Covid-hit Kingston 2 let Richmond off the hook

Surrey League division 4 match played at the Willoughby Arms, Kingston on 4 April 2022

Kingston’s season in the Centenary Trophy – division 4 of the Surrey League – has been rather stop-start. Promotion has always seemed just out of reach, though there remains a theoretical possibility. Epsom 3 remain favourites to go up, but their final journey to South Norwood will not be easy.

It wasn’t then quite clear what we were playing for – were we promotion contenders or not? A further complication was that Kingston 2 captain Adam Nakar had gone down with Covid, leaving the admirable Greg Heath to make his debut as captain. His first decision was to axe himself from the team, making way for Jake Grubb, who, having secured a draw on board 6, then announced he had had no sleep the night before and was utterly spent. Well done on the half-point Jake.

The high spot of the match came early for Kingston, with a terrific win by Jon Eckert on board 2 – sacrificing pieces all over the shop in his pursuit of a mate which did eventually materialise. A super win by a player who is never afraid to play adventurous chess. 1-0 to Kingston.

That soon became 2-1, with Jake’s draw and a draw by Ian Mason, making his club debut, on board 4. Jake and Ian both had the black pieces, so this was solid Soviet-style chess. It was looking even better when John Shanley won on board 3 to make it 3-1. The match could not be lost now, but could it be won?

It certainly should have been. Kingston’s Yae-Chan Yang had a nailed-on draw on board 5, with bishop and five pawns against knight and five pawns. His opponent was even ready to sue for peace, but Yae then unaccountably left his bishop en prise to an unbridled horse and the (k)night had taken an unexpected turn.

That left Vladimir Bovtramovich to try to secure the all-important half-point on board 1, but things were not looking good. His pieces were uncoordinated and his young opponent, Otto Weidner, was throwing the kitchen sink at the white king. Weidner was playing off an estimated rating of 1750 – 180 rating points lower than Bovtramovich – but, judging by his recent results and his play in this game, he is a good deal stronger than that. Bovtramovich fought valiantly and Weidner almost confused himself with the multiplicity of variations that seemed to seal White’s fate. Eventually, though, he found a clear path to victory, and the match ended in an honourable 3-3 draw.

We felt this was one that got away, but credit to Richmond, who were heavily outrated, on securing a draw in the match. We play the return leg away to Richmond next week, and, if we manage to win, will then be waiting eagerly for the result of South Norwood 2 v Epsom 3 on 28 April. Promotion from this division would be the sweetest of all because so unexpected.

Stephen Moss