Thames Valley League division 2 match played at the Royal British Legion, Hounslow on 13 February 2023
After three successive defeats in division 2 of the Thames Valley League, Kingston B finally scored a point with a 4-2 win away to Hounslow B. The result gives us hope of survival in this division, though much will hinge on next Monday’s fixture against the same opponents and on our forthcoming matches against Ealing B. Credit to Kingston captain Gregor Smith, who had to juggle his resources after Nick Grey’s late withdrawal. Nick promises chocolate and other goodies as recompense next week.
The first thing to say about the match was that analogue clocks were used. Clearly this is far from desirable: fine if you are playing 35 moves in 75 minutes – the traditional Thames Valley League time control – but hopeless if you are playing to a finish, since without the increment allowed by digital clocks you can get flagged in a winning position. Which is precisely what happened to Gregor when he was two pawns up in the endgame on board 3. The perfect end to a trying day.
Happily, the captain’s unlucky defeat did not cost us the match. Playing Black, Alan Scrimgour won smoothly on board 2. In a closed Sicilian, his opponent attempted to close the position by playing f5 and c4. Both players kept their kings in the centre, with Alan using the break with g6. His opponent’s pawn sac on the queenside left Alan with a passed a-pawn and a likely endgame win. White responded with an unsound piece sac on the kingside which left him completely lost.
On board 4 I played my usual (wholly disreputable) Nf6 Scandinavian. My opponent’s passivity allowed me to get a slight edge early on, and I had the temerity to turn down not one but two draw offers (most unusual for me – I usually hit the bar as soon as possible). The middlegame position was fairly even, but my opponent blundered away the exchange and as we both reached our final five minutes on the clock (no increments remember, so a loss on time is still possible if the player who is down on material can keep the game going) we reached the position below.
I had expected Rd1 at this point, to swap rooks and exchange down to an endgame where he could at least try to flag me – my intention was to keep the pieces on and go for the jugular, which is indeed what happened. He failed to activate his rook and got mated a few moves later when I got both rooks on the second rank. But later I realised that Rd1 would have lost on the spot. Do you see why?
Black can simply play Qxb3! If the pawn takes the queen, Rxd1+ and Rd2 wins the queen back, leaving Black a rook up. A simple tactic, yet easy to overlook for someone of my strength. A stronger player would probably spot it instantly, even in a time scramble.
I exploited my opponent’s black-square weaknesses to win – my opponent unwisely gave up his black-squared bishop for knight early in the game – while on board 4 Charlie Cooke did something similar on the light squares, queen and bishop working in perfect harmony against a horribly compromised Black king. Those three wins were enough to see Kingston home.
On board 1 John Foley, ever the chess purist, fretted about the absence of digital clocks and could only draw with White against an opponent rated well below him, though of course we must give credit to JJ Padam for getting the draw in a 60-move game in which John carried on pressing for a win throughout. Another puzzle for you. What should Black play here to get a handy edge?
Black actually played Qd5, which frankly is a bit caveman. The best move is Bxg2!, which wins a pawn for nothing. The White king can’t recapture or Nf4+ forks king and queen. Always be on the lookout for opportunist tactics.
On board 6, Hayden Holden secured a draw with Black against a higher-rated opponent. White played a Spanish, Hayden deliberately diverted from theory early on and won a pawn, but White had the initiative, won the pawn back, and with material equal and a symmetrical pawn structure a draw was agreed. Hayden had been due to play in the third-team match at the Willoughby that evening and had to hotfoot it to Hounslow to turn out for the seconds. So he will definitely be getting an early Easter egg from the indisposed Nick Grey next week.