Surrey League division 4 match played at the Willoughby Arms, Kingston on 17 April 2023
This was one of the results of the season for Kingston: a draw for a third team that had previously lost seven matches in a row in this highly competitive division against the team that had won the Centenary Trophy (the name of Surrey Div 4) at a canter. All the team’s hard work this season under the patient captaincy of Stephen Daines had finally paid off.
Max Mikardo-Greaves won his game at lightning speed – it was over before anyone knew quite what was happening, and Josh Lea went the exchange up and never let his opponent recover. Both these wins were against much higher-rated opponents, as was young Jaden Mistry’s on board 6.
Jaden, who is 11, is progressing very fast and this was his best win yet: highly technical and after a long game – 53 moves in a situation where he knew his team needed him to win in order to draw the match. That’s a lot of pressure for a young man, and he dealt with it admirably. This was the position after White’s 38th move. How do you assess it?
Jaden is Black here and he correctly surmised that he is at least drawing and could have winning chances. Engines give Black a tiny edge, though the position is tricky to play for both sides, relying on adroit use of the rooks. Jaden played the position well, but he was greatly helped by an opponent who seemed unsure whether he was playing for a win or a draw – he was intent on trying to create a mating net around the White king – and ultimately blundered to allow a pawn to queen. A terrific result for young Jaden and one he was justifiably proud of.
The top boards proved tougher for Kingston. A certain Peter Lalić was on board 1 for Richmond – surely the equivalent of Man City’s star striker Erling Haaland turning out in Sunday park football since he was rated more than 500 points above anybody else in the match. Nonetheless, David Shalom gave him a run for his money, and it would have been even more interesting if he had found the right move in the position below:
David, not unnaturally, feels he has to give up the bishop here with Bxb5 as it is trapped. Sac-ing the bishop is not a total disaster as it will open up the Black king to White’s heavy artillery down the a-file, and that does indeed become a theme of the rest of the game. But David has a much better move here, though you only see it if you notice that Black’s knight on h5 is undefended. Loose pieces drop off! White should play Bd5! Then, if Qxd5, Nc3 gets the piece back via Qxh5, and engines suggest White has a small edge. Tactics, tactics – chess is all about tactics.
Peter won, though credit to David for making a game of it, and Richmond’s higher-rated players also prevailed on boards 2 and 3. But to draw against the winners of the division was a terrific achievement, ending Kingston 3’s embattled (but spirited) season in the Centenary Trophy on a high. Now we have to build on it next year.