Category Archives: News

Kingston triumph in pre-season ‘Megamatch’

Friendly match between Kingston and Richmond over 16 boards, played at the Willoughby Arms, Kingston on Monday 5 September 2022

It is too early to call these 16-board pre-season matches a tradition, but after the success of the encounter with neighbours Surbiton last year the Kingston club decided to repeat the exercise and issued a challenge to our neighbours on the other side of the Thames, Richmond, who have been going great guns at the Adelaide pub, their new venue in Teddington, and now boast more than 70 members.

They accepted the challenge and put together a team at relatively short notice to take on a Kingston team selected and captained by Julian Way. Kingston club chair Alan Scrimgour welcomed Richmond, and Richmond president Richard James informed him that this was the 75th anniversary of a previous “big match” involving earlier incarnations of the two clubs, played on 17 June 1947 over 36 (!) boards (result unknown).

On this occasion both sides were fairly experimental, with the opportunity taken to blood new members, but Kingston were unquestionably stronger on paper. Richmond were without stars such as Gavin Wall, Mike Healey and Bertie Barlow, whereas the Kingston team was headed by several first-team regulars. Richmond were outgraded on every board and Kingston ran out reasonably comfortable winners, but it was by no means a walkover and Richmond fought hard despite some large rating differences. A notable feature of the match was that there were no draws – in a friendly, players perhaps play with more freedom than in a league match where every half-point counts.

Ljubica Lazarevic gets the better of the resilient Michael Robinson-Chui in a bishop and pawn endgame

Richmond made the early running, with two of their ungraded players winning on the lower boards against two of our newbies, Hayden Holden and Stephen Daines, while Kingston’s youngest player, the immensely promising and committed Jaden Mistry, provided an assured win. That early 2-1 lead was, however, as good as it got for Richmond, with Kingston winning the next five games.

Kingston president John Foley mopped up after his opponent lost a couple of pieces; Vladimir Li roared home in just 18 moves after sacrificing his rook on h1 for a forced mate; Emma Buckley won convincingly in 33 moves after an unusual response to the Caro-Kann – 2. Qf3; Jon Eckert forced resignation after 25 moves, threatening an unstoppable mate after a quiet Exchange French opening; and David Rowson had to work hard against his talented young opponent, giving up two knights for a rook and pawn to gain an initiative which eventually produced an overwhelming attack.

Richmond struck back with a win on board seven against our late replacement, Jacky Chan, to make the score 6-3 for Kingston. Thereafter, wins alternated between the clubs (victories for Kingston debutants Charlie Cooke and Silverio Abasolo, losses for Max Selemir and Gregor Smith) before the score reached a decisive 9-5 for Kingston, with the winning point being scored by David Shalom on board 11.

That left only two games in play, Maxim Dunn for Richmond resisting strongly against Kingston’s much higher-rated David Maycock on board one and Kingston’s Ljubica Lazarevic in a bishop and pawn endgame against Michael Robinson-Chui. On board one an interesting position arose (see photograph below), with queens on a1 and a8 linking up with bishops. From a vantage point above the board a knight sacrifice on g7 looked inevitable, and so it proved.

The final game to finish was board 10, where, after mistakes on both sides, Lju Lazarevic prevailed. The result, 11-5 for Kingston, was a good one for the outrated Richmond team, but, in any event, it proved an excellent season opener for both clubs. For Kingston, fine wins by a clutch of new players gave cause for optimism ahead of a challenging season in which the club will field six league teams and three cup teams, and play more than 50 fixtures – a huge challenge given that the club’s membership remains smaller than that of some of its rivals.

Matching last season’s extraordinary performance in winning five trophies will be well-nigh impossible, but we have high hopes in the top divisions of the Surrey and Thames Valley leagues, to which we were promoted last year, and a successful defence of the Alexander Cup would be a tremendous achievement. The preliminaries are over. Now for the real thing.

Alan Scrimgour and Stephen Moss

Peter Lalić wins inaugural Kingston Invitational

Feast of fighting chess makes the Fide-rated all-play-all tournament a success, and the hope is that this will be the first of many such tournaments hosted by the Kingston club

The tournament participants: Top: Mike Healey, Will Taylor, Tim Seymour, Peter Finn. Front: Akshaya Kalaiyalahan, Peter Large, Peter Lalić, David Maycock, Zoe Varney. Absent: Steven Jones. Photograph: Leila Raivio
Peter Lalić showed impressive control in sharp positions to score 7/9. Photograph: Brendan O’Gorman

Fittingly, a Kingston player lifted the trophy in the 1st Kingston Invitational, played at Kingston University between 20 and 24 July. Peter Lalić, who has had a phenomenal season for the club, scored 7/9 to win the tournament, half a point ahead of IM Peter Large and another Kingstonian, the fast-rising 18-year-old star David Maycock.

Lalić recorded a tournament performance rating of 2355 and gained a hatful of Fide rating points – enough (subject to official confirmation) to take him through the Fide 2200 barrier which allows him to claim a candidate master title. Maycock also gained a dozen or so Fide points in his quest for a Fide master title.

David Maycock played an impressive tournament to tie for second place. Photograph: Brendan O’Gorman

The chess really was as hot as the weather, with only 13 draws in the 45 games and wins for Black outnumbering wins for White by 17 to 15. All the players should be applauded for their fighting spirit. Everyone seemed capable of beating everyone else on their day, and no one came through the tournament unscathed. IM Peter Large lost two games – to Michael Healey in the opening round and Maycock in round seven, but he recovered strongly and defeated the highly rated Steven Jones in the final round to tie for second place.

Peter Large lost his opening game but recovered to share second place. Photograph: Brendan O’Gorman

Peter Finn played some wonderfully dynamic chess, and was unlucky to lose on time against Healey in round three. Healey, his mind perhaps wandering to thoughts of India (he is due to captain the Welsh women’s team in the Olympiad in Chennai), had a disappointing performance overall, but his swashbuckling brand of chess was as captivating as ever – even if a little too gung-ho for his own good at times – and his tournament was bookended by superb victories over Peter Large and Akshaya Kalaiyalahan. His first-round win against Large was awarded the best game prize by judge Vladimir Li.

Akshaya Kalaiyalahan enjoyed a superb victory over David Maycock. Photograph: Brendan O’Gorman

Kalaiyalahan was coming back after a long layoff and using the event to prepare for the Olympiad, where she will play for England. She lost to Lalić in the opening round and was beaten by Tim Seymour in round four, but had solid draws with Will Taylor, Finn and Large before winning an excellent game against Maycock – his only loss of the tournament. Her team-mate, Zoe Varney, also enjoyed a fine win over Healey, describing it as one of the best games she had ever played.

Peter Lalić receiving the winner’s trophy from Kingston Chess Club president John Foley. Photograph: Leila Raivio

Generally, the tournament ran smoothly and Kingston University were excellent hosts, the only blip coming on Saturday evening when players and arbiters almost got locked into the venue. The Kingston club intends to repeat – and perhaps even expand – the tournament next year. The novelty of an all-play-all and the relative scarcity of Fide games in London makes an event such as this an attractive proposition for players, and the club believes it will be able to attract a high calibre of entrants to the planned 2nd Kingston Invitational in July 2023.

Stephen Moss

Heat forces change of venue for Kingston Invitational

Worries that the windowless Willoughby was going to be too warm for five days of tough classical chess necessitates a switch to Kingston University

The current heatwave, which looks like it will continue into next week, has caused the organisers to change the venue for the 1st Kingston Invitational from Kingston Chess Club’s usual venue, the Willoughby Arms in north Kingston, to Kingston University. The upside of the club’s playing room at the Willoughby is that its thick padded walls – rock bands use to practise there – and lack of windows make it soundproof, so ideal for chess. The downside is that it is incredibly stuffy in this weather. Hence the move, a week ahead of the scheduled start of the five-day 10-player all-play-all, which runs from Wednesday 20 July to Sunday 24 July, to the rather airier Room 1119 in the Main Building of the university’s Penrhyn Road campus.

The field for the Fide-rated event remains unchanged:

IM Peter Large [Fide 2299, ECF 2353]
Steven Jones [Fide 2251, ECF 2339]
CM David Henry Maycock Bates [Fide 2240, ECF 2295]
FM Akshaya Kalaiyalahan [Fide 2158, ECF 2212]
NM Peter Lalić [Fide 2151, ECF 2269]
Michael Healey [Fide 2147, ECF 2281]
Timothy Seymour [Fide 2076, ECF 2145]
WCM Zoe Varney [Fide 2045, ECF 2094]
Peter Finn [Fide 2038, ECF 2176]
William Taylor [Fide 1959, ECF 2095]

The tournament controller will be Adam Raoof, working alongside arbiters Mark Hogarth and Angus James. There will be nine games, spread over five days: two games a day on the first four days, with the final game on Sunday. The pairings have already been made available to the participants. Start times of the games from Wednesday to Saturday will be 11am and 4pm. The game on Sunday will also start at 11am. The time control is 90 minutes with a 30-second increment. The prize fund is £250 to the winner, £100 for second, £50 for third. There will be a £50 best game prize, to be judged by Vladimir Li, one of the strongest players at the Kingston club.

Stephen Moss

Buckley wins blitz as new members impress

IM Graeme Buckley comes top in a very competitive field in the first of a planned series of Kingston blitz tournaments

The first Kingston Blitz tournament of the summer, held on Monday 4 July, attracted a strong field. We welcomed several players new to the club – IM Graeme Buckley, his daughter Emma, Silverio Abasolo and Byron Eslava (a fitting surname for a chessplayer). The tournament was smoothly run by Julian Way, whose paper-based pairings worked out perfectly. Greg Heath, our new secretary, as ever provided essential support.

In the first round the higher-rated players had few problems, with the exception of myself, as my king was perilously placed for a time against Emma Buckley. Emma did not find a way to exploit this, but overall she performed very well and finished with 3/6. Silverio and Byron arrived late, so received first-round byes. It only became evident later that the second-round match-up of these new arrivals, won by Byron, was a key moment with regard to the final tournament placings.

Buckley v Rowson, the board one match-up in round two, was another defining clash. At one point I nursed illusions that my perceived positional pluses would be compensation enough for the pawn I had accidentally sacrificed, but Graeme’s strength in the crucial last phase of the game told.

Peter Lalić had a fine tournament, but was pipped for first place by his stepfather, IM Graeme Buckley

Round four featured a repeat of the Buckley-Lalić family duel from the Kingston-Epsom match, which had ended in a hard-fought draw. This time it again went to the wire, with Graeme having queen and bishop against Peter’s queen. Peter was hoping for a draw under the 50-move rule, with Greg counting, but Graeme got in a pawn move and eventually finished up the winner. 

Meanwhile, Silverio Abasolo had recovered from his round two loss and was the next to face Buckley. He showed his skills in achieving a two-pawn advantage, but Buckley forced a repetition of position. In the final round Buckley defeated Gregor Smith, who also enjoyed an excellent tournament, to become the outright winner of the blitz, while Peter beat me and Silverio won on time against David Maycock. Thus the final leading scores were:

Graeme Buckley: 5.5/6
Peter Lalić: 5
Silverio Abasolo and David Rowson: 4
Byron Eslava: 3.5
David Maycock, Emma Buckley and Gregor Smith: 3

Special mention must also be made of young Jaden Mistry, who again showed great promise in scoring 2 points, and David Shalom, who scored 2.5.

The overall impression was of a very successful start to a planned series of blitz tournaments. As one player commented, the structure added a competitive edge which is lacking when people just play random skittles games. I, for one, am looking forward to the next blitz.

David Rowson

Kingston unveil new Fide-rated summer tournament

A 10-player all-play-all will be held at the Willoughby Arms in Kingston from 20-24 July, with the aim of giving strong players much-needed Fide-rated games

Kingston Chess Club is pleased to announce that the inaugural Kingston Invitational will be held at the Willoughby Arms, 47 Willoughby Rd, Kingston upon Thames KT2 6LN from Wednesday 20 July to Sunday 24 July. The event will be a 10-player all-play-all. The games will be Fide-rated. Adam Raoof has kindly agreed to be chief arbiter. Recently qualified arbiters Mark Hogarth and Angus James, both distinguished members of neighbouring Surbiton Chess Club, will work alongside Adam.

This is the field for the 1st Kingston Invitational, and we thank all the players for agreeing to participate:

IM Peter Large [Fide 2299, ECF 2353]
Steven Jones [Fide 2251, ECF 2339]
CM David Henry Maycock Bates [Fide 2240, ECF 2295]
FM Akshaya Kalaiyalahan [Fide 2158, ECF 2212]
NM Peter Lalić [Fide 2151, ECF 2269]
Michael Healey [Fide 2147, ECF 2281]
Timothy Seymour [Fide 2076, ECF 2145]
WCM Zoe Varney [Fide 2045, ECF 2094]
Peter Finn  [Fide 2038, ECF 2176]
William Taylor [Fide 1959, ECF 2095]

There will be nine games, spread over five days: two games a day on the first four days, with the final game on Sunday. The pairings have already been made available to the participants. Start times of the games from Wednesday to Saturday will be 11am and 4pm. The game on Sunday will also start at 11am. The time control is 90 minutes with a 30-second increment. There is no entry fee, and entries are by invitation. The prize fund is: £250 to the winner, £100 for second, £50 for third. There will be a £50 best game prize, to be judged by Vladimir Li, one of the strongest players at the Kingston club.

The tournament’s top-rated player, Peter Large (left), receiving the John Hawson Trophy from Kevin Thurlow

The tournament has been founded with the aim of giving Kingston’s leading players some much-needed Fide-rated games and competition with strong players from other clubs. We hope to make the tournament an annual summer event and, if we can, to offer title norms at future tournaments.

This is very much a test event, and we will use what we learn this time to hone future editions. Already, there is a suggestion that we could introduce more groups of 10 of different strengths – borrowing from Wijk aan Zee’s tried-and-trusted model – and we might also look at running a tournament with just one game a day to be played at a longer time control.

But that is all for the future. For the moment, we hope this will be a successful tournament that produces some excellent fighting chess. Akshaya Kalaiyalahan and Zoe Varney will be playing as part of their preparation for the Olympiad in India that begins a few days after our slightly more modest tournament ends. We wish them well in the Olympiad, and hope these games do indeed ready them for the battles to come.

Spectators are welcome to come along to the Willoughby at any time during the tournament, though, in the unlikely event that we are inundated by chess aficionados, the arbiters will use their discretion on the number that can be admitted to the playing room at any one time. The Friday-morning clash between Kingston team-mates Peter Lalić and David Maycock is particularly keenly anticipated, so expect traffic jams in south-west London on that day.

Chess sets will be provided for visitors who would like to play some social chess in the bar or pub garden, which has some very pleasant beach huts in which you can shelter and play chess in the event of rain. Let’s make this a convivial festival of chess.

Stephen Moss

Life’s a beach for players at the Willoughby Arms, home of Kingston Chess and (Virtual) Swimming Club

Kingston secure first Alexander Cup for 46 years

Alexander Cup final between Kingston and Wimbledon, played at the Adelaide, Teddington, on 16 June 2022

The match in full swing in the elegant playing room at the Adelaide pub in Teddington

This match meant so much to Kingston. The club had not won the Alexander Cup, Surrey’s premier knockout competition, since 1976 – 46 long, often frustrating years. We had come through the earlier rounds at a canter and were now up against Wimbledon in a match played at the neutral venue of the Adelaide pub in Teddington, home of Richmond and Twickenham Chess Club, to whom thanks are once again due for hosting the final.

Before the start of the match, Wimbledon’s Russell Granat paid tribute to his long-time team-mate Nick Keene, whose death had been announced on the very day of the match. Keene was a strong player who had been associated with Wimbledon for many years. His playing style was highly original – early cramped positions suddenly bursting into life, as Granat explained – and he was noted for his sporting and gentlemanly approach to the game. The players stood and observed a minute’s silence in Keene’s honour.

Wimbledon’s Russell Granat pays tribute to Nick Keene, with tournament controller Huw Williams seated

Wimbledon had brought a strong team to the final, spearheaded by IM Alberto Suarez Real on board one. So strong, in fact, that John Foley, who had intended to be non-playing captain, decided at the eleventh hour to play himself, exchanging roles with Jon Eckert, who, freed from playing responsibilities, captained Kingston on the night. Eckert also won an important toss, giving Kingston’s board one, Mike Healey, White against Wimbledon’s IM.

We had hopes of picking up points on the lower boards, where we outrated Wimbledon, but as so often those hopes were to be confounded. Indeed, we were quickly in trouble on board eight, where Ivan Georgiev was struggling against rising star Shahvez Ali. A recent win against Coulsdon’s Chino Atako tells you just how good young Ali is, and his official Surrey rating of 1773 (set back in August 2021) gives no clue as to his true strength. His live ECF rating is 1988 and he is clearly a 2200-plus player in the making.

Ali played a mainline closed Catalan and, by advancing his b and c pawns, exerted early pressure. Georgiev went wrong, was forced to give up a piece for a pawn, and by move 23 was effectively busted. He bravely fought on, blitzing out another 40 moves, but the game was up, and Wimbledon had first blood. Captain Eckert and the Kingston contingent who had come along to support were aghast.

Wimbledon’s rising star, Shahvez Ali (right), played a tactically astute game to defeat Ivan Georgiev

Things were not going according to plan. Foley was doing well on board seven and so was Alan Scrimgour on board nine, until he missed a combination that would have netted two pieces for a rook. But Vladimir Li, whom we had considered our banker on board four, was in trouble in the opening, most of the other games were level and the rarefied proceedings on board one were largely impenetrable.

Still, accentuate the positive. Foley, who this week was elected president of Kingston Chess Club, opted for the mildewed London System and played a beautifully controlled game, picking up a couple of pawns before polishing off his opponent with what we can only call a “cheapo” that either won a piece or forced mate. His opponent, Oliver Weiss, decided to fall on his sword: 1-1 and match on.

Kingston’s John Foley, resplendent in a Hawaiian shirt on a hot evening, played beautifully to beat Oliver Weiss

On board 10, once Scrimgour had missed (or, as it later transpired, deliberately chosen not to play) his early tactical shot, the game had turned somewhat and, if anything, it was Wimbledon’s Sean Ingle who held a small edge as the game moved towards the endgame. Ingle, though, who was outrated by a fair margin, sought peace, and Scrimgour, with an expert assessment of how the game stood, concurred. All square at 1.5 to 1.5.

Wimbledon’s Sean Ingle is a study in concentration and secured a good draw against Alan Scrimgour on board 10

The match was in the balance and Kingston backers were still far from happy. Vladimir Li was in what looked like terminal trouble, Wimbledon’s Suarez Real was turning the screw on board one, and the other games were too close to call. Where were Kingston’s points going to come from? Board three possibly, where Peter Lalić was playing a tricky anti-Dutch system against the experienced Dan Rosen. Eckert, himself a keen Dutch player, reckoned Rosen was playing a Dutch that had gone wrong. A “double Dutch”, one wag suggested.

On board six, Julian Way’s game against Haridas Girinath was very tight. Girinath played a solid Modern Defence, and a draw was agreed after 24 moves, but Way – distracted by his opponent’s draw offer – missed a neat tactic in the final position that would have given him an advantage of +3 (the exchange and a pawn). One that got away for Kingston, and, with the scores tied at 2-2, it still felt as if Wimbledon had a slight edge in the remaining games.

Kingston’s Julian Way (right) drew with Haridas Girinath, but missed a neat tactic which was potentially winning

We were in the middle of a spate of draws. Peter Andrews, playing his trusty English against Wimbledon veteran Paul Barasi (not a man to sit in his seat if he can be having a cigarette outside the pub), had had the worst of the opening exchanges and overlooked a tactic that allowed Barasi to grab a pawn. He said later that the oversight affected his confidence and, despite outrating Barasi, was happy to take a draw with the position level. Kingston’s ratings advantage on the bottom boards had not yielded the hoped-for dividends, and now we had to look at the top boards, where fierce battles were raging.

Peter Andrews, playing on board nine for Kingston, suffered an early setback and was happy to settle for a draw

In many ways, or so it seemed in retrospect, the crucial game was board four, where Kingston’s Vladimir Li had been struggling from the start against another Wimbledon veteran, Ian Heppell. Heppell played the Alapin variation against Li’s Sicilian, and enjoyed a tiny edge in the opening which quickly built into something more substantial in the middle game.

That resolved into an endgame where Heppell had knight and six pawns against Li’s bishop and five pawns. Some observers thought Li was a goner, but Ljubica Lazarevic, who was tweeting and what’s apping the match for Kingston, reckoned the long-range capabilities of Li’s bishop gave him a fighting chance, and Heppell clearly agreed. With a time scramble beckoning, he bailed out, and a draw was agreed. The engine suggests Heppell was almost +2 in the final position.

With that unexpected draw, Kingston started to believe, especially as the four players left to get us over the line – Mike Healey, David Maycock, Peter Lalić and Will Taylor – all had youth on their side. Draws are on the whole not in their vocabulary – they would be pushing for wins. At least that was what the exhausted and sweltering Kingston contingent in the bar hoped.

Kingston’s Vladimir Li (left) secured a vital draw in a game where Ian Heppell had an edge throughout

The first crack in the Wimbledon dam came on board three, where Peter Lalić – a towering presence in Kingston’s first team all season – was up against Dan Rosen. Lalić established an early advantage; Rosen fought back to equality; Lalić, playing beautifully (as so often) with the bishop pair, re-established his advantage and had what looked like a decisive pawn on the a-file, with Rosen’s remaining rook and black-squared bishop (pitted against Lalić’s rook and white-squared bishop) tied down. Rosen resigned.

But, as a post mortem in the bar quickly revealed, the resignation was premature. The engine, despite the fact that Rosen was in a near-zugzwang, only gives Lalić plus 0.5 in the final position. Psychology may have been the key. Lalić has a reputation as a ferocious blitz player, and Rosen is in effect saying “In a time scramble, I know you will win this.” Lalić’s win made it 4-3 to Kingston, and suddenly the door was open – though whether dams have doors is a moot point. The heat was getting to the match reporters as well as the players.

Kingston’s Peter Lalić scored a crucial win over Dan Rosen to make it 4-3 and suddenly the door was open

The news got even better a few minutes later when David Maycock, playing Black, won a magnificent game against Russell Granat, a highly rated and very attacking player who has been a mainstay of a succession of strong Wimbledon sides for decades. Granat had played the very sharp Worrall attack in the Ruy Lopez, which Maycock had first neutralised and then, with a flamboyant set of pawn pushes, repelled.

Granat’s pawns became uncoordinated, Maycock consolidated his advantage with some lovely tactics, and on move 48, faced with a phalanx of unstoppable pawns, Granat resigned. Maycock and Lalić have been galvanising figures for Kingston all season and here they were again, delivering against very strong and experienced players when it really counted.

David Maycock, left, played superbly to beat Wimbledon’s Russell Granat to take Kingston to the brink of victory

On the subject of counting, that was exactly what the Kingstonians were now trying to do. With the score at 5-3 in our favour, would we win on board count even if the final two games went against us? Happily, the maths were not tested, because Kingston soon recorded their third victory in the space of 10 minutes when the rock-solid Will Taylor, playing Black on board six, defeated Anthony Hughes – another triumph of youth over experience.

Hughes had played the Botvinnik System of the English, with an early e4; Taylor easily equalised and then traded pieces to leave himself in a middle game where a better pawn structure gave him an edge. It was still defensible with best play, but time pressure, the occasion and the heat were starting to take their toll, and Wimbledon’s Hughes blundered horribly, dropping a rook for nothing.

The game, the match and the Alexander Cup were, in an instant, all gone. Or as Lazarevic put it on the club What’s App: “Will wins on board six! Kingston have done it! Winners of the Alexander Cup!” We do not stint on exclamation marks on these historic occasions. And, as we discovered, where there’s a way there’s a Will.

The rock-solid Will Taylor scored the decisive win that ensured the Alexander Cup was coming to Kingston

The match was won, but on board one Mike Healey and Alberto Suarez Real were still locked in an epic struggle. Healey, ever inventive, had responded to Suarez Real’s Sicilian with the so-called Chameleon variation (1.e4 c5 2.Nc3 Nc6 3.Nge2 Nf6 4.g3 g6 5.Bg2 Bg7 6.d3 d6 7.O-O O-O). Suarez Real won the exchange, and Healey’s love of knights looked unlikely to save him. But even IMs make mistakes, and Suaraz went wrong in time trouble, handed the exchange back to get rid of a troublesome knight on e7 supported by a pawn that had been planted on f6 all game, and stumbled into a theoretical draw.

IM Alberto Suarez Real (left) and Kingston’s Mike Healey on board one settle for a draw in the last game to finish

That made it 6.5 to 3.5 to Kingston and the celebrations in the bar could start in earnest. Even the abstemious David Maycock had a half of bitter. Let’s hope this is not the start of a slippery slope to perdition for the immensely talented 18-year-old. We need him firing on all cylinders next season, along with the rest of this terrific team if we are to have any chance of retaining this much-vaunted trophy.

The whiteboard introduced at Kingston’s semi-final makes a reappearance, confirming the club’s historic success
Alan Scrimgour’s name was hopelessly mangled on the whiteboard, so it’s only fair we show a photograph of him

This was Kingston’s first win in the Alexander Cup for 46 years, and the club’s fifth victory in the competition overall in its 100-year history. We won it previously in 1932, 1946, 1975 and 1976. In 1932, Kingston did the “double”, winning the Alexander Cup and the Surrey Trophy (division 1 of the Surrey League). This is the only time so far that Kingston have managed that.

Remember that this season we won Surrey’s premier knockout trophy as a second-division club – we had already wrapped up the second-division title. John Saunders, who was at the final taking the terrific photographs which adorn this report, likened it to Sunderland beating Leeds in the 1973 FA cup final, a second-division club downing a strong first-division side. Kingston, who a few years ago were going nowhere, had suddenly emerged to claim the crown.

Now what? Do we have the spirit and the strength in depth to compete for the title in division one next season? Could we even hope to repeat that achievement of 1932 and do the double again, with all the effort, stress and pain that will require? Even in triumph, you feel a certain sense of anti-climax, a sense of “Is that it; is that all there is?” And there is a nagging fear that maybe the only way now is down. This season Kingston were the insurgents; next year we are the targets.

A scene from what passed for the Adelaide after-party: Julian Way and John Foley try out a supersized chessboard

Kingston have been very strong twice in our history: in the 1930s and the 1970s. We may now be entering a third golden age. But success comes with a warning. Mitcham dominated Surrey chess in the 1980s and 90s; Redhill in the first 15 years of this century. Both those clubs no longer field teams in the Surrey League. Sic transit gloria mundi.

Saunders was a member of the Mitcham team which won eight Alexander Cups in 10 years. A fantastic achievement. They must have been utterly knackered. So knackered, in fact, that within a few years the key organisers had left and the club was on the way out. Becoming so dominant, winning eight Alexander cups in so short a space of time, is a great aspiration. But the fate of once-mighty Mitcham is also a memento mori. Roman generals returning in victory supposedly had slaves whispering in their ear “Remember you must die.” For the moment we will celebrate, but we will not forget how fragile success is. We have had the luckiest and most memorable of seasons. Next year we will discover if that success is etched into granite or founded on sand.

Jon Eckert and Stephen Moss

Kingston snatch the Lauder Trophy in thrilling match

Lauder Trophy final between Kingston and Chessington, played at the Adelaide, Teddington, on 14 June 2022

Kingston v Chessington: The two teams and their non-playing captains united just before the match

This match was always a potential banana skin for Kingston. Chessington are an ambitious new club which has done very well in its first season – beating the Lauder Trophy holders South Norwood in the semi-final of the competition was surely the shock of the season. Their pool of players is small and we outrated them substantially, but that made it something of a no-win situation for Kingston. When David meets Goliath, who wants to be the big guy?

Meena Santhosh and her Chessington team
Stephen Moss and his Kingston team, minus Jake Grubb, who was en route

The two teams were meeting at the neutral venue of the Adelaide pub in Teddington, home of Richmond and Twickenham Chess Club. Many thanks to Richmond for hosting, and to Huw Williams for setting up and overseeing a match played in a great spirit. Thanks, too, to John Saunders for taking the photographs that accompany this report, and for collating game scores.

The match started in the worst possible way for Kingston. Jake Grubb was up against the talented junior Harvey Li on board six and was quickly drawn into a tactical melee which saw him go the exchange down. Worse was to follow as the eight-year-old Li played a neat combination that gave Grubb the unenviable choice of losing queen for rook and knight or being mated. Grubb took the third option – resignation. Well played Harvey Li, clearly a name to look out for. First blood to Chessington.

Eight-year-old Harvey Li got Chessington off to a flying start with a nicely calculated victory on board six

Black to play and win (solution at the end)

The special feature of the Lauder Trophy is that the collective ratings of the six players cannot exceed 10,500 ECF points (an average rating of 1750 across the team), so you have to strike a balance between strong players and relative novices. It’s always fascinating to see how captains slice the cake. A junior such as Li is perfect for the Lauder because he gets into the team with a rating of 1350, but his true strength as a fast-improving player will be several hundred points above that.

David Rowson (left) and James McCarthy played out a cagey draw on board one

By contrast, on board one were two vastly experienced players, Kingston’s David Rowson and Chessington’s James McCarthy. Their 2000 rating strength has been tested over decades, they knew each other’s games inside out, and unsurprisingly perhaps they played a short and cagey draw that ended with a repetition of moves. On the surface, a decent result for Kingston, as David had been Black, but one that still left the team in deficit, at a time when two of the remaining games were even and Kingston’s board three, Vladimirs Bovtramovics, had a very passive position and looked like he was being squeezed. Frankly, as Kingston’s Lauder captain I was worried, though not as worried as England football manager Gareth Southgate, whose team had just gone 4-0 down at home to Hungary in a match that was being avidly followed by the regulars in the bar downstairs who seemed oblivious to the drama unfolding in the chess room upstairs.

Yae Chan Yang (left) overwhelmed Niroshun Nadesalingam on board five to level the match for Kingston

Gradually, things started to improve – at Teddington, that is, not Wembley. On board five, Kingston’s Yae Chan Yang – a key figure and banker winner in the Lauder team throughout the season – had been on top all game, and his opponent succumbed to a crushing attack that ended in checkmate. Now it was 1.5 to 1.5, with boards two and four level and Vladimirs fighting for equality on board three. Thoughts of what would happen in the event of a 3-3 draw – board count and, if it was still drawn, bottom-board eliminator – started to enter my head.

Kingston’s Vladimirs Bovtramovics had a passive position against Kevin Martin, but traded pieces to equalise

Looking at the board-three game afterwards, Chessington’s Kevin Martin’s apparent advantage was largely visual. His rooks dominated the e-file and his queen was lurking menacingly, while Vladimirs’ heavy artillery was entirely committed to defence and he was forced into some ugly manoeuvres with his knight. But the engine suggests he was never worse than 0.5, and after Martin, in his frustration to make his space advantage tell, had lashed out with g4 the position quickly became level. By the time they agreed a draw on move 48, with queens and rooks exchanged to leave knight v knight and an equal number of immobile pawns on each side, it was dead drawn.

Kingston’s fate was now in the experienced hands of Scottish international Alan Scrimgour on board two and Jon Eckert, who had been lauded at the club’s AGM the previous evening for a season in which he had scored 14.5/18 for Kingston, on board four. They did not let us down.

Scrimgour, with the bishop pair, had a small edge for most of his game, but his opponent, Visagan Ravindran, had turned the tables by move 34 and looked like he could go into an endgame a pawn up. Scrimgour perhaps realised the tide had turned more quickly than his opponent, and cannily offered a draw, which the heavily outrated Ravindran accepted after a minute’s consideration.

Alan Scrimgour had an edge for most of the game on board two, but with the tide turning he offered a draw

That left Jon Eckert’s game on board four against Murugan Kanagasapay. The ever enterprising Eckert had played the Vienna Gambit and managed to get a small edge in the opening. But Kanagasapay fought back to equality, with both having queen, rook and potentially dangerous advanced pawns. The big difference was time: Eckert had 10 minutes left, while Kanagasapay was virtually playing on the increment. Kanagasapay blundered away a rook, and Eckert pressed home his advantage and forced checkmate.

In the end it all came down to board four, and Jon Eckert kept a cool head to secure the trophy for Kingston

Kingston had won the match 3.5 to 2.5 to regain the trophy they won in 2018/19 and then lost in the final to South Norwood the following season. That latter final was actually played in the autumn of 2021 after an 18-month Covid delay, which might make a nice quiz question: which was the season in which Kingston managed to both lose and win the Lauder Trophy? Answer: 2021/22.

Kanagasapay (who, in another ironic twist, had played for Kingston in that previous Lauder final) looked devastated by his loss in the decisive game. He co-founded the Chessington club with his sister (and captain on the night) Meena Santhosh, and knew how much this meant in its debut year. But the enterprising Chessington club, which has a booming junior section, will be back and are well on the way to being a force in Surrey chess.

The end of the game produced a round of applause, and Eckert calmly took the plaudits from his delighted team-mates. Had it been me, I would have insisted on a lap of honour along Park Road, which runs alongside the Adelaide, but Eckert was the very model of modesty. On the hottest evening of the year so far, his cool under extreme pressure was admirable.

Stephen Moss, Kingston Lauder Trophy captain

Grubb v Li, Teddington, 14 June 2022 1… Nde2+! wins the queen. If 2. RxN then Qb1#. In the game, Li played the intermezzo 1…Rxd4 2. cxd4 with the same continuation as above 2…Nde2++

Kingston 2 win the Centenary Trophy by a whisker

Epsom’s failure to secure a draw in their final match against South Norwood mean they fall at the final hurdle, allowing Adam Nakar’s team to snatch promotion

In a way, this was the sweetest triumph of all in a season in which there have been plenty. Kingston’s second team had started off the season using the Centenary Trophy (division 4 of the Surrey League) as a testing ground for the new players who had joined in the wake of the pandemic – people who had got the chess bug online and now wanted to play some over-the-board chess. It was only halfway through the season when we suddenly realised “We can win this”.

In the end, we were a little lucky. Excellent wins away to South Norwood and Richmond put the team captained by Adam Nakar in the hunt, but we needed other results to go our way. In particular, we needed long-time league leaders Epsom 3 to stumble away to South Norwood 2. That trip was always going to be a tricky proposition for Epsom, but they only needed a draw to seal the division and seemed confident of getting it.

The match stood 3-2 to South Norwood on the night, but the game between South Norwood’s Ken Chamberlain and Epsom’s David Flewellen was adjourned, with the higher-rated Flewellen pressing for the win which would level the match at 3-3 and give Epsom the trophy. When they resumed a few weeks later, Flewellen carried on pressing, but Chamberlain is noted for his doughty defence and the issue was still undecided when they adjourned again. Because it was so late in the season, no third session was permitted under league rules, thwarting Epsom’s bid and handing the trophy to Kingston.

Flewellen sent the Kingston captain a note offering hearty congratulations, which was an extremely generous and sporting gesture in the circumstances. At every stage this season, Kingston and Epsom have been locked together in tough tussles, and it speaks volumes that the camaraderie between the two rival clubs has remained intact.

Kingston, Epsom and South Norwood all finished on 3.5 match points, and even the game points were tight, with Kingston 2 winning the division by a mere half-point from Epsom, with South Norwood close behind in third. A wonderful and unexpected end to the league season. Congratulations to Adam and his team.

Stephen Moss

Kingston overcome Coulsdon to power into Alexander Cup final

Alexander Cup semi-final between Kingston and CCF (Coulsdon), played at the Willoughby Arms, Kingston on 30 May 2022

Kingston team
Top: Maycock, Taylor, Lalić, Jogstad, Rowson, Li, Healey
Front: Andrews, Scrimgour, Foley (captain), Way
Coulsdon team
(Top) Paul Jackson, Ian Calvert, Chris Howell, Mark Gray, Matt Darville
Adam Faulkner, Martin Faulkner, Nick Edwards, Balahan Bharat Kumar (Chino Atako was yet to arrive)

Kingston ran out 7-3 victors in a spirited match against CCF (Coulsdon) in which Kingston did not lose a game. Kingston are now in the final of the Alexander Cup for the first time since 2018. The previous occasion that Kingston won the Alexander Cup, the open knockout for teams in the Surrey League, was 47 years ago in its centenary year of 1975/76. The final against Wimbledon will be played at a neutral venue. No date has been set, but it is likely to be held at the start of next season in September. This year’s competition was beset by Covid delays affecting the fixtures.

The final score does not do justice to the hard-fought encounter. The Kingston team outrated Couldson, especially on the lower boards. However, ratings count for little in knockouts, and the two Coulsdon juniors on boards nine and 10 played well, with the experienced Kingston players unable to find a weakness. Six of the 10 games were drawn, and three of Kingston’s four wins came with the white pieces.

Our innovation during this match was to use a whiteboard to display the results as they came in. This ensured that all the players were aware of the match situation, which is a vital consideration when offering or accepting draws. Several of the players made nervous glances towards the board, wondering if their game would turn out to be match-critical.

Mark Gray (left) and Martin Jogstad agree a draw after a tense encounter on board one

On top board, Martin Jogstad (Kingston) and Mark Gray (Coulsdon) had a tense encounter in the last game to finish. Martin tried a kingside attack from a semi-slav. However, Mark deftly fended off the threat and launched a counter-attack on the queenside. They had a queen and four pawns each. Martin was not tempted to enter a pawn race because his king was vulnerable to checks, whereas Mark’s king could find shelter. So the game ended with perpetual check, the outcome of the match already determined.

Mike Healey decided to complicate against Chino Atako

On board two, Chino Atako always seemed in control as white in a Catalan against Mike Healey. This may have been an illusion as the engine indicated otherwise. As they reached the heavy pieces endgame, Chino had an ominous extra outside passed pawn. Mike decide to complicate – for which he needs little excuse in normal circumstances – by launching his kingside pawns at Chino. After the queens and most pawns were swapped off, Mike was able to hold the rook endgame.

Chris Howell contemplating Peter Lalić’s all-purpose 1. h3 opening

On board three, Peter Lalić and Chris Howell were level going into the endgame. Peter’s rook was more active but unable to do very much until Chris unwisely advanced his kingside pawns. It is always tempting to “do something” rather than wait patiently. The pawns became vulnerable, and Peter was left with a rook and the g and h pawns against a rook. There was a nice passage of play when Chris offered his rook which, if captured, would lead to stalemate. Peter found a way out of the swizz-attempt and concluded the game expertly. It should be noted that Magnus Carlsen was unable to convert this exact ending against Vladimir Kramnik in a blitz game in 2013.

David Maycock focused on getting active squares for his pieces

Board four comprised positional manoeuvring by Martin Faulkner and David Maycock in the exchange variation of the Queen’s Gambit Declined. The game was level until Martin unaccountably allowed a knight fork which won the exchange.

Vladimir Li saw a winning rook sacrifice

On board five, Vladimir Li didn’t get the start he wanted against Ian Calvert, who sprang the fashionable Scandinavian for which he had prepared well. Whilst the position was still balanced, Ian offered to exchange queens, but Vladimir responded by a surprise rook sacrifice against the king. The sacrifice could not be accepted and the rook remained behind enemy lines, wreaking havoc.

White to play (solution at end of report).

Nick Edwards, the Coulsdon captain, let the advantage slip away in his game

On board six, Nick Edwards held the advantage for most of the game in an Old Indian. He doubled his rooks on the open h-file against David Rowson’s king. It looked like curtains for the Kingston player. However, just when it looked like Nick was going to break through, he shifted his attention to the queenside. He missed a winning check on move 31, and the game petered out in a draw soon after.

Julian Way (right) played effortlessly against Matt Danville (Coulsdon)

On board seven, Julian Way played the game of the match. Facing another Scandinavian, he played classically to prompt a weakness on the king’s file. Julian doubled rooks and, when the time was right, shifted them to the h-file, where they penetrated with devastating effect.

As usual, the top four boards were the last to finish

Solution to problem: 17. Rxb7! If the king captures the rook, then 18. Rb1+ leads to mate in three. Black captured the queen, but after the zwischenschachs 18. Rc7+ Kb8 19. Rb1+ Ka8 20. gxf3 white is winning.

John Foley, Kingston Alexander Cup captain

Kingston wrap up league season with win over Ealing ‘juniors’

Thames Valley League division 2 match played at Actonians Sports Club, London W5 on 23 May 2022

There was a suspiciously seasoned look to the Ealing Juniors team we faced when we arrived at their sports ground venue near Acton Town. The fact that several of the Ealing team had beards rather gave the game away: they were struggling, as they have all season, to get out a B team filled with bona fide juniors and were filling in with older Ealing club members.

One junior did show up, however, played on top board and enjoyed a very good night. Xavier Cowan beat the redoubtable David Rowson, to suggest that his 1925 rating underestimates his true strength by some considerable distance. Cowan, opening as he usually does with d4, played a well-controlled positional game before it exploded into a riot of tactics which he navigated his way through with great skill despite being under time pressure.

On board two, Jon Eckert built up one of the powerful attacks in which he specialises, and went on to convert smoothly. Ljubica Lazaravic won a complicated game on board five, and I managed to eke out a win on board six, despite being under severe pressure in the early stages after my attempted King’s Gambit had gone horribly wrong. If my opponent had had more faith in his attacking powers and hadn’t gone into his shell, I would have been in serious trouble, but his passivity allowed me first to undo the damage and then to launch a kingside attack of my own that forced mate.

These were the decisive results in the match – 3-1 to Kingston. The games on boards three and four were drawn, but in rather different manners. Gregor Smith’s solid draw on board four was fairly conventional and peace was declared early, but John Shanley’s draw on board three was anything but conventional. In an incident that only came to light while they were playing the endgame, it transpired that Shanley’s opponent, Andrew Glass, had at some point managed to take his own piece – a bishop that somehow got removed from the board while he was making a capture.

Once the error had been spotted, the game had moved on so far that the players were deep into a time scramble and had stopped recording their moves. It proved impossible to track back, so a draw was agreed. The match result was, in any case, not materially affected, as Kingston had already secured their victory. This strange draw made the final score 4-2, bringing our league season to a memorable (if unusual) conclusion.

Victory in the match meant we remained undefeated as a club in 18 matches during this calendar year, though it is surely tempting fate to mention this just ahead of our all-important Alexander Cup semi-final against CCF on 30 May. It also confirmed that we had topped the second division of the Thames Valley league with nine wins out 10 – our sole defeat was in the first match of the season when we found the long journey to Maidenhead a little too testing. The most striking statistic was that we had a positive board count – chess’s equivalent of goal difference – of plus 34, conceding only 13 game points out of 60.

It is fair to assume that next season, when we will be up against battle-hardened first-division teams, will be a good deal tougher. But for the moment let’s gaze on this season’s final table and enjoy having – after a few early worries when Richmond set a hot pace – won the league by a distance. Many thanks to our rivals for making it an enjoyable season and less of a walk in the park than it might look. The one-sided scores belied some hard fights, and we were extremely fortunate to beat Surbiton B in our second match. Thanks, too, to all the Kingston players who turned out and made the captain’s job so enjoyable and stress-free. Well, relatively stress-free anyway.

Stephen Moss, Kingston Thames Valley captain