Category Archives: Reports

Kingston A beat Richmond to secure TVL Div 1 title

Kingston A v Richmond A, Thames Valley division 1 match played at the Willoughby Arms, Kingston, on 20 May 2024

Sometimes a cliché just happens to fit the facts, so let’s say that Kingston’s 2023-24 Thames Valley League division 1 experience was a season of two halves. Up to the end of January, we had played seven matches, winning three, drawing three and losing one (to Ealing). Not too bad, but not title-winning form. In contrast, during the same period, our main rivals Hammersmith had won six and only drawn one match (against us). The title looked to be theirs. But the following weeks saw Kingston achieve consistently good results, winning three and drawing one, while Hammersmith seemed to lose their focus, losing three of their final five matches, including one at home to us.

The consequence of this was that on Monday 20 May we faced Richmond A at the Willoughby with the same number of match points (eight) as Hammersmith, but with this match in hand. If we won or drew we would be champions for the second year running. 

The strength of our team is shown by the fact that Peter Lalić was on board 4. I reckon that few opponents would now mistake his opening 1. d3 d4 2. e5 as evidence of modest ambitions, as he has shown himself to be a master at patiently wringing victories from these innocent-looking moves. It happened again against Bertie Barlow. In the position below Peter was a pawn up, but if Bertie had contested the d-file with 37…Rd7 it would have been hard for Peter to make progress, as an exchange of rooks leaves a drawn king and pawn ending.

However, after 37…Rg7 38. Rd3, Peter first activated his rook and then pursued the winning plan of advancing his a-pawn to a6. His opponent allowed him to win the pawn on a7 in a desperate search for counterplay, but the white a-pawn was then unstoppable.

Kingston 1 Richmond 0, and David Maycock soon made it 2-0 with a win on board one, in a very different type of game. Gavin Wall opened with the Trompowsky Attack (1.d4 Nf6 2. Bg5), and after five moves this position was reached:

White took the offered e-pawn – 6. Nxe5 – and David then played the spectacular Ng4. Now 7. Bxd8 would not be sensible in view of 7…Bxf2 mate. Gavin defended with 7. Nd3, though David thought “7. Nxg4 was the way to go, to which Black would have played 7…Qxg5 8. h3 and Nc6 with compensation.” The game actually continued 7…Qxg5 8. Nxc5, giving this position:

Now David was able to spoil White’s kingside pawn structure with a temporary knight sacrifice. 8…Nxf2 9. Kxf2 Qh4+ 10. g3 Qd4+ winning back the knight. The position is still roughly level, but later Black’s rooks infiltrated White’s second rank to give the following position:

Here 25. Rf4 is best, though White’s situation would still be difficult. Instead, Gavin played 25. Rxf7 and lost queen for rook after 25…Rdg2+ 26. Kf1 Rf2+ 27. Rxf2 Rxf2+ 28. Kxf2 Qxg7. He resigned one move later. Another very impressive win for David against an IM.

On board 2 Vladimir Li and Michael Healey were having a technical battle in a line of the Catalan Opening. Mike gave up a pawn to activate his queen’s bishop, but was eventually left with a weak pawn on a6 and resigned when this was about to fall, at which point he had already lost two other pawns in a rook ending.

In our final two matches we have been very fortunate to have 10-year-old Supratit Banerjee (pictured) playing for us. His mature, patient play as Black against Maks Gajowniczek was remarkable for someone of his age. His analysis of the following position is instructive.

Supratit explained: “17…a5 is not the best here because after 18. a3 bxc5 19. bxc5 my queen cannot come to a5. If 17…a5 18. a3 axb4 then the white rook is occupying the a-file.” So Supratit played 17…bxc5 instead, and after 18. bxc5 Qa5 19. Rfb1 Ba6 he commented: “The white light-squared bishop defends key squares such as c4 and e4, so if I trade it then the black knight will become better than the white knight because the white knight has no good squares.” The game continued 20. Bf3, allowing Bc4, and Black has achieved an advantage on the queenside. White’s exchange of rooks on b8 added to this advantage, though presumably White was hoping to get counterplay with e4.

A few moves later this was the position, with White to play:

Supratit commented: “White has to play 26. Qc1. That would still be a slight advantage to Black, but White can hold if he plays perfectly.” Instead Maks took the bishop – 26. Qxc4 – and after 26…Qxf3 Black had a winning advantage due to the active position of his pieces and White’s kingside weakness. Supratit won on move 41.

Thus the four top-rated members of the team had already given us the wins needed for victory in the match and for the retention of the Thames Valley League title.

Among all these successes my own game hardly bears mention, but it did have some interesting points – one of them painful for me.  In this position I saw an opportunity to win the exchange:

There followed 25. c4 Nc7 26. Bxc6 Qxc6 27. Qxb3 exd4 28. Bf4 Nc5. Here I moved too quickly and miscalculated, playing 29. Nxd4 when Qd1 would have kept more advantage. This was the position:

Black played 29…Nxb3 30. Nxc6 Nxa1 30. Rxe8 Nxe8 31. Nxd8. Seven successive captures have left me just a pawn up. I actually hoped to win this position, but my opponent played it better than me, and I ended up with bishop and two pawns against his knight and one pawn, but with me unable to make any progress. Disappointed, I sat looking at the position and completely forgot about my ticking clock. Suddenly my opponent broke into my reverie to point out that I had lost on time. It was a shocking and stupid finish to the game for me. Fortunately, these negative feelings were overlaid with delight that we had already won the league.

The final game to finish, like mine, made no difference to the overall result. John Foley had graciously stepped in as a substitute on board 3 when it turned out that Silverio Abasolo had got the wrong date for the match. Behind on the clock from the start, John had put up a good fight, but ultimately lost a rook ending to John Burke.

It is no exaggeration to say that in 2022-23 we had swept all before us; as a result, we felt that in the first matches of this season other clubs made a point of trying to get out their strongest players against Kingston. We sometimes struggled early on, but came through in the end. It has to be admitted that we were reliant on Hammersmith slipping up to give us any chance of winning the league, but then we had to show our mettle by taking that chance – and we did.

Many thanks to all the players who made this achievement possible, and to Peter Andrews and John Foley for captaining when I was unavailable, to Stephen Moss for his assistance with team selection, and to Greg Heath for his hard work getting everything ready for home matches. Next season … but no, let’s not even think about next season yet.

David Rowson, Kingston captain in Thames Valley League division 1

Final table

Kingston C finish Div X season with flourish

A trio of victories concludes the Thames Valley Div X season in style

What a finish to the season by Kingston C in Thames Valley division X. They won their final three matches to finish second in the table to a strong Maidenhead C side. Kingston C actually ended with a sequence of six wins in a row – testimony to the way in which new players found their feet in the course of the season.

These three games were played over the course of eight days in the final week of the season – away to Hounslow C on 13 May, home to Ealing D on 20 May and away to Richmond E on 21 May – and on each occasion the match was won by 2.5-1.5.

Leon Mellor-Sewell (pictured standing above, in a match played earlier in the season) and David Bickerstaff, both crucial additions to the club this season, starred with wins at Hounslow. Robin Kerremans, another new member, and Colin Lyle enjoyed wins against Ealing, with Jaden Mistry securing an important draw. And Greg Heath got the crucial point in a tight match against Richmond, though Leon again deserves special praise for his draw with the very capable Alex Shard.

A tremendous late run by the Div X team, expertly captained by Stephen Daines, to whom mighty congratulations are due. Stephen is now stepping down from captaincy duties, and will be a very hard act to follow.

Stephen Moss, Kingston Chess Club secretary

Final table

CSC/Kingston 1 reach dizzy heights of 4NCL Div 1

An extraordinary and stressful final 4NCL weekend of the season saw CSC/Kingston 1 win promotion to division 1 and CSC/Kingston 2 go down to division 4, leaving tricky questions for the squad for next season.

What drama there was in Daventry and Telford at the denouement of the 2023/24 4NCL season. At Daventry, CSC/Kingston 1 played superbly to win all three of their matches and secure second place in the final table and promotion to division 1 of the league, where teams with clusters of GMs await. Anyone fancy playing Alexei Shirov next season? Actually all our leading players will fancy it – and will give a very good account of themselves.

IM Vladyslav Larkin, who made a brilliant debut for CSC/Kingston 1, beating GM and three-times British champion Jonathan Mestel and scoring 2.5/3, would certainly be up for the challenge. As would CM David Maycock (pictured above), who scored 3/3 over the final weekend to complete a tremendous 4NCL season in which he scored 9.5/11 and racked up a rating over the 11-round competition of 2550-plus. It was more than enough for a nailed-on IM norm, except that one of the opposing teams at the final weekend managed not to give him the titled player he needed to satisfy that requirement. Very disappointing for David, and indeed infuriating for the entire team. That we did not let our fury destabilise us and kept our eye on the promotion prize made the success all the more admirable.

At Telford, valiantly though CSC/Kingston 2 battled, all the results went against us and we were relegated from division 3 (knights) to division 4. Having such a gulf between the two teams makes squad management difficult, and it is imperative that we work hard to get a team back into division 3 next year. Division 3 is perfect for players rated 2000-plus – highly competitive, with good games guaranteed in every round. Division 4 can be more hit and miss, with a big gap between the strong teams and the rest.

A word for CSC/Kingston 3, who performed creditably all season in division 4 and ended in the top half of the 27-team table (might there be scope for making 4NCL a five-division league?). Jon Eckert should be mentioned in dispatches: he played every round and drove thousands of miles to ensure that he and his team-mates were at the venues in good time. On a given Saturday or Sunday, especially when the team was playing in Telford, he would spend five hours playing and more than that driving up from London and back. Utterly exhausting and truly selfless. It is not just the first team that has heroes.

The three teams were as always excellently managed by team captains Kate and Charlie Cooke, who handled the logistics of getting 20 players per round to distant motorway hotel locations with aplomb. How they do it I have no idea. It requires the motivational powers of Alex Ferguson and the operational nous of a food distribution company. Well done to them and well done to the players who got CSC/Kingston 1 to the top of the mountain. Now, how do we set about establishing a serious foothold there?

All the results from the weekend’s three rounds are shown below, as well as the final tables. 4NCL has yet to publish the games from rounds 10 and 11. At some point, when the games have been published and we have had time to analyse them, a number of them will be annotated and added to this website’s games section.

Stephen Moss, Kingston Chess Club secretary

CSC/Kingston 1

CSC/Kingston 2

CSC/Kingston 3

Kingston secure historic Alexander Cup hat-trick

Kingston v Wimbledon, Alexander Cup final, played at the Willoughby Arms, Kingston, on 2 May 2024

As far as Kingston are concerned, Alexander cups are like buses. Until 2022, in our post-pandemic golden period, we hadn’t won one since 1976. Now, with this 7-3 victory over a strong Wimbledon team, we have chalked up three in a row.

This is the first hat-trick of Alexander cups (Surrey’s premier knockout competition) in our history, a feat which suggests this may be Kingston’s strongest ever side. A bold claim to make, given that the club had tremendous teams in the 1930s (the era of J H Blake and R G Michell) and the 1970s (when a certain John Nunn was let loose upon the world). What we can say for sure is that this is the Kingston club’s third great side.

A hat-trick of Alexander cups has only been achieved by four other clubs: Redhill (2000s), Mitcham (twice – 1980s and 1990s), Richmond (1960s) and Clapham Common (1930s). Clapham Common and Mitcham are now defunct, and Redhill are inactive. Sic transit gloria mundi and all that. But Richmond are still going strong, and we fervently hope to follow their example and survive.

Mitcham won the trophy eight times in 10 years before collapsing in exhaustion. On the evening of the final, John Saunders – a key member of that Mitcham side – was taking photographs and collating results for his wonderfully researched BritBase website. He doubted whether we would emulate Mitcham’s achievement, and frankly I’m not sure we want to. It seems that too much success can kill you.

We had assembled a strong team for the final, played at the Willoughby Arms because Wimbledon kindly waived their right to claim a neutral venue, and were confident until we saw the Wimbledon side. They were about as strong as they could be, with IM Alberto Saurez Real on 1, Russells Granat and Picot on 2 and 3, the sturdy Dan Rosen on 4, dangerous young players in Shahvez Ali and Girinath Haridas in the middle order, and doughty fighters all the way down to the veteran Tony Hughes on board 10. This was not going to be a straightforward night.

Will Taylor had Black on board 7 and decided an early draw would serve our interests. Photograph: John Saunders

There was a result on the board – the whiteboard on the stage in the upstairs playing room at the Willoughby to be precise – almost straightaway. Will Taylor, with Black against Ian Heppell on board 7, agreed a draw in 10 moves in a book Petrov’s Defence position. Solidity personified from Will and a good result to begin, despite Will’s rating advantage. Ian is in any case almost certainly stronger than his rating suggests. This was the pleasingly bishop-heavy position in which peace was declared:

Rather less peaceful events were unfolding on board 4, where the wonderfully fluid and attacking Silverio Abasolo, with White, was giving Dan Rosen a very hard time. Dan boldly played a Pirc, but erred in this position:

Silverio Abasolo played a wonderful attacking game to defeat Dan Rosen on board 4. Photograph: John Saunders

Silverio’s terrific early win put us 1.5-0.5 up, but it was followed by a couple of hours of slog. I was worried for Julian Way, playing a King’s Indian Defence against Sean Ingle on board 9, in the cramped position below after Sean’s 17. f4:

Julian Way had what looked a cramped position, but it quickly resolved itself. Photograph: John Saunders

So far so good. That made it 2-1. Vladimir Li was playing Black on board 1 against Wimbledon’s Spanish IM, Alberto Suarez Real. Alberto opted for a Scotch and a characteristically intense and theory-heavy battle ensued. These two players have met each other on several occasions and clearly have great respect for each other. Black gained a tiny edge, but Alberto equalised and a draw was agreed on move 22 in the level position below:

Alberto Suarez Real (left) and Vladimir Li showed each other great respect and drew. Photograph: John Saunders
David Rowson gained an edge against Girinath Haridas, but a draw was always likely. Photograph: John Saunders

We were in a draw-dominated period of the match, with only Silverio’s quickfire win keeping us ahead. David Rowson gained a tiny edge against Girinath Haridas’s Modern Defence, but nothing significant and it was certainly legitimate to take a draw in the position below where David’s apparently superior coordination is largely illusory:

That made it 3-2 and not long after the score became 3.5-2.5 when Peter Andrews and Tony Hughes also agreed a draw. Peter and Tony know each other’s games well – so well that Peter, with White, departed from his usual opening repertoire and strayed into less familiar lines. This cost him time and he fell behind on the clock, as well as being slightly worse on the board in the final position he recorded (see diagram) before the five-minute rule kicked in:

But Peter is a doughty defender, didn’t panic and held the position with reasonable comfort. We were still only marginally ahead and the final result of the match was far from clear, but there wasn’t the same anxiety as in our previous two Alexander Cup finals – against Battersea last year and Wimbledon the year before. It felt as if we were playing like a professional unit. Perhaps we are getting better at handling these big matches.

Peter Andrews (left) survived time pressure to secure a draw – an important save. Photograph: John Saunders

The Wimbledon fortress was in any case about to be breached. In the space of a few minutes Kingston’s two youngest players – David Maycock on board 2 and Luca Buanne on board 6 – secured the wins that took us beyond five game points and ensured that we would retain the Alexander Cup and complete the much-vaunted hat-trick of titles.

David’s board 2 opponent Russell Granat, a formidable attacking player, had been caught in traffic and arrived just after the half-hour default time. In the circumstances we did not enforce the default, wanting to win fair and square, a decision applauded by our opponents, in particular Russell Picot, who made a point of thanking me. But playing David Maycock is not easy at the best of times, and playing him with Black when you are 35 minutes down on the clock was too much for Russell. David, essaying a Ruy Lopez, did nothing spectacular (unusually for him); he just played immaculate, implacable chess. One over-ambitious pawn push in the position below sealed Russell’s fate:

David Maycock is in superb form and played immaculately against Russell Granat. Photograph: John Saunders

Luca Buanne, with White on board 6, also played a powerful game against Neil Cannon’s Alekhine’s Defence, and was always ahead in the game despite Neil’s valiant attempts to get counterplay. After 35 moves Luca had reached this winning queen and pawn endgame, though it still had to be won, as indeed it was almost 20 moves later.

The wins by David and Luca came in quick succession and secured Kingston’s historic hat-trick of titles – greeted perhaps with relief rather than euphoria by the team’s supporters. That it was achieved by two young players who have only been representing the club since the end of the pandemic was especially satisfying. The Covid shutdown now feels like it facilitated a rebirth. Before then we bumbled along; since then we have been motoring. It could all end tomorrow – “O my MItcham and my Redhill long ago” – but for the moment we savour the success.

Luca Buanne’s superbly played game helped to secure Kingston”s hat-trick of titles. Photograph: John Saunders

That left two games still in progress. Mike Healey, with Black on board 5 against the dangerous junior Shahvez Ali, eschewed his usual creative flights of fantasy, realising that a draw with Black was just what the doctor ordered. He offered a draw in the position below:

It is completely level, but White realised his team needed a win – we had not established an unassailable lead by this point – and persisted in trying to establish an advantage for a dozen more moves. Mike played with great precision, other games went against Wimbledon, and a draw was finally agreed.

Mike Healey eschewed his love of fantastic tactics and secured a vital draw with Black. Photograph: John Saunders

That, inevitably, left Peter Lalić still playing. Peter was under the weather and had spent much of the evening blowing his nose in the storage cupboard. Most players, if they felt unwell, would seek a quick exit, but Peter is sui generis and persisted in trying to win against the wonderfully urbane Russell Picot for more than three hours and precisely 142 moves. If this is Peter ill, imagine Peter well. Long games, for better or worse, are becoming his signature. The game went on late into the night and I was in the bar celebrating, so I must defer to my esteemed colleague Peter Andrews, who was by this point scoring the game in case a threefold repetition was claimed. Peter A takes up the story.

The last game to finish was on board 3. Peter [Lalić] described it as his “Immortal Game”.  Anderssen-Kieseritzky (1851) was so named because the memory of the brilliant final combination was immortal. This time it was not the memory, although Russell Picot may carry the scars for some time, but the game itself which threatened to last for ever.

Friend or foe? One would love to know what Russell Picot’s expression here signifies. Photograph: John Saunders

On the black side of a Botvinnik English, Peter achieved by move 20 the kind of blocked position in which he revels, and skilfully exploited White’s overextended queenside structure to launch a raid with his queen which won the a pawn on move 59 (see diagram below).

But he had to extricate his queen to ensure that it was not trapped, and with the position still blocked it seemed that a draw was inevitable – White offered a draw at least twice. However, the situation was ideal for Lalićian timebuilding – more or less indefinite woodshifting starting with both players on the increment, in which although there should be no breakthrough the under-pressure side has to exercise a little care, in this case to ensure that (1) the black a-pawn could not be pushed or (2) the black queen could not come to f4 without being opposed by the white queen. Not difficult in principle, but the combination of boredom and the requirement for care through an indefinite number of moves at 10 seconds a move may cause tiredness and a momentary loss of concentration.

That eventually occurred on White’s 120th move. Playing on 10-second increments, it may not have been clear what Black’s concentration on the c-file was intended to achieve, with no way to sacrifice the bishop for two pawns and a rook sacrifice being too high a tariff. However, Peter had used his accumulated time for a nice bit of visualisation in the position below:

Thus ends Peter Andrews’ superb analysis of his namesake’s game. I can hear every reader asking, “Why can’t Andrews do all the game analysis rather than the other bloke?” Because frankly he is far too expensive and has better things to do.

The Picot-Lalić epic ended at around 10.45pm. An odd coda in some ways – Peter L, coughing and spluttering but characteristically determined to win a game that had no material impact on the result of the match other than to ensure we won by the in the end comfortable margin of 7-3. In a rapidly emptying playing room, as holders we presented the Alexander Cup to ourselves, with president and non-playing Alexander Cup captain John Foley cradling it . Three years’ hard work was complete. What now? Should we weep for there are no more worlds to conquer? In Surrey anyway.

Club president John Foley displays the trophy in front of the legendary whiteboard. Photograph: John Saunders

Stephen Moss, Secretary, Kingston Chess Club

This was also a league match!

Kingston’s Surrey League division 1 captain, Peter Andrews, writes:

The top eight boards of the Alexander Cup doubled as our postponed home league match against Wimbledon (a future quiz question might be: “How can a chess player be in two places at the same time?” Answer, a home league match and an away cup match are twinned.) Our 6-2 win over those boards meant that we finished with six match points out of eight, half a point (and also half a game point) behind Epsom.

It was naturally disappointing not to repeat last season’s championship and unbeaten record. The early defeats at Guildford, when we were missing some key players, and at home against Epsom, when our very strong side slightly underperformed, left us with too much ground to make up in the second half of the season, despite a fantastic team effort to pull off a win at Wimbledon when we were so depleted that some evoked the spirit of Agincourt. And we had a sense that as defending champions we had targets on our backs, and other clubs did their best to put out their strongest possible sides against us. So six points out of eight was a good effort, and it was particularly satisfying to beat Epsom fairly comfortably in the return match.

We drew on the resources of the whole club: 17 different players turned out at least once. Our mainstays were once again David Maycock (4.5/6) and Peter Lalić (4/7).  Having two such consistent performers on high boards was crucial, and they were aided by the willingness of our other less regular leading lights, Vladimir Li, Silverio Abasolo and Mike Healey, to be flexible around board order so as to facilitate our preparation and frustrate our opponents’. 

But we tended to have a greater rating edge slightly lower down, where David Rowson, liberated from the captaincy, scored 3.5/6, and John Foley 3/5. There were many other solid performances, and Luca Buanne [2.5/3] made an immensely promising debut late in the season. He will be a key component as we refresh the squad next season.

Final division 1 table

Kingston triumph over Epsom to win Lauder Trophy

Epsom v Kingston, Lauder Trophy final, played at the Adelaide pub, Teddington, on 30 April 2024

This was a very satisfying win on many levels. The Lauder Trophy is the competition in which titled players sit alongside relative novices, because captains have to choose a six-board team in which the total ECF ratings do not exceed 10,500 points. That’s an average of 1,750 a board, though you can slice it any way you wish. We were up against the holders of the Lauder Trophy, Epsom, who are always tough, and I’d followed a few hunches in selecting my team.

I had chosen the very highly rated David Maycock on board 1 – in case Epsom had picked any of their posse of IMs (which in the end they didn’t) – and combined him with the experience of Peter Andrews, John Bussmann and Jon Eckert on 2, 3 and 4, and relative newcomers Ergo Nobel and Rob Taylor on 5 and 6. Rob has only played a handful of rated games, so this was a huge test. Even having to notate would have been foreign to him.

David Maycock, Kingston’s board 1, in intense calculation mode. Photograph: John Saunders

The team – and Rob in particular – performed superbly to win the match 4-2 and bring the trophy back to Kingston for the third time in the past five completed seasons (one year was entirely lost to Covid and another stretched over two seasons).

Rob Taylor has played only a handful of rated games, but crucially won on board 6. Photograph: John Saunders

There were some anxious faces among the Kingston contingent for the first hour of the match as games looked to be going against us or were at best level, but David Maycock calmed nerves by winning with a beautiful sacrifice against promising junior Zain Patel on board 1. David’s win is worth looking at in full, not least as it was a rare d4 opening for him. Are we seeing the start of a whole new Maycockian repertoire?

David Maycock (left), FM Vladimir Li and Zain Patel conduct a friendly post-mortem. Photograph: John Saunders

Jon Eckert then got an important draw against another good Epsom junior on board 4. “The game was tricky,” Jon said afterwards, “and I have to admit that the French [Defence] backfired. I saw the drawing idea of exchanging queens, but in doing so I lost all chances of winning and just hoped for an opposite-colour bishops to salvage a draw. Looking up my opponent, I saw that he had won virtually all his recent games. For the team, a draw with Black was not a bad result.”

Jon Eckert drew an important game with Black against a dangerous junior on board 4. Photograph: John Saunders

Jon’s analysis was born out by what unfolded over the next hour. John Bussmann, who has had a long layoff with a back injury this season and barely played competitively, engineered a fine endgame win on board 3. That was a vital win in a game that looked like it could go either way, and it gave us some much-needed breathing space.

John Bussmann, returning from a long layoff with injury, won on board 3. Photograph: John Saunders

The middle game was a ferocious tussle, and Black had the edge for long periods,. In this position, after 23 moves, you would probably have bet on a draw.

But by pushing his h-pawn to create threats on the kingside and then exchanging a rook to make a potential passed c-pawn. John suddenly conjured up an advantage. It was a game of mistaken trades: John erred in exchanging queens, forfeiting much of the advantage he had built up, and his opponent then effectively lost the game by trading the other pair of rooks, eventually leading to this position, which is overwhelming for White.

There was further shuffling as time ran short – John was by now, under the terms of the five-minute rule, not recording moves – but Black’s race was run. The passed b-pawn will now win the game. John’s win made it 2.5-0.5, and we were now fairly confident. Ergo was losing on board 5, but Peter was better on board 2 and Rob was getting on top on board 6.

Rob’s game was initially sticky. “During the game,” he said later, “I saw a weakness in my position where my opponent could have won a pawn and planted a rook firmly in my half of the board. Thankfully, he missed it.” Instead, in a middlegame melee, Rob went a piece up, and after that it was just a case of not doing anything silly.

Rob Taylor (right) gets the better of Nicholas Orphanou to seal the team’s triumph. Photograph: John Saunders

Rob played coolly, won more material and his opponent eventually resigned. What a fairytale! It was Rob, in just his fifth ever rated game, who had had the honour of taking us over the line to victory. While proud of his part in lifting the trophy, however, Rob’s feet are still firmly on the ground as he gets to grips with competitive chess. “I don’t think I will be getting too carried away with my win,” he insisted. Wait until you’ve played at least a dozen rated games before eyeing the British championship.

The Lauder Trophy – which Epsom president Marcus Gosling had brought along to the Adelaide pub, home of the Richmond and Twickenham club and the neutral venue chosen for the final – was ours. There were, though, still the board 2 and 5 games to complete, and both in the end had results which went against the grain of the play for the previous three hours. Ergo Nobel had been under the cosh throughout against yet another capable Epsom junior, Maya Keen, but managed at the death to pull off a miracle save with a perpetual check.

Ergo Nobel looked certain to lose, but found a miracle save with a perpetual. Photograph: John Saunders

I congratulated him on fighting for hours in what looked a lost position. “Everyone I have ever met has told me I was stubborn,” he explained, “so I guess it’s normal for that to transfer to the way I play chess. Although I’d definitely prefer to be stubborn in a winning position.”

Marcus Gosling (left) and Peter Andrews face off in evening sunlight on board 2. Photograph: John Saunders

Peter Andrews, with Black, had had the better position more or less throughout in his board 2 game against Marcus Gosling – the Epsom president was captaining, playing and probably doing the washing up at the pub later (his energy is remarkable) – but often time (or rather the lack of it) takes over, making a mockery of all the careful play that has gone before, and that’s what happened here. This was the position in what might be called “normal” time, when Peter was still recording.

Black still has a small plus, but now in a mutual time scramble Marcus threw all his pieces at Peter (metaphorically speaking) and it paid off. Peter’s king was surrounded and his kingdom fell. Or, as Peter put it, “There were several more moves in a frantic scramble, in the course of which White activated his entire army, Black blundered the g7 pawn, and got mated.”

“The real lesson was psychological,” Peter reflected afterwards. “When the game changes, as it did after Marcus’s sac of two pieces for a rook and again after the sac of an exchange, it takes time to reorientate. After the first change, I still had time on my clock and did that better than my opponent did – hence the attack on g3 which should have been winning. But after the second change with less time I failed to do so, and Marcus seized the initiative, which matters much more than material or machine accuracy in a blitz finish. I never quite managed to reactivate the bishop on h7, whereas he activated everything he had.”

Peter Andrews’ advantage slipped away in the time scramble as his opponent pressed. Photograph: John Saunders

The Epsom president won that battle, and congratulations are due to him for leading from the front, but we triumphed in the war and are happy to have the Lauder back in our possession. Surrey tournament controller Huw Williams (to whom thanks for running the final) did wonder, as he handed me the cup, whether I had done anything to deserve it, having spent most of the evening in the bar, but the Lauder is all about the preparation and the mathematics, and the Kingston abacus had been used to good effect in the weeks leading up to this encounter. What matters in the bunker is as important – perhaps more important – than what happens on the battlefield. That’s my armchair general story anyway.

I receive the trophy from Huw Williams as Marcus Gosling watches on empty handed. Photograph: John Saunders

Stephen Moss, Kingston Lauder Trophy captain

Kingston B fall short in promotion tussle

Kingston B v Surbiton B, Thames Valley division 2 match played at the Willoughby Arms, Kingston, on 29 April 2024

After a fine season in Thames Valley division 2, we found ourselves in with a chance of promotion going into the final game of the season against neighbours Surbiton B, who also faced exactly the same prospect. We spent most of our preparation for the match undecided if getting promoted would be a wise idea or not for the club. On the one hand, you always want to win and play at the top level, but on the other hand a second Kingston team in the top division could present logistical nightmares, not to mention produce some severe rating disparities and mismatches.

Unclear on what the best outcome would be, it would be down to fate to decide. We fielded our usual line-up of second-team regulars, with expert-level players Julian Way, Peter Andrews and Alan Scrimgour as the top three, and Stephen Moss, me and Nick Grey making up the middle order/tail (delete according to how generous you are feeling). Between the six of us, we have played 50 Thames Valley League games this season – stability and consistency, the core of a successful team. 

Surbiton brought a strong and balanced team to the Willoughby, with only 127 rating points separating their top and bottom boards (compared with our 357). There was no doubt that promotion was uppermost in their minds, especially given that their first team were set to be relegated from the top division. All was set for an intriguing match.

Alan Scrimgour, with Black, faced Paul Dupré on board 3, and was happy to settle for an early draw against a dangerous opponent. Stephen Moss then succumbed to the in-form Sean Butler on board 4 after his Smith-Morra Gambit self-destructed. Having vowed never to play the Scandinavian last week, Stephen has now said he is jettisoning the Smith-Morra as well. Quite what he will play next season is anyone’s guess – Scrabble perhaps. Nick Grey, playing Andrew Boughen for the second time in a week, made a mistake in the opening and went down on board 6, leaving Kingston with an uphill struggle for promotion. 

But all was by no means yet lost. Julian Way secured an excellent victory on board 1 against rising Surbiton star Joshua Pirgon – another great result for Julian with Black. Things were getting spicy, and on board 2 Peter Andrews faced Surbiton captain Nick Faulks. Nick deviated from earlier battles in the English, which Peter had won. He induced Peter to give up the bishop pair in return for doubled isolated pawns, leading to a tense middlegame in which Peter had a slight edge. But his time shortage, uncastled king and Nick’s centralisation gave home supporters cause for concern.

Eventually Peter blundered, but Nick eschewed what should have been a winning move to get the draw by perpetual check which meant Surbiton could not lose the match and ensured they would have a team playing in the top division of the Thames Valley League next season. “Phew!” Nick was heard to mutter afterwards. Job done – and an important job too for his club. That made the score 3-2 and Surbiton had what they needed.

Finally, I managed to swindle a victory against young Joseph Morrison. Joseph outplayed me in the opening, but had used up a lot of time in doing so. I had nothing to lose and at the time knew a win was our only hope of promotion, so fired an all-out attack on the kingside which was tricky to defend against while playing on the increment. Practically it was easy for me to make moves, and hard for my opponent to defend, and I eventually managed to break through and win, settling the result at 3-3. 

Congratulations to Surbiton for topping the division ahead of Richmond and Twickenham B, who are also promoted and will, instead of us, have the logistical and rating dilemmas of having two teams in division 1 next season. We were at the same time disappointed and relieved by the result – a complicated emotion.

Season review

I think solid is the way to sum up the season. We only lost two matches, had a healthy game difference, no thrills, no real spills! My Player of the Season goes to Julian Way. Julian has led the line brilliantly, recording five wins, two draws and just a single loss –  an impressive +4 score. His wins have always been an impressive combination of positional understanding, neat tactics and accurate endgame play. 

Julian Way (right): Kingston B captain Gregor Smith’s choice as player of the season. Photograph: John Saunders

Thanks to everyone who played this season. We had a solid core of solid players who were extremely dependable, and happy to travel, throughout the season, making team selection simple.

Moving on

On a personal note, in my second season of captaincy, I was very pleased to vastly improve on my own performance last season and finish unbeaten, with six draws and four wins in the division. However, it will sadly be my last season with Kingston (for now!), as from June I’m heading for pastures new in Oxfordshire to start a family.

I joined Kingston Chess Club in 2021, like many having turned to online chess during the pandemic. I was keen to resume playing the game that had been a large part of my early childhood. The Kingston club has had a central role in my life since. I’ve relished the competitiveness of league chess, but probably valued even more the relaxed casual games down in the bar on a Monday night.

The lectures that go over my head, simultaneous displays against elite players, the many blitz tournaments, garden chess in the rain and driving to Maidenhead will all go down as cherished memories, but it’s the people that will really be missed. Thanks to everyone for making the club a special place. I will be excited to watch Kingston Chess Club’s progress over the coming years and, you never know, I might be back. I will in any case have a similar length drive to Maidenhead from my new home in Oxfordshire, so anything is possible!

Gregor Smith, captain of Kingston B in Thames Valley division 2

Kingston C continue their winning run

Kingston C v Surbiton D, Thames Valley division X match played at the Willoughby Arms, Kingston, on 29 April 2024

Kingston’s third team maintained their tremendous late-season burst with a win over local rival Surbiton’s fourth team. Colin Lyle won in double-quick time against Shelia Siu on board 4; Jaden Mistry had an excellent victory against Kim Cross on in a lengthy battle on board 3, and Greg Heath got a solid draw against Surbiton captain Phil Goodings on board 2 to seal the win for the team by 2.5-1.5.

Only Ergo Nobel on top board suffered the pain of defeat. His opponent James Lawrence, who seems to have no official Thames Valley rating, has a ECF rating of 1623, so is no slouch, and Ergo was by no means overwhelmed. It was a good workout for Ergo ahead of the Lauder Cup final on the following night, when he would be playing board 5. Third-team captain Stephen Daines pronounced himself well pleased by the win and these end-of-season successes. “Like last season”, he said, “nurturing good players is paying dividends late on.”

Stephen Moss, Kingston Chess Club secretary

Surbiton 1 too strong for Kingston 2 in local derby

Kingston 2 v Surbiton 1, Surrey League division 2 match played at the Willoughby Arms, Kingston on 22 April 2024

There was nothing (except local pride) riding on this match – Surbiton could not catch divisional champions Ashtead and we were safe from relegation – but our neighbours in the borough of Kingston nevertheless brought a strong first team to the Willoughby and were too good for our seconds, running out 5-2 winners. We were nonetheless happy with our four draws, and the other three games were all very well contested, so it was a satisfying evening given the rating disparity between the two teams.

Performance of the night for Kingston came from Jon Eckert, who played with typical élan with Black on board 4 to hold Liam Bayly, despite the latter being rated 250 points above him. Alan Scrimgour drew with the dangerous Altaf Chaudhry on board 3, and David Shalom also secured an excellent draw against Graham Alcock on board 7. Indeed, in the bar afterwards when I congratulated him on the draw against an opponent rated 100 points above him, he looked a little crestfallen at not having pressed home his advantage. I must learn not to seek to limit my players’ expectations. Ratings are only numbers after all.

Our other draw came from David Rowson in the battle of the Davids – his opponent was the highly rated David Scott – on board 1. David R played a Caro-Kann to which David S responded with a very solid set-up, and after some complicated middlegame jostling a draw was agreed in the position below, where White has a small edge because of Black’s pawn islands.

“I think I should have played on as I had a bit of an advantage,” David said later with typical honesty, “but I was getting tired after trying to work out what was going on previously. Neither of us completely understood what was going on.”

There was a fascinating clash of the captains on board 5 – Kingston skipper Gregor Smith with White against his opposite number Nick Faulks. Gregor played the Smith-Morra Gambit (how could a Smith play anything else?) against Nick’s Sicilian and really went for it. We will show the game in full.

The other two games also resulted in losses, but both were extremely tight encounters. Nick Grey was beaten by Andrew Boughen on board 6, extra pawns in a minor piece endgame deciding the issue, and Surbiton’s ever creative Jasper Tambini got the better of Julian Way in a high-level match-up on board 2. Julian played a sharp response to Jasper’s Ruy Lopez, and after 11 moves he had a slight edge in the position below.

But Jasper is a fine tactician and made imaginative use of his knights on the kingside while threatening a pawn storm on the queenside. He built up a solid advantage and eventually found a winning tactic to seal the deal. That gave Surbiton a well-deserved 5-2 victory in a match played in an excellent spirit between two clubs who have mastered the art of friendly local rivalry.

Stephen Moss, Kingston captain in Surrey League division 2

Final table

Kingston B beat Hounslow A to maintain promotion push

Kingston B v Hounslow A, Thames Valley division 2 match played at the Willoughby Arms, Kingston, on 18 April 2024

This was a remarkably professional win by Kingston B over Hounslow A, and it suddenly (and rather surprisingly) puts the Bs in a good position to win promotion and join the A team in division 1 of the Thames Valley League. Whether we really want two teams in the top division is another matter, but we probably have to go for it and see if we can cope next season if we do get there.

In this match everyone played their part, even me! I managed a quick draw against Hounslow captain (and Thames Valley chair) David White on board 3, finally abandoning my hopeless Scandinavian in favour of the Caro-Kann, which at least appears to have the virtue of solidity. We shall see.

Charlie Cooke drew on board 6 against promising junior Vibhush Pusapadi, and Gregor Smith got the third draw of the night against JJ Padam, though the Kingston captain looked slightly disappointed at not being able to convert his pawn advantage in a blocked position. Meanwhile on board 5, Nick Grey continued his excellent recent run with a well-controlled win with Black over Eugene Gregorio, who always seems to play at blitz speed and may, Nick thought, have missed a chance to win the exchange in his desire to crack on with the game.

The encounters on the two top boards were interesting struggles, both eventually going Kingston’s way to make the final score in the match an emphatic 4.5-1.5. Peter Andrews provided a helpful summary of his game against Hounslow veteran Leon Fincham: “I retained an edge through a typically tense opening, and my opponent’s thematic opening of the position was unsound. There was a flurry of tactics, at the end of which I had a material advantage and the safer king, so could mop up safely even with little time on my clock.”

Peter pinpoints this as the key position and the moment on which the game turned. Black has just played 16…f5, the expected move in a King’s Indian-type position:

Julian Way also won a very nice game on board 1, demonstrating once again what a top-class endgame player he is. We join the game after White’s 28th move – coincidentally another f5!? White’s attack looks somewhat scary, but Black has it all under control.

A very encouraging evening and a fine result for Kingston and for Gregor, who will be giving up the captaincy when he decamps to Oxfordshire in the summer. He will be sorely missed at Kingston as organiser, assistant secretary, captain and all-round good guy, but one hopes he will stay in touch from afar. Maybe he could even play in Maidenhead!

Whether his legacy will be getting Kingston B into division 1 of the Thames Valley League will depend on his team’s final match of the season – the crunch derby with Surbiton B on 29 April. As the league table (see below under the match scorecard) shows, that really will be a zero-sum clash. With Richmond B almost certain to beat bottom-of-the-table Staines in their last match, whoever wins the Kingston-Surbiton encounter will get promotion while the loser is likely to be squeezed into third place (with just two teams promoted). It should be quite a night as we mark Gregor’s departure.

Stephen Moss, Kingston Chess Club secretary

Kingston 2 hold Div 2 champions Ashtead to draw

Ashtead 1 v Kingston 2, Surrey League division 2 match played at Ashtead Peace Memorial Hall on 16 April 2024

We are safe! From relegation in division 2 of the Surrey League that is. In fact, we were already before this match because South Norwood 1 beat Coulsdon 2 on the previous evening to leave Coulsdon stranded in bottom place. But getting a 3.5-3.5 draw with Ashtead, runaway winners in the division and on course to take their place in division 1 next season, emphatically made the point that we deserved to stay up.

It was a very solid performance from a team of Kingston stalwarts. The president, John Foley, got an early draw with Black against the highly rated Dan Rosen on board 2, and the also outrated Jon Eckert drew with Bertie Barlow on board 5. Jon compromised his pawn structure to build a very promising attack, but Bertie neutralised it well and peace was eventually declared.

Peter Andrews had White against Phil Brooks on board 1 and, conscious of the disparity in ratings and the way the match might pan out, played a very solid English opening which led to a draw in the position below. He was ahead on the clock, which may have influenced his opponent’s decision, and on his part was conscious that he had two other important matches later in the week, so preserving energy was important. Peter called it a “cynical” draw, but let’s call it a canny and very useful one against a strong player.

John Bussmann was in early trouble against the experienced Jonathan Hinton on board 4. The Ashtead player sacrificed the exchange for a big attack, and it proved well-judged, with his pieces combining irresistibly to overwhelm John’s king. John is making his way back into competitive chess after a long layoff and this was a tough outing.

At this point Ashtead had the advantage, though Nick Grey on board 7 with White against Adrian Waldock had established a passed c-pawn and had good chances in what was shaping up to be a tricky endgame. I thought I was drawing against Tom Barton on board 6, but as so often my poor endgame technique was letting me down and a few imprecise moves, not helped by time trouble, left me struggling to hold the position.

The key game was the board 3 encounter between Kingston chair Alan Scrimgour and Seb Galer. The two are old adversaries, and Galer was determined to avenge a previous defeat – perhaps too determined because it may be that he overreached himself. Seb played a Pirc – and played it perkily. This key early position was reached:

Alan’s win made it 2.5-2.5 and left me and Nick struggling with our respective endgames. I lost mine rather miserably – back, for the umpteenth time, to the drawing board – but Nick was well ahead on the clock and playing confidently. Eventually his opponent cracked, and Nick had a memorable win to draw the match. As we left, the vanquished Adrian Waldock and his Ashtead team-mates were still poring over the final few moves of his game and looking for ways to save it. Too late, I’m afraid. We are on the way home, happy to share the spoils against the division two champions.

Stephen Moss, Kingston captain in Surrey League division 2