0 to the Deadly Duo.

Peter Lalić played a characteristically brilliant attacking game to win on board 2. Photograph: John Saunders

Next to finish was board 3, where a draw resulted after Vladimir Li repelled Steven Coles’ kingside pressure to leave a broadly equal position. It was now down to the bottom three boards, where Silverio Abasolo seemed to be building a dangerous kingside attack, Will Taylor – down on the clock – had given up a pawn for counterplay, and David Rowson was pressing in the middlegame, with his hanging pawns producing this dynamic and double-edged position:

Against Will on board 5, Bodhana was playing calmly to incrementally increase her advantage, though Will did have a golden chance to equalise on move 36:

Here 36…Qxc4 leads to a probable draw. Will chose the plausible 36. Ra2 instead. Bodhana blocked with Rd2 and, instead of exchanging rooks, Will then played 37…Ra3, freeing up White’s c-pawn to create mayhem as it advanced. This was the final position:

Rising star Bhodana Sivanandan annotates her board 5 game against Will Taylor. Photograph: John Foley

This was Will’s third game against Bodhana and his first loss, as he described ruefully (but with great good humour and humility) afterwards. “I’ve had the privilege of playing this remarkable young lady three times now,” he said. “In our first game, nine months ago, she weighed in at a mere 1290 Fide rating points (though grossly underrated, of course). But she is now up to 2000 ECF and close to 1800 Fide, and still improving rapidly. After our last game, I told her ‘You’ll get me next time!’, which unfortunately for me turned out to be correct. This time it’s my turn to proclaim: ‘I’ll be back!’ I look forward to our next game, albeit with some trepidation, and to following Bodhana’s chess career as it develops.” Has the Willoughby Arms hosted a potential women’s world champion?

Bodhana’s win made it Kingston 2.5-Harrow 1.5, and it was all to play for. Silverio’s game had turned in Harrow captain Nevil Chan’s favour. He had castled queenside and broken through there with queen and rook. Things were looking decidedly dicey, and Kingston’s chances seemed to lie with David on board 6. He had exchanged his hanging pawns for a passed pawn, and was pressing on the a4-e8 diagonal.

There were inaccuracies on both sides as the time grew short, but David eventually transposed to a winning queen ending courtesy of his advanced c-pawn.

David Rowson took Kingston over the line with a hard-fought win on board 6. Photograph: John Saunders

David’s win meant the title was Kingston’s, but by what margin? Back on board 4, Silverio had barely survived the counterattack from Black and was now a piece down, with queen against queen and knight. However, Nevil’s exposed king gave the Kingston player some chances, and in the end Silverio found a perpetual check to draw.

Silverio’s valiant escape made the final score 4-2 to Kingston, in a close match where Harrow did well given the rating disparity. Kingston thus added the Thames Valley Knockout crown to the Surrey League’s Alexander Cup and our two first division wins in the Surrey and Thames Valley leagues. We believe this “Quadruple” has never been achieved before. Congratulations to all the captains, players and supporters who made this historic achievement for the club possible.

Alan Scrimgour, Kingston chair and captain of the Thames Valley Knockout team

Kingston B pull off shock win at Hounslow

Thames Valley League division 2 match played at the Royal British Legion, Hounslow on 22 May 2023

Well, this was a turn-up for the books. Having successfully retained our place in division 2 of the Thames Valley League, there was zero pressure on us for this trip to play Hounslow A, who outrated the Kingston B side by more than 70 points a board. Perhaps that was the secret to our surprise victory – we could play with freedom and without fear.

Julian Way and Mateusz Dydak were well matched on board 1 and, with neither making obvious progress, agreed a shortish draw. Boards 5 and 6 were also evenly matched in rating terms, and though Charlie Cooke went the exchange up in his game, his opponent forced a perpetual. So far, as expected. However, what happened on boards 2, 3 and 4, where Hounslow held a substantial ratings advantage, was much less predictable.

On board 2 I played my usual unduly passive Scandinavian, but managed to hold my own in the opening without undue difficulty. We reached this position on move 29, with White to play:

Here White should just exchange queens and offer a draw, which, given the 300-point rating disparity, I would have taken, but my opponent was keen to maintain pressure along the g-file and played Qg3. This is, if not immediately losing, extremely bad for White: 29… Rd1 30. Kf1 Qd2 and the loss of at least a pawn is inevitable. I managed to get to a king and pawn endgame that was completely winning, but then made valiant attempts not to win. My opponent may even have had a theoretical draw, but happily for me (and despite my wretched endgame play) eventually lost on time.

Kingston captain Gregor Smith put up a tenacious fight against the canny Leon Fincham on board 3, but eventually succumbed in time trouble. That left Nick Grey up against Hounslow captain David White on board 4, and, in a closed Sicilian, Nick played superbly to win the game with Black and secure a memorable victory for the Bs by 3.5-2.5. A tremendous end to the season after all the travails earlier in the year.

Stephen Moss

Refreshed Kingston B enjoy comfortable win over Ealing B

Thames Valley League division 2 match played at the Willoughby Arms, Kingston on 15 May 2023

A packed playing room with two matches underway: KIngston B’s Byron Eslava and Hayden Holden in foreground

Finally safe from relegation after last week’s draw at Maidenhead, it was pressure off as we welcomed Ealing B to the Willoughby Arms for the final Thames Valley division 2 home match of the season. We rang the changes and gave opportunities to two rising stars from the third team, Hayden Holden and Jaden Mistry, and they did not disappoint. 

Hayden gained his first full point for the second team with an impressive victory on board 4. He launched a scary-looking kingside attack and the pressure told as his opponent poorly assessed a recapture. That gave Hayden the initiative and he expertly converted. 

Jaden and Gabriele Palmer jostled for a positional edge in a closed middlegame after an advanced Caro-Kann on board 5. Jaden, playing with the black pieces, was the first to break through, winning the exchange. However, White had counterplay, pushing pawns on the queenside, and Jaden settled for a draw. A mature, calculated performance – and great to see Jaden opening his account for the second team. 

On top board, Julian Way won impressively against Ealing captain Leslie Pringle. Julian managed to trap his opponent’s bishop to go a piece up early on, and Pringle duly resigned when he was about to lose the exchange for good measure. 

There were draws on boards 2 and 3 from Nick Grey and Byron Eslava, the latter gaining his first points for Kingston after joining the club earlier in the year and playing only a handful of league matches. We hope to see a lot more of Byron next season. With Ealing defaulting board 6, that left the final score at 4.5-1.5 to Kingston. Our final game awaits at Hounslow next week. It will be a tough match against their first team, but it’s nice to go there with our relegation worries well and truly behind us.

Gregor Smith, Kingston B captain in the Thames Valley League

Kingston A beat Surbiton to preserve unbeaten record

Thames Valley League division 1 match played at the Willoughby Arms, Kingston on 15 May 2023

This was the first team’s last league match of the season – there is just the Thames Valley Knockout final to come on 22 May – and they signed off in emphatic style with a 5.5-0.5 win (later adjusted to 4.5-0.5 for reasons explained below) over Surbiton A. This was pretty well the strongest team of regulars we could muster, and David Maycock, Vladimir Li, Silverio Abasolo, Will Taylor and captain David Rowson all recorded victories on the night.

Surbiton’s David Scott held Peter Lalić to a draw on board 2 to prevent a whitewash, though Vladimir Li was unhappy about the circumstances of his win on board 3. Vladimir felt that his opponent had been distracted by a disturbance in the playing room – another player was complaining that his clock had not been working properly – in a horribly double-edged position in a time scramble, and he asked the league to consider declaring the game void.

Will Taylor’s game against Paul Dupré was the first to finish. Paul played Alekhine’s Defence and the game was super-sharp, with both players throwing caution to the wind – it is end of term after all. In this position, Will played 10. g4, which is not necessarily objectively the best move but certainly succeeded in setting up a slugging match.

In his post-match analysis, Will reckoned this was the key position:

Paul played 15…h5, which Will says weakens the kingside. “After that it was one-way traffic. 15…e6 was the way to go, with the idea 16. dxe6 Bc6 17.Nf3 Qe7. Black has activated his pieces and will pick up the pawn at his leisure. With the centre open he will always have counterplay. White will continue to attack with Kf1 and h5, but Stockfish gives a slight advantage to Black.”

Will Taylor recorded the night’s first win, thwarting Paul Dupré’s Alekhine’s Defence. Photograph: John Saunders

On board 1, David Maycock was up against Altaf Chaudhry, always a difficult opponent. Altaf played a Sicilian, and this was the position after 16 moves with White to play:

David plays a wonderful move here, which he had clearly been preparing for some time: 17. Rxf7! Grabbing the rook would lead to disaster: 17…Kxf7 18.Qxd7+ Kf8 19.Rf1+ Bf5 20.Qxe6 g6 21.Qf6+ Kg8 22.Bf3 h5 23.Bxa8. Altaf sensibly didn’t take it and defended well, but used so much time pondering his response to David’s bolt from the blue that he lost on time. Definitely a candidate for move of the season and brilliantly calculated by David.

On board 4, Silverio Abasolo continued his superb run of recent form, showing his characteristic directness and aggression to beat Surbiton captain Angus James with the black pieces, and on board 6 David Rowson also won with Black against Nick Faulks. “The story of the game was that Nick gave up a pawn to try to get a kingside attack,” David said afterwards, “but it turned out that he couldn’t make anything of this and in the end I rather fortuitously engineered a position where he either had to give up a rook or his queen.”

David Rowson, Kingston’s first-team captain, led his side to an astonishing 19 wins and one draw in 20 matches

Typical modesty from the Kingston captain, who has lead his team to an astonishing 19 wins in 20 matches across both the Surrey and Thames Valley leagues. The only match the Rowsonites did not win was the surprise home draw against Surbiton B back in early February. So a 95% win rate. Should we fret about half-point that got away? Didn’t the makers of Ming vases put in the odd flaw because they believed only God could achieve perfection? This will be our get-out too (though secretly that off-night still rankles).

The draw on board 2 between David Scott and Peter Lalić was a largely technical struggle. So technical, in fact, that Peter wondered afterwards if he was losing his appetite for what might be called bread-and-butter chess. “I did not enjoy this game,” he complained. “I miss sacrificial attacks!” One cannot be Tal every night, Peter. Sometimes you have to play like Petrosian.

Vladimir Li’s vigorously contested game against Liam Bayly ended with Liam making a game-ending blunder. But Vladimir, who is a great chess purist and thought Liam generally had the better of the game, believed his opponent’s concentration had been affected by the noises off and asked that it either be declared a draw or voided completely. After a week’s deliberation, the Thames Valley League acceded to this request and the result of the Li-Bayly game was annulled, making the official match score 4.5-0.5. One of the stranger episodes in Thames Valley chess history.

Stephen Moss

Kingston B ensure survival with plucky draw at Maidenhead

Thames Valley League division 2 match played at St Luke’s Community Hall, Maidenhead on 8 May 2023

Peter Andrews (left) about to deliver checkmate against Charles Bullock in the crucial game which drew the match

The worries are over. Kingston B ensured their survival in Thames Valley division 2 with a fine away draw against league leaders Maidenhead A. That means we are mathematically certain to stay up, with two games still to play – against Ealing B and Hounslow A. Congratulations to captain Gregor Smith and his team. At one point earlier in the year, survival looked very dicey, but the second part of the season has shown much-improved performances.

The match started badly for Kingston, with an early reverse for Charlie Cooke on board 6. His opponent’s Danish Gambit worked beautifully in terms of opening lines of attack, and Charlie quickly had to give up a piece. He fought on for a while, but White kept the upper hand and allowed no real counterplay.

There was better news elsewhere. Julian Way played an excellent positional game to beat the talented Ukrainian junior Bohdan Terler; Alan Scrimgour drew with another highly rated junior, Soham Kumar (credit to Maidenhead for putting their young players on the high boards); and I was happy to get a draw with Black against a player rated 200 points above me.

Gregor Smith was outmanoeuvred in time trouble on board 5, leaving Peter Andrews having to win with Black on board 2 for us to get anything out of the match. This he did in spectacular fashion after a dramatic game in which both players went for the jugular. How can two such mild-mannered characters engage in such brutality over the board? This was the unusual position in which Peter, who had been playing on the increment for quite some time, delivered checkmate:

48… Nd5++ is the very satisfying coup de grâce, though as Peter points out Stockfish thinks Nd1++ is aesthetically more pleasing, perhaps because the black king is joining in the collective action, singlehandedly denying his rival monarch an escape square on f4. Either way, a lovely finish to a very satisfying game, and a great result for the team to get the draw that guaranteed division 2 safety.

Stephen Moss

Fearless CSC/Kingston 1 win promotion to 4NCL division 2

Victories on the final Mayday bank holiday weekend against the three other strongest teams in division 3 West ensured CSC/Kingston 1 would be playing in the big league next year

CSC/Kingston’s Swedish star Martin Jogstad (left) prepares to play IM Chris Baker in Monday’s title decider

What an extraordinary weekend this was for CSC/Kingston, ably led by Kate and Charlie Cooke, who have built up a formidable (and just as important friendly and mutually supportive) stable of players. The first team, with Swedish star Martin Jogstad flying in from Germany to land 3/3 on top board, swept aside the three other top sides in division 3 West to win the title and ensure division 2 status next season. And the second team performed admirably to gain a highly creditable eighth place in the 35-team division 4 – important because the proposed slimming down of the 4NCL next season may mean a cull of some lower-placed teams.

CSC/Kingston 1 were only in division 3 West because another team had dropped out, allowing them to move up from division 4. They joined the party after missing the first weekend, where they would have met two of the lowest-rated teams in the division, and were allocated draws for those missed matches, in effect giving the other strong teams in the division a head start of two match points and up to half a dozen game points. But they proceeded to win their next nine matches – spread over four weekends – on the bounce to claim the title. A “commanding performance“, as one observer noted.

On this final weekend, Chessable White Rose 3 were mercilessly swept aside 6-0 on Saturday. In fact, this was a rare occurrence of a team not even managing zero, as they were deducted a point for a default. West is Best 2 were then beaten 4-2 in a close match on Sunday – the key moment being a brilliancy by Tom Farrand on board 3 which turned a potential game loss into a victory as he marched a pawn home. And on Monday, though outrating CSC/Kingston on every board except 1, long-time league leaders and title favourites Warwickshire Select 1 were also beaten 4-2, with fine wins by Martin Jogstad on board 1 (despite the anxiety of having to catch an evening plane from Gatwick back to Germany) and by the immensely talented Ewan Wilson on board 6. An epic victory in the match to cap an epic season.

Mayday, Mayday! The players gather for the final round of the 4NCL season in Warwick on bank holiday Monday

The second team also fought hard, going down 5-1 to a strong Poole Patzers side on Saturday, but bouncing back on Sunday to beat the very competitive and superbly coached She Plays To Win Lionesses team, and then being edged out 4-2 by the Masceteers on Monday. Special mention to Kingston president John Foley, who played for six and a half hours on the final day in an effort to squeeze out the win that would have drawn the match. As is often the way, overpressing in pursuit of a win meant he ended up losing the game, but it was a heroic and honourable effort – putting the needs of the team before his own interests. His game against the Masceteers’ Patrick Duncan was the very last one to finish at the Warwick venue.

Much uncertainty surrounds next year’s competition as the organisers search for potential venues and reassess the structure of the divisions. But this has been a memorable debut season for the CSC/Kingston partnership, and appearing in the rarefied atmosphere of division 2 next year is an enticing prospect. Thanks to Kate and Charlie for all they have done this year – the amount of admin, with travel, hotels and the hunting down of top-notch Indian restaurants, should never be underestimated – and thanks to all the players, who trekked to distant hotels beside anonymous motorway junctions, boldly confronted large and potentially enervating fried breakfasts, and despite everything performed brilliantly at the board.

Stephen Moss

Final table for Division 3 West

Final table for Division 4

Outrated Kingston tough it out to win at Ealing

Thames Valley League division 1 match played at Actonians Sports Club, Ealing on 24 April 2023

This was always going to be a difficult match, and so it proved. Kingston were missing some key players – this was a rare outing for the first team without the foundation stone of Maycock & Lalić – whereas Ealing had a very strong line-up. We were outrated by an average of 50 points a board, and such was the level of Kingston captain David Rowson’s desperation that he had called me up to play.

The tone was set in the board 4 encounter between Kingston stalwart Alan Scrimgour and strong junior Nishchal Thatte. In a French Winawer, the position quickly became complex, with White’s king uncastled and Black lining up its rooks on the kingside. Black appeared to be pressing, but the danger may have been more visual than real, and on move 24 peace was declared with a threefold repetition in this position:

“After Black closed the position with c4,” Alan explained later, “White has the chance to gain space on the kingside. Once Black castles queenside, White has to be careful in opening the position in front of his king. While I manoeuvred for the f5 break, Black reacted with a threat on the queenside that either won a pawn or forced a repetition.”

On board 2, David Rowson was up against Alan Perkins, an old adversary whose Fide rating of 2235 gives an idea of his strength. David played the King’s Indian Attack against Perkins’ Sicilian, and the critical position was reached on move 25:

Here the engine recommends 25. Nxd5, and David says he did consider that but was unconvinced, so played Rac1 to shore up the weak pawn on c3 instead. That gave him a rather passive game and a draw was agreed soon afterwards, with another repetition looming. A possible continuation if he had played 25. Nxd5 is 25…Nxd5 26. Nxc4 Qd8 27. Nd6 Bf7 28.Qc5 Nce7 29. c4 Rc7 30. Nxf7 Kxf7 31. Bxd5+ Nxd5 32. Qxd5+ Qxd5 33. cxd5 Rb4 34. d6 Rd7 35. d5 Rxd6. Quite a lot to calculate and, ironically, resolving into a rook endgame that may still be drawn. So 1-1, but Ealing may have felt the happier having secured draws with the black pieces in both games.

I had the third White, and could also do no better than draw. My opponent played a Scandinavian and equalised without too much trouble. When he exchanged queens, I assumed he was angling for a draw, but he turned down my offer – I was also outgraded and feeling the pressure in this rarefied atmosphere – and played on for another 50 moves, with much shuffling of rooks and bishop in what I felt was a fairly sterile position. For once, my analysis was vindicated, because after 70-odd (in my case very odd) moves, the rooks came off and a draw became a certainty.

There was a good deal more life in the clash on board 1 between Ealing FM Rick McMichael and Kingston’s budding FM Vladimir Li. McMichael opened with the Nimzowitsch-Larsen Attack, Vladimir had a small plus in the opening, but McMichael skilfully turned it round before losing his slight edge in this very double-edged position:

Here McMichael played the perfectly plausible Qa5, pinning (and you might think winning) the dangerous a-pawn. But Vladimir counters with 31…f5 and the bishop on g7 is now threatening to come to d4, winning back the exchange. McMichael guards the d-file with Rd1, but has overlooked that Bd4! can still be played because, if rook takes bishop, Black’s queen mates on c1 (with the rook on f2 unable to block because of the bishop on h3). The final moves were 33. Qxa4 Bxf2+ 34. Kxf2 Qxa4 when a draw – the fourth of the night – was agreed.

Vladimir Li: Drew with Ealing FM Rick McMichael on board 1 in a game which became a blizzard of tactics

That left Peter Andrews and John Foley still playing. John, we felt, was doing well on board 3 against another FM, Andrew Harley, but Peter appeared to be in a spot of bother in this position:

White made an odd choice here, though, moving the menaced queen to c1 rather than a3 where it would have guarded the b4 pawn. Presumably he believed that doubling the pawns on the f-file would be adequate compensation, but it never thereafter gave Peter any alarms. He traded pieces and reached a rook endgame in which, if anything, he had a slight edge. With John up on board 3, Peter agreed a draw, and now it was left to the Kingston president to put the ball in the back of the net.

FM Andrew Harley played the Panov-Botvinnik Attack against John’s Caro-Kann, but John grabbed the initiative with a pawn sac and then offered another pawn to break up White’s pawn structure. They reached this position on move 24. The white king is looking somewhat exposed, especially if the black queen and bishop can form a battery on the long diagonal.

In the game, John retreated his queen to d8. White exchanged queens to eliminate any potential mating attacks and offered a draw, which John declined. Thereafter, John went about patiently improving the position of his minor pieces – his endgame play this season has been exemplary. Within a few moves he had achieved this position in which the white rooks are rendered passive and the white pawns immobile.

Harley had the additional problem of being in time trouble, but with all apparently lost still had the gumption to try a neat trick with 71. Rb6+:

Black, who was also short of time, has to be careful how to react here, because 71…Bxb6?? would produce stalemate. How satisfying that would have been for White, and how heart-breaking for Kingston. John, though, was alert to the danger and calmly played Nb5, blocking the check while giving White’s king a flight square on e2. Now Harley called it a day, and Kingston had secured a victory against the odds.

After the game, Peter Andrews said that in his chess career he had never played a justified under-promotion – the sort of move that might appear in print. John saw that under-promoting to a rook would have avoided the stalemate but had the knight retreat up his sleeve – being professional rather than seeking puzzle glory.

Kingston president John Foley continued his excellent season with a match-winning victory over FM Andrew Harley

Kingston skipper David Rowson was especially pleased with the result because it showed a resilience in the team which has been growing all season. That resilience has been on full display over the past fortnight, when matches have come thick and fast at a time when we might have lowered our guard after securing the Surrey and Thames Valley league titles and when our resources have been stretched to the limit.

“It somehow seems a mark of a strong club to win by getting five draws and one win (as we also did against Hammersmith at home),” said David, “especially when we were missing several of our top players.” The first team’s unbeaten record this season – indeed since chess resumed after the pandemic! – survives, but this was a tough struggle and the pack are getting closer. The end of the league season can’t come soon enough. By now, captain, players and even the poor match summariser are exhausted.

Stephen Moss

Kingston overcome Wimbledon in epic struggle

Surrey League division 1 match played at St Winefride’s Church Hall, Wimbledon on 20 April 2023

Although Kingston’s first team has had an historically successful season, it has been far from a cakewalk. We have faced some very strong teams and, also, some teams which, though not so strong on paper, have given us some anxious moments.

One example was our very first Surrey Trophy match of the season, back in October, in which we only just beat a significantly outrated Wimbledon 1 by 4.5-3.5. In the return match, for the final Surrey encounter of the season, we faced Wimbledon again, at their venue, and found that they had pulled out all the stops to assemble a very strong team, which included a 2400+ IM on board 1 and Russell Granat, on a trip up from the south coast, on board 2. Could we complete a clean sweep of all eight Surrey matches against this line-up?

The first results were not very propitious, as both Alan Scrimgour and I had short draws with the white pieces.  Alan’s King’s Gambit was met by Ian Heppell’s Falkbeer Counter-Gambit (1. e4 e5. 2. f4 d5), though after 3. exd5 Ian continued 3…exf4 rather than the thematic 3…e4. He obtained some pressure on the kingside, but was unable to make it count and a draw was soon agreed. Dan Rosen played the Modern Defence against me, but after some manoeuvring a threefold repetition occurred, as we both decided that we didn’t like the position enough to continue. Don Luis Rentero, founder of the great Linares tournament in Spain who loved players to fight and hated draws so much he imposed penalties on non-triers, might have fined us.

Wimbledon fielded an extremely strong team at home and the early signs were ominous for Kingston

On board 3 Russell Picot played the French Defence against Vladimir Li. A series of exchanges led to a rook ending in which Vladimir had a slight advantage in pawn structure. He refused Picot’s first draw offer, but after a few more moves decided that he didn’t have enough to justify playing on, so the result was another Kingston draw with White.

Things did not improve when the board 2 game ended suddenly. The opening had been Russell Granat’s favourite Ruy Lopez Worrall Attack – White plays 6. Qe2 instead of Re1. Mike Healey, defending a difficult position with Granat attacking on the kingside, overlooked a move which simultaneously threatened mate and a loose bishop. 2.5-1.5 to Wimbledon, who had three Whites on the remaining four boards.

On board 6 John Foley had played his usual Caro-Kann and his opponent, Neil Cannon, had chosen the Two Knights Variation. Cannon went straight for the kingside jugular, but Foley calmly blunted the attack and, with a strong knight on e5 against his opponent’s less effective bishop, turned down a draw on move 26. Black was able to launch a pawn attack on the queenside which it was hard for White to counter. In fact, Stockfish gives Black a 2.6 advantage in this position:

Neil was clearly at a loss as to how to defend it, as he now gave up the exchange: 32. Rxe5. Playing an ending, John was in his element, and on reaching this position he engineered a zugzwang:

Meanwhile, the game between Jasper Tambini and Will Taylor had started as a Petrov, the opening moves being: 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nf6 3. Nxe5 d6 4. Nf3 Nxe4 5. d4 d5 6. Bd3 Bd6 7. O-O O-O 8. c4 c6 9. Qc2. Will commented “This is a sharp line, and Jasper remembered it a little less well than I did (he went slightly astray on move 12, and also fell behind on the clock, after which it became increasingly tricky for him.” The key position after move 11 was this:

Jasper played 12. Nc3 here, but, according to Will, White has to play 12. b4 to stop the a3 knight reaching c5. There followed 12…Bxe5 13. dxe5 Nac5 14. cxd5 cxd5 15. b4 Nxd3 16. Qxd3 Nxc3 17. Qxf5 d4 18. Bb2 Qd5 and Black had an advantage as he was dominating the centre of the board. White took off Black’s knight, but this gave Black a dangerous passed pawn on c3. A few moves later this position was reached, with White trying to counter Black’s queening threat by attacking the black king:

This was the denouement: 24. Re7 Rf8 25. e6 c1=Q  26. exf7+ Kh8 (Rxf7 was possible, but Will was sensibly being very careful) 27. Re8 and now Will simplified: 27…Qxe1+ 28. Rxe1 Qxf7 29. White resigns. This made it 3.5-2.5 to Kingston. We needed one point from the remaining two games.

Those games, on boards 1 and 8, were extremely complex, and in the case of board 8 the position was so wild that for some time it was hard to call. It was a battle of the English Opening specialists, so inevitably one of them, Peter Andrews, was playing against his favourite opening. Tony Hughes castled queenside and an exciting game developed with the players attacking on opposite flanks. White already had a bishop en prise here:

But he now decided to complicate things further by playing 19. Nxb5. Peter comments: “A blunder according to Stockfish, turning +2 into –3, but terrifying at the board. I was worried about 19…Qxb5 20. Qe6+ Nf7 21. Bxc4 with a threat of Qf6 and mate on g7.” Play continued 19…fxe3 20. Bxc4+ Nf7 21. Rhe1 Qc6, and Peter adds that he now felt confident for the first time in the game as the queen performs many functions on c6. White continued to play without any concern for material, and this position was reached after 24. Qe5:

Peter says: “Threatening Qg7 mate, and the knight on f7 is pinned. For half a second I wondered if I should resign, and then realised that it was my opponent, not I, who had hallucinated.” What had White missed? (see footnote below *). Peter wrapped the game up smoothly, and Kingston had an unassailable 4.5-2.5 lead.

The heavyweight clash on top board was the last to finish, enthralling those players who gathered round as David Maycock and IM Alberto Suarez Real reached the climactic phase playing on increments. It had started as a Sveshnikov Sicilian. I’m not qualified to comment on the theory of the opening, but it’s clear that piece activity is the major theme, as on move 16 both players passed up chances to capture pawns, presumably because it would have given open lines to the other side. A few moves later this was the position, with Black to play:

Now if 25…Qxa6 26. Rd8 wins, so instead Alberto played Qb6, defending d8 and attacking f2. David blocked this by 26. Rd4, and after 26…Rc2  27. Bc4. White was now attacking Black’s f7 weak point. After 27…Be6 David retreated 28. Bf1 and there followed 28…Rxc3. Here David had to decide which rook to take the a5 pawn with. He chose to capture with the “a” rook, which allowed 29…Rc1, creating problems for White on the first rank, which, in extreme time trouble, were finally too much to defend against. It was a pity that after such a close encounter, with David trading blows in complex positions with an IM, the pressure of playing on increments told.

IM Alberto Suarez Real (left) gets the better of Kingston’s David Maycock in a titanic encounter on board 1

In the end Kingston’s trio of winning Black players (Will, John and Peter) had ensured that we finished with a perfect eight wins out of eight in the Surrey Trophy. A tremendous team effort across a long season had culminated in victory in one of our toughest matches, by the same score as in our first match against Wimbledon (4.5-3.5).

* The saving grace was 24…Qxc4+! 25. bxc4 Nxe5 26. Rxe5. White only has two pawns for the two pieces, and Black was able to manoeuvre his knight round to f7 to counter White’s doubling of rooks on the seventh rank.

David Rowson, first-team captain

Kingston C overwhelm Richmond E to take Div X title

Thames Valley League division X match played at the Twickenham Club, Twickenham on 18 April 2023

On a Tuesday night in Twickenham, Kingston C reeled off their fourth consecutive win with a 4-0 victory over Richmond E to secure the Thames Valley League Div X title. This marked a first for Kingston Chess Club, who have never previously won the division.

Hayden Holden, with Black on board 3, started the rout, celebrating his first win for the club after an explosive middle game which saw him overcome his opponent in style. I quickly added to the score with a solid win using the Colle System. After going the exchange up in the early stages, I attacked on the kingside and my opponent resigned with checkmate imminent. Colin Lyle, who has grown as a player throughout the season, then made the score 3-0 with another potent kingside attack.

Adam Nakar’s game on board 1 was testament to the power of a substantial pawn advantage, which he had gained in exchange for a bishop. Two passed pawns on the kingside eventually proved too much for his opponent, and we chalked up win number four to complete a whitewash on the night.

Congratulations to the players involved in both the Surrey and Thames Valley third teams, who all showed an improvement in their game as the season progressed, and thanks to the experienced players in the club who assisted with the mentoring of my squad.

Stephen Daines, Kingston third-team captain