Epsom 1 prove too strong for Kingston 2

Surrey League division 1 match played at the Willoughby Arms, Kingston on 20 March 2023

We had a very full house at the Willoughby Arms on Monday 20 March. Kingston 2 were entertaining, if that is the right word, Epsom 1, while Kingston 3 were up against South Norwood 2. We lost both matches but fought hard, and wins for Jaden Mistry and Shaurya Handu in the South Norwood match (dealt with separately in captain Stephen Daines’ report) were very encouraging.

Epsom 1 were just too strong for Kingston 2, despite Heinrich Basson making a welcome debut for us on board 3. We lost on all four top boards. Alan Scrimgour was doing well in his favoured Sicilian against IM Graeme Buckley, but fell for a tactic that lost a pawn. Another pawn was also mislaid and Alan just had no counterplay, so resigned. IMs do not give up two-pawn advantages easily.

On board 2, Peter Andrews was level after 40 moves another IM, Peter Large, but by then both players were running short of time and Kingston’s Peter blundered in the time scramble. Very frustrating to be so close to a deserved draw. “Obviously, stronger players do better in blitz finishes than weaker ones,” said Andrews afterwards, “especially when the weaker one has been under a little pressure for most of the game, but he blundered once in the blitz (failing to see that I’d left my bishop en prise), so it’s not completely impossible that I could have got something out of that, had I not stopped thinking altogether!” The perils of evening chess, with their short time controls.

Heinrich had a tough debut against the 2000-rated Daniel Young on board 3 and was very cramped early on, but he fought tenaciously before succumbing under time pressure, and Epsom’s Chris Wright (a former first-team player for Kingston) got the better of Jon Eckert on board 4.

Tough going then for the top boards, but better news elsewhere. Kingston’s rising star Max Selemir got a solid draw against Epsom president Marcus Gosling on board 5, though Max, who much prefers chess pyrotechnics, described it afterwards as a “boring game”. Nick Grey, with White on board 6, defeated Lucy Buckley in a king-and-pawn endgame in which Nick’s experience told, and Gregor Smith, though hemmed in on all sides by promising Epsom junior Louis Di Cicco, managed a draw.

That made it 5-2 to Epsom: a predictable defeat against a side led by two IMs and confirmation that Kingston are almost certainly destined for the drop, especially with our fellow relegation strugglers South Norwood unexpectedly beating league leaders Ashtead a day later. That result takes South Norwood to the brink of safety and gives Epsom a shot at snatching promotion from long-time leaders Ashtead. Assuming Epsom beat South Norwood away (never easy!) on Thursday 13 April, Epsom 1 and Ashtead 1 will face each other in the promotion decider on Monday 24 April.

Stephen Moss, acting Kingston 2 Surrey League captain