Superb 4NCL weekend for CSC/Kingston 1, who recorded another two victories to move to join top of Division 3 West. All to play for going into the final weekend next month
It was another impressive 4NCL weekend for CSC/Kingston 1, with two vital wins against good opposition – the Warwickshire Select 2 team on Sunday are one of the higher-rated sides in the division. Giampiero Amato was successful on both days; Peter Finn lost on top board on Saturday but roared back with a win against his highly rated opponent on Sunday; Tom Ferrand, Clive Frostick and Chris Rice also recorded important victories on Saturday; but there was an admirable solidity and consistency right across a very experienced team.
With the powerful Warwickshire Select 1 surprisingly losing to West is Best 2 on Sunday, the promotion race is now wide open and the final weekend on 29 April to 1 May (three matches over the extended Bank Holiday weekend) is going to be tremendous. CSC/Kingston 1 will play the three other strongest teams in the division – Warwickshire Select 1, West is Best 2 and Chessable White Rose 3. It will be high-stakes stuff, with promotion to the chess big time as the prize, but at least our fate is in our hands.
To get this close to promotion is a remarkable achievement given that CSC/Kingston 1 started the season in division 4 and only entered division 3 when another team dropped out. We missed the first weekend, when we would have been pretty well guaranteed two wins against relatively weak opposition, and had to settle for two nominal “draws” (the organisers made the two matches 3-3, giving us two points rather than four). Those lost points could yet be crucial in the promotion fight, but we must put that out of our minds and concentrate on winning the final three matches against our closest promotion rivals next month. Whatever happens, it’s going to be a thriller.
Thames Valley League division 2 match played at the United Reformed Church, Tolworth on 14 March 2023
This was a crucial clash for Kingston B, away to fellow relegation strugglers Surbiton C, who against the odds had taken the spoils in the reverse fixture at the start of the season. On board 2 and playing Black, Peter Andrews, who has been a star of the league campaign, was first to finish with an emphatic win against Alexey Markov. Peter’s self-confessed “cheapo” picked up a piece early on and he converted smoothly.
The “cheapo” was actually the result of a blunder by Alexey. The game was completely level after 23 moves, but in the position below he made a fairly logical-looking move that more or less lost on the spot:
Perhaps wary of Peter’s big rating advantage, Alexey played 24. Qa5?? to get the queens off and perhaps head towards a draw, but the move loses because it leaves the capturing knight on a5 prey to Black’s rook. The game proceeded: 24. Qa5 Qxa5 25. Nxa5 Ne4 26. bxa4 (Nxb7 is better but still losing) Rxa5 27. Rxb7 Rxa4 28. Nc6 Bf6 29. Rdd7 Kf8 (unnecessary prophylaxis; Black can just snaffle the a-pawn and is plus 6, but everything is winning).
Alexey played on, with increasing desperation, until he was mated on move 47. And why not? As Tartakower said “No one ever won a game by resigning.” In the position below, what should Black play? The game is of course totally won, but what is the move you should play if you want golden coins to be showered on the board? No looking at the text below the diagram please. This is fun to work out for yourself. It took the collective brains trust of the Kingston Chess Club What’s App group a good 15 minutes to come up with the solution.
Peter played the very natural 39. Nf1, which got the job done, but the best move is the decidedly unnatural-looking Rd8!!, casually tossing a rook away and allowing check, but critically gaining a tempo for Black. In fact, in this variation, Black gives away both rooks to achieve mate in seven: 39…Rd8 40. Rxd8+ Kg7 41. Rd2 Kg6 42. Ra6+ e6 43. Rxe6+ fxe6 44. Rf2 Rxh2+ 45. Rxh2 Bf6#. Ah, the counter-intuitive beauty of chess. “I don’t feel too bad for missing that,” said Peter, “except that it would have been great entertainment.”
Another stalwart, Charlie Cooke, who has played in every Kingston B match this season, drew on board 6 with Surbiton veteran David Morant. And fresh from his debut victory for the first team the previous evening, Max Selemir’s game also ended in a draw on board 3, continuing his excellent record for the second team this season.
It was a clash of the captains on board 4, as I took on Surbiton skipper Paul McCauley. Paul played the Jobava London System, which he said he had prepared earlier, and went for the familiar idea of a pawn sac on e6, via this sequence of moves: 1. d4 Nf6 2. Nc3 d5 3. Bf4 c5 4. e4 cxd4 5. Qxd4 Nc6 6. Bb5 Bd7 7. Bxc6 Bxc6 8. e5 Nd7 9. e6 fxe6. The pawn sac removes Black’s f-pawn and doubles the pawns on the e-file, as shown in the diagram below.
Engines reckon White has adequate compensation for the pawn, but I managed to simplify quickly, exchange queens and avoid any counterplay against my rather awkward pawn structure. Ultimately my mass of pawns in the centre proved critical in the endgame, where I managed to win a pawn race by one tempo and deliver checkmate with my newly crowned queen, supported by a crucial pawn on the e-file. A rare move order novelty that made me laugh during the game were my three consecutive moves of e5, e4, e5. I guess doubled pawns really aren’t always that bad – a point Nigel Short often likes to make.
My win made it 3-1 to Kingston. We now just needed a draw from the remaining two games to secure the victory, and it was Alan Scrimgour on board 1 who delivered the crucial half-point. Despite having a piece for two pawns, Alan felt he did well to secure the draw as his opponent was threatening to break through with the extra pawns on the kingside.
The match was won, but Stephen Moss was still blitzing away in a rook-and-pawn endgame against Surbiton junior Conrad Bredenoord on board 5. Bredenoord is a very throughtful young man who played slowly and imaginatively, essaying the Falkbeer Counter-Gambit (1. e4 e5 2. f4 d5 3. exd5 e4), which is an excellent choice against the King’s Gambit. Stephen got a tiny edge out of the opening, but just back from holiday his thought processes were even more scrambled than usual and he went badly wrong in the key position shown below.
He played 19. Bf3?? here. It looks plausible, but deserves to lose. The game proceeded: 19. Bf3 Rxd1 20. Rxd1 Nxf3 21. gxf3 Rxh2+ 22. Ke3 Rxb2 23. Ra1 Bd5 24. a3 Rb3 25. Ne2 Bc4 26. Rc1 Bxe2 27. Kxe2 Rxa3. Black is plus 3, and White is pretty well sunk – and all because Stephen missed a fairly straightforward intermezzo. This is how it should, in Stephen’s dreams at least, have gone: 19. Bg4+ Kb8 20. Rxd8+ Rxd8 21. Rd1 Rh8 22. Bh3 a5 23. Ne2 b6 24. c4 Ng6 25. Rd2 f5 26.Kg1 Be4. In this variation, White gains a healthy plus: he is not necessarily winning but is certainly calling the shots.
As it was, Stephen was fighting for his life – and to give him credit he made a good job of it. Conrad had rook and five pawns against rook and three pawns, but Stephen told himself that such endgames were not necessarily lost and, with both players now on the increment, successfully created complications. Oblivious to the gaggle of spectators around the board, he fought tigerishly and in the end secured a draw. A fantastic hold. “A draw that felt better than most wins,” he said afterwards, in a combination of elation and exhaustion. That made the final score 4-2 to Kingston, and, with five games to go to avoid the drop, the win in the match could be the lifeline we need to stay afloat in Thames Valley division 2.
Gregor Smith, Kingston B captain in the Thames Valley League
Surrey League division 1 match played at the Willoughby Arms, Kingston on 13 March 2023
This was one of those banana skins. Kingston’s first team should be strong enough to defeat Guildford 2 with something to spare, but you never quite know. When the two teams met at Guildford last November Kingston only won narrowly, so captain David Rowson had no intention of being complacent and fielded a strong team against a Guildford eight that was packed with experience.
David, with Black, opened the scoring himself, beating Mike Morgan in a short and brutal game on board 5 that could have gone either way. Morgan chose the Potter Variation of the Scotch Game (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 exd4 4.Nxd4 Bc5 5.Nb3) and played with great enterprise, advancing his a- and h-pawns and essaying an early lift of the rook on the a-file. This was the position after 13 moves. What should White play?
Morgan opted for the super-aggressive 14. g4. But because the black queen is so short of squares, the best move is 14. Rf4, after which White can establish a healthy advantage, as in this line: 14. Rf4 Bf5 15. g4 O-O-O 16. gxf5 Nxd5 17. Re4 Rhg8 18.Bg2 Kb8 19. O-O g6.
Morgan’s choice of 14. g4 led to an equal position and some very sharp play, but he lost his way in a blitz of tactics and the canny Rowson found the winning move in the position below.
22. Bxf2+! wins. The white king can’t recapture because Qh4+ would fork king and rook, winning the latter. But the alternative is just as bad, dropping the bishop on f1. Morgan resigned after Bxf2+ 23.Kd2 Rxe7 24.Qxe7 Qxf1. 1-0 to Kingston thanks to the captain’s cool head under fire and tactical awareness.
“At times it felt like edge-of-the-seat stuff,” David said after the game, “though the final part was quite tame as my opponent made some mistakes. I thought his opening was very impressive. People don’t usually play 5. Nb3 in the Scotch in my experience, but it looks terrifying for Black. White just advances the a- and h-pawns and can develop both his rooks along their files – amazing! 13… d6 by me was a mistake. I should have castled straightaway, though it still looks scary . He made it relatively easy after that, though I was pleased to find 22…Bxf2+.”
On board 1, Guildford’s James Toon was up against David Maycock and making a very good fist of it. David thought afterwards that he had tried too hard to unbalance the position, and he allowed the super-solid Toon to establish a small advantage, with an outside pawn in a rook-and-pawn endgame. David was as usual well behind on the clock and playing on the increment, but nevertheless played precisely to ensure a draw.
Peter Lalić’s game against Alex Warren on board two ended almost simultaneously and again produced a draw – an excellent result for the heavily outrated Warren, who was playing Black. Warren had the better of the opening in a closed Sicilian and developed an edge that led to Peter burning through his time – the control was 75 minutes plus a 10-second increment. With nine minutes left compared with 45 for Warren and Black still holding a small advantage, Peter offered a draw, which was accepted.
That made it 2-1 to Kingston, but things looked very promising elsewhere. On board 3, Vladimir Li said later that he felt Guildford captain Julien Shepley was positionally lost relatively early in the game. But after winning the exchange it took him until the 54th move to deliver mate as Shepley clung on. 3-1 to Kingston.
Max Selemir, making his first-team debut, nonchalantly sac’d a bishop against Peter Horlock in the position below.
The sac proved to be completely sound, Max quickly getting the piece back with interest: 15. Bxh6 gxh6 16. Qxh6 Nh7 17. Re3 d5 18. Rg3+ Bg5 19. Qxc6 bxc6 20. h4 d4 21. Ne2 Rde8 22. f3 f6 23. hxg5 fxg5. He then quickly mopped up his opponent’s disorganised pawns and won in good style. A great start to his first-team career.
That made it 4-1 and Peter Andrews, with Black against Rory Davies, soon took Kingston over the line with a smooth win. He accepted Davies’s Queen’s Gambit, and said afterwards that a recent experience as a spectator at the annual Varsity Match had greatly aided his cause. “I owe the slight plus I got from the opening to having attended the Oxford v Cambridge match a couple of weeks ago,” he explained. “Freddie Hand, the Cambridge board 3, played the Queen’s Gambit Accepted and this line came up. He played Nc6 (after c5) rather than Nd7, got a bad position fairly quickly and lost. In the commentary room, Matthew Sadler opined that black’s knight was misplaced on c6; it was blocking the action of the queen’s bishop, vulnerable on the c-file, and from d7 the knight can go to more useful squares – in particular b6-c4. So I followed that advice, and it turned out right. The advice might be equally good for White, but it’s psychologically hard not to play Nc3 to support a possible d5 break.”
There were two games still in progress: Alan Scrimgour against Trevor Jones on board 6 and Will Taylor against Phil Stimpson on board 4. Alan played the Panov-Botvinnik Attack against Jones’s Caro-Kann, fixing a knight on b6 protected by a pawn on c5 that horribly restricted Black’s play. He lined up his queen and both rooks on the e-file, established a stranglehold on the position, won material and created a passed a-pawn. 6-1.
That left Will’s game, the only one of the evening being determined – at Will’s opponent’s choice – by adjudication rather than to a finish (when, oh when, will the Surrey League get rid of adjudications?). Stimpson played a Scandinavian; Will made most of the running and gained an edge; but he missed a win on move 26 when he could have won a piece by exploiting a back-rank mating threat; and the final position, though appearing to favour Will because he has an extra pawn on the a-file in a rook-and-pawn endgame, has been adjudged a draw. Engines may say he is +1, but, as so often in rook-and-pawn endgames with long horizons, engines are wrong.
As ever, Will took the failure to convert philosophically. What an admirable temperament he has. And at least he – and the rest of the team – had the consolation of a 6.5-1.5 victory that leaves Kingston proudly top of the Surrey League division one table with six wins in six matches and needing only half a point more from the final two matches – tricky away trips to Wimbledon and Coulsdon – to secure the club’s first Surrey Trophy (Division 1) title since 1975. The ginger beer is on ice.
Surrey League division 4 match played at the Willoughby Arms, Kingston on 6 March 2023
Let’s be honest, this was not a good night for Kingston 3 – going down by 5-1 to Guildford 4. But on reflection the one-sided scoreline was understandable. We are still trying to bring on new and young players, whereas Guildford fielded a very experienced team, with veterans Peter Horlock and Mike Gunn in the middle order. The Guildford players were rated between 1628 and 1758, and the rating gap with Kingston was huge. The fact that this was Guildford’s fourth team shows what a large and powerful club Guildford is. How nice to have such depth.
As each game progressed the experience of Guildford’s players showed, but hopefully It was a good learning experience for Kingston’s team. The key thing is not to get downhearted by defeats to strong players but to learn lessons from every reverse. What we really need at Kingston is a better organised mentoring system, so that match time can be married to a thorough analysis of games in the company of one of Kingston’s plethora of very strong players. This is a system we are actively looking to develop at Kingston: a “buddy” approach that will have the useful side-effect of giving the teams a common purpose and uniting the club, stopping silos of players developing based on strength.
I’ve left the one Kingston high spot of the match until last – David Shalom’s victory with Black on board 1 against Tony Garrood, who is rated more than 100 points above him. David is having a really good season on his return to competitive chess, and this was a tremendous result. Well played David and thanks to the rest of the team for a spirited effort against a nard-nosed side that will pay off in the long term by making our emerging players stronger.
Thames Valley League division 1 match played at the Willoughby Arms, Kingston on 6 March 2023
On 6 March we welcomed Richmond A to the Willoughby for a Thames Valley League match. Richmond were not at full strength, and suffered from a default on board 2. As usual (may this continue) Kingston had a very strong line-up, and the course of the match demonstrated the contrast implied here.
The match featured some opening lines for the connoisseur. Pride of place for its name alone must go to the Vienna Game Frankenstein-Dracula Variation which Will Taylor, as Black, bravely entered into against Jon Eckert. Anyone wondering why it has such an extravagant name could look at the brilliant game Ost-Hansen v Nunn 1974 (featured in John Nunn’s book Secrets of Grandmaster Chess). The variation was baptised by Tim Harding in his book The Vienna Game, due to the bloodthirsty character of the play in the main line.
Will’s game was sedate compared to Ost-Hansen v Nunn, but still very interesting. After 1. e4 e5 2. Nc3 Nf6 3. Bc4 Nxe4 4. Qh5 Nd6 5. Bb3, Will played 5…Be7 rather than the provocative 5…Nc6, which leads to the sharpest lines.
Jon insisted on sharp play, however, and the game continued 6. d4 (Qxe5 is safer) exd4 7. Nb5 g6 8. Qf3 0-0 9. Nxd4, which allowed the sequence 9 …c5! 10. Nde2 c4.
Now 11. Ba4 is met by 11…Qa5+ 12. Nc3 b5 and if Qxa8 Black has Bb7 winning the queen. Jon played 11. Bh6 instead, and Will won two pieces for a rook, eventually forcing resignation in 44 moves.
At the other end of the tactical scale was Vladimir Li’s highly positional opening against Maks Gajowniczek. Maks played a Sicilian which led to a phase of intriguing manoeuvring in which Vladimir gained an advantage. He was clearly going the right way about capitalising on this when Maks allowed not a slow but a sudden and violent end to the game. In the position below, Maks played 34…Nd3. How did Vladimir win? (Answer at foot of column – no peeking!)
The games on the bottom two boards were perhaps more straightforward. On board 5, my opponent made an unsound piece sacrifice in the Giuoco Piano. I probably didn’t find the quickest way to realise my advantage, but eventually I managed it. On board 6, Alan Scrimgour played the Benoni Defence and reached this position:
Alan has just played 7…b5. This is not a gambit, because after Adrian Waldock’s 8. Bxb5, Alan came back with 8…Nxe4! 9. Nxe4 Qa5+ 10. c3 (Nc3 is better, as then Black has to exchange off his strong fianchettoed bishop to win back the piece, but Black would still have some advantage) 10…Qxb5. 11 a4 Qa6 (continuing to prevent White from castling and maintaining a positional plus as Black’s white squares are weak and White has two good bishops). Alan went on to win in 22 moves.
Finally, turning to the game on top board, David Maycock’s Ruy Lopez was countered by Gavin Wall’s Steinitz Defence Deferred (1. e4 e5. 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bb5 a6 4, Ba4 d6), which went out of fashion after the 1930s but is now having a bit of a renaissance. After 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 d6 5. c3 Bd7 6. d4 Nge7, David played the rare but forceful 7. h4, which Black countered with 7…exd4 8 cxd4 d5.
I’m guessing that both players were out of their opening books by this point. There followed a complex middlegame in which David went on the offensive, castling queenside and sac-ing a knight (he definitely believes knights are there to be sac’d) to open up Black’s king.
The sac is sound and gives White a very healthy, probably winning, edge. This is the key position that resulted a few moves later after Gavin’s 26…Rh6.
Here there is a winning move, but it is not easy to find. David plays complex chess and tends to get into time trouble, especially in evening league matches with their short time controls (and the Thames Valley League unfortunately has shorter controls than most). David played the very logical 27. Qa8+, which wins the knight back and seems to push the black king into no-man’s land. But it actually gives Black a plus after 27… Kd7 28. Qxb7 (28. Ba4+ must be played first to minimise the damage) 28…Rb6! The tables are now turned and Gavin finished the game with a perfectly judged tactical sequence: 29.Qa7 Rxb2+ 30.Kc1 Rxc2+ 31.Kxc2 Qxe4+ 32.Rd3 Qc4+ 33.Kd2 Bf4+ 34.Re3 Qxd5+ 35.Ke2 Ra8 36.Rd1 Qxd1+ 37.Kxd1 Rxa7 38.Re4 Bd6 0-1
So what was the move that David missed in the position above? What should he have played instead of 27. Qa8+? The winning move is 27. d6!!, not least because it would allow Qd5+ in the event of Rb6. An engine reckons 27. d6 gives White an advantage of +3, and offers this winning line (among others): 27. d6 Bxd6 28. Qa8+ Kd7 29. Qxb7 Rf6 30. Rd3 Ke7 31. Rgd1 Kf8 32. e5 Rxf2 33. exd6 cxd6 34. Rxd6 Rxd6 35. Rxd6 g6.
The move itself and and the tactical complexities that follow are hard to fathom in time trouble, even for players of David’s talent and vision. But after the game he did note an important principle that might have helped to spot d6. “It’s incredible”, he said, “how sometimes you just want to get rid of your material to make space for your other pieces.” That one intermezzo to remove his own pawn would have made all the difference.
The final result was 5-1 to Kingston, the same score as in our away match against them in November. This means that Kingston have reinforced our position at the top of the Thames Valley League, with 6.5 points from seven matches. A very strong situation, but there are still five matches for us to play, so chickens are not being counted yet. Nor will they be until long after Easter. Definitely eggs before chickens in this instance.
David Rowson, Kingston first-team captain
• Vladimir’s winning move was 35 Qxg7+, which led to immediate resignation because of 35…Kxg7 Re7++.
Surrey League division 1 match played at the Willoughby Arms, Kingston on 27 February 2023
In the first part of the season Kingston 1’s (or Kingston A’s, depending on which league we’re talking about) matches were sporadic, with the consequence that it’s only now, at the start of March, that we are just over halfway through the fixture list. There are a lot of matches still to play, but the good news is that we start this phase at the top of both the Surrey and Thames Valley Leagues. As they say, it’s in our own hands.
The match against Coulsdon 1 had been postponed in December because a snowfall created travel problems for the away team. No such problems on Monday, but Coulsdon were not as strong as they might have been, missing several players rated over 2100. In contrast, Kingston’s line-ups have been very consistent, and we were pretty much at full strength.
I lost the toss yet again, but was thus rewarded by having the white pieces myself, and then by a quick win, which broke a run of four consecutive draws. From a King’s Indian Attack set-up, with the central pawns exchanged by Black, the game was proceeding quietly, not to say dully, until I played a fairly obvious move which looked strong. Once it was on the board, it dawned on me that it actually won immediately.
Rowson-Rosenbach. Position after White played 20. B(d1)–b3. The game ended 20…Kh8; 21. Qf8+, Ng8; 22. Ncxe5, resigns.
The next game to finish, on board 3, also went in favour of Kingston. The Four Knights might not be everyone’s idea of a complex theoretical battle, but it’s noteworthy that Short used it to win against Speelman in their 1991 Candidates match. Mike Healey demonstrated that Black’s part in this opening need not be a passive one if you’ve studied it deeply enough. He took advantage of opening inaccuracies by Chris Howell, gaining a big lead in development and stranding White’s king in the centre. Howell grabbed a pawn with his knight, but a few moves later that same knight was forced to move to h8 to save itself – but only temporarily. Faced with losing material, Howell resigned.
Soon after this, Alan Scrimgour agreed to a draw, having not been able to make headway against Paul Jackson’s French Defence. 2.5-1.5 to Kingston, with to my eyes an overall advantage on the other boards. Silverio Abasolo, playing the Modern Defence, had gained material, and Vladimir Li was giving a perfect example of how to create a positionally won game from a small opening advantage (in this case, from the White side of a Caro-Kann Exchange Variation). John Foley, playing the other side of a Caro-Kann against the prodigy Supratit Banerjee, was coping well with what might have been a problematic kingside pawn structure (doubled f-pawns).
The two top-board games need at least a paragraph devoted to each. To say that neither of them was straightforward “classical” chess would be an understatement. Peter Lalić opened with his customary 1. Nc3, leading to a Jobava System (White had a pawn on d4, Nc3 and Bf4). It’s impossible to describe this game adequately without including all the moves, but suffice to say that Peter played Nc3 five times (after moving it to b5 each time) and Zoe Varney played Nb8 five times (after Na6 to protect her c7 pawn). Peter eventually gained the exchange and several pawns in their mutual time trouble.
Meanwhile, David Maycock, facing Ian Calvert’s Nimzowitsch-Larsen Attack (1. b3) had sacrificed his e-pawn in exchange for freer development and a potential hold on the centre. As time trouble approached for David, he made a further sacrifice of his f-pawn. White’s position began to look powerful, but Ian, probably mindful of the 300+ rating points separating him from his opponent, offered a draw. On the first occasion David refused, but with little time left he agreed to the second offer.
On board 4 Vladimir completed his positional masterclass, so the score was 5-1 with two games left. Silverio’s plan was to use his extra piece to hunt down his opponent’s king. This resulted in not only the king, but also White’s two passed pawns, advancing up the board, and for a time things looked unclear. However, Silverio had seen a way to simplify to a won position and, realising this, his opponent resigned.
In the final game to finish, John Foley was again showing his expertise in minor piece endings. He crowned his play with a clever bishop sacrifice, after which his opponent, though a knight up, was unable to prevent one of John’s two passed pawns from queening.
Bxf3! wins. Afterwards John modestly described the move as “flash – and so obvious it does not need an exclamation mark”. We humbly beg to differ and have accorded it one. The game proceeded Nxf3 a3 d5+ Kd7 Ne5+ Qe8 d6 a2 d7+ Ke7 (not, heaven forbid, Kd8??, which would be a career-ending blunder, leading to mate in 2 after Kd6, a1=Q, Nc6++) Ng6+ Kxd7 Nxf4 a1=Q. The game is done, though young Banerjee played on to the bitter end as juniors are wont to do. (Is that something their coaches teach – never resign! – or just an instinctive survival gene?)
The (provisional) final result looked very one-sided (7-1), but the Coulsdon players fought hard despite being significantly outgraded. I wrote “provisional” in the last sentence because, unfortunately, the next day I realised I had accidentally not followed the regulations with regard to the board order. According to the Surrey League ratings, Silverio is 2283 for this season and Vladimir is 2196, a difference of more than 75 points, so their boards should have been reversed. Coulsdon had also made a mistake, as their boards 1 and 2 should have been the other way round. The Surrey penalty system in such situations is more than Byzantine, and the rather surprising result of both teams breaching the board order rules was that Kingston lost two points … and Coulsdon none. So the amended result was 5-1.
Thanks to Gregor Smith for allowing me to pinch John and Alan from his second team and to Greg Heath, as always, for setting up the furniture and equipment so that there was nothing for us to do except play.
Kingston’s second team draws three tough matches in quick succession to kickstart a so far frustrating season and give hope in two tricky division 2 relegation battles
For Kingston’s second team, the season so far has been characterised by a tough struggle in division 2 of both the Surrey and Thames Valley League. We cruised to victories last season, resulting in our first team being promoted. Our second team stepped up to the plate, but lacks the elo firepower. Nevertheless, we are still keeping our heads above water.
By a strange quirk of timetabling, we had plenty of match-free Mondays early in the season but now the fixtures are piling up. It’s been an intense period, with three games in eight days, all of which ended in draws.
Kingston B v Hounslow B: Thames Valley League division 2 played at the Willoughby Arms, Kingston on 20 February 2023
The first drawn match took place at the Willoughby Arms – the return match against Hounslow B following our victory the previous week in the Thames Valley League. Hounslow turned up with some reinforcements this time and proved a stern test.
Alan Scrimgour was first to finish with a quickish draw on the top board. Hounslow’s impressive junior Vibhush Pusapadi claimed another Kingston victim, defeating Charlie Cooke on board 5, but Adam Nakar – making his second-team debut this season – won nicely on board 6 with a powerful attack against Barry Fraser.
Meanwhile, I was again miserably succumbing to time pressure on board 4 and was dispatched by the quick and accurate Eugene Gregorio, who dismantled my pawn structure and forced home the victory. However, young Max Selemir won smoothly on board 3 against JJ Padam, who the previous week had held John Foley to a draw.
This left Peter Andrews and Frank Zurstiege playing until lights out on board 2. The game was stopped and an adjournment was agreed, with Peter sealing his next move. After analysing the position with silicon assistance, a draw was agreed. “The computer evaluation is drawn,” Peter explained. “I made rather a mess of a good position by expecting him to succumb to my attack, but he missed a clear win as he fought back in my time trouble so I can’t complain.” Match drawn 3-3.
South Norwood 1 v Kingston 2: Surrey League division 2 match played at West Thornton Community Centre, Thornton Heath on 23 February 2023
With barely time to sleep and eat cornflakes, we were off to South Norwood three days later for an unaccustomed Thursday match. Acting second-team captain Alan Scrimgour assembled a strong seven-board- team to face off against our fellow Beaumont Cup basement strugglers.
Peter Andrews wasn’t in the mood to hang about this time, and won swiftly with White on board 3 against Paul Dupré, deploying a neat tactical sequence that resulted in a loss of a queen or checkmate. A welcome 1-0 to Kingston.
A series of draws followed – from captain Scrimgour, Max Selemir and myself, who, again in time trouble, panicked and took the easy way out. Nick Grey was beaten on board 7 by Kaddu Mukasa, and the match was again all square. Jon Eckert was unable to convert a promising-looking attack, expertly defended by opponent Roy Reddin and a draw was agreed.
Everything hinged on the top board, where John Foley at one point held the advantage against Marcus Osborne but let it slip as they reached the time control. The players had agreed in advance to adjudication and the game position was duly noted. The engine could not find a decisive win in home analysis, so a draw was declared without having to reach the adjudicator. John had lost his previous two encounters with Marcus and was pleased to have secured a draw on this occasion. Another solid drawn match for Kingston.
The adjourned position. White (Kingston) to play – h4 should draw.
Kingston B v Maidenhead A: Thames Valley League division 2 played at the Willoughby Arms, Kingston on 27 February 2023
Having downed some breakfast tea and toast, four days later, we were back on the treadmill for an action-packed Monday night at the Willoughby Arms, where our first team were also playing in a vital eight-board match against CCF (Coulsdon). We used all our fancy competitive sets, which had been purchased for exactly an evening like this – two big matches conducted simultaneously. A tight squeeze between the tables, but a great atmosphere as we welcomed our opponents, Maidenhead A, who are flying high, unbeaten, at the top of Thames Valley division 2.
A first-team match on the same evening meant we lost our top boards, Alan Scrimgour and John Foley, who had stepped up to the first team following a couple of withdrawals for medical reasons. It was going to be a tough task, our second team being outrated on five of the six boards. However, Charlie Cooke had other ideas and won impressively on board 4, taking advantage of an open centre with a neat tactic to win a piece and put Kingston one up.
Hayden Holden, who for the second time in a fortnight had filled in at the last minute on board 6, lost but put up a brave fight against his far higher-rated opponent. Hayden was proud of his performance, despite feeling he had let his advantage slip away. Adam Nakar was also left frustrated on board 5, feeling he too had let an advantage slip as he succumbed to William Castaneda. That loss put Maidenhead 2-1 up.
On boards 2 and 3, Max Selemir and I both drew, which left Peter Andrews playing a crazy game on top board and needing to win to draw the match. With just eight seconds left on the clock at one point, Peter sacrificed a piece in order to go in hot pursuit of his opponent’s king. Through a series of checks, he forced his opponent’s king on to the seventh rank, first winning back the piece and then delivering a memorable mate, with Qf1 being the final blow. Has anyone else ever delivered checkmate with a piece on your own first rank?) Thus was gained a spectacular point, securing Kingston a well-earned 3-3 draw against the league leaders.
So, there it was. Three drawn matches in a busy eight days. Thanks to all who played. Particular recognition goes to Peter Andrews with 2.5/3 and Max Selemir with 2/3 across the three matches.
Gregor Smith, Kingston B captain in the Thames Valley League
Thames Valley League division 1 match played at the Mindsports Centre, Dalling Road, London W6 on 21 February 2023
This was a famous victory that potentially sets up Kingston for a historic double this season – winning division 1 of the Surrey League and the Thames Valley league in the same year. Kingston have certainly never achieved this, and as far as we can see only Wimbledon (twice – in 2016/17 and 2017/18) have managed it.
Last season Hammersmith won division 1 of the Thames Valley League, winning nine and drawing one of their matches. Clearly, this would be Kingston’s biggest challenge yet in our bid to win both this league and the Surrey League. Hammersmith had the edge on rating, but a close match was anticipated and so it proved. I had the dual role of chauffeur and reporter on the night – keeping the club updated on WhatsApp. There was a delayed start while the Leap digital clocks were reset, but eventually all the games were played at 65 minutes for all moves with a 10-second increment.
On board 1, David Maycock defended against a Catalan, while on board 2 Peter Lalić found himself playing Ali Hill, whom he had faced in a recent tournament. Silverio Abasalo played a French on board 4, while David Rowson was facing an early charge by Bajrush Kelmendi’s g- and h-pawns.
The match was finely balanced after 90 minutes’ play, with Peter Lalić a pawn down and David Maycock a pawn up but with tripled pawns. The match continued tensely over the next hour, with Kingston club members from far and wide (the website editor was on holiday in Florida feeling very deprived of chess news) hanging on the next WhatsApp update.
By 10pm David Maycock was playing on the increment, while Peter and his opponent were down to three minutes each. The breakthrough came with a win for Vladimir Li on board 3, followed a minute later by one for Silverio on board 4. David Rowson’s draw on board 5 left Kingston close to success.
On board 2 a flurry of tactics transformed Peter’s pawn deficit into a winning rook and pawn ending, which he duly converted to win the match. On board 6, John Foley’s bishop was trying to stop two knights from escorting the remaining pawn to promotion, but Christof Brixel played the endgame flawlessly. David Maycock was last to finish, successfully holding a tricky rook and pawn ending. 4-2 to Kingston.
The turning point of the match was Peter Lalić’s game. Peter was in an inferior position for most of the game and was reduced to moving a rook up and down on the same squares. However, his patience paid off when he spotted spectacular rook sacrifice. 41. Rxf7+ wins in all variations. The rook cannot be captured because 42. Bxe6+ wins the queen.
Thames Valley League division 2 match played at the Royal British Legion, Hounslow on 13 February 2023
After three successive defeats in division 2 of the Thames Valley League, Kingston B finally scored a point with a 4-2 win away to Hounslow B. The result gives us hope of survival in this division, though much will hinge on next Monday’s fixture against the same opponents and on our forthcoming matches against Ealing B. Credit to Kingston captain Gregor Smith, who had to juggle his resources after Nick Grey’s late withdrawal. Nick promises chocolate and other goodies as recompense next week.
The first thing to say about the match was that analogue clocks were used. Clearly this is far from desirable: fine if you are playing 35 moves in 75 minutes – the traditional Thames Valley League time control – but hopeless if you are playing to a finish, since without the increment allowed by digital clocks you can get flagged in a winning position. Which is precisely what happened to Gregor when he was two pawns up in the endgame on board 3. The perfect end to a trying day.
Happily, the captain’s unlucky defeat did not cost us the match. Playing Black, Alan Scrimgour won smoothly on board 2. In a closed Sicilian, his opponent attempted to close the position by playing f5 and c4. Both players kept their kings in the centre, with Alan using the break with g6. His opponent’s pawn sac on the queenside left Alan with a passed a-pawn and a likely endgame win. White responded with an unsound piece sac on the kingside which left him completely lost.
On board 4 I played my usual (wholly disreputable) Nf6 Scandinavian. My opponent’s passivity allowed me to get a slight edge early on, and I had the temerity to turn down not one but two draw offers (most unusual for me – I usually hit the bar as soon as possible). The middlegame position was fairly even, but my opponent blundered away the exchange and as we both reached our final five minutes on the clock (no increments remember, so a loss on time is still possible if the player who is down on material can keep the game going) we reached the position below.
I had expected Rd1 at this point, to swap rooks and exchange down to an endgame where he could at least try to flag me – my intention was to keep the pieces on and go for the jugular, which is indeed what happened. He failed to activate his rook and got mated a few moves later when I got both rooks on the second rank. But later I realised that Rd1 would have lost on the spot. Do you see why?
Black can simply play Qxb3! If the pawn takes the queen, Rxd1+ and Rd2 wins the queen back, leaving Black a rook up. A simple tactic, yet easy to overlook for someone of my strength. A stronger player would probably spot it instantly, even in a time scramble.
I exploited my opponent’s black-square weaknesses to win – my opponent unwisely gave up his black-squared bishop for knight early in the game – while on board 4 Charlie Cooke did something similar on the light squares, queen and bishop working in perfect harmony against a horribly compromised Black king. Those three wins were enough to see Kingston home.
On board 1 John Foley, ever the chess purist, fretted about the absence of digital clocks and could only draw with White against an opponent rated well below him, though of course we must give credit to JJ Padam for getting the draw in a 60-move game in which John carried on pressing for a win throughout. Another puzzle for you. What should Black play here to get a handy edge?
Black actually played Qd5, which frankly is a bit caveman. The best move is Bxg2!, which wins a pawn for nothing. The White king can’t recapture or Nf4+ forks king and queen. Always be on the lookout for opportunist tactics.
On board 6, Hayden Holden secured a draw with Black against a higher-rated opponent. White played a Spanish, Hayden deliberately diverted from theory early on and won a pawn, but White had the initiative, won the pawn back, and with material equal and a symmetrical pawn structure a draw was agreed. Hayden had been due to play in the third-team match at the Willoughby that evening and had to hotfoot it to Hounslow to turn out for the seconds. So he will definitely be getting an early Easter egg from the indisposed Nick Grey next week.
Thames Valley League division X match played at the Willoughby Arms, Kingston on 13 February 2023
Revenge was sweet with this win against Surbiton D, who beat us earlier in the season. The 2.5-1.5 victory was an unexpected one as we were outrated, and it took Kingston C top of division X of the Thames Valley League, though the chasing teams have games in hand. Optimistically, I have started to enquire whether there is a trophy for the team finishing first. (Spoiler: it appears that the prize is a clock.)
Colin Lyle succumbed on board 1 against Surbiton’s Colin Li – the battle of the Colins! – after a vibrant to-ing and fro-ing game. This is by no means discouraging for the Kingston Colin as the Surbiton Colin is far stronger than his rating of 1608 suggests. Greg Heath overturned a positional disadvantage on board 2 and accepted a draw from his opponent. Josh Lea, in his long-awaited debut for the club, beat his opponent with an aggressive game to level the score at 1.5 apiece. A terrific start to competitive chess for Josh.
So it was now all down to me. I had left Kingston A&E at 6.30pm following the diagnosis of a fractured shoulder. An hour later, I was lining up on board 3 against a player rated 1462. I had the black pieces. No pressure. White played a passive queen pawn opening, so I seized the initiative with a kingside attack which proved to be potent. White’s king fled but two pawns were lost in the process, creating two potential passed pawns for me on the kingside. My opponent resigned as my h-pawn headed for the queening square. For a brief moment, I even managed to forget the pain from my shoulder. The healing power of chess.