Thames Valley League division 2 match played at the Willoughby Arms, Kingston, on 16 January 2023
It was always going to be tough in division 2 of the Thames Valley League, and playing against a Hounslow A side when we were outrated on virtually every board and missing some of our higher-rated regulars was always going to be a big ask. We went down 5-1, but as always it wasn’t without a story.
Before the off, there was a rumbling coming from board 2, where Max Selemir’s opponent took a dislike to our beautiful new chess sets. The board was apparently too big! Eventually an alternative was found and the game was able to proceed. Max’s opponent also insisted on slow play – a relative rarity in evening chess these days.
Unflustered, young Max played his exciting attacking brand of chess and, after a complex exchange, found himself two pawns down but with an initiative as compensation. However, Max’s experienced opponent stifled Max’s assault and managed to play his 35th move with four seconds left on the clock, reaching the time control and winning the game.
Following a communication mix-up between me and John Foley, we found ourself one player short at the start of play. After a quick phone call, John – fresh off the back of 12 hours of exhausting classical chess at 4NCL at the weekend – kindly agreed to come over to the Willoughby as fast as he could and play on board 1. Facing a 15-minute time deficit, John blitzed through the opening and achieved a strong position. However, facing a complex endgame in which he felt he had an advantage, the time deficit caught up with him and he unfortunately flagged.
A great effort from John and an exciting game, marred only by John’s opponent asking why he was not recording moves when his clock dipped below five minutes. John’s opponent believed that, with a 10-second increment, moves had to be recorded till the bitter end, but he was wrong (moves only have to be recorded when the increment is 30 seconds; otherwise the “five-minute rule” applies).
The points were shared on boards 3 and 4. On board 3, Charlie Cooke played confidently against Leon Fincham’s 1. g3, and the game came to a quiet draw. On board 3, I managed to gain a positional advantage out of the opening against David White, but frittered it away and ended up swindling a draw by repetition in what was a losing endgame. Thankfully, my advanced pawn gave my opponent enough to worry about in a time scramble.
On boards 5 and 6, it was great to give opportunities to two of our third-team stalwarts, David Shalom and Sean Tay. Both put up a good fight against strong opposition, but in the end the points were Hounslow’s. Sean especially battled bravely, and would probably still be playing now if it wasn’t for us having to stop the game at 10.30pm – another victim of the league’s archaic time controls. Sean’s rook-and-pawn endgame went to adjudication, but we have agreed to a Hounslow win due to Sean’s opponent’s overwhelming pawn majority.
A busy February now faces Kingston B, with a game every Monday of the month. Hopefully our first victory is just around the corner.
Gregor Smith, Kingston B captain in the Thames Valley League