Kingston 1 stay on title trail with victory at Richmond

Thames Valley League division 1 match played at the Adelaide, Teddington on 21 March 2023

Another win, another step nearer the Thames Valley division 1 title. Of course our first team should beat Richmond B, but you never know. It was good to get this away match out of the way and pleasing to win in such emphatic style: we were 4-1 up on the night, with captain David Rowson very favourably placed (the exchange up and plus 5 according to engines) in an adjudication, so a final score of 5-1 looked likely.*

The game of the night was played by David Maycock on board 1. He has had a lean spell recently and has been juggling playing with college and chess teaching commitments, but he was bang on the money here against Andrew Hebron, playing sharply and winning in 23 moves. Andrew played a Pirc Defence, but made a premature foray to g4 with a knight and David quickly established an advantage (see diagram below).

Naturally, David played the critical move here, which is 12. e5. The best continuation for Black is 12…cxd4 13. exf6 dxc3 14. fxe7 Qxe7 15. Bxe7 cxd2 16. Bxf8 Bxf8 17. Nxd2 Nf6. But White is still much better and you can see why Andrew wanted to mix it up a bit. Instead he played 12… Ne8, but this led to a brutal sequence in which Black is either mated or has to give up vast quantities of material: 13. Nd5 g5 14. Nxg5 hxg5 15. Qxg5 f6 16. Qh5 cxd4 17. Bd3 Rf7 18. e6 Ne5 19. Bh7+ Kf8 20. Nf4 Nc7 21. exf7 Ne6 22. Ng6+ Nxg6 23. Bxg6 1-0

An excellent attacking game from the young maestro, who has clearly rediscovered his mojo, even spending the next hour and a half in the bar analysing the game with his opponent and looking through a Kasparov game in a book he had brought along. Unheard of. He really is serious about getting a title.

On board 2, Jon Eckert (wearing his Richmond rather than his Kingston hat) blundered piece for pawn against Silverio Abasolo when under a touch of pressure, and decided that trying to play on against so strong an opponent was likely to make for an unpleasant evening.

That made it 2-0 to Kingston and things were looking reasonably comfortable, though Alan Scrimgour was under pressure against Victor Bluett on board 5 and offered a draw. Bluett bravely (given the 300-point rating gap) turned it down, only for a rook endgame to turn against him and let Alan in for a victory. The post-mortem suggested Victor may well have missed a win.

Victor Bluett (right) put Alan Scrimgour under pressure, but the Kingston player triumphed in a rook endgame

On board 6, Stephen Lovell was playing his first game for Kingston since 2017 – a most welcome return – and established a potential passed pawn against Adrian Waldock. But with queens and rooks still on the board, Adrian got some counterplay, time was starting to run out and Stephen sensibly took a draw. Seven years since your last time scramble is a lengthy break.

It was a similar story on board 4, where Will Taylor established an edge in the middle game and was apparently winning by move 37, but gave a crucial pawn back in time trouble and preferred not to carry on pressing on the increment against an opponent who still had 10 minutes left. Another draw.

That made the score 4-1 to Kingston and left David Rowson on board 5 as the last game to finish. Or not, in fact, as his opponent had opted for slowplay – 35 moves in 75 minutes on the night and a resumption at a later date unless the players can reach agreement on the likely result. An unsatisfactory way to conduct an evening chess game surely, but some players still prefer it and the leagues (for the moment at least – there will be pressure to change next season) tolerate such archaic practices.

“The opening was a Giuoco Piano,” said David. “The game was fairly level until we exchanged queens and took a pawn each, which allowed me to play 20…b5 [in the position below].”

“This was actually an oversight on my part,” he continues, “as I hadn’t realised he had the clever 20. Bxb5 cxb5 21. Re4, apparently winning back his piece because of the attack on two of my pieces simultaneously. However, it was not quite clever enough, as I (very luckily, not having seen Bb5) had 22…Nc2. 23. Rc1 Bf5 winning the exchange.”

The game was adjourned with David that exchange up and with an a-pawn running. His opponent has the right to play on of course, but engines give David an advantage of +5 and it would be a long journey to make for a resumption in such an unforgiving position. We are hoping for 5-1 and a further step towards Kingston’s first Thames Valley title since 1984. Next Monday’s home clash with mighty Hammersmith is now crucial.

* David’s opponent resigned a couple of weeks after the match, so 5-1 was indeed the score.

Stephen Moss