Surrey League division 2 match played at the Willoughby Arms, KIngston on 5 December 2022
“Why the long faces?” said Peter Lalić, who was spectating, after the match. And of course he was right: a draw for the Kingston second team against Surbiton’s first team was a perfectly honourable result. But there was a feeling that, with a touch more luck, we could have nicked it. A half-point to get off the mark in division 2 of the Surrey League is nice, but it still leaves Kingston 2 at the foot of the table and threatened by relegation in a division where all our rivals are first teams (see current table below).
There was a problem with the heating at the Willoughby at the start of the match – one reason why I offered an early draw against Surbiton captain Graham Alcock on 6. Graham, who felt he had slightly misplayed the opening against my dubious Nf6 Scandinavian and was recovering from flu, accepted the offer after a long think. On board 3, Alan Scrimgour and Angus James – two immensely solid and seasoned players who know each other’s games inside out – also sued for peace at an early stage. 1-1.
Julian Way on board 2 and Jon Eckert on four both played the Dutch. Way’s game against David Scott was hard fought and ended in a forced draw after some complex tactics. Eckert sac’d unsoundly and was a piece down against Nick Faulks, but the ever resourceful and resilient Eckert created complications and constructed a mating net around Faulks’ king. A classic swindle. 2.5 to 1.5 to Kingston.
On board 7, Surbiton’s Andrew Boughen had a smooth success over Gregor Smith – match all square – but on board 5 Maxim Selemir, who has had a terrific start to his Kingston career, claimed an excellent scalp in the shape of the experienced Mark Hogarth. Selemir played aggressively and gave up a couple of pawns for an attack. Hogarth fell behind on the clock and, menaced by Selemir’s queen and rook, had to give up a knight to avert mate. A piece to the good, it was only a matter of time before Selemir prevailed: 3.5-2.5 to Kingston and at least we couldn’t lose the match.
That left board 1 – a heavyweight clash between Kingston’s John Foley and Surbiton’s Mark Josse. Josse had offered a draw earlier in the evening, but Foley – unconvinced by Kingston’s chances on other boards (and perhaps influenced by the unfavourable position in the Faulks-Eckert game) – had turned it down. Playing for the win was admirable, but in the end unwise. Josse is not just a very strong player, but a master strategist when the chips are down and time is running short. If you want someone to play for you in a time scramble, call for Josse.
In a rook and knight endgame, with both sides looking to get a pawn through, it was Josse’s two connected pawns that eventually won the day. At one stage, Foley had 20 minutes to Josse’s three or four, but such pressure doesn’t seem to bother him and his technique was rock-solid. A fine game that took three hours to complete, with Foley eventually going down on time in a position that was in any case completely lost.