Thames Valley League division 2 match played at St Luke’s Community Hall, Maidenhead on 25 October 2021
We lost 4-2 in our first away match of the season. The teams were evenly matched on paper but traversing the M25/M4 corridor in a dark evening is tiring and guarantees a home energy advantage. On top board, Maidenhead’s John Wager (w) beat Julian Way. Team captain Stephen Moss lost to a stronger player on the bottom board and muttered about dropping himself from the squad, a feeling which overtakes us all from time to time. The remaining games were drawn. John Shanley played his first competitive game in many years having returned to chess only recently. The final game to finish was John Foley v Tony Milnes. The opposite bishops endgame was about to be adjourned (yes we still have adjournments in the Thames Valley League) but having sealed the envelope, the players analysed the position and concluded that a draw was inevitable and so another trip to St Luke’s parish hall was avoided.
There was more interest off the board. A junior managed to get locked into the disabled toilet and set off the alarm. The home team ingeniously eventually picked open the lock. Later on, the caretaker, an elderly gentleman collapsed in the kitchen and was immediately attended to by John Shanley who in real life is a doctor at Kingston Hospital. Two home players stayed on at the end of the match waiting for an ambulance. In the end, the patient decided he wanted to go home – so they made sure he got home alright and he was going to see the doctor the following day. John calmly returned to the board to secure a draw. The Maidenhead captain Nigel Smith sent his club’s thanks for providing medical assistance.
David Maycock came third in the strong 4NCL Hull Open held over the weekend 22-24 October 2021. Sharing first place were GM Peter Wells and Steven A Jones on 4.5/5. David shared 3rd place with GMs Mark Hebden and Keith Arkell and Marco Gallana from Italy who all scored 4/5. David, who moved to Kingston from Mexico a few months ago, has been working to improve his over the board chess after a period of enforced abstinence during Covid. His performance rating for the event was Elo 2402.
David rode his luck especially in the final game against the strong amateur John G Cooper. David was unfortunately paired with fellow Kingstonian Peter Lalic in the fourth round. This was the only game which Peter lost, ending on 50% overall.
Lauder Trophy final against South Norwood playedat the neutral venue of Ashtead Peace Memorial Hall on 19 October 2021
Which of course is another way of saying we lost 4-2 in the final to South Norwood (well done to them and their canny captain David Howes). The fault was largely mine as captain, not least as I failed to explain the time control properly to Murugan Kanagasapay (playing on board 5 for Kingston). He didn’t realise he was going to get an extra 20 minutes after the first hour and hurried through his moves as the initial control approached, blundering and eventually losing the game.
But there were no excuses really. Adam Nakar was furious with himself for failing to convert a wonderful attacking position on board 4; John Bussmann was outfoxed by Paul Dupré on board 2; Jon Eckert drew a sharp game on board 3; Greg Heath won nicely for Kingston on board 6; and honours were shared in the game on top board between Kingston’s David Maycock and South Norwood’s flagbearer Tariq Oozerally.
A good match, but Kingston’s luck ran out after our somewhat fortuitous victory in the semi-final over Guildford. No time to mope, though. This was the conclusion of the Covid-paused 2019/20 Lauder Trophy; the 2020/21 tournament was lost completely; but in a week we begin our 2021/22 campaign. There hasn’t even been time to sack the captain, despite protests among Kingston’s loyal fan base and moves to engineer an injection of funds from a foreign oligarch to boost the team. I have vowed to stay on and turn things round – at least until I can secure a multimillion-pound payoff.
Sixteen-board ‘friendly’ between Kingston and Surbiton played at the Willoughby Arms, Kingston, on 30 September 2021
The pandemic has had many downsides for chess, but this 16-board match – or Megamatch as the organisers billed it, pretending it was a heavyweight title fight – was one of the upsides. Paul Durrant, who has spent most of his life building up the Surbiton club from small beginnings (just seven members at one point) into a powerhouse of chess in south-west London, realised that the Surrey and Thames Valley leagues were going to be skinnier in this tentative recovery year, and wanted to give his members a bit of extra ECF-graded chess. Hence he offered a defi to smaller local rivals Kingston. Who would win bragging rights for the coming year?
Normally Surbiton would stroll it, but they have lost a few of their top players over the past year as the pandemic altered work-life priorities – a few players have moved away, started PhDs, become monks (OK the last bit is a flight of fancy, but we have all been changed by lockdown). Several other factors also played in Kingston’s favour: they have been joined by David Maycock, a 2250-rated British-Mexican who promises to be a flagbearer for the ambitious (yes we are ambitious!) club over the next few years. David is already making waves on the London chess scene and, still just a teenager, could well make IM – or more. We intend to be with him all the way and give him whatever support we can. We also fielded Peter Lalic, a friend of the club who has returned to chess and made an immediate impact (see his performance in the recent 4NCL congress in Leamington Spa where he drew with GM Peter Wells) and, on top board, the hugely talented Mike Healey. Kingston had home advantage – useful as the match was played during the fuel crisis – and the organisers’ intention was to balance the grades on each board as far as possible to ensure competitive match-ups.
The top eight boards were strong and played at a time control of 75 minutes with a 10-second increment. The bottom eight boards, played with a control of 60 minutes plus a 10-second increment, were made up of stalwart club members and players who were new to over-the-board chess. Kingston fielded half a dozen players who had never played for the club before – people who had come along during lockdown and had stayed for the return to league chess. Managing this transition will be crucial to the future of the club – indeed all clubs in the UK. Chess clubs have an ageing demographic; Kingston (unlike Surbiton) does not have a vibrant junior section; so we need these twentysomethings who come to us via our website or Facebook to stick around, graduate to competitive chess, and be the captains and administrators of the future. That’s the dream anyway.
I am unable to give a blow-by-blow account of the match because, with Surbiton’s board 10 failing to show, I stood in for him. This was legitimate as I am a member of Surbiton as well as Kingston, though it felt a little odd as I had organised the Kingston team. I was intent on a draw, but my opponent – John Shanley, one of the Kingston debutants – had other ideas and kept pushing for a win, though in the end the spoils were shared. (I was rather pleased with this as the cider I had drunk beforehand, thinking that I didn’t have to push any wood and celebrating the fact that all 16 of my players had shown up, was definitely inhibiting my already limited powers of calculation.)
Kingston’s three young lions won their games on boards 1 to 3 (you will find their brilliantly annotated games by clicking the scores on the scoresheet below); the club’s traditional engine room – David Rowson, John Foley and Alan Scrimgour – secured draws against strong Surbitonians; and Jon Eckert (in a splendidly violent game) and John Bussmann (with typical tactical imagination) won their games on boards 7 and 8, giving Kingston a remarkable 6.5 to 1.5 advantage on the top boards.
Surbiton clawed back some of that deficit on the lower boards, but it was not enough and Kingston ran out winners by a comfortable 9.5 to 6.5. David Shalom, playing his first match for Kingston for several years, beat Douglas Robson in a topsy-turvy, nerve-shredding struggle, and Gregor Smith, one of the Kingston debutants, got off to a winning start.
A wonderful night enjoyed by all. Thanks to the Willoughby Arms for letting us use the playing room on a Thursday, which is not our usual club night, and to John Saunders for acting as arbiter and taking a marvellously evocative set of photographs of the occasion. The match was played in honour of Ken Inwood, a Kingston player since the 1950s (yes, 70 years!), who has been in hospital recently and was unable to attend the match. There are hopes that the Megamatch will become an annual fixture as the curtain-raiser to the season, though next year it will be Surbiton’s turn to host and you can bet that even now the wily and determined Durrant will be plotting his revenge, calling back his 2200-strength players from their rural retreats and monastic hideouts. This was a significant battle to win, but the war – a friendly war of course – goes on.
There has been a Kingston-Surbiton match for over 50 years according to Paul Durrant who recalled playing in one when he first joined Surbiton at the start of his chess career. The two clubs share the same locality. Kingston upon Thames is the town in which the Saxon kings were consecrated, and the area is distinguished by being named as the Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames. Surbiton and Norbiton emerged on to the map as locations for the railway to Kingston.
This match was the Kingston club’s season opener in terms of being the first fixture of the 2021/22 season. However, it was not the first chronological match of the season because we had already played Guildford in the Lauder Cup (match report). That match was held over from the 2019-20 season, the intervening 2020/21 season having been cancelled due to Covid.
Lauder Trophy semi-final (resumption of the Covid-suspended 2019-20 competition) played at the Guildford Institute on 20 September 2021
Well, that was pretty amazing. Two-thirds of the way through this semi-final match, Kingston were losing 2.5 to 0.5, and looked almost certain to be beaten and to have their hands prised from the Lauder Trophy, which we had won in 2018-19. But there was to be the strangest of conclusions to this extraordinary match …
First, some context. Kingston are the holders of the Lauder Trophy, having won it in 2018-19 for the first time in almost two decades. This semi-final was part of the 2019-20 competition. The match had been due to be played in March 2020, but we all know what happened in that dire month. The Surrey Chess Association decided to play the 2019-20 tournament to a conclusion, pretend that 2020/21 never happened (which of course it didn’t chess-wise) and start the 2021/22 tournament in November. Pity the poor Lauder Trophy captain who has to juggle all this.
The other key point about the Lauder is that there is a collective grade limit. We had been waiting so long to play this match that the English Chess Federation has changed the grading system from three digits to four in the interim, so what used to be an overall limit for the competition of 841 has become one of 10,505 (why not 10,500 for simplicity?). Captains can slice their team any way they like, but if you use up 2800 points by having Magnus Carlsen on board 1, you are likely to be quite weak on the bottom boards. That is the beauty of the competition: in theory you get very well-balanced matches (as we saw at Guildford). One does, however, always have to keep an eye on unscrupulous captains putting in players on dodgy estimated grades (Carlsen has no official Surrey rating, so if he did wander into the Willoughby Arms for a game I’d probably seek to play him in the Lauder at an estimated grade of around 1600).
The semi-final was played at Guildford at their terrific venue and in an excellent atmosphere. There were two titans on board 1 – John Foley for Kingston and Julien Shepley (complete with generous lockdown beard) for Guildford, and these old rivals fairly rapidly agreed a draw. Greg Heath went wrong in a good position on board 6 and lost; Jon Eckert played what he said later was a very sharp opening as black on board 3 and also came unstuck. It was 2.5-0.5 to Guildford, with the other three games looking evenly balanced and an hour still to play. Things looked ominous, and I was resigned to handing the battered trophy, which I had brought along, over to Guildford’s Lauder captain, Mike Gunn.
But miracles do happen. Ljubica Lazarevic won well against a higher-rated player on board 4 – she said she’d swindled him but we are convinced she was in control throughout. John Bussmann drew on board 2 – a game he felt he should have won (but Jon always feels that): 3-2 to Guildford. Since they had won on board 3, I feared that was the match gone. Surely board count would consign Kingston to defeat.
There was, though, to be one final twist: Oliver Luen won brilliantly on board 5 to equalise the score at 3-3. Board count – with top board scoring six points down to bottom board scoring just one – was also equal, with the decisive games scoring 5-5. And a quick consultation of the Surrey association rules by Julian Way, who had generously come along to support Kingston, showed that, in the event of a tie on board count, the bottom board score was eliminated first, leaving Kingston the winners.
Gunn took the news with remarkable equanimity, as Kingston had been under the cosh all night and only squeezed through on a technicality. We now face South Norwood in the final at the neutral venue of Ashtead on Tuesday 19 October. I’m not sure my nerves can take it.
After over a decade we have decided to switch the site to WordPress which we hope be easier for some of our members to use. We have decided not to transfer our historical articles at this stage. Perhaps we will publish some of the more interesting ones from time to time in the future. The Club actually won the Club Website of the Year a few years back on the strength of these articles which were written in the early days of chess club websites. We are grateful to Michael K Bennett for having hosted us with TextPattern since the beginning.
The plan is to start afresh with members’ games and match reports. It seems we are at the start of a new era and we are wiping the slate clean. The pandemic has changed the way we do chess. We have met together online. We play in “beach huts” in the pub garden. There are several new members and some older, more vulnerable, members have been staying away.
It is extraordinary to think that the Club was founded in 1875 and is still going after many transformations. We look forward to reaching our sesquicentennial year and have begun to make plans. Our ideas include writing a brief history of Kingston Chess Club and running a Chess Festival in the Market Square in Kingston. One can never start planning too early.
The club has thrived and survived due to the diligence of a large number of people over the years. We have not taken advantage of social media as much as we could have. Traditionally chess players moving to Kingston would seek out their local club – but those simple days have passed. Nowadays a chess club must be active on Twitter and Facebook – even if many of the members reject such platforms for themselves.
People join the club to play chess over the board. Playing online does not have the social element. Come along to the club and you will meet other people with a shared interest. Some members are very serious about improving their chess, others prefer to engage in conversations starting with chess but never limited to chess. If you want to drop by on a Monday evening you are always welcome.