Kingston A thump Surbiton A in local derby

Kingston A v Surbiton A, Thames Valley division 1 match played at the Willoughby Arms, Kingston on 21 March 2024

Surbiton came to Kingston with a much-weakened team and had not been helped when their top board dropped out on the morning of the match because of illness. We needed to win well to keep up the pressure on Hammersmith at the top of Thames Valley division 1; we expected to win well because we outrated Surbiton by an average of 250 points a board; and we did indeed win well, with a final score of 5-1.

But those ratings averages can be deceptive. Surbiton still brought six very good chess players. Sean Butler and Graham Alcock got draws against strong opponents on boards 5 and 6; Paul Dupré blundered when ahead against Kingston captain David Rowson on board 4; rising Surbiton star Joshua Pirgon gave Peter Lalić a tough fight on board 2 and their endgame, with both players on the increment, went on late into the night; and stand-in board 1 Nick Faulks threw everything he could muster at Kingston’s Vladimir Li in their encounter.

The big news for Kingston was the league debut for the club of 10-year-old superstar Supratit Banerjee (pictured above), who was playing on board 3. He was up against Surbiton captain Angus James and played the Rubinstein Variation of the French Defence. Supratit played disconcertingly quickly and established a big time advantage, even though the players had barely entered the middle game. Angus, perhaps a little shellshocked at the speed and precision of Supratit’s play (he said afterwards it felt like a prepared line), resigned in the position below after Black had played 18. Rd5, attacking queen and bishop.

Julian Way and Sean Butler had a fascinating battle on board 5. Sean has returned to chess after a spell away, is playing a lot for Surbiton – I had seen him in action the previous night playing at home against Dorking when he drew with a 1950-rated player – and his strength is clearly returning. A draw was agreed in the position below.

This is one of those remarkable positions where everything is hanging and, with kings horribly exposed, both sides look in imminent danger of collapse, yet the probable outcome is a draw by repetition after 37…Rxf2 38. Qg3+. Julian was starting to run short of time and Sean would probably have settled for a draw against a player rated 300 points above him, so a draw it was. But this is a game that will demand a great deal of further analysis.

Peter Andrews and Graham Alcock also settled on a draw on board 6, and again time was a factor, with Peter down to three minutes and starting to fret. “For once it has been morale-building to stick the game in the machine,” Peter said a few days after the match. “It seems my play was reasonably accurate, that I had built a decent edge, and that even the final position was still better, although trying to win from +0.8 with three minutes against 50 would have been reckless.” This was the position in which peace was declared.

Nick Faulks opted for his usual English Opening against Vladimir Li on board 2 and played quickly and aggressively, attacking on the kingside while castling queenside and allowing his own king to be assaulted. It was kill or be killed, and after a 27-move slugfest this was the position.

Here Vladimir forced resignation on the spot with 27…Rxe4+ . The rook cannot be taken because of mate after the queen recaptures, so the king is forced to f1. White can play on, but Nick clearly decided that a player of Vladimir’s calibre was not going to blow an advantage of at least +3. That made it 3-1 to Kingston. Almost game, set and match.

Next to finish was the board 4 match-up between David Rowson, with White, and Paul Dupré. Paul played an enterprising French Defence and went the exchange (bishop for rook) up after David overlooked that his rook on h1 would be trapped by the raking bishop on b7. But David had some compensation in the shape of a dangerous e-pawn, and this position was reached with Black to play on move 40.

David’s win made it 4-1 to secure the match. That left Peter Lalić v Joshua Pirgon on board 2, and this was a battle royal. Peter had an edge in the middle game, but Joshua fought back well and by move 40, in the position below with Black to play, had all but equalised.

But Black makes a mistake here, playing 40…Ke7 when f6 would win the g-pawn and lead to an equal position. Peter, who had only a few minutes left on his clock and had already stopped notating (under the five-minute rule), is brilliant in these situations and never looked back after his opponent’s misjudgement. It took another 30 moves, with both players operating on the increment in a frantic denouement, but Peter was not to be denied and Joshua was forced to concede.

That made it 5-1 and allowed us to edge ahead of Hammersmith in the division 1 table (see below, beneath the match score). But with a match in hand and a superior game difference (the chess equivalent of goal difference) they remain favourites to win the title. Nevertheless, we have had a good run of late, and are at least making the Hammers work to take our crown.

Stephen Moss